Mobile Video Do’s and Don’ts

FlipCamOne of my first ongoing gigs some 6 years ago when I first had an inkling of doing some work outside of my 9 to 5, I found myself editing a lot of FlipCam video.   For those that may not remember, the FlipCam was the first major device to make mobile, cheap video a real possibility.  It was named so for the flip out USB port that awkwardly hung from the side of your PC.  This was perfect for people wanting to get onto the fledgling YouTube the fastest way possible at the time.   My colleagues at the Pittsburgh Foundation passed these out to no profits like candy.  The series was discontinued in 2011.

Of course today, we all have iPhones, Android phones, and other FlipCam-esque survivors by about every electronics manufacturer.  Recently when visiting Scarehouse, I happened to be experimenting with shooting with just my new iPhone 5C, and our friend from was shooting with a Samsung mini camera along the same lines as the FlipCam.

So here’s a bit of an updated version of what you should look out for when filming with any of these devices for a little bit better video.


  • Background noise.

    • General background fuzz and hums can be removed in post production.  Even iMovie includes a Noise Reduction tool.

  • Room noise.

    • Noise from large rooms of people like at the above events.  Get to know your device.  (I know that sounds weird).  Do some recordings in difference situations to see just what you get and what the threshold is.  There are mics to help with this, but for today, we’re looking at how to best use the device in hand without all of the modifications (see Dave Mansueto’s Podcamp Session on iOS mics for a primer on that)

      One of my clients had a tendency to be getting interviews with people in the midst of brunches of some sort.  This meant tons of dishes clanging as they cleaned up after the event.  Really tough on the Podcasters’ ears when we looked to convert it.

  • Phone interference.

    • Unless you have a way to monitor your audio, most of these devices don’t seem to have headphone out jacks that I’ve seen, this can’t be heard until afterwards.  It comes off as a buzz on the file, and is pretty rough to try to clean up, if at all possible.   Please be especially aware if you have GSM based phones (ATT or T-Mobile usually).  Even when you think your phone “isn’t doing anything” it could be messing up your video.

  • Background music.

    • You’re at an event.  There’s a radio, or a DJ playing some Rick Astley to the patrons. This can lead to being pulled from YouTube due to copyright restrictions.  It’s not quite as likely due to most content providers having ad deals when you get tagged.  Stinks if you’re hoping to make money from your video. Or if you want to keep uncontrolled ads off your super important non-profit super positive message.  Get away from that music.

  • Proximity

    • It’s important to consider your distance from the subject.  It’s a balance of getting them in a decent shot and not being too far away due to the smaller microphone on these devices.

iPhone 5C recording second angle. My makeshift tripod.


  • Back lit scenes

    • You may want to get that awesome shot of your VP’s office overlooking PNC Park or the river view.  Unless you have a ton of lights in front of them, not the typical office fluorescent lights, it’s not going to work out too well most likely.

  • Overly bumpy video

    • Tripod!  Even if you make up a makeshift Tripod.  Maybe a stack of books and a paper clip will do!  You’re going to be needing one if you’re doing a sit down interview.  That thing should not be moving.As you may know with cameras like that on the iPhone, aside from the shaking, there’s the rolling shutter that gives your video a “rubbery” effect if it’s moved too much.

      Of course if you have to do more of a stand up, on the move interview, do what you can to keep it steady.  Use two hands.  If you can “tripod” your elbows on a table, do it.  Especially if the interview goes on a little long.

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