Want to shoot a multi camera music video with your phone? How I did it, and what I learned.

Lorenzo's Music - Video Shoot
video shoot. via - Lorenzo's Music - cc-by-sa 

It’s possible to direct a video using several smartphones at once. What I learned from doing it may hopefully make things easier for you.


I decided to set up a video shoot for a new single my band has been working on. For this I entertained the idea of doing it solely on our phones.

My reasoning was - we all have a smartphone and the resolution and quality of them these days are extremely high. So why not try and wrangle these phones to do the job?

Here is a list of what we did to set it up.

The concept

The video would be multiple performance takes of the song. Nothing earth shattering just a performance video. The phones would be set up in different areas in the room and these would be edited together.

Setting up cameras/smartphones

We needed to be able to stand the phones in different areas. We did have to make some minimal purchases to do this.

Tripod stands.
We got both GorillaPods and standard tripods, to vary our shooting angle options.
Gorillapods are small and can be placed anywhere. They even have the ability to wrap the legs around things, so you don't need to find a place on the floor for them. http://amzn.to/1QFa10O



Traditional tripods the gorillapods are very short so regular tripods are still a good way to go. Just thought I'd mention it. http://amzn.to/1M5p12s

Phone mounts.
To set the phones on the tripods. I was able to find some that were relatively cheap and got enough for everyone in the group to use. http://amzn.to/1M5ov4w

Filming the video

Let's move on to recording the video. If you go the live route, like we did, using the audio from the phone wouldn’t be the best choice. It's nice for demoing but not for a good quality version of a song.

The Sound

The sound itself would not be from the phones. There are 2 ways to get sound for the video outside of the phone mics.
  • We could lip sync to an existing recording
  • Record audio live into a DAW (digital audio workstation, like ProTools or Audacity). 
We decided to do the second choice, record the audio live.

For this method, what you want to do is mic up the room and record it the way you would track a song. Record audio while the cameras are rolling.

Don't worry about starting everything at the same time, you can run a visual/sound cue to sync it up later.

How? You know on movie sets, that stripped box they clap in front of the camera right before they say action? We're going to do something like that.
  • Turn on the audio recording 
  • Start all the phones to record video. 
  • Stand in front of the cameras and clap your hands together one time. 
Later you look for the spike in the audio file where you clapped and line up with where you did that visually in the videos.

This will get your video and audio all synced up.

Record to a click track.
If you do more than one take you will want to use a click track. If you don’t, you may not play the same tempo for each take and the video will not match. A click track will keep these consistent with the other videos.

Transferring the videos.

While all this sounds easy so far, the one thing that is difficult when recording video on your phone is - the files are huge!

You can't just email them when you’re finished, and downloading them from each person's phone would be annoying. I thought about it for a bit, wanting to come up with a method seamless for everyone involved.

Here is what I came up with.

Install the Google Photos app.
Have everyone involved install this app on their phone and sign in to, or create their own google account. It will automatically backup the videos on the phone to each person's Google Photo account.

When all the videos have finished uploading to Google Photos you can delete them from your phone. They are backed up online.

Share the videos with your video editor.
You can easily share these with the account of person that is going to edit the video. The editor can then select and download them to their computer from Google Photos on their computer at photos.google.com.

Why not Dropbox? The Dropbox free account only gives you 2GB of storage. Your Google account gives you 15GB. Also everyone involved had a Gmail account already, so it just made more sense to me.

Trial and error.

This was all pretty painless for the most part. But we did hit a few snags along the way, and maybe you can learn from our experience.


Make sure the app is set to backup on WiFi only
In the Google photos app settings on your phone, set it to only sync over WiFi. We didn't check this and a few people used up the data plan on their phone for the month. That’s pretty important for obvious reasons.

Backing up videos takes time
You’ll have to be patient, like I said before, the video files are huge! The backup process will take several hours so you probably won't be able to use them until the next day.

Set the app to run in the background
One person found that the backup would stop when his phone screen would lock. He had to keep an eye on his phone to make sure the screen stayed open otherwise the uploading would stop. Not an ideal experience.

Setting it to run in the background should fix this.

Overall

For the most part, I think we will use this process again. As we do this more I think we will work out the kinks.

If you have a better way that you have done it, or can think of some steps that could improve the process that I may not have thought of, please let us know in the comments below.
Want to shoot a multi camera music video with your phone? How I did it, and what I learned. Want to shoot a multi camera music video with your phone? How I did it, and what I learned. Reviewed by Tom Ray on 11:04 PM Rating: 5
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