Before You Shoot: A Checklist

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

Hey, Stringr! Yeah, you: If you’re serious about selling video regularly on the Stringr platform, but don’t want to invest in an expensive video camera, you should consider purchasing some attachments for shooting with your smartphone. Here’s your pre-shooting gear checklist, as well as a few tricks of the trade to keep in mind before heading out into the field.

iphoneshot

Prepare your phone

  • Make sure your battery is fully charged, and go into airplane mode to conserve battery. Wifi networks can still be accessed in airplane mode, but being connected to wifi and bluetooth will also drain battery.
  • Clean your lens — the sleeve of your shirt will work in a pinch.
  • Get rid of extra media and apps on your phone. If you need those apps for personal use, get another phone to be used specifically for shooting. So next time you get an upgrade, save your old model for shooting!
  • Test the sound and image before you start shooting the actual event, and play it back to make sure the sound comes through and the image isn’t blurry.
The user interface of the app FiLMiC Pro, available on the app store for $9.99.

The user interface of the app FiLMiC Pro, available on the app store for $9.99.

Lock autofocus and autoexposure

  • If you download See it with Us or FiLMiC Pro, you’ll be able to select an appropriate brightness and camera subject distance. These apps allow AE, AF, and AWB locks.
  • If you’re used to using an actual camera, remember that smartphones control exposure through shutter speed and ISO only. There is no “f:stop” control on your phone.
mobile-gorillapod-0246_600.0000001350315352

The Mobile GorillaPod can be attached to your arm to steady your shot.

Stabilize the camera

  • Use a tripod, rest your phone up against something, or hold your arms as close to your center of gravity as possible to reduce shaky footage. The heavier your phone, the more you reduce the sway. Watch our video blog on handheld shooting here.
  • Newer smartphones have stabilization built in — make sure that it is turned on.
  • Check out our video blog on tripods for more information.
  • Some specific models that have received positive reviews are: GorillaPod Mobile, The Keyprop, and GripTight Mount.
A reporter photographs musician James Taylor using an Apple iPhone as he gives an interview during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A reporter photographs musician James Taylor using an Apple iPhone as he gives an interview during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Shoot for the editors

  • Most cameras cannot keep up with movement, so stay at as wide of an angle as possible.
  • NEVER zoom in and move; in fact, it’s best to avoid zooming all together. Digital zooms degrade the image.
  • Allow subjects to enter and leave the frame. Check out our video blog on framing your shot here.
  • Separate your interview subject from the background whenever you can, and don’t film your subject in front of windows or a bright background (otherwise, you won’t be able to see the subject).
  • Always shoot horizontally!
The Ampridge Mighty Mic.

The Ampridge Mighty Mic.

Get good sound 

  • Smartphones usually don’t allow you to monitor sound levels, so shoot a test and play it back while wearing your earphones to make sure that the video has audio.
  • Get up close and personal with your sound source if possible — this will eliminate extraneous sound.
  • Consider using a second phone for audio (just in case).
  • Wind will ruin your audio: If you have an external mic, put a softie on it. If you’re shooting with only your phone’s mic, try to block the wind with your hand if possible.
  • Consider an external microphone that plugs into a headphone jack. Some reliable models are: The Mighty Mic, Røde Videomic Go, and DXA-SLR Ultra Adapter (this one is advertised to be used with a DSLR camera, but it can be used with iPhones).
  • See our own video blog on getting better audio here.
The OlloClip lens will give your smartphone telephoto abilities.

The OlloClip lens will give your smartphone telephoto abilities.

Fragment your world

The Anamorphic Adapter lens.

The Anamorphic Adapter lens.

How-To: Shoot VIP’s

The key to being a successful one-man video crew is preparation. No matter what type of footage you are capturing, preparation is the key to a job well done.  With the presidential campaigns picking up, capturing VIPs who are swarmed with press can be hectic.

Here are some tips to getting the coverage you need.

When you receive a request or want to shoot a high profile person, do some research before hand and mentally imagine how it will go down. Find out what time it starts. This lets you plan your arrival to get the best location for a clear shot.

The earlier you arrive the less crowded the allotted area will be. Choose your location wisely and anticipate where things might happen. Having a clear shot is vital, so watch out for arms, cameras and mics that could get in your way.

An early arrival is great because you can get shots of the person entering and exiting the building, as well as a variety of broll shots, which is vital for editors.

When shooting the subject, limit yourself to using wide or medium shots. Using these shots will allow you to capture all the necessary moments without the fuss of capturing close ups.  Having a wide shot will give the subject space to move around without you moving the camera.

Finally, do not neglect your audio. Statements or speeches made are a must and can make or break the footage you shoot. In this scenario, use a directional microphone to record clear audio.

These tips can be applied to a variety of different requests and shoots. As long as you always prepare yourself you will have a smoother, less stressful and more successful shoot.

To Cover or Not to Cover? Seeking Out the News

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

The team at Stringr’s curation desk in New York City is hard at work around the clock, actively monitoring breaking news in our 10 live markets. But there’s no need to wait for requests. We want you to be on the lookout for newsworthy events too.

As an enterprising Stringr, you ARE allowed to submit a video that is not associated with a specific footage request. But to avoid wasting your own time covering something that won’t interest our customers, we recommend you follow the guidelines that we ourselves stand by as to determining if an event is newsworthy.

  1. Crime: Unfortunately, crime impacts many communities. Our customers are interested in crimes that involve innocent people: think children, parents and individuals who should not have gotten caught in the cross fire. If you happen to be witness to a crime before police arrive, ALWAYS call 9-1-1 before you take out your camera or phone to film anything. Safety for you and others should always be your number one priority.

    NEVER EVER TAMPER WITH EVIDENCE. A still from

    NEVER EVER TAMPER WITH EVIDENCE. A still from the film “Nightcrawler.”

  2. Motor Vehicle Accidents: MVAs are also far more common than you may realize, and don’t generally constitute news. Again, go by the “unusual” rule of thumb — for instance, if the accident seriously impacted traffic on a major route, if a vehicle is on fire, if a large number of people/vehicles were involved, if pedestrians were involved or if a car crashed into a building. Please note, if you’re driving by an accident scene, NEVER film while driving. It is dangerous and against the law. Rather, safely pull over to the side of the road and exit your car before filming anything, and as always, make sure that emergency personnel have been contacted before shooting video. Also, make sure that your involvement will not have any further negative impact on emergency efforts or traffic.
  3. Protests: For excellent tips on how to shoot a protest, check out this week’s video blog. This week one of our Stringrs from Texas captured vehement words being exchanged between different groups of protesters at an elementary school in McKinney, Texas, where police activity at a pool party earlier this week has flared racial tensions in the area.

    A still from video of the McKinney protests.

    A still from video of the McKinney protests.

  4. Weather: Weather events generally have to be extreme to warrant coverage; think flooding, tornadoes, water spouts, hail, dramatic lightning, etc. We’re interested in weather video that shows the weather’s effect on people: how they live, work and commute. Check out our video blog on shooting weather. A terrific example from this past week is our Texas-based Stringr, Dominic Nagella’s video of the Trinity River flooding over a roadway near Dallas. His video showed the river flooded over a roadway, but it also had a compelling subject — a young boy standing on a road barrier, fishing in the floodwaters. The cars and trains moving on the highway near the horizon of Nagella’s frame provided additional interest for the viewer. His b-roll footage was purchased by one of our customers.

    A still from video of the Trinity River flooding over a roadway in Texas.

    A still from video of the Trinity River flooding over a roadway in Texas.

At Stringr’s curation desk, we have access to news wire services that allow us to hear about breaking news first! If you decide to seek it out on your own, please remember to follow the letter of the law and stay safe.