With the rise of mobile phones that mirror the quality of thousand-dollar cameras, journalists are beginning to shy away from bulky camera equipment and are turning to the phones in their pockets. High-quality journalism is now at the tip of our fingers, with low-cost apps and additional equipment made to not break your bank. Corinne Podger, director of The Digital Skills Agency, ran the audience at Launceston’s Freelance Festival 2022 through how to efficiently produce journalistic audio and visual pieces with eight essential tips.
1. Keep it simple
To start, having a good quality phone will be to your benefit. Any android or Apple phone from 2017 onwards boasts a good/high-quality camera. Secondly, have an adjustable tripod. This will help to keep your phone steady when shooting video. Finally, search the market for a low cost/high-quality microphone that can plug into your phone’s audio jack. Clear audio is just as crucial as a clean shot when filming interviews, so sometimes it’ll be a trial-and-error situation with cheaper plug-in microphones.
2. Treat it like a camera
On both Apple and android phones, you can alter the camera settings. First and foremost, turn on the grid option, this will help you with framing shots or interviews correctly. Switch your video settings from SD to HD to give you the clearest and cleanest shots. Make sure to film horizontally and never zoom into a shot manually. Move closer to the chosen shot to avoid pixelation. Short and still shots will be your friend. A good timeframe to stick to is 5-7 seconds, as audiences tend to become bored if they’re gazing at the same shot for lengthy periods of time. The rule of thumb when filming a specific item or location is to take three close-up shots for every wide/medium frame.
3. The audience owns one
Consider remote commissioning. Especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, travelling far to film a story may not be a viable option, so utilising interviewees to film footage or personal stories for you can play in your favour. Just remember to give them a clear guide for filming and framing.
4. All the gear + a good story
Plan, plan, plan. Ask yourself, what is the story and who is it for? Where does the audience you’re appealing to reside social media-wise (e.g. TikTok, IG stories.) What tone and style do you want to set for your piece? Is it a lively piece or a more sombre story? This is important to think about when you come to the final edit, as the music and shot assembly will help to set the tone. And most importantly, write a script. Include in your script your narration, audio/music, and other elements such as supers or fact straps.
5. Film with a professional app
There are a range of apps, cost-free or for a small price, that allow you to film at a professional industry standard. These apps let you stabilise your shots and fine-tune your focus. Research into what app would work best for your phone, your filming needs, and your price range.
6. Frame your interviews properly
Use the Rule of Thirds. This places your subject on the left third or right third of the frame, creating a pleasing composition. Each intersection point is a potential point of interest; align your main subject along with other elements of the frame along these points to create a balanced, or visually interesting, shot.
7. Edit with a good app
Like filming apps, there is a vast array of professional standard apps available to edit video and audio on your phone. Luma Fusion (IOS) is the best phone editing app on the market, it is a good equivalent to Premiere Pro. Although, Luma Fusion is yet to be made available to android users. Make sure to research prospective apps to make sure it’s going to be the right one for you.
8. Practice makes perfect
Make sure to put time aside to learn how to use the apps. There are many amateur video filming and editing apps on the market, such as VN and Capcut. Corinne recommends having a play around with them before investing any money into other apps to ensure you feel confident with editing.
Main image by Corinne Podger.