A decade ago we would be talking about DV cameras, but now more and more people are interested in smartphone video production.
I started producing smartphone videos after I got my first iPhone 3Gs (see the pic above). I fell in love with the convenience and portability, and now produce HD smartphone videos with my iPhone 6S. Smartphones are a true game changer and the video quality continues to get better.
Don’t think that you need to spend thousands to get started with video (though you can). You should start with what you have unless you have a very specific need, or you have experience and need to upgrade your gear.
The same equipment that is used with professional video production is generally available for mobile video production. A tripod, microphone, lights, and of course a camera are needed to capture quality audio and video.
If you’re interested in smartphone video production, this section is designed to get you on the right track. It’s impossible to list all the iPhone accessories that are made for video production; do some additional research, and remember we are always here to answer your questions.
The iPhone (4 & up) and the Samsung Galaxy (S3 & up) are at the top of the mobile video production list, though there are others that will also get the job done.
Shooting video with a mobile device is convenient and the quality of most smartphones is excellent. iPhones (4S & up) shoot 1080p, as do many Android models. Smartphones are portable, and inconspicuous. You can use a smartphone to create everything from a vlog, promotional and family videos to testimonials.
Mobile Production Gear
To maximize the video quality of your mobile device, sound production techniques should be used along with gear that will help your device perform like a regular video camera. Tripod mounts, audio adapters, microphones, and lights will help you capture the best video possible. While we want to make this list comprehensive, we don’t list everything here. There are other sites that have great accessories like PhotoJoJo, VeriCorder, and Adorama. The following section contains affiliate links to some of the products referenced. Please support us if you’re going to make a purchase anyway.
A special cable (4-pin/TRRS) is needed to record audio from a standard microphone into a mobile device. Some manufacturers make microphones that specifically work with mobile devices. These mics either plug into the headphone/mic jack, or into the device’s power port.
KVConnection has great smartphone audio solutions for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The KM-IPHONE-2TRS ($28.50) works with dynamic microphones, and battery powered condenser mics. This cable breaks out into a jack for a headphone and a separate jack for the microphone. The headphone jack allows you to review the audio quality after you’re done recording, and you can also monitor the audio live withe the FiLMicPRO application. This adapter is designed for 1/8 inch microphones so if you want to connect an XLR mic to your mobile device you should also purchase a XLR to 1/8 adapter. VeriCorder ($70) also makes a smartphone/tablet XLR adapter/preamplifier which will work with any XLR microphone.
Microphones: Once you have the needed cables, you use the microphone of your choice. [Microphone Video Review]. XLR and 1/8 mics can be used with a mobile device as long as you have a 4-pin audio adapter. Microphones are designed to work differently depending on the model and type. Handheld mics work good for run-and-gun interviews, while lavaliere mic work great for sit down interviews and allow hands to be free.
The RadioShack 30-3013 ($35.00 1/8 inch) is a great entry level condenser lavliere microphone that works well with the iPhone. The tie clip can be a bit fragile, so always handle it with care.
The Audio-Technica ATR-3350 is an also an affordable lavaliere mic (around $25.00 1/8 inch), though the audio quality is a little bit lower than the Radio Shack mic referenced above.
A great prosumer handheld mic is the Audio-Technica AT2005 (around $50.00). It is a hybrid USB/XLR mic, so you can use it to record podcasts or voice overs on your computer and it can be used as a field mic for handheld interviews. The quality of the AT 2005 rivals higher end broadcast mics, and is a must have for anyone interested in any kind of video production. [Audio-Technica AT2005 Video Review]
Vericorder Mini Mic ($25) The Mini Mic [iPhone 4 & 4s) is a small 4-pin microphone that plugs directly into a mobile device. It can rotate 180 degrees for use with a front facing or rear facing camera, but can only capture audio within a limited range. This compact microphone is designed to transform the latest smart phones and MP3 players into a portable sound recorder. It provides improved sound quality and range when recording conversations or interviews in low to moderate level environments, like classrooms and office meeting rooms.This microphone is not intended for use in loud environments, such as concerts or sports events, because it is too sensitive and your audio will clip.
iRig ($59.00) The iRig is a popular mic designed for mobile devices. It can be used with the iPhone/iPodTouch/iPad and Android, and plugs directly into these devices. The iRig Mic features a highly unidirectional condenser-electret microphone capsule that provides quality recording in both close mic and long distance mic conditions, and provides real time monitoring with its dual mini-jack connector design.
iRig Pre ($35.95) The iRig pre is an XLR adaptor for smartphones including Apple and Android devices. It allows you to boost the gain of the audio signal and plugs into the headphone/mic jack. The iRig Pre has a 48v Phantom Power feature that lets you use your favorite condenser microphone with your iOS device. The iRig Mic Pre features a 3.5mm headphone out that allows you to monitor the processed sound… however you sound.
RØDE smartLav+ ($60): The smartLav+ is a professional-grade wearable microphone designed for use in a wide range of applications, from the boardroom to the pulpit, the car to the classroom.The RØDE smartLav uses a standard TRRS connection, which plugs directly into your smartphone or tablet’s headset input. It is compatible with Android devices, the iPhone®, iPad® and iPod® touch, in addition to a wide range of TRRS devices.
RØDE iXY ($199):The RØDE iXY is the ultimate recording microphone for iPhone®, iPad® or iPod® touch. With up to 24-bit/96k* recording and on-board high-fidelity A/D conversion, your iXY recordings are rich, smooth and accurate. The iXY is compatible with iPhone® 4S, iPhone® 4, iPad® (3rd generation), iPad® 2, iPad® and iPod® touch (4th generation).
There are a variety of stabilization mounts for your smartphone or tablet. These mounting/stabilization devices are primarily available for iPhones/iPads while Android devices have fewer options. The advantage is that they allow you to attach a tablet or smartphone to a tripod, lenses can be attached, and other accessories like a light or microphone can also be used.
The Phocus: (various prices starting at $39): The Phocus is a case that enhances the iPhone’s existing camera with instant upgrades, including a slide-in, light weight casing, that allows for lens, microphone, and tripod mounting.
VeriCorder: You can find a number of great iPhone/iPod Touch accessories at Vericorder’s online store. From shotgun mics, to lights, and stabilization/tripod mounts like the mCAM. There is something there that you will find useful to build your mobile video production for the iPhone.
The Padcaster ($149): The Padcaster is an iPad video stabilizer and tripod mount with a lens adapter. The kit which retails for $149.00 includes: Padcaster, Lenscaster, instructions, 72mm-58mm step-down ring, two 1/4-20 screws, two 3/8-16 screws, one custom camera mount screw & one cold shoe adapter. [Video Review of the Padcaster].
The Makayama Movie Mount ($99) is a similar tripod adapter/accessory mount for the iPad 2 and 3. It includes a high quality .45x wide angle lens with awesome Macro for shooting close-ups. The case has attachment points for a tripod, video light and microphone (sold separately). Makayama also makes an iPad Mini Mount and a model for the iPad 5.
Universal Smartphone Tripod Adapter ($12): You can mount any smartphone to a tripod by buying this affordable tripod adapter. This universal tripod works great with my iPhone and with the Samsung Galaxy which is a bit larger in size. The mount has a spring grip which allows it to fit snugly around any smartphone, and it also has a ball socket that allows it to be rotated for either portrait or landscape shots.
The Glif: (iPhone 4/s – iPhone 5 $20 ) is an iPhone accessory with two primary functions: mounting your iPhone onto a tripod and propping up your iPhone at various angles. The Glif is made from recyclable rubberized plastic that feels great and plays nicely with your phone, yet is small enough to fit in your pocket, purse, or backpack. It has a 1/4″-20 thread that fits any standard tripod or camera mount.
Smartphone Tripod ($60): The Promaster 7100 is a fluid head tripod that allows you to capture smooth movement. If you are capturing any kind of action or need to move the camera left to right (pan), or up and down (tilt), you should consider buying a fluid head tripod. The Promaster 7100 light weight portable, and will help you capture quality video. [Video of iPhone Tripod Movement using the Promaster 7100].
Manfrotto 701 Tripod ($274) Due to its weight, a more robust tripod should be used with an iPad when using it with the the Padcaster or Makayama. The Manfrotto 701 ($319) is a professional tripod that will adequately hold the iPad, and has a fluid head meaning any movement will be smooth. Small and lightweight, the Manfrotto 701HDV Pro Fluid Video Mini Head is capable of accommodating payloads up to 8.82 lbs (4kg), and was designed principally to support the latest compact digital video equipment including prosumer/professional-grade HD camcorders.
Video Lamp ($33) – This super lightweight 160-piece-LED item can be used in video taking, either for lights setup or supplement. There are 3 filters included with this item, with Spotlight effect, Diffuse effect, and for reducing the color temperature to 3200K. The light intensity can be changed to offer professional effects. It’s designed with a standard hot shoe plug, so it can be installed on the DV or DSLR, and DC with standard hot shoe.
Lights (DIY – Budget): For my home studio, I’ve been using a basic clamp light (2-3) with CFLs. Note: The clamp light does not come with bulbs which must be bought separately. You will also need a stand to clamp or mount the lights. I’m using tungsten balanced lights currently, but you may want to consider daylight balanced CFLs.
Cowboy Studio Starter Lights ($60): If you want to get started shooting indoors in a home studio, this light kit by Cowboystudio is the way to go. These lights are not for professional field shoots, but if you’re just getting started and are on a tight budget. These lights work well. [Cowboy Studio Light Video Review]