Home > 3: Film > Tips on How To Film With Your Mobile Phone

Tips on How To Film With Your Mobile Phone

Citizens have been turning to what’s in their pocket – their mobile phones – to document the events in their lives since the introduction of the camera phone.  However, an increasing trend is happening: Citizens are using their phones when they are in the wrong place at the wrong time to document everything from planes landing in a river to human rights abuses and police misconduct.  In addition, activists are using their phones to capture statements of support for their campaigns on video or via an audio-recording function – and with photos of actions and people holding signs of support.

Combined with the power of text messaging and platforms like Twitter to share from the scene, mobile phones can be an incredibly powerful tool and worth harnessing.   This is not an in-depth guide on how you can shoot video.  Rather, these are some baseline tips to help you film safely, capture the best footage you can, keep it safe and ultimately share it.  If you find yourself in a situation where you are an eyewitness to an incident, it is important to know how you can use your camera and available tools in the moment.

Top Tips for filming with your mobile phone

  • Be safe – assess the risks and make decisions to keep yourself safe.
  • Choose the highest quality setting your phone can handle – each phone is different, so explore to determine how you can maximize your quality and ensure the space needed to capture an event.
  • Set your settings to save your media to a memory card, not your phone (and get a large memory card).
  • Film short videos –
  • If applicable, ask someone to watch your back so you can concentrate on filming.
  • Focus on key actors and events.
  • As best you can, get footage to capture the context of the event – the who, what, where, when and why.
  • If it is safe to do so, get in close.  Your image will be probably be better and your audio will improve – particularly with mobile phones.  Know that quality diminishes quickly when you zoom.
  • Keep your hands steady and pan slowly – focus on filming as best you can.
  • Conduct interviews with witnesses to get context of what is happening in the moment – you may never have the opportunity later.
  • If applicable, record yourself in the moment describing what happened and as many details as possible from where you are at.  Include the date and time of what you saw, as well as what you are feeling.
  • Do a test-run (or maybe two).

SAFETY NOTE:  Protect yourself, your contacts and footage on your mobile phone

Protect yourself: If you are concerned about your own safety and security when using your phone, you may be able to use a phone anonymously if you can use a prepaid (also known as Pay As You Go) phone without a contract or registering the phone with identification, which is becoming more common.  However calls on mobile phones and the phone’s location can be traced through the mobile network provider.  Keep the phone turned off with its battery removed when not in use, and disable the GPS application.

Protect your friends: Remember, if you phone is seized, the authorities can find and review all of the data on your phone – your contacts, telephone call logs, texts sent and received, photographs, videos and audio files.  If you are filming in a high-security area, be sure to delete all you can from your phone.

Protect your media: Once the incident – which may only last a few seconds – is over, assess your situation for your personal safety, and then for the safety of your footage.  In many situations, a person or group of people may not want your footage to get out to either the authorities or to the media or both.  If you are safe but you assess a potential threat to your footage, you may have a few options other than fleeing the scene.

Whether your device has a tape or media card, you may want to either remove it and change it out, hide it or give the card to a friend to take away from the scene to safety.  You may also be able to share your footage from your mobile phone or device from the scene.  Though mobile phones and services capabilities range depending on the phone you are using, your wireless provider and capabilities of your network, there may be some way for you to share your images or video directly and immediately from your phone.

Upload from the scene: If you have a mobile phone or camera that can connect to the internet, use that connection!  For photos, you can email them to yourself (and a trusted friend as back-up) if you don’t want them to go public right away, a backup to ensure your content is secure and accessible if your footage or device is taken at the scene.  In addition to video sharing sites like YouTube where you can upload directly from your phone, if you are part of a social network like Facebook, Blogger or Twitter and want to get your content out far and wide immediately, then you can upload them directly to the site or through your phone by using MMS or email.

VIDEO:  Learn how to best film using your mobile phone

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