Search This site

Video Gear

Manfrotto is supporting MOJO with their Twistgrip and Pixi tripod.
Solid stuff, but I prefer a different LED lamp that doesn't make interview subjects squint.

Equipment to produce good video with a mobile phone.

1) The bare essentials
This is what you need to start making better quality video with your mobile phone. This is ideal for students and should be considered 'standard issue' for all reporters.
See how to use these in this short video.

Getting off tripod for live reporting 

When pros make smartphone video interviews, they want more freedom and higher production values. 

Here is configuration that my broadcast clients use for live reports with smartphones from the field.
- DJI Osmo Mobile gimbal
- DJI Universal holder (For mount of microphone
- Røde VideoMic Pro microphone
- Røde SC4 TRS to TRSS cable adapter

The Osmo Mobile is an affordable phone stabilizer and is really popular with mobile journalists because of the quality and ease of use.

See this video and article for more options:

The Osmo mobile attaches a gimbal to your phone allowing to film smooth, stable video without a tripod.

And, you can attach different microphones to your phone to allow for great-sounding live reporting.

Sennheiser AVX microphones attached to the DJI Osmo Mobile

Video sucks a lot of power from your smartphone. I like this powerbank because it lets me charge two devices at the same time, holds a lot of power and is ultra reliable in the field. (I went through a score of cheaper ones until I found this unit.)

Microphones for Android and other special situations
I carry more microphones than anything else, because capturing broadcast quality audio in tough field conditions is challenging.

Here is a great lapel mic from Rode that works on Android and iOS devices. This mic is great for formal interviews.

This stick mic from IK multimedia (Android, iOS) is super because the audio enters the device on the digital side. This is really important as this type of connection improves the quality by lowering the noise floor.

If you already have some pro microphones like shotguns, radio mics or reporter sticks, there are some handy interfaces that will bring your audio in on the digital port of your iPhone or iPad.

Yes, you can produce commercial quality work with an iPhone. These bits are important to getting your audio to that level.

When you want to achieve better quality in harsh lighting and sound locations, you will need a few more items.

This is a close up of an affordable interview rig with light and mic. Ideal for reporting in low-light and indoor situations.

What's in my rig:
  • Shoulderpod R1 Go 
  • Shoulderpod H1 Handle
  • Shoulderpod G1 Grip
  • Luxpad 22 face light
  • Sony battery and charger 
  • Røde VideoMic Me microphone 
  • IK Multimedia iKlip case 

This gear all neatly wraps around my iPhone 6Plus and is lightweight and super secure in the hands.

Note, that in the exploded gear photo above I also carry the Sennheiser ClipMic Digital lav mic in my kit as well.

My testing shows that sound bites, voice-over and piece-to-camera audio often sounds really professional when it comes into the iPhone on the digital side. Lower noise, better gain control and you can engage a digital limiter with the Senheisser app which prevents clipping.

If you want to go ultra-compact, try the R1 Go with a Manfrotto Lumimuse 6 LED lamp. NOte: I don't use these small LED lights because I prefer the softer and more natural-looking face lighting I can get with the Luxpad22.

Professional journalists need small, light and durable equipment to be able to record high quality video in the field.

I take a tripod with me, of course. But I may only need the small IK multimedia one for most tasks.

My carbon fiber tripod easily folds down to pack inside a suitcase and can be extended to full height to interview tall people.

Stabile camera shots for mobile filmmaking

I am enjoying using the DJI Osmo camera with the Z-Axis stabilizer to make super high quality shots for not a lot of money.

Have a look at that rig and the shots that result.

Wireless microphone systems
Using a radio mic system is the ultimate hands-free way to record interviews and pieces to camera. In the videos below are three new systems that support mobile journalism and budget filmmaking with mobile cameras like the Osmo, GoPro, and smartphones. 

First up is a Sennheiser wireless mic system that works with any camera. The pro-level AVX combo set includes a lav and handheld mic with a tiny receiver. Solid build quality. Built to succeed in the most demanding field conditions.

If all you need to do is connect a mic wirelessly to your iPhone, This low cost Samson wireless mic set can connect to an iPhone via the USB to lightning adapter. I also show their stick mic kit in the video below.

Røde makes a wireless mic set called the RødeLink Filmmaker kit that sounds really impressive. It is priced between the Samson and Sennheiser units.

In the video above I compare the Filmmaker kit with two other Røde mics that also use the mini-plug adapter that the DJI Osmo cam accepts. The Osmo is my stable cam for capturing smooth video tracking shots and also interviews, now that I have found some mics that work with it.

In addition to a wireless mic set, I carry a few more items with me for my documentary filmmaking assignments.

All of the gear in the photo above fits into my waterproof backpack.

This pack is light enough for me to use as carry-on luggage and also bicycle across sand dunes and film scenes like this.

Look closely and you will see there are actually two special-purpose rigs in my gear bag.

1) A handheld camera for filming sequences (the DJI Osmo).

2) A rig dedicated for filming interview subjects and reporter stand-ups.

I test a lot of gear for mobile reporting and advise my students on what works and what doesn't.

I wish to thank the makers of Rode Microphones, IK Multimedia, iStabilizer, Shoulderpod, iOgrapher, UniGrip Pro, Sennheiser, Genelec monitors, Neumann microphones, Apogee Electronics, Rollei, Samson, Rotolight, GoPro, Jorg, and Olloclip for their unwavering support as I test their gear in the field.

Full disclosure: My gear links are affiliate links. You won't pay any extra,  but referrals help support me. 

Michigan State University students make films at a Smart Film School workshop in Berlin

360° Live Video Production

The Theta S 360° camera (With a suitable mini tripod mount) are an excellent choice for the class and student projects. Particularly for making still frame spherical images simply and easily.

The Orah 4i VR camera from Video Stitch

This compact little camera streams 4K resolution live virtual reality video to headsets–all with the push of a button.

It features live stitching and four microphones to capture the ambisonic 3D sound which enables the viewer of the content to locate the origin of the sound source with a VR headset.

Ambisonic audio is critical to VR storytelling.
(Read the full technical details)

The camera is powered by an ethernet cable that runs back to this live stitching production box.

A box with a mic input.

YES! This means we can have the ambisonic sound mix from the camera PLUS a wireless mic in for a presenter or host using a Sennsheiser AVX wireless mic.


Live video switcher
If you want to simulate what NatGeo did with live shot switching from the field, you will need a Sony Anycast Live Producer.

360° Cinematic film production

GoPro Omni

BH Photo bundles this six-camera rig with everything you need to capture and stitch together high definition spherical video.

And by everything, I mean it is all inclusive.

It is a fantastic camera array for offline video production.

It does not do 'Live" and it will not record 360 ambisonic audio.

To produce a 360° sound track that matches the video quality, you will need a tetrahedral microphone:

A VR Microphone

Sennheiser Ambeo

and a multi-track field recorder:

Zoom F8 Field Recorder

360° Mobile Journalism field reporting
You will want to experiment with the low cost Insta360 Nano for producing livestreaming 360 video reports from your smartphone.

It costs less than $200 and an Android version is in development.

4K cinema camera rig

I spotted this sandbox kit at the #IBC2016 show in Amsterdam in September.

I am happy to report that my clients are now using this kit for daily video production. It is a rock solid system and a pure joy to use.

Sony a7S II Body (4k video camera)

Sony G Zeiss 28-135mm video lens

Movcam Cage for A7S II

Vocas Spider (Shoulder mount)

Video Devices PIX-E5H 5" 4K Recording Video Monitor

PIX LR Audio interface

The PIX-LR unit screws right into the bottom of the PIX-E recorder and adds high-quality dual XLR I/O featuring Sound Devices mic input preamps with phantom power, limiting, and high-pass filtering.

The PIX-E recorder allows you to capture the 4K video from the Sony A7S II as well as giving you a glorious monitor.

Put this all together and you have a powerful and extremely versatile 4K package that weighs not so much.

Production values, elevated.

Flying cameras (a.k.a. 'Drones')

Mavic pro drone kit

The flying camera has finally come into the mobile era.

The Mavic Pro folds up small enough for me to take with on my outdoor adventures.

A drone is a special shot, but it is the shot that makes reports like this one from The New York Times simply magical.

The Mavic comes with a 4K camera AND it would be the first drone that I would want to also try attaching the Insta360 Nano camera too.

That's right the Insta360 can record video without being attached to a smartphone.