How to make great videos in isolation

Our powerhouse filmmaker Greg Barnes runs through his top tips to help you create great content while in quarantine.

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Almost everyone in isolation has access to a perfectly fit-for-purpose and impressively powerful camera within their smartphone. But how do you get the most out of it?


There is no correct answer here. Every time you pick your phone up to shoot, ask yourself ‘What platform am I prioritising for this video?’

Owing to my own personal preference for YouTube and Vimeo publication, I’ll often hold the phone to its side and shoot in a landscape/widescreen orientation.

However, changes in trends and the way people watch video on their phones has increasingly had me opting for the portrait/vertical orientation, which is perfect for IGTV etc.

If you anticipate the footage will be needed in a square ratio then consider framing the subject in the centre of your widescreen or vertical composition, making it easier to drop into a crop later on.


The camera on your phone is a powerful and technological marvel, but it needs nurturing.

Smartphone video really shines where there’s light, but the darker your environment gets the more your image will fall apart.

When you are picking a spot to place your subject, consider the light sources around you. Open curtains for sunny windows, turn on lamps and brighten up your computer screens. Have a play with what’s available to you and see what works.

Keep in mind that a beam of light directly in the face of your subject is rarely flattering, try to arrange strong light sources to one side. Try not to backlight your subject either, unless you’re looking for a dramatic silhouette.

If you have the luxury of choosing a time of day for your shoot, look up when ‘Golden Hour’, is going to occur and prioritise the attractive warm light you’ll experience during sunset/sunrise.

Try to avoid shooting at noon when the sun is highest in the sky, it’s rarely flattering and always stark. If you have to shoot at night, think about the environmental light sources available to you. Is there a streetlight you could take advantage of? Or light coming from a shop sign or storefront you could stand next to?


When a camera recording video shakes, the image blurs… It’s as simple as that.

We’ve all noticed it on the more dramatic end of the spectrum, indistinguishable blurred imagery that gives us a queasy feeling. But even when your phone is slightly shaking, the image is ever so slightly blurring and your quality is diminished.

If you can, put your phone on a tripod or place it on a safe platform, you’ll notice much sharper, clarified video and your audience won’t throw up.


Most people will forgive a dark or shaky shot, but they’ll rarely tolerate bad audio.

There are many microphone solutions for smartphone video recording, from mini shotgun microphones to radio lapel mics that will record directly into your phone. The RØDE Wireless Go is a great affordable option – if you’re planning to shoot regular content and will be talking to camera or performing interviews, I seriously recommend getting one of these.

If you have just your phone available to you, then try to optimise your environment instead. Walk around your location simply clapping your hands and listening for any echo. The place where you get least echo is your best spot for audio. You can get really good voiceover audio simply by holding your phone approximately three inches away from your mouth and speaking just off mic, not directly into it.

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