Making professional iPhone recordings

I was invited to deliver a workshop at the recent PSA Mega convention. (It was about the 4 x 4 x 4 approach to speaker websites, thank you for asking.) Afterwards, I took my own advice and captured video testimonials from some of the attendees, using my iPhone.

Here’s the video I made.

As you may know, sound quality is important, and you can’t rely on the in-built iPhone microphone to do a good job.

Some people have asked me how I did it. I like to be helpful, so I’ve written this post to answer the question. BUT this is a story about how NOT to do it! It’s a lesson in buy cheap, pay dear’.

Here are the various tools I used, together with the lessons I learned:

iPhone
I chose a plain background and used the iPhone at eye-level for each interviewee, holding it as still as I could. I pressed ‘record’ before they started talking, and kept recording for a few moments after they’d finished, because I knew I could ‘top and tail’ the clips afterwards (see below).

Top tip: When videoing, remember to turn the iPhone horizontally not vertically. Otherwise it’s the wrong format for YouTube.

Speedlink SPES clip-on microphoneSPES
This was the first result that appeared when I searched for ‘iPhone external mic’ on Amazon. BUT it doesn’t work with iPhones. Even though the little 3.5mm plug on the end appears to fit, it won’t actually record anything. This is because Apple products have an ‘out’ port but not an ‘in’ port.

What’s more, the ‘clip’ part is a bit plasticky so you have to be careful with it. The only good things about it are that it’s cheap, and has a nice long 2.5m cable.

I won’t link to it otherwise even more people might buy it thinking it works with iPhones. It doesn’t!Adapter

Adapter
After much Googling, I found an adapter from KV Connect. It took a few weeks to arrive because it was sent from the USA. BUT it works with the SPES mic, so that’s a relief.

TripodTripod
I ordered a tripod from Amazon. BUT the top part easily falls off the bottom part, so I would never risk using it with the ‘legs’ wrapped round a pole (as shown in one of their marketing photos).

Splice
I used this free app to edit the videos. You can make basic edits, and add transitions and captions. BUT it’s not very robust. When zooming or panning, the image is black, so you have to guess. When editing more than about six videos together, it crashes (the workaround is to make several short videos then join them together). These days, the caption feature seems to be flaky too, so I added annotations in YouTube instead. They are a bit clunky but better than nothing. You’ll find Splice for iPhone and iPad in the App Store.

iMicGriffin iMic
I also use my SPES microphone with EyeJot (it’s free) for sending video emails. I fondly imagined my adapter would make the mic compatible with my iMac. BUT it turns out that the iMac needs a different adapter. So I bought a Griffin iMic.

Top tip: To override the in-built mic, you have to change the sound settings on the iMac (in System Preferences) as well as within EyeJot.

DaffodilDaffodil lamp
I wanted better lighting for my EyeJot videos, so I bought a daffodil lamp. It has a bendy ‘goose’ neck, and three light settings. It’s powered by plugging it in to the USB port at the back of the iMac. When not filming, the lamp is clipped to the side of my desk. For filming, I clip the lamp to the top of the screen beside the in-built camera, and adjust it to shine down on my face. It looks a bit more flattering that way.

YouTube account
You can upload your iPhone videos to YouTube with one click. (First, you need a Google account. It’s free.) You can group your videos into sections so they look nice on your YouTube channel. BUT it’s not very intuitive, so here’s how it’s done:

  • Log in to your YouTube account
  • Go to www.youtube.com/my_videos
  • Below your video, click “+ Add to”
  • Create a new playlist (or select an existing playlist and ignore the next three bullet points)
  • Give your playlist a name
  • Select public, unlisted or private
  • Click “create”
  • Go to “my channel” (dropdown link near the YouTube logo)
  • Scroll down to the bottom
  • Click “add a section” button
  • Click the drop-down arrow under “content”
  • Choose “single playlist”
  • Click the drop-down arrow under “choose a playlist”
  • Choose “my playlists”
  • Click the drop-down arrow under “find a playlist”
  • Choose which playlist you want
  • Click the drop-down arrow under layout
  • Choose “horizontal row”
  • Click “done”

Disclaimer: I’m certainly not a techie expert and don’t think the set up I’ve evolved is the ‘best’ in any way, shape or form. I was going for cheap and cheerful – just as a starting point – and bodged it together through trial and error. As you can tell, it turned out not to be so cheap. But I’m still cheerful!

For professional advice about which equipment to use, I recommend Jeremy Nicholas. I’ll certainly be talking to him as soon as I’m creating enough videos to make further investment worthwhile.

I hope this helps. Please add your experiences in the comments below. Thank you.

3 Responses to Making professional iPhone recordings

  1. Jackie October 31, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    I met Iain Betson at PSA Mega, and discovered this page on his website:

    http://www.avresilience.co.uk/smartphone-pro.php

    He recommends a Vivitar tripod that’s much better than the one I use.

    Hope this is useful.

  2. Mel October 31, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    Really useful summary Jackie, thank you! I’m a way off even thinking about making videos, but if/when I do this will save me hours scowling at the screen and scrawling through reviews in amazon. :-)

  3. Martyn Brown September 2, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

    I found this adaptor very useful. Next day delivery, if required, too :-)

    http://tinyurl.com/nqox8ma

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