Filming with the iPhone 5s – The Forge Episode 31

Yes, yes… I know that this particular episode is skimming under the wire to still technically be an October episode, but we think it’s worth the wait!

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube.

We’ve been super busy with projects this month, which has put a bit of a crunch on production of The Forge. After the guest I wanted got busy and had to postpone, I realized just how critical time had become, and knew I had to find another angle for production… And this one is definitely different.

Earlier in October, I upgraded my phone to the new iPhone 5s. Frankly, at first, I was a little underwhelmed – left feeling kinda meh. Fingerprint scanner? Yeah, kinda cool, but a passcode is almost as fast. iOS 7’s flat look? Well, I had it on my 4s. But then I started taking photos on a kayaking trip with my son, and… Wait a minute – hold the boat!

Lens flare taken with Apple iPhone 5SI noticed that the quality of the pictures and videos had changed significantly from what the 4s was capable of producing! The captures from the camera on the 5S are incredibly sharp and clear – and I was even getting some awesome lens flare on video (hey J.J. Abrams need an assistant?). Cool!

As I swiped through the picture from our trip on the device, it occurred to me: why not make an entire episode of The Forge with the iPhone 5s?

Tripod with iPhone 5SAnd that’s what we’ve done. This month’s episode is brought to you by a tripod, the iPhone 5s, Camtasia for Mac, and me (plus some special thanks and credit to Kevin Carter and Dave Patton who both helped out with alignment and starting and stopping the recording for some sections).

For full disclosure, the shots of the camera and of me editing were shot with a Canon D60. I didn’t have a second iPhone handy to record me recording.

What Can You Do With That Thing in Your Pocket?

If you had asked me a month ago about shooting an episode of The Forge with just an iPhone, I would have answered with a glare. A Canon 5D Mark III? Heck yes! iPhone… No way. But I have to say, I think the results of this speak from themselves. I shouldn’t have doubted!

Lighting, Regardless of Device, Makes a BIG Difference

Picture clarity from iPhone 5SOverall, the picture quality is really high – especially with good lighting. For example, check out the morning shots at 3:13. Not only do they look great, the level of detail is about the highest we were able to capture. You can even see my breath as I talk!

But notice what happens when I move indoors at 4:27. the light fluctuates some in the office, and especially when I’m close up. This is not a deal breaker when it comes to filming with the iPhone 5S, but it’s definitely something to be aware of while filming.

One pitfall I ran into was shooting against a green screen. I added too much light and looked pretty pale, which made the footage unusable. I ended up redoing it in front of our set wall to replace it though, and it ended up looking a lot better anyway!

What’s that sound?

I purposefully chose not to use a microphone during this project. That said, I still recommend using one if you can. I don’t think the audio is perfect and it’s a little inconsistent – but it certainly held up pretty well. If you’re choosing to go microphone commando, make sure you’re very aware of your space. Does it have a lot of echo or sound empty? If so, you’re going to hear that in the recordings you make. Try to record in spaces that the sound seems a bit more flat in so it won’t bounce back to the mic. For instance, filming outdoors worked really well because the sound of my voice was able to dissipate. You do have to deal with more background noise outside, but Background Noise Removal in Camtasia did the trick where I wanted it to.Background Noise Removal

WOAH! Slow Mode

One of the features I was excited for trying out was recording at 120 frames per second. It’s pretty cool to watch things slowed down. Ben McCormick from FogCreek () tweeted at me that recording someone turning to look at you and smile is slow mode is like magic… and it is. It looks amazing.

@piercemr + @bmccormack

But there are pitfalls. I tried bringing in the footage as is, but Camtasia for Mac didn’t understand the frame rate and it didn’t end up looking slow on the computer. In order to see the slow mode effect, you first have to share your video from your phone to your computer. You could try emailing yourself or using something like Dropbox, but make sure that you keep an eye on the quality and whether it gets downgraded. I ended up sharing my slow motion video to YouTube as a private video and then downloaded it from my YouTube account when I got back to my computer. It’s certainly not the most ideal workflow, but it got the job done.

From Mobile to Camtasia

So, one of the minor challenges of working with a mobile device is moving content off the device and into Camtasia. The iPhone 5s’s .MP4 files imported easily and were a breeze to edit, but it’s kind of a pain to move them quickly and easily. That said, one of the best parts of this process was implementing an improved workflow that involved the use of some secret sauce tools that you’ll just have to stay tuned to learn more about…


Editing iPhone 5S footage on Camtasia for MacSo. Would I shoot an entire episode with my phone again? Well… Maybe. I really like the ease of setup and recording. I think the picture quality is good enough, but I would prefer higher quality audio. Overall, because I generally work with really nice cameras, it’s hard to think about using all iPhone all the time, but I do feel confident in knowing that I could be anywhere and record some quality interviews or footage for a future project!

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. A graduate of Indiana University’s School of Education’s Department of Instructional Systems Technology, he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr