5 Tips On How to Make Cinematic Videos With Your Smartphone
Didrik Dimmen
November 5, 2018

Want to create Hollywood-level videos but don’t have the equipment? You’d be surprised what you can do with your smartphone alone — here’s how.

1 — Get a Better Camera App

The camera app that comes with your phone (the native camera app) is tailored to fit everyone and is full of auto settings. A key drawback is that it constantly changes both focus and exposure (lighting) according to what it calculates as best. That is super helpful when taking photos, but when shooting video, the varying exposures give an amateur look.

Here’s a clip taken with the native camera app on an iPhone 7 earlier this year:

An extreme case, but you can clearly see the auto-exposure ruined the shot

Downloading a professional camera app gets you access to better settings, but you can also manually set exposure and focus — and lock in the settings you’re happy with. Here’s a clip from the same day, filmed with the FlowMotion App and exposure locked:

A bit better, right?

With manual settings your footage will automatically look better. It might take some getting used to, but manual settings are the way to go.

2 — Change Your Frame Rate

A video is just a sequence of images, and the frame rate (fps) is the amount of images/frames per second — and it has a large impact on the look of your video.

Most smartphones default frame rate is 30 fps, but by changing it to 24 fps, you’ll immediately give your videos a more cinematic look. Why? 24 fps is just above what our brains can perceive as a fluid motion; making the video look less like real life, and more dreamy and cinematic. The “unreal” look is why nearly all modern films are shot at 24 fps.

The lesson is straight forward: If you want a dreamy and cinematic look from your trip to Hawaii, go for 24 fps.

On the flip side, a higher frame rate (30, 48 or 60) will make your video look more like real life and give crisp, detailed motion without motion blur. So if you’re filming action sports and want detailed, clear motion, go for a higher frame rate.

Here’s a video from Adam Shomsky on YouTube, showing the difference between 24 and 48 for comparison:

Can you see the motion being more “blurry” in the 24 fps version? Two very different looks

Most native camera apps, both iOS and Android, are constrained to a 30 fps base frame rate, so you need an external app to switch to 24. In the FlowMotion App you can set your frame rate with 2 taps, and chose between all available frame rates in the same settings.

In addition to a more dreamy look, 24 fps will give you additional slow motion. Shooting in 240 fps (most new smartphones can do this) and slowing it down to a 24 fps playback you get 10x slow motion, rather than 8x slow motion with a 30 fps playback:

240/30 = 8

240/24 = 10

A clip we shot of Sondre Aksnes in Oslo a couple weeks ago, iPhone 7 + FlowMotion ONE

3 — Bump Up Your Bitrate

Bitrate explains the compression of your video — the higher the bitrate, the less compression.

The bitrate for 4k videos in the iPhone native camera app is 50 Mbps (Mbps = Megabits Per Second), but you should bump this up if you plan to edit or color grade. However, if you’re only uploading directly to social media or don’t care too much about the quality, the standard bitrate will be alright. High bitrates take up storage space.

On an iOS device? You’ll need to download an app that’ll let you change the bitrate. On Android? Then this might be configurable in the built-in camera app.

Video rendered out high (left) and very low (right) bitrate

In the FlowMotion App we’ve organized bitrates as “Normal”, “High” and “Extreme”, with Normal being the equivalent to the standard setting. Bitrates can also be configured in your pre-sets.

4 — Color Grade

Color grading is just modifying the colors in your video, and will make a HUGE difference in your video.

In the FlowMotion App we’ve simplified the process by pre-defined color grading “LUT’s” that can be applied with the click of a button in the app’s editor.

Here’s an example of our “Jungle Pools” LUT:

“Jungle pools” applied to a variety of clips form our Kickstarter video

5 — Stabilize Your Smartphone

Stabilization is key to any good video. There are different ways to stabilize your phone; using a tripod, your knee, or simply trying to hold your smartphone steady.

But if you wanna run, skate, move around freely, and still make your videos look silky smooth with cinematic panning-shots, then get a stabilizer. Obviously, we recommend FlowMotion ONE (we won’t go into the details here, check our website for more info). But, if you’re on a tight budget, your knee might do the trick

Morgan Kristiansen running after me in Lofoten, with and without FlowMotion ONE

Congrats, you made it to the end!

To sum it up:

  1. Get a better camera app with manual settings
  2. Change your frame rate
  3. Bump up your bitrate
  4. Color grade
  5. Stabilize your smartphone

Now go out and test!

To learn more and pre-order FlowMotion ONE, click here.

Thanks for reading!

– The FlowMotion Team

About the author
Didrik Dimmen
Co-founder, CMO & Mobile Videographer here at FlowMotion. I write about news, updates and video making tips&tricks. Subscribe below to stay tuned
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