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.
It was not so easy. Holding the mobile phone mounted on a selfie stick, I waited good 3-4 min for helicopter to get airborne. Then I started my piece-to-camera. There was no second chance for a retake.— Umashankar Singh उमाशंकर सिंह (@umashankarsingh) November 3, 2020
I am more than happy about what I did today. Cheers🍻 #BiharPolls #MoJo pic.twitter.com/yVgBt8NFJ6
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 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.