Beginner Smartphone Movie Skills

Cat Videos on a Budget: Smartphone Edition

Do you think that you really need the latest fancy bells and whistles expensive smartphone for social media videos, charity fundraisers or a pet rescue appeal? You don’t. Let me share my tips for taking a short helpful video with the device you have.

Your own smartphone will do the job, however limited you may think its features are. You may have a few limitations here or there, but these will not get in your way.

Video can be a fresh and exciting direction for bloggers of all kinds and you can create everything from a teaser trailer to a product demo and the following tips and tricks work for almost every phone ! To prove it I created a smartphone short for a Blogpaws® Pet Bloggers’ Nose to Nose finalist movie on my older iPhone 4S. My ‘phone wasn’t the fanciest on the block, but if I can do it, you can create with your smartphone whatever the brand or its age.

  • Now I have an iPhone 12 but the same tips and practices still apply.

Our video “Arthur’s Movie” was shot on both an iPhone 4S and GoPro, then loaded into iMovie and edited using an iMac and the trailer option.

Oh FIV+ Arthur? He found his forever home with a family who adore him!

Anyone can make a smartphone video especially a man with a cat
A basic smartphone takes great movies

Is there a Smartphone Movie learning curve?

Of course there is, but with a dash of common sense and willingness to jump right in and have fun along the way, you can make a smartphone movie on your iPhone or Android. Don’t be intimidated by the high production values of professional video and films, remember your goal is the best video you can make, for your own audience, with your own device.

Your commitment, enthusiasm and love for your message matter more than a set of fancy lights.

Top Tips for Video Success!

Smartphone Video Know-How

Know the basics about your smartphonephone and how it captures video.

  1. How long does it take to turn on your ‘phone and start shooting that cute moment? Each smartphone is different.
  2. How much light do you need? Outside is best for natural light but, modern smartphones are great at capturing low light situations.
  3. Can you use your smartphone? Know your camera’s capacity and microphone sensitivity.
  4. Read the manual of find a You Tube video for help.

If you need one you can add a simple soundtrack. For music, we recommend Pixabay for a wide variety of styles, royalty-free under a Creative Commons licence, or a reputable licensed music from a site such as called AudioJungle.

Sound is music and also chat or conversations. If you start having fun and want to improve your sound quality, try a lapel microphone. This focuses the sound close to someone talking to your smartphone and reduces background noise.

Be aware of copyright ©. Do not use contemporary pop or indie tunes. Actively look for music that is licensed e.g. Audiojungle or Moby’s site MobyGratis.

Know what kind of video you are shooting

Our top video filming tip? Know what your goal is and keep your focus on this. Is it a homestyle vignette? A cat’s adventures, a kitten falling over its paws, a product review, or a sophisticated travelogue presentation? 

Keep it Short

Check out my sample video here. Harvey’s simple movie was one of my very first. It was shot and uploaded complete with music in just 10 minutes. Top-flight video production this is not, but it captured a very precious moment. A short movie lets you build skills and have fun so if you get it wrong, try again.

Harvey Demo Movie on Vimeo.

The upside of a quick movie (on any smartphone, remember?) is that the immediacy of a video shot and editing quickly gets your idea in front of an audience quickly. This video introduced many readers to Harvey and gained him a lot of friends after his ear surgery.

If you need an immediate moment for real impact, then integrity and commitment matter more than the occasional wobble.

expensive smartphone for videos planning counts

Plan for Impact – Product Videos 

For a brand or blog, you may review a product. Knowing what you want to say helps. Jot things down on your ‘phone, scribble a script on a scrap of paper.

An example. You are asked to do a pet garment review. Imagine reviewing one of those gorgeous cat couture creations, or a practical pups’ winter coat.  

Here’s a quick video proposal with a few prompts:

  • Take a couple of long shots, a garment in use,
  • several close-ups of details, 
  • and finish with a full-length shot.
  • This will not take long. Then use a quick app like iMovie (See my iMove Magic) or Adobe RUSH
  • Upload your video to social media for rapid results, instant and engaged fun.

Aim for Good Video Sound

Whether you use the camera’s audio or a lapel microphone try to make sure the sound is clear, especially if you are not planning on music or wish to do a descriptive voiceover. People forgive a lot of they can hear you clearly.

Connor Neko Ngeru Sept 2018
Speak Clearly to Make an Impression

Cheat Like a Pro for Video Success

Try out any instant video creation apps your smartphone has. The apps are leaner and more sophisticated than ever before. iPhones automatically come with a scaled-down version of iMovie which has plenty of features to get you started and Android users ares poiled for editing apps.

  • Use iMovie ‘trailer‘ format to create a dynamic instant mini-movie which uses a selection of micro movie clips and photos and comes complete with music. The trailer option gives professional polish for the absolute beginner and is perfect for a quick boost when you need to make a rapid impact that makes people take notice.

Looking Good In Your Video

  1. You may not be using the most expensive smartphone but the quality of your video presentation, including yourself, counts. If you are going to be on screen, look presentable – tidy hair, plain simple clothes. Clean and tidy commands respect from most people.
  2. The one time this doesn’t matter is rescue videos and times when you are crawling, trapping, wrangling pets and don’t care what you look like. Trapping a kitten or sick cat from a colony means you get down and dirty.
  3. Don’t be a talking head. Sorry, but no-one wants to watch you talk, unless it is one of those very rare emotional occasions. If you are live you can turn and show people where you are. If you are recording you can record your presentation, then edit in close-ups to keep your viewer’s interest. Cut between you and your subject to provide visual interest.

Not sure what I mean? If you watch a TV interview that shows someone speaking, there will be a shot or two of the back of the interviewers head, usually nodding in agreement? It just makes the event more visually interesting.

Present Yourself on Video
Your message is important and exciting! (stock photo)

Presentation Tips For Looking Your Best

  • Sit in good light – or lighten your footage digitally when you edit.
  • Video success means being prepared. Have a running order or list of prompts so you edit with confidence.
  • Keep your background, and clothing neutral unless you have a specific idea or brand you are promoting.
  • Tell your ‘story’. Have a beginning, a middle, an end, including your Call to Action.
  • Practice so you feel easy speaking to the camera. Be relaxed and be yourself, your blog, your brand, your rescue. People engage with genuine emotion, warmth and enthusiasm.
  • Try not to UM, AH or ER. It makes the brightest most intelligent person sound tongue-tied.

Editing your video

Finally a quick word on your movie’s finishing touches.

Filmmaker editing video footage at home on a lapto

Extra polish and impact come with editing after you shoot your video. Some people find editing intimidating but it’s is not as scary as you think. Just take your time, take it slowly and keep your message in mind.

Learn to trim video clips by practising either in your video app, or after you have downloaded your clips to a computer using software. Some older smartphones may have a smaller screen that is hard to edit on. If you feel this is happening download the clips into an program like iMovie, Filmora Go or Adobe Premiere Pro.

Here is a mini showcase of some of my own smartphone movies:

  • Our night movie of the HighLight Show in New Zealand
  • No Edit super fast movie
  • Our Pet Blogger Awards Finalist smartphone movie ‘Duckling

I hope I have inspired you to grab that smartphone and start filming. Let me know if you found the tips useful and what you learned on your video journey.

Smartphone Video Post Resources

19 thoughts on “Cat Videos on a Budget: Smartphone Edition”

  1. Great video tips! I am amazed at the progress of filming on phones from the old videocameras. So nice to have decent videos without lugging the big videocams about! And, nice to have one handy. So many times, it was “oh, wish I had the video camera” and now, thanks to smart phones, we always do! Love that there are apps, too, to edit and add music. A far cry from the old days of video editing!

  2. I always try to do a video when I’m reviewing a cat food or cat toy product. Sometimes they work out well and sometimes, not too good.

  3. So I have a question–is there such a thing as a cheap iPhone? 😉 One would really think that the price of these things would have gone down by now.

  4. Excellent tips! I always enjoy your videos. You inspire me. Every time I read your posts I think “I have got to make more videos.” I know one day I will too. Your suggestion of Adobe Rush is a great one. The editing is always the part of video making that makes me most nervous.

  5. Thanks for the video tips and I think when you read my blog this week the video I put up there is one of the best ones I have ever managed with my camera – I wish I had a smartphone as I am sure it would make life so much easier.

    And before I forget thanks for the blog hop

  6. Funny that you post about this topic! I actually tried to film trimming my dog’s nails last night for the first time in ages. I used to do videos but fell out of the habit. These are great actionable tips and will help me get back into the habit! Thank you!

  7. We luvluvluv your video tips ! It’s always seemed like a big thing to make a video to us, and thanks to you it has become much easier and less daunting. Thank you ! Purrs

  8. Thanks for all the great tips. I tend to use my Android phone mostly for photos and videos because of the convenience of carrying it around. I always take my camera for holidays though.
    I am glad that sweet boy Arthur got his forever home. I loved that little paw poking through trying to touch him at the end.

  9. Excellent and well thought out post. Love all the videos, too, especially Arthur’s.
    Lots of video purrs

  10. We love your videos! Thank you for sharing your always helpful tips. You really do make things less daunting, and I hope this particular post will encourage readers to try their hands and paws at creating some videos. Thank you for hosting! 🙂


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