How to easily film and edit videos with your phone

Here’s the everyday person’s guide to filming and editing videos in (what I think is) a super simple way. Most, if not all these apps can be accessed for free by anyone and the learning curve is pretty quick.

I’m going to cover everything you need to get started and some filming best practice. You can explore the videos below on YouTube for live demos of all the editing parts. And no, these aren’t super detailed and long videos. They are short, snappy and give you the key info you need.

Quick jump 🔎

  1. Recommended apps
  2. Recommended equipment
  3. Prepare yourself and participants
  4. How to film with your phone
  5. Editing your videos
  6. Free music for your videos

Let’s get started

First off I’m using an iPhone so these apps are mostly biased towards this device. If you’re using an android device, you can pick up some of these apps or get alternatives which shouldn’t be hard to find through a quick Google search (I have listed alternatives for non-Apple users later in this article).

I use a combination of these 4 apps for all my filming and editing needs:

Apple clips

A simple and fun way to record unique clips and include subtitles in your videos. Available on all Apple devices for free.

InShot

A very popular editing app used across many social channels and perfect for all your video needs. You can add cool effects, text on screen and lots of other cool stuff too. Available for both IOS and Android devices.

Windows Photos Video editor

Now this is not a phone app but a free functionality of the photos app on all Windows 10 devices. It’s basically the successor to the much loved, and very easy to use movie maker app that Microsoft shut down many years ago.

Very simple to use but has it’s limitations. Although, for most simple video edits, you can’t go wrong with this one. Available on Windows devices only.

iMovie

The flagship free video editing app provided with all Apple devices. A very powerful and simple to use piece of software. Films and tv shows have been created just using a phone and this app alone. I use this app for 90% of my videos and would recommend this as an essential part of your toolkit.

Available on Apple devices only.

I feel you and I have some alternatives. ShotCut is a free video editing app for windows and linux devices which will do the job but be warned, it has a steep learning curve. Hence why I have not given it the spotlight in this easy to get going how – to. If you’ve got some cash you could invest in Adobe’s premiere elements suite too but again I don’t think it’s needed when you have the likes of InShot available on all mobile devices and the free version will generally do everything you require.

You can explore videos on how to navigate and edit your own videos on each of these apps above on my YouTube channel.

Recommended equipment

Notice how I say recommend equipment and not necessary? That’s because you could just get away with a phone and that’s it but for an extra £50 you can make your films even slicker.

Clip-on microphone: If you want to avoid the pain of drowning out the unpredictable background noise in the editing room then I highly recommend you purchase a clip-on mic for filming. Nothing fancy, just a simple device that plugs into your phone to give you crystal clear sound from your subject.

We are lucky that with most new phones these days, the audio quality is so good that you might not even need an external mic.

Here’s the one I use.

Mini – Tripod: If you find it difficult to keep your phone still while recording short videos, then it might be worth investing in a small tripod to save your wrists. I’ve been using the very popular (and for good reason) Gorilla Pod tripod models for the last 4 years. 

Easy to use for any device and you can shape the tripods to fit onto any surface you have at your disposal. This is the model I currently use and I recommend getting a universal phone holder attachment too.

That’s it, I use nothing else on top of this equipment. From time to time I will make use of a larger tripod to accompany the mini one but again you can pick up one of these on Amazon for about £20.

As I said before, these are recommendations and not necessities. Depending on what you’re filming, you may not need to buy any of these at all. Just hold your phone instead.

Preparing yourself and participants

Before we jump into how to film and best practices we need to explore how you will prepare yourself for shooting videos where you are the only participant and for when you are filming other participants.

When filming yourself:

  • Be clear on your key messages: What is it that you want people to take away from your content?
  • Determine how long you want the video to be: For sharing on social media, I would recommend you have a max length of 3 minutes. This doesn’t mean your shooting time will be 3 mins, You can film as long as you like and edit the video down to 3 minutes later.
  • Take multiple shots of the same section: Give yourself as many different options as possible in the editing room. If you are like me, it can take you awhile to warm up and take 20 will be much better than take 1.

When filming others:

  • Send a brief of the session in advance so they know what to expect. This should include an outline of the purpose of this video and what they’ll need to prepare and do.
  • Try to answer any questions and allay any fears ahead of the session. Many people aren’t comfortable with being on video. Be aware that they might be anxious. Talking them through how this process will work in a calm manner will go a long way in setting you up for a successful filming session.

How to film with your phone: Best practice

Ok, let’s focus on setting up your phone to start filming. Filming is probably the easiest part in my opinion.

  1. Turn on airplane mode – no distractions.
  1. Don’t zoom in while filming! A common error made by us all is to zoom in during filming but there is no need as this can easily be done in the editing room and can actually cause more trouble for you later if you do film while zoomed in.
  1. Place the camera at eye level – as much as possible, try to line up your camera with the intended subject’s eyes line.
  1. Lock your phone into a tripod or holder – again as with the above, make sure to line your tripod up with your subject. No tripod? no problem, use the T-Rex pose – if you don’t have a tripod and have unshakable wrists of steel then you can hold your phone like this.

When filming others:

  • In advance, send them a brief of the filming session (use this template) which includes the key messages of the video, the input you need from them and questions they should reflect on.
  • Make them feel relaxed.
  • Have them talking to you and not straight down the camera. Position yourself next to the camera for a more natural conversation.
  • Choose the right environment. Somewhere quiet with less background noise for 1:1 sessions is better.
  • No bright coloured or stripey clothing.
  • Have them in front of a neutral wall or area. Avoid brightly coloured backgrounds that clash with clothing.
  • Deploy a 5 second countdown at the start of each video. Don’t start and stop for mistakes, let the film roll and cut out in editing.
  • Always test your mic and video with the participant to check your equipment and make them feel at ease.
  • Make sure they aren’t staring notes on paper or an iPad. A lot of people want to do this but it makes the final product very robotic. Instead, allow them to review their notes between takes and then recite back to you on video. You could use a whiteboard for them to write key points they can look to.

When filming yourself:

  • Follow most of the above. Don’t follow a script, use key points instead and talk like you would to another human.
  • Don’t worry if you say something wrong. This can be removed later.
  • Try to use a tripod if you have one so your hands are free to move.
  • Don’t stare into the camera like a serial killer! Be calm, relaxed and avoid making your audience feel like you’re staring into their soul.

When filming groups:

  • Try to pick an environment where there is less risk of background noise outside of the group.
  • Use two phones (if available) to record different angles of participants’ faces.
  • Don’t worry too much about overall audio quality while filming. As you get more comfortable with editing, you’ll learn how to enhance audio from group conversations.

Editing your videos: Crafting your masterpiece

Ok, we’ve covered the best and simplest apps to use, recommended equipment and best practice for filming.

This last section is delivered through a suite of short how-to videos covering how to use each app to edit your videos.

Everything you need to know about editing with Apple clips

Everything you need to know about editing with InShot

Everything you need to know about editing with Windows photos video editor

Everything you need to know about editing with iMovie

Wait, how do I find free music to add to the background of my videos?

There are loads of royalty free sites everywhere. Here are some of my favourites:

YouTube audio library

Soundcloud free music for your videos

Free Music Archive

In addition, all four of the apps I’ve recommended come with pre-loaded audio tracks and if you’re creating a video for personal use only (i.e not distributed online) then you can even add music from your favorite artists.

If you can’t find something to your tastes in the above, check out this list from Buffer with 13 more places to find background music.

You’re a filmmaker! 

That’s it folks. You’ve explored everything you need to know about easily filming and editing videos. Hopefully, this content helps you build new skills and you’ll realise that you don’t need specialist skills or need to spend lots of money to be a filmmaker.

Get out there, give it a try and shoot your masterpiece.

Drop me a message on the Twitterverse if you have any questions.


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