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Shooting Video on a Phone Without a Gimbal

How to shoot smoother video on your phone without a gimbal: Gear, settings, lighting, shooting techniques, and post-production options.

DLKR
DLKR
Jul 25 · 3 min read

gimbal can help you shoot smoother video with your smartphone. They are increasingly sophisticated, easy to use, and affordable. However, Jay Maisel was right when he said, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” And, this also applies to not having a gimbal on hand. Sometimes, it’s better to take a less than perfect shot than to miss it altogether.

Shooting without a gimbal isn’t so bad. There’s no need to carry anything extra and spend time setting it up. Also, there’s no additional item to worry about charging and keeping its software/firmware updated. There’s no other app to learn how to use (some gimbals have their own camera apps).

Below, we’ll explore how to maximize our results when shooting video without a gimbal.

Preparation

If you’re going to shoot without a gimbal then I guess you’re a minimalist who would also like to avoid tripods, clip-on lenses, additional apps, and lighting setups. However, there are still a few items to consider.

  • Gear: If you’re a butterfingers, consider investing in a sturdy phone case to protect your phone when you inevitably drop it. Try to find one that isn’t so smooth and slippery. For winter, you might want to consider gloves with touchscreen-friendly fingertips.
  • Settings: Set your phone’s camera to the highest resolution and framerate available. This will enable better stabilization to occur in post-production.
  • Lighting: During the day, you want to avoid shooting outdoors when the sun is casting shadows. At night, smartphones tend to struggle compared to professional-level video cameras, particularly with low-light conditions or light-pollution from street lamps.

Shooting Technique

If you are shooting on one of the latest and greatest smartphones, then you may be surprised at how stable your footage turns out. They have been continuously improving their ability to apply stabilization to video in realtime.

Regardless of what phone you are shooting with, it is possible to improve your technique so as to minimize shakiness.

  • Grip: How you hold your phone will obviously change depending on whether you’re shooting horizontal/landscape video for the likes of YouTube vs. vertical for IGTV. In either case, you want to not be so tense that you get rigid, but not so loose that you risk dropping your phone. It also depends on whether you want to be able to access the screen with one or more fingers to adjust settings or controls while you shoot.
  • Walk: For a single smooth walking shot, try the “Ninja Walk.” For shots of longer durations, experiment with ways of moving that are sustainable yet provide some stabilization.
  • Arms: Try different elbow and wrist angles, holding your phone closer or further away from your core, and in line with your center versus out to the side.
  • Privacy: If someone is walking towards you, once they start to get close, adjust your angle to shoot in another direction. This isn’t possible on crowded streets, but people can tell that you’re not singling them out for a shot in those situations.

Post Production

We can apply additional stabilization with post-production tools ranging from simple apps to sophisticated editing suites. If you are looking for a free video editing suite, I’ve heard good things about DaVinci Resolve, but apparently it has a steep learning curve since it’s designed for professionals.

Alternatively, there’s always the option of hiring a freelance video editor via the likes of Fiverr. And, if you know you will be consistently producing a fair amount of content, you might consider a subscription-based service such as Video Husky.

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