Shooting HD Video With the iPhone 5s

Professional videographer John Woody took his iPhone 5s to Europe to shoot a series of camera tests.  The results are surprising, and show the possibilities for mobile journalism or video journalists who are on a budget. -Editor

By John Woody

A long time favorite of mobile journalists for still photography, the iPhone 5s also shoots 1080p HD video.

In 2010, I retired from full-time university teaching after thirty years of teaching video and post-production at James Madison University. With ample time on my hands, I began getting back into client work and invested heavily in cameras, edit systems, and advanced field support equipment. After a few years, I really needed a break and decided to take my wife and older son to Italy and Greece for some R&R.

On some of my past major trips I had always taken one of my pro cameras (Canon XF300 or Sony F3) to get some great shots of the trip. For the Italy-Greece trip I decided to go light. I had just purchased a new Apple iPhone 5s and was pretty amazed at the video quality. It was a great choice. I took over 1,600 video clips and about 2,400 stills. I also never used a tripod or handgrip. That helped with going light for sure! After 22 days, we returned after visiting Venice, Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Olympia, back to Venice again, Florence, Siena, and Rome. Simply an awesome and inspiring trip!

In a few weeks, I logged and transferred all my clips and stills and began editing some simple montages in Final Cut Pro X (Click here to see all of the Italy-Greece Videos). Many of the shots were simply stunning coming from the iPhone 5s. I could tell that most would work in an edit, but some just had major issues… primarily with rolling shutter aberrations.

So, after hours of editing I decided to post on Facebook what I learned about using the iPhone 5s for semi-pro video work. Here they are:

  1. Use a tripod or hand grip for all shots. The stabilization on the 5s is awesome… but better camera support would help.
  2. Stay away from quick and even medium speed pans & tilts. With all of the architecture in Italy, etc. it was difficult getting a street to sky moving shot. The rolling shutter issues are intense.
  3. Take stills. Set to Fit in Spatial Conform in FCPX. Figure out good moves in FCPX. Or just use Fotomagico from Boinx. The best photo motion software ever!
  4. Keep quiet when shooting your shots. Don’t talk.
  5. Really set exposures using the iPhone touch screen method. Beware of sudden changes in exposure when moving the camera.
  6. Stay away from shooting too many verticals.
  7. Get more close-ups, tight medium shots. Using the iPhone 5s its so easy to come back with many wide shots!
  8. Shoot longer shots if you have hard drive space.
  9. Shoot walking, moving shots as stable as possible using the slo-mo feature of the iPhone.
  10. Erase at night every shot you know is bad!
  11. Stay away from using the “Burst” mode unless you trim the shots soon after taking them.
  12. And finally, use Match color wisely in FCPX for correction.
Videographer John Woody in Europe while shooting these camera tests.

I posted the videos on my web page and so far have had over 1,200 visits. Really had fun trying to capture how the city really felt to my family. Early morning, late afternoon excursions really helped with getting some great golden hour shots.

Hope this helps if you plan on using your iPhone 5s to shoot some video.

John Woody is a nationally award-winning producer who has made documentaries and instructional videos for organizations like The Smithsonian, General Dynamics, University of Virginia and more.  He was named an Apple Distinguished Educator in 2001.


Michael Hernandez

Michael has taught Film/Video Production and Broadcast Journalism since 1999, and advises the Pacemaker-winning Mustang Morning News. He regularly presents seminars on journalism, video and technology-related topics, and is a former JEA National Broadcast Adviser of the Year. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cinehead

Michael Hernandez has 52 posts and counting. See all posts by Michael Hernandez

One thought on “Shooting HD Video With the iPhone 5s

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.