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Video Your Performance

Video Using Your Phone

If you have ever been in a videography class or even watched video training on Youtube then you’ve probably heard the old adage “the best camera is the one that’s with you”. In today’s world of smartphones, that adage is more real than it has ever been.

Mobile phone cameras have gotten progressively better over time and as they’ve become more reliable, they have become the ultimate tools for recording videos on the go. Most new devices full HD, and with increasing phone storage space, it’s easier than ever to shoot, save, and share videos. WIth the countless apps, both free and paid, editing video on the fly is a breeze as well. No more having to transfer videos to a computer, running them through expensive editing software such as Adobe Premiere and then uploading them in a different program; nope, it can all be done from the device in your hand.

Even though it is easier now than it was just 10 years ago, making quality videos is a skill that’s difficult to get right, but not impossible with practice. The main problem is that, when making video of our performance (or practices) we don't put any pre thought into the video, we just point and go, not realizing the importance of a quality video.

Why Bother?

The reason for wanting to strive for quality video production, even if it is video of your practices, is because quality counts. The right angle, quality cuts, right audio...this all works to create an initial impression with anyone who sees them. It shows the viewers of the video that you are quality performers in every aspect. Even quality shots of practices, can be used to edit in B roll into your videos.

So whether it’s recording videos to publish online or simply for the personal use of you and your performance team, these 10 simple tips will help you take and make better videos.

Now the rules listed below are mostly about using smartphones, but can also be applied if using a gopro or even a more professional set up.

1. Always Use the Back Camera

Many people don’t realize that the back camera is the best camera. While front cameras have gotten more reliable for FaceTime and video chats, they’ve not yet gotten to the same level where you can get decent, consistent video quality. Unless you’re recording a short video of yourself to share or edit into another video, always use the main camera at the back of your device to record videos.

2. Stability and Focus

It’s important to hold your device with both hands while recording video. Use a tripod or place your camera on a stable surface for best results if you can. Another thing to keep in mind is to constantly look at your phone to ensure that your recording is smooth. If you do hold your phone, make any and all motions as steady as possible, try to tayaway from jerking the camera by walking around while the video is going.

3. Landscape Mode

This is another simple one that people miss. As mobile phones have gotten bigger, portrait seems like the logical (and comfortable) way to record video. While that’s fine to view on a mobile device, keep in mind that videos are best viewed on a big screen, like a PC monitor or TV. Portrait mode does not do justice to those screens because you’re wasting valuable real estate along the sides. So even if you have to record something in a hurry, get into the habit of recording in landscape mode. This also helps lessen jerks and stabilizes the shot better if you have it in landscape position and holding it with both hands.

4. Add a Grid

The only thing worse than watching a video recorded in portrait mode is watching a video taken at a wrong angle. I kid you not, i have seen videos of performances where the stage was in full shot, but the tops of the puppet’s heads weren’t even in the frame. Adding a grid lets you use your background as a point of reference to ensure that your recording is always straight. Some devices don’t have this option, but there are quite a few apps that do; I personally love the app Movie Pro. This app even lets you go back through your recorded video and take snapshots.

The grid helps you align your video against a line in the background to ensure you’re recording straight videos. Generally, this grid will split your screen up into 9 areas that you can use a basic concept in film/photography/animation called the rule of thirds, which basically means that you never put your subject of focus in the center, but rather at one of the intersecting points, thus focusing in on a higher or lower third of the screen. It's a cool concept if you ever want to research it.

5. Lighting

Lighting plays a bigger role in videography than photography because it’s easy to edit photos if they are too bright or dark or have odd color schemes, but doing the same to a video can usually destroy its quality. As a general rule of thumb, always adjust the white balance on your device when possible and have at least three light sources on your subject, a brighter light on the subject itself and two diffused lights bouncing off the background to help the subject pop stand out from the background but not be so bright that they are too bright and there aren’t unnecessary shadows. This holds especially true for puppeteer work. Too much of the wrong light in the wrong location can cause the puppeteer’s shadows to reflect on the wall.

6. Angles

The best way to record videos is wide angle. In short, this means that you should position the camera a few feet away from the action so that you can capture everything and not have to move your camera much at all. Sometimes, when shooting things like a stage performance, it can be a good idea to position yourself higher that the audience this way you are pointing your camera downwards to capture all the action from an angle slightly above which will keep people from walking in front of your shot. It stinks to have a recording of one of the best performances of your career and an old, heavy-set woman with a walker slowly makes her way across in front of your camera trying to locate her seat only to realize he is in the wrong row and slowly makes her way back, thus blocking almost five minutes of a seven minute performance (been there, done that).

7. Avoid These…

Unnecessary Movement

Smartphone auto focus is not the greatest, so the less movement you have, the better your overall video quality will be. If you do have to move, make sure that you keep it as subtle and slow as you can so your camera has enough time to focus on each scene correctly as you move. If you want to do extreme angle changes in your editing, get multiple recordings and edit them together or pause the camera, when possible, move to the new position and restart the recording.


As tempting as it to do, another thing smartphone cameras are not yet good at is zooming in and out of subjects while the video is recording. Same as with moving, the focus will be delayed in catching up with the new view so your video will be blurred.


Don’t be afraid to experiment. Thankfully, our devices have gotten to the point where we can easily try again if something goes wrong and if your performance is good, it will not be the only time you do it so you will have more opportunities to get better footage in the future.

The reason you want to collect as much footage as you can is for marketing purposes. Getting your name out there is vital to getting more gigs. Sometimes, the first and only impression that you give someone is a video of what you can do.

SO give them something worth watching.


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