Handheld mobile phone footage has become ubiquitous in the modern age, from social media updates to eyewitness accounts of live events.
However, these are often a hard watch – and not necessarily because of what’s being filmed.
Wobbly and unfocused camerawork is distracting at best. At worst, it can make audiences feel nauseous – and keen to do something else.
Being able to capture stable video footage can hugely improve the quality of video content recorded on mobile devices.
Smooth clips will be more enjoyable to watch, more representative of what’s happening, and more likely to be enjoyed (and shared) by other people.
Your choice of handset is significant, but there are other useful tips which help as well…
Hardware and software
The quality of video footage is being prioritised by smartphone manufacturers, as they try to give their increasingly homogenous handsets a point of difference.
The Google Pixel 5 has a variety of image stabilisation techniques built in, while the LG Wing has situated its top camera on an integrated gimbal for smoother pan shots.
There’s a tool baked into Google Photos which applies electronic stabilisation with a single screen tap, ironing out the worst effects of motion blur.
If your device doesn’t have these technologies, invest in a three-axis gimbal stick. Available from £40 online, they’re ideal for capturing stable shots on the move.
They’re suitable for smartphones and tablets, or even action cameras like the GoPro series.
Static location work might benefit from a wide-legged tripod, a shoulder rig or a portable monopod – though the latter both require plenty of practice.
Edit your handiwork before showing it off, cutting out wobbly scenes to create a slick highlights package.
Basic video editing software is bundled in with Windows 10 and Mac OS X, or you can download more advanced apps like PowerDirector, YouCut or VivaVideo.
Being able to capture stable video footage also involves common sense and a little forethought – such as avoiding highly caffeinated drinks, which can lead to tremulousness.
Try to stay still wherever possible. Adopt a comfortable pose you won’t have to adjust 30 seconds later, with the camera at a height you can sustain without aching biceps.
Professional videographers recommend pulling your elbows into your torso and moving from the hips to reduce camera shake.
This is commonly known as a three-point system since your chest provides a third point of contact – giving the device less opportunity to move around.
If you need to take run-and-gun shots, look where you’re going and pre-empt changes in ground level to minimise shocks or impacts.
It takes practice to concentrate on both your footing and what’s on-screen, ensuring you don’t lose sight of whatever you’re filming while simultaneously charting a stable course.
Avoid switching between filming an object and talking to-camera, since the intervening 180-degree pirouette tends to look unprofessional unless it’s edited out.
You can always record to-camera pieces afterwards and splice them in separately, or add a voiceover or on-screen captions instead.
Remember that footage becomes wobblier as you zoom in, so avoid full zoom unless a wider shot would be completely ineffectual.
Watch amateur footage on YouTube to see how other people have attempted to capture stable video footage – and don’t be afraid to ask for their advice or tips in the Comments section.