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Recording a decent video of your smartphone is not always easy. It can sometimes be done via software, but often, you’ll get the best results with a proper camera and the right setup. Here’s a full description of the setup I use to record video reviews for MakeUseOf — it is not perfect, but it is simple and effective.

Sample Video

Let’s start with the results first. Here is a video I made with this method:

sample video here

What You’ll Need

This method uses five basic ingredients.

android-record-gear

One key missing ingredient is an external mic, which is essential for decent sound. We recommend the Audio-Technica ATR-3350, which costs less than $20 and is what our video editor, Dave LeClair, uses for Video Game Hub Gauntlet Reboot, Twitch Streaming From iOS, Infinite Crisis Open Beta [Video Game Hub] Gauntlet Reboot, Twitch Streaming From iOS, Infinite Crisis Open Beta [Video Game Hub] Read More .

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Setting Up The Tripod

This is what we’re going for:

tripod-setup

Nothing fancy: The phone’s on the table, and the camera is pointing down at it. There is no need to open the tripod’s legs at a very wide angle (the Weifeng has three levels). Since you’re zooming in on the phone, the legs won’t show in the shot.

Here is a closer look at the tripod’s ball head:

tripod-ball-head

There are two grooves along its circumference that allow it to point straight down. Above, you can see the stem inserted into the groove – all that remains is putting on the camera and fine-tuning the angle.

spirit-level

This is where the spirit level comes in. Lock the camera into the tripod and point it down. Now simply place the spirit level on a flat area of the camera, and adjust it laterally until the bubble’s as close to the center as possible. Next, rotate the spirit level 90 degrees (so you can adjust the up-down axis) and carefully adjust the camera along that axis.

This takes longer to read than to do – it’s simple. Once you have the camera dead center, tighten the ball head down so it doesn’t move on you.

Phone and Camera Settings

Make sure your phone’s screen is relatively clean, and crank the brightness up to maximum. This is important to avoid glare and reflections — you want the screen shining nice and bright into the camera. Then put it on the table so that it’s roughly in the center of the frame, and zoom in with your lens until it fills up as much of the shot as you want it to (I usually go for full height).

Next let’s tackle some camera settings. Note that each camera has its own menu structure so I can’t tell you how to set these (what to press when). I can only suggest what I think you should set.

camera-screen

There are several issues you may come across here. First up, white balance. The phone screen takes up most of your shot, and the colors shown on the screen will change as you use the app or game during the video. If you leave white balance at auto, you’ll get wild color variations throughout the video. So, lock this to a specific setting (daylight, above).

Next, focus: Do not attempt to use autofocus. Switch your lens to manual, and use the camera’s focus check feature to zoom in on the image at 5x or 10x magnification, then manually adjust the lens focus until it’s nice and sharp. Your phone will not be moving away from the lens during filming so locking focus is safe.

Finally the trickiest point: Avoiding moiré. Moiré is a name for those annoying twisty lines you often see in videos of computer screens. The key to avoiding it is to play with your aperture and shutter speed settings. This is tricky because the camera’s LCD may make it difficult to spot moiré, but it is possible.

That’s it. All in all, setup takes about five minutes, and the video comes out nice and clear.

Now You Teach Me

What am I doing wrong? What would be an easier or better way to record my phone’s screen? Share your tips in the comments, along with links to YouTube videos showing your work.

  1. jeffcard
    November 2, 2016 at 8:55 am

    You can use QuickTime player to record iPhone screen, free and easy, no need jailbreak.
    1. Plug in iPhone to computer, launch QuickTime and select menu File->New Movie Recording.
    2. On the right of the red circle record button on the video preview screen is a reversed ^ icon. Click on it for a drop down menu allowing you to choose the iPhone as video source. That's all.
    To get better quality video like 4K or HD video, I'd recommend Acethinker iPhone Screen Recorder.

  2. Cosmin
    January 21, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Hello,
    Nice article. I am stucked at the last step (finding the right aperture and shutter speed). What settings did you use? Also, does the ISO influence the video? How? Thank you!

  3. Mike Cornelison
    April 1, 2014 at 6:47 am

    Let us know when there's a software solution.

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