Top tips for making videos with a smartphone

Helen Port

Helen Bitmead has already taught us about the power of video-based learning to educate. But what if your filming budget is minimal or non-existent? Does that mean giving up on the whole video idea altogether – or is there another way? With a little thought and preparation, you might find that your smartphone is…smarter than you thought.

Everyone loves a video

The statistics on video marketing are astounding. According to some estimates 100 million internet users watch video each day, nearly 50% of internet users view at least one video online over the course of a month, and according to one researcher one minute of video has been estimated to be worth 1.8 million words. It’s not surprising, therefore, that video is such an important teaching tool. But telling a good story via video requires skill and experience. If you don’t get it right, you won’t engage your audience and nothing will be learned. But there will be times when you have a quick message to get out to your team, learners or customers and you simply can’t afford to bring in the professionals. So what do you do?

Smartphone to the rescue

‘I’ve got a smartphone with a camera; I’ll do it myself this time,’ you might think to yourself. Not a bad idea, but it needs to look at least half decent if you are representing your business. If you need to go down this path, therefore, Training Snippets has a few tips to help you avoid common pitfalls:

1. Before you start filmingmake sure you have enough free memory on your phone. This might sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many people get caught out. For one minute of video, you will need at least 200 MB of free space.

2. Make sure the camera lens is clean and the battery fully charged. Again, sounds obvious, until your battery runs out and you realise that your footage isn’t clear.

3. Choose an indoor position where there is plenty of light and it’s quiet. Stand your subject(s) on a spot or sit them on a low back chair to prevent them from moving around.

wong and corect positionin-new1


Position yourself
and the camera one meter away from your subject. Any further away and he will be too far from the microphone on the phone.  This will make the finished audio difficult to hear and your subject will sound like he is in an empty hall.



4. The phone should be the same heightas the person you are filming, so support your elbow on something such as a cushion or the arm of a chair. If you are standing use your free hand for support. This will help to prevent the shot from moving around too much and make the finished product look more professional.


5. Hold the phone sideways(landscape) rather than up and down (portrait).  If you do it this way, your video fills the screen instead of having black pillars either side with a long skinny picture – think about it as being the same shape as a television or computer screen.

6. Avoid zooming in on the phone, as this will make it too hard to hold steady. You will get better results if you move closer to your subject. And make sure the camera focus is on your subject by tapping on the person on the screen. This tells the camera to focus on the person rather than the background – you will see the focus box centre on them.


7. Be careful not to cover the microphone at the bottom of the phone (or the lens) with your hand.






8. Once you start filming keep the top of your subject’s head in shot and make sure that he speaks with a strong voice (no whispering).





9. You are now a filmmaker (of sorts)! Practice a few times until you’re happy with the results and, most importantly, have fun!

10. Please remember point number 6 – we see this one all the time.

11. And remember – some jobs are best left to the professionals. If smartphone footage will do then great, but for a polished finish you might need a hand.

Do you have more tips for smartphone filmmakers? Let us know.

The power of video-based learning to educate

Helen Port

Helen Bitmead is the co-director of Training Snippets, an online library of mini videos that can be used to demonstrate workplace health and safety procedures, business development and soft skills. Helen has witnessed firsthand the power of video content to educate and is on a mission to get everyone on board. Recently becoming a VET Commons publisher was one big tick on the Training Snippets journey. Are you up to speed when it comes to video-based learning?

Videos are so 2015 (and beyond!)

Video content is emerging as one of the best forms of education no matter what age. This makes sense – for Gen Y and Z it is intuitive and a seamless way of learning. But even if you’re a little more ‘mature’ than that, I bet you have noticed that the way you access information has changed over the years, with a movement towards more video content. Who hasn’t turned to youtube to work out how to fix, operate, manage or simply view how something is done. And social media can certainly put its hand up for fuelling the unquenchable thirst for video content.

A crucial part of the education sector

As an administrator, video is the fastest growing part of the education sector globally and a huge trend at university level. For industry, it is consistent in its training approach and ticks a lot of boxes for compliance in industry, especially where there is an accountability factor such as Workplace Health and Safety. Combined with a learning management system (LMS) that tracks the videos within a course and includes a test to acknowledge that the recipient has understood the content, video training can be a very powerful tool.

‘You can learn anything’

Salman Khan is the founder of the Khan Academy, – a not-for-profit organisation that provides ‘a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere’ and produces micro lectures in the form of YouTube videos. It is worth watching his Ted Talks presentation that explains how Youtube seeded the idea and how he has helped thousands of people to learn with the help of videos.

What are training snippets?

Training Snippets creates short training video snippets that demonstrate correct workplace health and safety. To give an example of its application, we recently developed a series of nine driver training snippets in conjunction with Melbourne Health. Melbourne Health has 1000 registered drivers and some 300 vehicles across their networks and recognise the need to educate their staff when it comes to health and safety.   Melbourne Health has taken a different and innovative approach by using the video medium to train all their fleet car drivers from an operational and safety perspective. But you don’t have to read my thoughts on it all – why not take a look at a couple of the videos from the driver training series…. they say it all!

WorkCover Authority NSW is another example of how Training Snippets prove to be successful learning tools. WorkCover NSW has recently made a variety of training snippet video topics available for their members to access via their website. Here are a couple of examples.

A picture tells a thousand words

Training Snippets is very excited to now be offering content via VET Commons. If you haven’t yet joined this community, which gives you access to free and paid, ready-to-use content directly from your Moodle, you’re missing out.