Smartphone filmmakers are on the rise, and each year, they are using less and less gear while achieving cinematic levels of photography. One of the most critical aspects of smartphone video filmmaking is stabilization. The good news is that phone camera stabilizers are plentiful and just as good as their larger DSLR or cinema camera counterparts. And shooting with a phone camera stabilizer is obviously much cheaper than buying a massive rig. So how can you get shakeless videos? What smartphone video rig is the best phone stabilizer? Read on to find out.
The smartphone grip is perhaps the lightest and least expensive piece of equipment you can buy for stabilizing your phone. While it’s less powerful than a gimbal, it works in a pinch.
The Ztylus Pistol Grip is a grab-and-go piece of gear that provides ergonomic stability and is highly portable and lightweight. This universal smartphone rig can easily clamp onto your phone. The bottom of the rig offers a tripod mount for attaching to a dolly or tripod. The top of the smartphone rig features a standard cold shoe mount that can be used to mount various accessories.
Let’s start with the basics. We often shoot with phones handheld, but even with internal stabilization, that doesn’t work for some settings, such as filming an interview or making a time-lapse video. We’ve given you recommendations for the best camera tripods, but what features should you look for in a smartphone tripod?
Joby tripods feature adjustable legs, small size and a secure hold. Ranging between $15-85, there’s one for every phone stabilizer need. The Joby GripTight™ ONE GP Magnetic Impulse™ even attaches to metal and includes a Bluetooth remote camera control.
The GripTight™ PRO Video GP Stand has a pan-and-tilt video tripod head plus GorillaPod with 1kg capacity for truly stabilized and smooth camera movements.
OK, let’s talk about selfie sticks. Vloggers know well how vital selfie sticks are to their process, and they can be versatile for filmmakers as well.
The Benro BK10 Mini Tripod and Selfie Stick is a mini tripod with a telescoping center column and selfie stick. The BK15 mini tripod with ball head includes a smartphone adapter and removable Bluetooth remote. The Benro is compatible with most smartphones, but as always, check the specs before you purchase!
Although they were once DSLR-only gear of advanced filmmaking, smartphone gimbals have populated the market for a few years now. We’ve written extensively about what is a gimbal and how to use it with digital cameras, and some of the same principles apply to smartphones. But which gear is best to reduce Android and iPhone camera shaking?
The Steadicam Volt is a 3-axis gyroscopic stabilizer very similar to larger and more expensive rigs but designed for smartphones. It’s one of the best iPhone stabilizers on the market. The Steadicam Volt has 2 modes: movie and sport, and is Bluetooth enabled. In addition, it works in manual mode even if the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are depleted!
The DJI OM 4 replaces the Osmo Mobile. It’s a foldable stabilizer designed to complement your smartphone, allowing you to record on the spot. It’s magnetic, ultra-compact and full of easy-to-use features. The magnetic phone clamp is thin and light, keeping your smartphone secure, and the magnetic ring holder snaps your smartphone onto OM 4, holds your phone safely and can be used as a kickstand.
Smartphone video rig
As we’ve written before, smartphone camera accessories can take your cinematography from plain to pro. But if you’re adding lenses, lights, microphones, or even a transmitter, you’ll need a smartphone video rig to help avoid Android and iphone camera shaking.
The rugged and versatile design of the Beastgrip Pro has made it popular with professional filmmakers, journalists, live streamers and vloggers. This smartphone video rig allows you to attach lenses, filters, LED lights, microphones and a tripod--basically all your smartphone accessories! It also provides full access to your phone's buttons and charging ports.
For tracking shots, smooth dollies or hyperlapses, you’ll need a slider. And because smartphones are so light, you don’t need expensive, heavy gear. The Neewer Camera Slider Carbon Fiber Dolly Rail is perfect for smartphone use as it supports iPhone, Samsung, Huawei and even mirrorless cameras.
DIY tips for stabilizing your phone
Besides purchasing the right gear, how can you make better smartphone videos? Check out our previous article about video camera tripod tips and read on for additional DIY tips for stabilizing your phone.
Perfect your camera movements
So while there are many phones with image stabilization, you’ll still want to control your camera movements as much as possible. That means planning your shots and moving slow. Achieve shakeless videos by planting your body firmly, locking your elbows and keeping a light (but not too tight) grip on the phone. Practice oscillating like a fan to perfect the perfect pan and tilt.
Shoot in 4K
You should already be cranking up your video resolution as high as possible if you’re shooting with a smartphone camera, but this is another DIY hack for you. If you shoot in 4K, you have room to crop in post and further reduce camera shake. In fact, stabilization software crops in automatically to help remove shakiness from your clips.
Shoot in slow motion
If sound doesn’t matter in your video, shooting in slo-mo will help you reduce shake and get smoother shots. Of course, this won’t stabilize massive shake, but it will give you a lot more footage to work with to choose the smoothest moments.
Use stabilizing software
Just because you’re shooting with a smartphone doesn’t mean you won’t use pro editing software to achieve a truly cinematic final product. Use the stabilization features of Adobe Premiere Pro 15.0 or Final Cut Pro X, experimenting with different types of Android and iPhone video stabilization to see what works best for your footage.
With the right gear and understanding, smartphone cameras can be powerful storytelling tools, especially when producing digital or social content. Learning the right phone stabilizing gear and utilizing these tips for getting shakeless videos, no doubt you have upped the ante on your cinematic endeavors!
Jessica Peterson is a travel and documentary filmmaker with a background in journalism and marketing. She has 20 years of experience producing content in 114 cities and 25 countries. In 2016, she directed and produced her own documentary about her then-home of Guam. Working under the name Global Girl Travels, her clients include CNN, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Matador Network, and Tastemade.