A low budget approach to high quality video

Mojo, or mobile journalism, offers huge advantages over conventional video news gathering, or story telling if you prefer.  Portability, flexibility, low-profile, ease of use – and low cost.

By the time you’ve assembled a camcorder or DSLR, sturdy tripod, microphone, lights, editing station and software you’ve probably kissed goodbye to a four-figure sum.

You can equip for smartphone video production for a small fraction of that.  Which makes mojo ideal for charities and other skint bodies with elephant ears for pockets.

What’s in my kit bag 

Phone:  An iPhone SE.  This little gem has the small form factor of an iPhone 5, excellent battery life and a stonking 12-megapixel camera. Cost refurbished is around £250 with a 16 GB memory and another £100 on top for the 64 GB version.

Microphone:  Rode smartLav+ (£50: ProAV). Pro video means pro audio.  People will put up with wobbly pictures but not rubbish audio. This well-made Rode lapel mic rolls up to nothing in your pocket yet offers great sound.  And you don’t even need to adjust the recording volume in most cases, just plug in and play. The downside is the cable is a tad too short and just barely long enough for a head and shoulders interview, but you can get an extension lead.

Phone holder:  I love the Charger City pistol grip from Amazon.  It’s cheap at £17, utterly plastic and it does the job.  Fold it into one shape and you have a pistol grip phone holder, twist it Rubik Cube style into another configuration and you’ve got a table top tripod, ideal for interviews.

You can make your life easier with a lightweight floor standing tripod (Velbon Videomate 538, £50: Wex Photographic), and a small light for dark places (Lishuai LED 80B, £35:  ProAV) + cheap lighting stand.  But they’re not absolutely essential.

Apps

You will also need a shooting app and if you’re cutting and mixing on your phone too, an editing app.

You can be frugal with the Camera app that comes free with an iPhone but functionality is limited. £14.99 for FiLMiC Pro (App Store) will bring you many more options. 

Editing just went from cheap to free. From 18th April Apple will no longer charge for iMovie for IOS. OK, iMovie’s not too clever in the text generating department but it works well for most other operations and makes the critical ‘overlay’ function a breeze.   There are more sophisticated holistically capable editing apps in the pipeline, but iMovie is currently the easiest to use, and as it’s now free too, what’s not to like?

That’s all you need to be a functional mobile journalist.  Total equipment cost: say £250 for a decent phone, plus around £150 in accessories and apps.

Not bad for a kit bag that can yield pro quality pictures and sound on the small screen.

And if you want to get a head start, book on one of the CIPR’s two creative video courses.  You can choose between Creating Video Content for the Web, a two day comprehensive introduction to both mobile journalism and conventional video, and a one day mojo course, Making Movies with iPhones and iPads.

Image:  NewsCrews
John Whyte-Venables

John Whyte-Venables delivers the CIPR's 'Creating Video Content for the Web' and 'Making Movies with iPhones and iPads' courses. He is also a media trainer with 30 years' experience. A former BBC multimedia journalist and Press Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, he is the author of 'What is News?' and 'Handling Media Interviews'.

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