Jade Sambrook: Putting together a Smartphone Video Making Kit

I’ve recently started producing short videos for YouTube using my iPhone 6, and with every video there seems to be some improvement. In fact, as I move forward with these video productions I am planning on there being even more improvement.

As they say, you have to start somewhere, and for the time being that is exactly what I have done. I’m just happy to have at least started. It’s kind of like writer’s block, you just have to get going, and once you do, things just flow from there.

Now putting together these videos reminds me of high school, when I was in media production class and we would edit videos with a linear editing program called Toaster 2000. As you may know, the problem with linear editing is that if you screwed-up somewhere along the line you’d have to start over from the beginning. If you decided once you were done editing the video that you wanted to move a scene to another point in the video, you’d also pretty much have to start over your entire editing process from the beginning.

Fortunately though, we are now-a-days privy to non-linear editing systems, like Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro and Pinnacle Studio. If you want to change something around at any point in time in your editing workflow you can simply do it without having to start over from scratch.

This last while I’ve mostly been filming the ongoing student protests in Montreal. Although it seems to be simmering down, with less protests and even less protestors, I’m always searching for that one moment where the police and the protestors will clash. While I don’t want to be accused of seeking a scene where protestors are being beaten by the police, or even the other way around, where the police are being beaten by the protestors, you have to admit that such scenes do make for some great entertainment. I am therefore always hoping to capture something of the sort, kind of like a war zone photojournalist would much prefer to capture a war scene instead of a bumblebee flying amongst the tulips.

At a recent protest attended by an estimated 75,000 protestors, I noticed that the audio captured by my iPhone 6 video camera was not the best, most likely because of the sheer amount of noise coming from the huge crowd. I filmed and photographed much of the day, and when protestors and the police finally did clash, my iPhone shut down due to a lack of battery power. That is what Jade Sambrook calls absolute bad timing, and I vowed to never let it happen again!

As a solution I decided to go shopping for some gadgets that would allow me to create a smartphone video making kit geared towards amateur journalism. The great thing about using a smartphone for video making, other than the fact that it records 1080P HD video, is how lightweight it is compared to a heavy DSLR or standard camcorder. There is no need to have a huge side bag on your shoulder as it pretty much fits into any pocket. And this was one of my main considerations in shopping for smartphone video making accessories, notably, that they had to be transportable without the need for a huge side bag.

Personally I often wear my kilt, and as you know a kilt does not have any pockets. The only pocket is the sporran that is worn at the front of the kilt. If I am wearing a jacket with my kilt then this obviously gives me access to some pockets, but otherwise, such as on a nice summer day, the only pocket is the sporran at the front of the kilt. It was therefore imperative that my smartphone video making kit be able to fit into the sporran.

So here is what I put together for my smartphone video making kit, which I like to call my Scottish video making kit, because it is both cheap and fits entirely into my sporran.

Scottish Smartphone Video Making Kit:

Mophie Powerstation Plus external battery: $79.95 CAD
Rode SmartLav+ lavalier microphone: $99.99 CAD
HISY selfie remote: $24.95 CAD
iBlazr LED Flash for iPhone: $49.95 CAD

Total cost: $254.84 CAD (+tax)


Power

To ensure that I never again run out of battery power at the wrong moment, I purchased the Mophie Powerstation Plus for $79.95. This compact external battery holds enough power to be able to quickly charge the iPhone 6 up to two times. And it comes equipped with an integrated lightning and micro USB cable so that you do not need to bring along an additional cable. In other words, one less cable in your pocket.

Mophie Powersastion Plus connected to iPhone 6
Mophie Powersastion Plus connected to iPhone 6

Now, I almost purchased the Mophie Juice Pack Plus for $150, which acts as both an extra battery and protector case for your iPhone. However, on second thought, I did not want my iPhone 6 to be thicker, as I like it to be slim as designed. Obviously this phone case does in fact make your iPhone 6 become as big, and thicker, than the iPhone 6 Plus.

Also, while the Juice Pack Plus case does claim to protect your iPhone, the last thing I want is to have to replace the case if it gets damaged when dropped. It’s very nice that the case will protect the iPhone, but what will protect this $150 case?

Last but not least I want to eventually have the option to put my iPhone 6 into a smartphone video making rig system like the Hitcase Pro or Olloclip. And obviously with the iPhone inside of a Juice Pack Plus case this would not be possible.

I therefore settled on the external Powerstation Plus and I could not be happier. I’ve already had to use it on a couple of occasions and it’s both a lifesaver and works exactly as advertised.

Audio

For better audio I purchased the SmartLav+ lavalier microphone by Rode, which was on special for $89.99, although it usually retails for $99.99. If you have not had the opportunity, I wrote a previous blog post on this microphone that you can read here.

The SmartLav+ microphone has improved the quality of audio in my videos tremendously. Even when I am in the middle of a crowd of protestors who are chanting loudly, the SmartLav+ microphone picks up my voice above all, while still picking up just enough of the chanting to give context to the scene. In other words my voice is not drowned out like it would be if I were just using the built in microphone on my iPhone 6.

Rode SmartLav+ lavalier microphone connected to iPhone 6
Rode SmartLav+ lavalier microphone connected to iPhone 6

I can also speak away from the camera, and it will pick up my voice equally as if I were speaking directly at the camera. I also purchased a 20 foot extension made by Rode specifically for this type of microphone, which allows me to be at a fair distance from the camera compared to the 3 foot chord of the actual microphone. In other words I can now be roughly 23 feet away from the iPhone 6 camera.

I am extremely happy with my choice of the SmartLav+, and specifically considering that it is in line with my requirement that it fit into my kilt sporran along with the other accessories.

Remote Record Button

In case I bring along my selfie stick, which I had purchased a long time ago, and for a heap of other reasons, I purchased the HISY selfie remote for $24.95. This allows me to start and stop recording, even when the iPhone is at the end of the selfie stick and too far away for me to press record on the actual phone screen.

HISY selfie remote and stand for iPhone 6
HISY selfie remote and stand for iPhone 6

The HISY selfie remote also comes with a cheap little stand which can be great for placing your smartphone on a ledge so that you can address the camera without having to hold it. The great thing about this cheap little stand is that it is so small it can fit into any pocket unlike the more traditional spider leg type stands made by Joby.

HISY selfie remote with iPhone 6 on the stand
HISY selfie remote with iPhone 6 on the stand

Lighting

For now I purchased the Nova wireless flash for $59.95, however this item is geared towards photography only. For video making I am planning on buying the iBlazr LED flash for $49.95, in case I need to record at night or have a fill light when filming in the presence of harsh daytime shadows. While the iBlazr LED flash is also geared towards photography, its constant light mode is equally perfect for video making.

The iBlazr LED Flash for iPhone. Photo credit: Apple Store
The iBlazr LED Flash for iPhone. Photo credit: Apple Store

In the end, Jade Sambrook now has an awesome little smartphone video making kit, that can fit snugly into a kilt sporran with other items such as wallet and keys. There is no need for a huge camera bag and I’ll never run out of power again, I’ll always get great audio, and I’ll have the flexibility to start and stop recording my videos from a distance.

Jade Sambrook wearing a kilt and using the sporran to store the Scottish Smartphone Video Making Kit
Jade Sambrook wearing a kilt and using the sporran to store the Scottish Smartphone Video Making Kit

Now I just have to get going on making the videos. Again, it’s like writer’s block, once you start it just flows from there!

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