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A mobile journalist’s filming checklist

This checklist will help you prepare to film your mobile journalism story, so that when you press ‘record’, you are completely ready.

At the office

Before you leave for a shoot make sure to have followed these tips so you avoid technical troubles whilst shooting your story.

Free up space: Get into the habit of downloading all your photos and videos before going out to film, so you have plenty of spare memory.

Charge up: Make sure you’ve fully charged your phone, and take a charger with you. Portable battery packs are also useful.

Prepare your kit bag: Put your equipment into your pack and double-check you have everything you need, such as a tripod, tripod mount, microphones, headphones and battery pack.

Check the weather forecast: Sunny days mean lots of shadows. Partially cloudy days mean the light outside will change constantly. Under these conditions consider filming indoors and pack an external light.

Scout the location: Visit the filming location before the shoot, if you can. If you can’t, ask your interviewee about the best places for an interview, and about objects or locations you could capture for b-roll.

On location

Once you arrive at your filming location, follow these tips to make sure you capture all the video and audio you’ll need.

Deal with external noise: Close your eyes and listen for any noise that might be disruptive or confusing to the listener. Switch off electrical appliances that cause a hum or hiss, like fans, air-conditioners and refrigerators.

Avoid incoming calls: Switch your phone to airplane mode, and ask your interviewee to do the same.

This BBC guide has excellent tips for journalists preparing to shoot on a smartphone:

Getting ready to film

Where is the light? The main source of light – whether it’s the sun or an indoor light – should be in front of your interviewee’s face. Any bright source of light behind your interviewee will cause their face to be in shadow, or even silhouette – and this will make the interview unusable.

Attach the phone to a tripod with a tripod mount, and set the phone up with the lens at the top facing away from you. If you don’t have access to a tripod, place the phone on a solid surface like a wall or fence, or lean your body against a solid surface as you film.

Connect a microphone: If you are using a clip microphone, attach it to your interviewee’s clothing now. If you need your interviewee to stand further away than the clip microphone cable allows, connect an extension cord to the microphone and plug that into your phone, or set up your wireless microphone and test it.

Clean the lens: Use a soft cloth to clean your phone’s lens to remove any dust or fingerprints.

Frame your interviewee: Make sure the phone camera is level with the interviewee’s eyes, so that you aren’t accidentally filming them from above or below. Decide whether it’s best for the story to have the interviewee looking slightly off camera or directly into the lens.

For landscape video, frame your interview to the left or right of the frame. For square video that is going on social media, frame them closer to the centre.

Check the background: Make sure nothing in the frame looks odd. Avoid including any signs or other text in the background, as this will distract the viewer.

Do a test recording: Ask your interviewee a simple question, like what they had for breakfast, or where they went on their last holiday, so you can check that the phone is working properly and that the audio sounds good. Press ‘stop’ and listen to your test recording on headphones.

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