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What You Need To Get Started

What You Need To Get Started

From tripod to external microphones: these are the things you need to start working as a mobile journalist.
Corinne Podger

Equipment for Mobile Journalism

Tripod: To do a good video interview, you will want to be seated where you can see your interviewee, and that means putting the phone on a tripod using a mount. Using a tripod also ensures stable shots for video packages. Your tripod need not be expensive but its maximum height should be as close to eye-level as possible.

Selfie stick: A selfie stick can be used for pieces to camera – as demonstrated by Umashankar Singh in this report for NDTV in 2020 – but check with your web manager or broadcast technicians whether the front-facing lens on your smartphone is good enough, as it may not film in as good quality as the rear-facing lens. 

Cleaning cloth: The soft cloths used to clean eye glasses are great for removing dust and fingerprints. Clean the lens before you start filming.  

External power: There’s nothing worse than arriving at an interview or filming location to discover you’re out of battery. Keep an external charger and power bank in your mojo kit bag to stay fully charged on the move.

External microphones: Widely-used microphone brands include Rode, Boya, Comica, Sennheiser, Shure, and Ulanzi. If you get stuck or don’t have a budget for an external microphone, you can use your smartphone headset microphone instead.

There are three types of microphones widely used in mobile video journalism. You can use a clip microphone (also known as a lapel or lavalier microphone), which attaches to your interviewee’s clothing and connects to the phone with a cable. This tutorial explains how to do it: 

You could also try a wireless microphone like the Rode Wireless Go II. These microphones consist of a receiver, which attaches to your phone, and a transmitter microphone. This allows you to record interviews or pieces to camera from a distance, without the risk of tripping over a cable. 

Handheld microphones are ideal for recording interviews, pieces to camera, and for recording ‘natural sound’. One end plugs in to your smartphone, and the other is attached to the microphone, which you hold in your hand. To protect from wind noise, buy a foam windshield to cover the microphone. 

‘Two-take’ audio: An alternative to extension cords and wireless systems is to use a second phone. Plug a clip-microphone into it and ask your interviewee to put this second phone in their pocket and attach the microphone to their clothing.

This allows you to record their voice as you film from a distance with your primary phone. The two recordings can be matched up during the editing process. This method can also be used to record good quality podcast audio.

External light: If you need to film at night or indoors, an external light will give you a better result. Popular brands of smartphone lights include LumeCube, Ulanzi, and Genaray

External lenses: These have become less important as smartphone cameras have improved to include telephoto, wide-angle, and macro settings. However, if you need a cinematic look for a documentary or film, you could explore the lenses offered by Moment, Struman, Sandmarc and Moondog

External lenses typically attach to the phone via an external mount or with a clip that snaps onto the phone, and some brands allow you to attach ND filters.

Good Video Recording Apps for your Smartphone 

The native camera on most modern smartphones will record high quality video, but to take your videography to the next level, a third-party app will give you better results. 

A professional app will give you greater control over your camera settings. It’s worth noting, if you work in television journalism, that modern iPhones and some Androids can shoot in 25fps as well as 30fps, making them suitable for TV in both NTSC and PAL countries

Filmic Pro (iOS / Android): This app will give you full control over focus, exposure, shutter speed, frame-rate, white balance and audio levels. It has optical image stabilisation, and you can also film in LOG mode, making it a great tool for cinematography. Visit the app’s website and check out the YouTube channel for tutorials by the developers and user-community. The app has introduced a range of charging options, including a weekly subscription cost, in 2022.

Movie Pro (iOS): This app offers a high level of control over focus, exposure, frame-rate, and white balance. It has optical image stabilisation, and many other features for professional videographers. Visit the app’s website for tutorials. The app has a one-off charge for use.

Open Camera (Android only): This free, open-source app can be used to film video and take still images. It gives you control over focus, exposure, frame-rate and white balance, and has an optical image stabiliser. It also forces the phone to recognise an external microphone, which can be a problem with some Android phones. Visit the app’s website and learn to use it with this tutorial

For an overview of video editing apps you can head over to our chapter on editing.

About author
Corinne Podger

Corinne Podger is an Australian journalism educator, author, and training consultant who has worked in the media sector for more than 30 years. Her specialisms include mobile journalism, digital-first newsgathering, online verification, social multimedia production, podcasting and audio storytelling, and strategic audience engagement to drive brand awareness and media revenue. She has helped newsrooms, NGOs and social impact organisations in more than 60 countries to introduce digital innovations to grow audiences and support business priorities. 

Corinne is an accredited trainer with BBC Media Action, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and the Solutions Journalism Network. She also works with science and public health organisations to tackle misinformation and disinformation. Organisations she has worked with include Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, UNESCO, Google News Initiative, the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, WAN-IFRA, the World Federation of Science Journalists, Internews, Forbes, the World Health Organisation, BBC Academy, Oxfam, and the Global Forum for Media Development.

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