How to Shoot Cinematic Video on Android

Smartphone cameras have come a long way. In a relatively short period of time, smartphone photography and videography has gone from novelty to serious business. Today, smartphones can and have been used to create feature-length films. 2015’s Tangerine was shot entirely on an iPhone 5s. More recently, Steven Soderbergh shot Unsane on an iPhone 7. If you have an Android phone, you, too, can create professional-looking videos that rival that of Hollywood.

The good news is that most modern-day smartphones come equipped with some impressive photographic hardware. The bad news is that the camera app that comes pre-installed on your phone is usually pretty basic. They are often no-fuss, easy-to-use apps designed for simple point-and-shoot compositions. For the average smartphone photographer, this is all they need. However, if you want to shoot video that looks like it came straight from a Hollywood movie, these stock camera apps don’t really cut it.

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This is where Open Camera by Mark Harman comes in. Open Camera is a fantastic app that offers loads of customization, from fine tuning your exposure to manual focus. The best part is that it is 100% free and doesn’t include any ads! Basically, Open Camera allows you to have much more control over the camera in your phone to get your footage looking its best.

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With the Open Camera app open, jump into Settings and tap on “Video Resolution.” Select the highest resolution that your phone is capable of. Next, tap on “Video Bitrate.” Once again, you want to select the highest bitrate your video is capable of shooting in. Be aware that doing so will significantly increase the size of the video files. This is beneficial from a movie-making perspective since your videos will contain a lot more data. It will come in handy when manipulating your footage during editing.

The downside, of course, is that it will chew up storage space. If storage space is a concern, opt for a minimum of 10 Mbps if shooting in 1080. If you’re shooting in 4K, you’ll want significantly more, around 40-50 Mbps.

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Frame rate, or frames per second (fps), is the frequency at which frames are displayed on a screen. Optimal frame rates vary depending on what it’s in reference to. For example, video games on a PC are generally recommended to be run at 60 fps. Since 1927 Hollywood movies film at 24 frames per second. Television doesn’t have a “standard” frame rate; however, most shows fall between 24-30 fps. Of course with advances in technology, some directors have been increasing the frame rate of their films. For example, Peter Jackson filmed “The Hobbit” trilogy at 48 fps, double the norm.

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You can set your frame rate higher, but generally speaking, Hollywood films are locked in at 24 fps. So if you want your footage to look as much like a Hollywood movie as possible, it’s best to stick to 24 fps. To do so, launch Open Camera and jump into “Settings -> Video Frame Rate” and select 24.

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Cameras in phones adjust the exposure wildly. This is why your videos go from light to dark and back again all in the span of time that it took you to read this sentence. This constant state of flux makes your videos look amateurish. Fortunately, with Open Camera you can lock the exposure. This prevents your camera from auto-adjusting the exposure, giving your footage consistent lighting.

First, tap somewhere within the frame to tell the phone how much light you want in the shot. Then, to lock the exposure, tap on the lock icon at the top of the screen.

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Like automatically adjusting the exposure, cameras found in phones automatically adjust the focus based on what it thinks you want to shoot. This can be incredibly frustrating as your phone pops in and out of focus. Luckily, we can prevent it from focus hunting by enabling manual focus mode. First, tap the area on the screen you want in focus. Then, tap on the three stacked dots at the top of the screen. In the menu that appears, tap on the lock icon.

Nothing screams amateur like shaky footage. To stabilize your shot, you’re going to have to invest in some additional equipment. At the very least you should be looking at a decent tripod. If you’re strapped for cash or want to start shooting immediately and can’t wait for the tripod to arrive, there are a few other things you can do to stabilize your shot.

First, use your environment. Look for a fence, a stack of books, anything sturdy that you can rest your phone on top of. This will help to eliminate the slight tremors from your hands.

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If you want to shoot video on the move, it’s a good idea to buy a quality gimbal. Alternatively, if you can’t afford one, you can try a selfie stick. It won’t be as good as the gimbal, but the selfie stick will be a huge improvement over holding your phone in your hand.

Do you have any other tips or tricks to make your Android footage more cinematic? Let us know in the comments!

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