Equipment Assembly

I covered the basic equipment requirements for a mobile journalism video rig in a previous post. This time, I’ll guide you through the process of using your system for the first time. I’ll go over composition techniques in future posts.

NOTE: The information presented here generally applies to all types of filmmaking. Whether you’re shooting news stories, private events or a even a feature film, you can record professional-quality video with the equipment rig I discuss here.

Practice

Your gear is designed to be lightweight, small, durable and easy to use! You don’t need to worry about memory cards, importing, etc. You won’t face the usual difficulties involved with using dedicated camera equipment. Take advantage of this! Bring your equipment wherever you go. There’s an often-repeated phrase in photography: ‘Your best camera is the one you always have with you.’ When you take this to heart, you’ll turn even the most mundane events as an opportunity to improve your craft.

Practice assembling and disassembling your equipment. Be able to do it quickly with your eyes closed. When you’re covering a breaking news event, you’ll be overwhelmed with information and stimuli. It may seem easy now, but when you’re under stress and trying to focus on the story, fractions of a second count. You don’t have time to patiently think about how to set up.

One of the most successful news videos I’ve recorded nearly didn’t happen at all. While covering a protest, my primary camera shut down because it was too hot. I could sense that a future viral video was unfolding in front of me, and I quickly needed to switch to my secondary camera to get my shot. I still have nightmares about nearly missing that critical moment! I credit this entirely to my training.

Camera Settings

Are you shooting in 4K? 1080p? What frame-rate should you use? There are many quality settings available in modern smartphones. For TV news footage, it’s a good idea to go with 1080p / 30fps. Newer smartphones typically shoot in 4K (much higher quality than 1080p). While shooting in 1080p results in a lower-resolution image than 4K, it’s a standard format that keeps file sizes smaller and easier to manage.

Your client should notify you of the proper video settings for a given shoot. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask. This is a critical factor! Make a habit of always considering image size (1080p, 4K, etc.) and frame rate (24fps or 30fps) just before you start recording. It’s a great way to catch a mistake.

Pressing the record start/end button on your mobile device may cause a noticeable vibration, so make sure you press it gently. This can save you the trouble of having to trim your video.

Mount

Most mounts attach to your phone with a clamp. This may include a spring-loaded bracket or large tightening screw or dial. This is an easy task – Insert your phone, fasten it snuggly, (but not too tight) and you’re ready to go.

Tripod

Use a tripod: I can’t emphasize this enough. They’re bulky, cumbersome and sometimes difficult to carry or transport. Deal with it – It’s worth the hassle. Monopods are an excellent alternative when you’re in crowded places or need to move quickly. They have their drawbacks though: They won’t stand on their own, and they can still rotate around the point where the monopod touches the ground. Practice leveling your tripod, and firmly place the legs such that the tripod doesn’t wobble. Make sure the mount is firmly attached to the tripod.

Once you grow accustomed to operating your equipment with a tripod, you can practice hand-held techniques. Image stability is one of the core requirements for producing broadcast-quality video, so it’s important to avoid hand-held shots whenever possible.

Battery Pack

A portable battery/charger is an essential item. It’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll have a full charge when you arrive. There are plenty of options, but I recommend RAVPower chargers. I’ve repeatedly dropped my chargers with no damage. Determine the battery capacity on your phone, and use that as a baseline. Select a battery that can recharge your phone at least 3 full charges. Use a long power cable. You’ll need to place your battery pack in a pocket or pack, and with a long cable, you can continue to charge your devices without having to hold on to the battery pack.

Microphone

Microphone installation should be an easy process. Your microphone will include a small cable that will allow you to send your audio signal straight to the phone (avoid Bluetooth microphones). Attach your mic to the mount and plug it into your phone. Wherever possible, use camera hot shoes, a standard connector/adapter system that’s common in all kinds of photography. Hot shoe accessories are widely available. Make sure you have the right cables: Smartphones aren’t necessarily like other audio recorders, so there may be a requirement for a specialized ‘TRRS’ cable. Your microphone manufacturer will include information on special considerations.

Uploading Your Videos

There are a variety of video upload methods. Assuming you use an iOS device and MacOS computer (many videographers work in the Apple ecosystem), I recommend using AirDrop to transfer your videos from your iOS device to your Mac, and then upload to the Steady Take website from your computer. I include a video tutorial at the end of this post.

Keep it Simple!

Whatever equipment decisions you make, ensure that the assembly process is simple. After all, it’s a basic requirement of any mobile journalism camera rig! If you can’t do it with your eyes closed, it’s either too complex or you simply haven’t practiced enough. Time yourself. Create your own training regimen. Be creative, expect difficulties in the field, and plan accordingly.

In the video below, I introduce a few basic principles of mobile journalism and guide you through the assembly process.

Good luck, and don’t forget: The process should be simple!

Microphones Smart Phones Stabilization Uncategorized

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