This course will help you make a documentary or short fiction film using only a smartphone or tablet, plus a mic and a few inexpensive apps. (Notes updated 19 May 2023.)
Smartphones get better with every new generation. Networks are also developing quickly (5G became available in many parts of Europe last year).
But the key is not technology. It is about the brain behind each person’s hands. This course is about storytelling more than technology. Think of it as a cool way to unleash your creativity.
The aftermath of Covid-19 has accelerated the change to more digital forms of working such as using Zoom to produce films or conduct meetings. Production budgets are likely to shrink because of reduced advertising revenue, another result of Covid. The ability to make films for low cost makes people with smartphone skills more attractive to producers and studios.
You should consider entering any videos you make in some of the many smartphone movie contests around the world. Competition awards improve your career prospects.
You will see the term “mojo” used to describe this form of movie-making. The term comes from mobile journalism, and originated from the notion of doing video journalism with a mobile phone. Stephen Quinn taught mojo at Kristiania University in Norway until he retired in 2023. This course has evolved from that program, so when you see the term “mojo” you should insert the phrase mobile movie-making.
A note about lessons: This course has 12 lessons. You will find details of each lesson later in this document. Use “command or control + find” to locate lessons.
Lesson 1: Overview and introductions
Lesson 2: Equipment and story planning
Lesson 3: Creative filming
Lesson 4: Interviewing
Lesson 5: Editing on the smartphone
Lesson 6: Audio, music, sound effects and narration
Lesson 7: Storytelling in more detail
Lesson 8: Scripting
Lesson 9: Narration
Lesson 10: Headlines, name supers, subtitles and file management
Lesson 11: The future
Lesson 12: Distribution
Recommended reading: Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Useful readings / books / web sites: My friend Dr Ivo Burum is a master storyteller. If you read nothing else in this course, please read these two articles by him: The first talks about mojo storytelling and the second covers editing.
Our co-written book MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook published by Focal Press appeared in 2015 but is still relevant.
Simon Horrocks offers an excellent site where you can teach yourself film-making at his Free Film School. It also has links to courses on specialist aspects such as how best to use the iPhone camera, or how to shoot 360 degree video.
The Mobile Journalism Manual produced by the Asia office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation offers a free introduction to mobile journalism. A new version became available in late 2022.
Sheppard, Neil (2019). The Smartphone Filmmaking Handbook: Revealing the secrets of smartphone movie making. Available on Kindle and Amazon.
The International Journalists’ Network (ijnet.org) has published a mobile journalism toolkit that covers the video-making process in 9 short lessons. Recommended because it’s brief and punchy.
Philip Bromwell at Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE is one of the best mobile-phone storytellers in Europe. Here is a 3-minute time lapse video of the 3 hours he spent filming a story. Any of his stories for RTE will inspire you. Find many of them here. Listen to him talk here at the Mobile Creator’s Summit. His talk runs from 4:05:00 to 4:30:10.
John Inge Johansen is a one-man band at NRK, the Norwegian national broadcaster, working in the sub-Arctic. Listen to him talk about being a mojo here, starting at 5:03:45 and ending at 5:29:25. He edits and uploads from the field because travel time in his huge region is always an issue.
The Mojofest Facebook group has about 7,400 members who discuss issues and share insights about making movies with a smartphone. It is a great place to learn about new developments.
Cielo de la Paz has an excellent YouTube site where she teaches iPhone filmmaking.
If you learn best by watching videos, subscribe to these EPIC Tutorial training videos by Eliot Fitzroy.
The Society of Professional Journalists in America offers an excellent set of tools.
Mojo Bernard Lill offers his version of how to get started as a mobile storyteller.
Equipment This course focuses on using smartphones to make high-quality videos. You can use any smartphone you choose. But you should ensure your smartphone has the most recent version of the operating system installed.
Filming apps: The camera app that comes with your smartphone is usually pretty good. Apart from that the four best apps for recording video are FiLMic Pro, Moment, REC and Mavis. The first three work on both iOS and Android devices. Mavis only runs on iOS.
This video compares eight filming apps. Here is a link to an article about the 10 best filming apps for iOS and Android.
FiLMic Pro is the most expensive. Until version 6 it cost GBP 14.99 to buy outright. From version 7 in November 2022 the price rose to GBP 2.99 a week or GBP 50 a year. Moment and REC are both GBP 4.99. Mavis is free but has in-app purchases. If space is an issue on your smartphone’s memory, REC is probably best because of its small size (4.1 MB) compared with 64 MB for FiLMic Pro and 135.5 MB for Moment.
I often use the free camera app that comes with my iPhone because it is so versatile.
Editing apps: Hundreds of editing apps are available, but only a handful are suitable for mojo work because the app must provide at least two video editing tracks to include cutaways.
Seven of the best editing apps operate on both iOS and Android: KineMaster, VN, Adobe Rush, CapCut, inShOt (note spelling), LumaFusion and PowerDirector. Another two good apps are only available on iOS: CTpro and iMovie. LumaFusion was only on iOS until November 2022.
All are described below. Relevant additions will be included here as new apps appear. Here I rank these apps in order of ease of learning, starting with the easiest/most intuitive and ending with the apps that take the most time to learn: iMovie, inShOt, CapCut, VN, KineMaster, PowerDirector, Adobe Rush, CTPro and finally LumaFusion.
Note this list is subjective in the sense of being based on my own experiences. You might have a different experience. More details about individual apps are shown below.
Apple’s iOS dominates mojo because it is easier for developers to create an app for a consistent platform (iOS gets a major update about once a year) compared with the wide range of versions of Android. Do note that some older Android smartphones struggle with editing apps.
Costs vary depending on the app’s business model. KineMaster requires a subscription to remove the watermark. It is GBP 3.49 a month or GBP 18.49 a year. If you are happy to see the watermark on your videos, then KineMaster is free. KineMaster have scores of useful video tutorials at their YouTube site.
The basic version of inShOt (note spelling) is free though you will get a watermark on completed videos. If you want to use more than the basic transitions, effects and stickers, and avoid the advertisements that appear at the top of the screen, you need to pay. As of late 2022 it was GBP 3.49 a month, GBP 11.49 a year, or GBP 29.99 for a one-time purchase.
Find out more about inShot here. The site includes a link to their YouTube channel which offers lots of tutorials. This short video shows you how to remove the watermark from the free version.
The basic version of VN is free, though the app inserts a watermark and sometimes advertisements. This site by Simon Horrocks offers a good tutorial on how to use VN. If you want to lose the watermark you need to buy the professional version.
VNPro costs GBP 9.49 a month or GBP 66.99 a year (which averages out at GBP 5.58 a month), and it renews automatically. Both options include a 7-day free trial. Margie Chua provides a great video for learning advanced VN techniques here.
CapCut is free. It appears to be associated with TikTok and is only available for smartphones, not laptops. Justin Brown offers an excellent CapCut tutorial here. CapCut inserts a watermark but you can remove it. This site shows you how. The “overlay” button in this app is really picture in picture, but you can make it a cutaway by expanding the image with your fingers to fill the screen.
VN, inShOt and CapCut are intuitive and relatively easy to learn. The learning curve will depend on what you already know, and your individual learning style. Do remember that you cannot break anything, so do be willing to play and experiment. Justin Brown offers this 7-minute introduction on how to use these three free apps.
The price of Adobe Rush varies depending on whether it is purchased as part of the Adobe Creative Suite or an individual licence. The cost varies from USD 9.99 to USD 29.99 a month. PowerDirector costs GBP 4.99 a month, GBP 9.99 a quarter or GBP 33.99 a year. Here is a detailed guide to editing with PowerDirector. And here is a tutorial for Adobe Rush, provided by Adobe.
LumaFusion is very sophisticated. It can be likened to Final Cut or Premiere Pro on a desktop and takes several days to learn fully. The web site of the parent company LumaTouch offers a range of tutorials. The app costs USD 19.99 or GBP 26.99 which makes it a bargain compared with all other apps. It is very sophisticated. You will need to invest time learning how to use it but if you get serious about editing this is the best app I know of. LumaFusion originated as an iOS app only but became available on Android devices late in 2022.
CTpro is the most expensive: GBP 134.99 a year for a full licence, or GBP 13.49 a month. A range of tutorials are available here. But they default to French and it is difficult to switch to English. Because of the expense and the poor interface, I would tend to avoid CTPro.
iMovie only works with Apple’s iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) which means it integrates beautifully with those devices. It is free and comes included with iOS devices. Professor Anthony Adornato offers a 12-minute video on using iMovie here.
KineMaster is relatively easy to learn and permits sophisticated editing. KineMaster provides a website with tips and descriptions of all the tools available in KineMaster. You can find it here.
Why I recommend the iPhone The subject of my PhD was why journalists adopt or reject technology for newsgathering. Ease of use is a significant factor. For me the iPhone remains the easiest and most intuitive of all smartphones to use, which is why I prefer it.
For Android user, probably the best editing app is KineMaster if you are already familiar with editing apps. The problem with Android OS is the wide range of phones and variations of the operating system. The free version of the KineMaster app does not allow you to save videos in 1080p (HD) and it forces you to pay to export videos without a watermark. If students want to use KineMaster, watch this video about the app.
If you are an editing novice, best to start with iMovie, VN, inShOt or CapCut. See earlier details about these apps.
I am not wedded to the iPhone, nor do I have shares in Apple. But at the moment iOS allows you to save files in high definition (1080p HD) or super HD (known as 4K) plus editing is relatively intuitive. Many other smartphones have better cameras. But you cannot edit properly with those apps and/or save the files in HD for uploading and distribution without watermarks.
Regardless of which smartphone you use, please ensure you have the latest version of the operating system (OS) installed. As of May 2023 it is 16.4.1 for the iPhone. The simplest option is to turn on automatic software updates. Go to Settings and choose General / Software Update and turn on updates. The same advice about using the latest version applies to apps. To get more information about your iPhone/iPad go to Settings/General/About
A note about my method: The magic of the movie-making process happens in the editing process, and it is generally quicker and easier via a touchscreen than a keyboard. This is why I recommend smartphones or tablets rather than a laptop/desktop for editing, though you are free to use these tools.
Hours of video: Every minute of every day hundreds of hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. Facebook claims to screen 100 million hours of video a day, while Snapchat and TikTok also screen lots of video. In July 2021 Instagram announced it would focus on video rather than photos. All of these factors mean a massive amount of video is competing for people’s attention.
Probably 95+ per cent of all the video content posted on social media and the web is rubbish. If you want your video to stand out you must make a quality product. To do that you need to be able to shoot, edit and narrate in a professional way, using the best available tools. In my lessons we consider how creativity is part of mobile movie-making.
Vertical or horizontal filming? I choose to shoot in landscape (horizontal) mode because it looks better in the editing apps I use. But you should shoot for your intended audience. Regardless of mode, your camera needs to be steady. Wobbly video is not acceptable. Here is a video about the best tools for shooting in vertical mode. This Apple video shows how to do it well.
Bio of your teacher: Stephen Quinn retired as professor of mobile journalism at Kristiania University in Norway in March 2023 but continues to teach around the world. Dr Quinn runs MOJO Media Insights (MMI) where he teaches journalists and citizens how to make broadcast-quality videos with only an iOS device. Since 2010 he has taught mojo skills in 20 countries. From 1975-95 Stephen Quinn was a journalist in five countries with some of the world’s premier media companies (The Guardian, ABC, BBC, ITN, TVNZ, the Bangkok Post, Newcastle Herald, Australia). Between 1996 and 2011 Dr Quinn was a journalism educator in Australia, the UAE, the US and China. He returned to journalism full time from 2011-13 with the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, as digital development editor. He has been based in Brighton in the UK running MMI since 2013 and makes short films when he’s not teaching or writing. Dr Quinn has written 30 books. In the past decade he has given about 200 presentations on the future of journalism in 38 countries. He writes about wine as a hobby. More about him can be found at his web site https://sraquinn.org/ (I have not made it a link so you can see the URL.)
A new site called Pausomic helps people find resources for film-making, with links to more than 10,000 professionals who work for a monthly fixed fee.
Lesson 1: This lesson offers an overview of the movie-making process and talks about the advantages and disadvantages of using smartphones. It also notes the importance of understanding the audience for whom you are producing videos.
Reading: Chapter 1 (pages 2-13) of Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Keynotes: Intro and Overview
My web site is https://sraquinn.org/ I have not made it a link so you can see the URL.
We will discuss students’ use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Snapchat and TikTok and how these are relevant for mobile movie-making.
Discussion: Watch this video by Michael Rosenblum of TheVJ.com that tries to define mojo. What do you think about what he says? We will discuss this in class.
Links to short chats with Gunnar Gronlund, a mojo trainer with NRK until he retired in 2021:
- The skills that journalism students need
- Are we returning to silent movies?
- Video for different time of the day
- Importance of editing
Dr Ivo Burum offers his definition of mojo and suggests that the story determines the gear we use.
The Shoulderpod company offers a good overall introduction to mojo.
The company that makes the FiLMiC Pro app runs an annual competition for mojo movies. Here are the finalists from 2019.
The Mobile Creator Summit held over four weeks from April 2020 offers almost 24 hours of video about many aspects of mobile creativity. In Week 1 we meet Cielo de la Paz who takes us through her process for creating videos solely on an iPhone. Go to the Week 1 link below and start at 5:02:53 where Glen Mulcahy introduces Cielo through to the Q&A with her that ends at 5:30:20.
Mobile Creator Summit: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4.
Only choose 4K recording if you have plenty of memory because that format consumes data and memory. Recording in 4K at 60 fps requires about 400MB of storage for every minute of video. To learn more, go to Settings / Camera / Record Video.
To repeat: Make sure you have at least 5GB of capacity on your smartphone before filming. With an iOS device you find out about capacity by going to Settings / General / About / Available.
One way to get extra memory is to make sure all your deleted photos/videos have actually been deleted. When you delete a photo it’s stored in the Deleted Photos album, and thus still uses the smartphone’s memory. To delete photos or videos on an iPhone:
- Open the Photos app and tap the Albums tab.
- Find the Recently Deleted album (it’s usually the last item) then tap Select.
- Chose the items you want to delete, or tap “Delete All”.
Lesson 2: Equipment and story planning As the title suggests, this lesson covers the planning process for stories and the tools you will need to tell that story.
Keynote: Mojo equipment
Reading: Chapter 2 (pages 14-49) of Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Reading: Chapter 4 (Tools of the Mojo Trade, pages 62-97) of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
Kim Slade’s web site has great information about mojo kit, with recommendations and prices.
Robb Montgomery offers a list of various mojo kits here. He includes videos on how to interview via social distancing. Robb says he only includes gear he has tested in the field.
The FiLMiC Pro web site offers its list of suggested equipment.
A recent academic paper suggests that mojos can lack credibility because of the small size of their equipment. I have interviewed TV reporters who say that politicians want a big camera when being interviewed (ego issues for the politicians?) One way mojos can look more professional is by using a tripod and microphone with their smartphone. Plus you could put a logo on your windsock. This video explains how to do that.
Preparation and story planning Overview: This part of the lesson covers how to prepare a story. What is news? How to research a video news story. What is your story?
Reading: Chapter 3 (pages 50-69) of Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Reading: Chapter 7 (SCRAP: The Elements of Mojo Storytelling, pages 150-175) of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
Ivo Burum, mojo master, offers his top tips for creating stories.
This video offers five ways to generate story ideas for movies. And this video offers inspiration for creating story idea. It runs 16 minutes and includes exercises.
Preparation: Watch this 2016 BBC College of Journalism (CoJo) training video about preparing your smartphone for doing mojo.
Some great tips on preparing a video story from the Pulitzer Center in the US.
In this article the Journalism.co.uk site tells you how to set up your home studio with a smartphone.
- In your own time watch this video about storyboarding. Start at 1:13 to avoid the waffle at the start. Here is another (shorter) video about storyboarding.
- Practise with your smartphone, and have a story idea roughed out on a piece of paper or on your mobile (as a storyboard) to show / discuss in class.
Lesson 3: Composing visual proof / creative filming It’s vital to get quality images for your videos. Remember to shoot both stills and video. Review them as soon as possible after filming so they are fresh in your mind as you prepare to edit your video.
Learnings from previous class?
Reading: Chapter 4 (pages 70-97) in Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Reading: Chapter 5 (Composing Visual Proof, pages 98-125) of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
Here is a link to a one-hour video talk I gave in 2021 that offers a range of ways to be creative when filming as a mojo. I know it’s long, but you can always watch it in chunks.
Apple here support a video about creative movie-making techniques.
Here is a basic introduction to composition when filming. Make sure you set the AE/AF lock if you use an iPhone. Details here about how to do it.
Watch: CBC’s Jeff Semple on shooting with an iPhone (runs 5:09).
Mojo Andrew Robb shows the creative methods he used to make a mojo film.
Glen Mulcahy made this basic video with tips for shooting video in July 2020.
Read this 2017 interview with Christian Payne about how to be creative when shooting video.
Simon Horrocks from the Mobile Motion site offers part 1 of a series of posts about the variety of shots that film-makers use. This part 3 is about shooting close-ups. He also offers a comprehensive guide to mobile film-making.
The Mobile Motion site offers this excellent tutorial on how to create a film-like look while shooting with the FILMic Pro app. It also explains the use of ND filters.
Here is a range of helpful training videos for the FiLMic Pro filming app.
You might consider using a 360 camera which allows for 360 degree filming. The two best are the Insta360 ONE X and the GoPro Max. This article describes some of the benefits of using a 360 camera.
In this video my friend DJ Clark used a GoPro Max to cover the 2019 protests in Hong Kong. The video won a Webby award in 2020 in the Immersive and Mixed Reality Video News category. Here DJ talks about all the gear he uses.
If you fancy making TikTok videos, Wired magazine offers a beginner’s guide. The UK Press Gazette offers a useful overview of journalism on TikTok. And here the Journalism.co.uk site that talks about how journalists can get started on TikTok.
Watch The Fixer, filmed with an iPhone 4 in 2012 (runs 7:15). It has won more awards at film competitions than any other mojo-created movie. What was the total budget? Answer: USD 400. More about director Conrad Mess can be found here. Note how the movie focuses on simplicity.
The Fixer shows that mojo has the potential for more than news. People now use mojo for feature films, TV advertisements, NGO briefings, PR brochures and documentaries (Jane Digby).
Exercise in class: We will learn to do a stand-up, also known as a piece to camera.
Visual metaphors help people understand abstract concepts. An example here shows how depression is represented by ocean waves. The creator put their smartphone in a plastic bag and let an incoming tide wash over it. Perhaps memory in dementia patients could be shown as a smeared and smooshed painting. What visual metaphors could you use in your videos?
- Always put your smartphone in flight (or similar) mode before you shoot or edit.
- Turn on Grid for your iOS device if you would like help when framing images on your camera (energy points discussed in class). Do this via iOS Settings / Camera / Grid
- Select your shooting frame rate. With an iOS device do this via Settings / Camera / Record Video. Note the various standards: 30 or 60 fps for online and NTSC (Japan and North America); 25 or 50 fps for PAL broadcast; 24 fps for film. Most Androids and all iPhones default to 30fps / 60fps. You do not need to change your settings if you plan to submit videos online.
A bit of history: NTSC is named after America’s National Television System Committee and PAL stands for Phase Alternating Line. Both are analog forms of broadcasting, and have been replaced by digital television in much of the world. Standard-definition television (SDTV or SD) is a broadcast system which uses a resolution that is not considered to be either high or enhanced definition. SDTV has a 4:3 aspect ratio (compared with 16:9 for HD). SDTV uses the frame rate and number of lines of resolution as PAL and NTSC. If you’re working in a country that still uses SDTV, you need an app that allows you to select 25 fps / 50 fps (FiLMic Pro, REC, Moment or Mavis). Settings in an iOS device will describe file size per second at various fps.
If you want to know more about video bit rate, read this article.
Exercise: Practise shooting quality video with your smartphone. Come to class with one minute of unusual footage. Also practise doing a piece to camera, and come to class with a stand-up (another name for it) to show your colleagues.
Lesson 4: Interviewing Mojo interviews involve learning some new skills compared with traditional journalistic interviewing methods. We consider the main differences between filmed interviews with a mobile phone versus interviewing with a large video camera.
Reading: Chapter 6 (pages 116-131) in Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Reading: Chapter 8 (Mojo Interviewing, pages 176-197) of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
Interviewing tips: Watch this BBC training video on how to do an interview (runs 10:06). It is about radio interviewing but many of the tips are relevant.
In this video Drew Keller talks about the importance of good research (runs 6:50).
CBS’s Katie Couric gives her tips on what makes a good interview (runs 5:07). This video is old (2009) but still relevant.
Tip: Make your body a tripod. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent as shock absorbers. Lock elbows into your sides and hold the smartphone in front of your face. Your body pans and tilts to move your smartphone.
Zoom interviews: You can interview people via Zoom but you need to manage the Zoom settings. You can also ask the interviewee to video themselves. If you do, ask the person to film themselves in 4K to be able to edit/crop sections of video frames without losing resolution.
To put an iPhone into 4K mode for filming go to Settings > Camera > Choose “4K at 30fps” in Record Video. Ensure they also put their smartphone in Airplane Mode while filming. With an iPhone this is done via Settings and is the first option you see after your name.
You should also improve video settings in your and their Zoom. Go to Video in Settings and select “enable HD”. Also enable “touch up my appearance”.
Also tell them adjust audio settings in Zoom to get the best possible sound: Go to Audio in Settings and de-select “automatically adjust microphone settings”. Then go to Advanced Settings in Audio at the bottom right of the screen. (This is only possible on a laptop or desktop; not possible on mobile.) Disable “suppress persistent background noise” and also disable “suppress intermittent background noise”. Choose “auto” for echo cancellation.
Remember to do the same with your Zoom software. Audio and video files are saved in a folder with that day’s date on your computer.
Video alternative: Another way people can film themselves is via QuickTime but this only works if they have a Mac. Tell them to:
- Open the QuickTime Player app on laptop/desktop
- From the Film menu, choose “New movie recording”. They will see whatever their computer camera sees
- Press the record button (red) and stop when finished
- Save the video to the desktop, give it a name, then ask them to send it via WeTransfer.
Audio alternative (backup): You can also record a backup of a Zoom interview with your smartphone plus a microphone. With an iPhone use the Voice Memos app or download the free Voice Recorder Pro 7 app from the Apple store. With an Android device use the Voice Recorder app. The free version offers high-quality formats. The pro version (USD 3.99) can record phone calls
Clip the external (lavalier) mic on your smartphone to the screen close to the computer’s internal mic. After audio is recorded save in Photo Album and Airdrop to an iOS device. With some Android devices Fast Share lets you transfer photos, text, and other files to nearby devices via Bluetooth.
Skype interviewing: If you want to record an interview with someone via Skype you have a variety of options. If you interview on a laptop, best to use QuickTime. On an iPhone probably the simplest way is described here. Android people should read this article for a range of options.
For a bit of fun, here is a 4-minute video that Lucy Linger wrote, directed and edited via Zoom during lockdown in England.
Here is a link to Lockdown Love, a movie (8:23 minutes) I made using mojo tools and Zoom. And here is a link to an interview I did on the MultimediaWeek podcast about making the movie.
Zoom has allowed creators to make films during lockdown. This article from the BBC talks about how actors and directors used Zoom to make a series called Isolation Stories.
Tips: The BBC’s Marc Settle suggests holding your phone against a wall (if possible) to get a steady surface for doing a piece to camera. Airpods work fine as wireless mics for interviews. Ask the talent to use their own Airpods, and link via Bluetooth to your iPhone. Mike Castellucci suggests putting your smartphone on a tripod and pulling gently with a rubber band for a subtle pan. Works even with extreme closeups of words on a book for example, he says.
The free Teleprompter app (red camera image on a white background) for iOS allows you to load and read a script while doing a piece to camera.
Exercise: Interview someone. Then shoot some background footage (make it interesting) and produce a 60-second video. Use iMovie as the editing tool if you are new to editing. Also include a piece to camera at the start to introduce the person you interviewed. Practise is key with mojo.
Lesson 5: Editing The editing process is where the magic begins. You can edit on your smartphone or tablet. You can also insert special effects such as using a green screen.
Reading: Chapter 8 (pages 152-175) in Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Reading: Chapter 9 (Editing on a Smartphone, pages 198-221) of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
Watch The Fixer again. It was filmed with an iPhone 4 in 2012 (runs 7:15) and has won many awards at film competitions. Note the simplicity of the editing, yet how powerful the storytelling.
If you are entirely new to editing, this video and article by Justin Brown is an excellent introduction.
Brown provides a link to editing with his four favourite paid apps on an iPhone here. And here is his link for editing those apps with Android devices.
Brown also offers a video about how to edit with the app from the owners of TikTok called CapCut. And in this video he offers his approach to the LumaFusion editing app.
This Shutterstock tutorial describes 9 different editing techniques. Very useful.
Read Ivo’s wonderful summary of the mojo process. This is one of the best single articles on how to do mojo.
Here is a comprehensive guide to editing with LumaFusion on an iPad Pro. The LumaTouch company which makes the LumaFusion app offers excellent training videos which allow you to teach yourself how to use this app. Justin Brown updated his LumaFusion training video in 2020. It runs 27 minutes.
Mike Reilley offers a tutorial to help you learn VN. It runs 12 minutes.
Mark Egan offers great advice about hooking people in the first 8 seconds.
This video shows a range of editing methods, based on movies. This video is a more comprehensive approach and is also based on movies. Both are very useful if you want to teach yourself editing.
If you want to include special effects, the Alight Motion app is relatively easy to use. The company provides a training video here. It runs 32 minutes. This is an excellent introduction to colour theory, which introduces the notion of colour grading during the edit process.
Some people enjoy using green-screen options when editing. This article and video show you how it’s done in iMovie.
Exercise: Re-edit the interview you did as the exercise from lesson 4, or do another interview and find more background footage, and make a video (maximum 100 seconds) and place it on your YouTube or Vimeo site. This could be your first piece of assessment.
Lesson 6: Audio, music, sound effects and narration This lesson covers aspects of sound and audio related to movie-making with a mobile phone.
Ivo Burum offers an excellent article on recording audio with a smartphone. Here is his June 2021 update on two excellent new mics.
The Leereel wireless lavalier mic is relatively inexpensive and simple to use. This video describes how it works. I like the fact it is easy to set up and use. But it only works on iPhones.
Film-makers need to know the difference between diegetic and non-diegetic sound. This site will help.
Example of an amazing video by Anders Ernest, a Danish print journalist who learned how to become a mobile movie maker.
Reading: Chapter 5 (pages 96-115) in Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Reading: Chapter 6 (Recording Location Sound, pages 126-149) of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
The audio section in the Mobile Journalism Manual has some tips when filming.
Sound effects: Soundfield claims to be the largest collection of free ambisonic sounds on the web.
Music: The web contains many sites that offer copyright or royalty free music. Here are two: http://freemusicarchive.org/ and http://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary. And here is an article on finding ways to provide music for your videos.
Another option is to subscribe to Epidemic Sound for access to their music library.
The Videomaker site offers free sound effects and stock video in the Downloads area.
This site offers ways to get free or paid-for classical music for your videos.
How to use duct tape to secure and hide a mic to clothing when doing interviews or filming.
Podcasting: Here is a list of free online courses if you want to learn about podcasting. Another option is to register for the free month at Lynda to learn podcasting.
Exercise: Go to one of the free music sites and store some music in your smartphone’s camera roll or audio app for use in your next video. Practise using one of the audio recorder apps to record an interview (90-120 seconds), then insert the audio into your preferred video editing app.
Lesson 7: Review and Storytelling In this lesson we will look into mojo storytelling in more depth. We will also review progress so far, discuss making videos for social platforms and consider some cool apps. It would be sensible here to review the information at the start of this document about appropriate apps for filming and editing, and fps (frames per second) for your video.
Stories possess a special power – a magic – for both the storyteller and for the audience. They take people on a journey – emotionally, intellectually, imaginatively. Stories let people lose and find themselves. But what is story and how do we capture that magic? That is what this lesson covers.
Watch this 12-minute video about how to generate ideas for movies.
Read this chapter in the Mobile Journalism Manual about storytelling
Scriptwriter Mike White talks about the creativity process when scripting. And here is David Magee talking about his process.
The BBC’s smartphone trainer Marc Settle details his favourite mojo apps.
Watch Yusuf Omar talk about his favourite mojo apps.
Going live: Facebook has a course on going live. Read this article from Mojo Manual on going live.
This MondayNote article describes the power of Instagram and other social media for storytelling.
TikTok is a fun platform for making videos. Laura Garcia talks here about how journalists can use the platform. Jump to 2:42 to avoid the rubbish at the start. The First Draft site has a range of training courses and notes about TikTok.
Resources: Facebook has useful courses for journalists. Enrol here for the Facebook Journalism Project and find out more about Blueprint, the training program Facebook established. Google also have a site for training journalists.
Useful apps for mojo work.
VideoScribe Anywhere: Lets you create animations. A junior and free version of the Doodly software.
Video Rotate: Useful if you shoot or receive vertical video and need to insert it as a piece of landscape video in an editing app.
8mm: This app lets you make video look like it is old and shot on a b&w movie camera.
Snapseed: One of the best photo-editing apps.
Voice Record Pro: A more powerful app than the voice recorder on your mobile. It’s free, and contains the option to get your recording transcribed.
Otter: This app will transcribe audio interviews for free.
Chartistic: Use this app to create charts to insert into your news videos.
Musemage: One of the best apps for creating video special effcts. Other good apps include Vochi and Alight Motion.
My Sketch: Take a photograph and turn it into a sketch via a range of templates. Useful for creating an avatar of yourself.
Insight Timer: I use this to get a reminder every hour to take three deep breaths and relax.
Reading: Chapter 3 (pages 50-69) in Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Reading: Chapter 11 (Mojo, Social Networks and Social Media, pages 236-251) of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
Lesson 8: Scripting Voice-over and narration are important and can be learned. But as BBC correspondent Allan Little notes, you must have something to say. You need to learn how to write appropriate and powerful scripts.
Learnings/questions from previous class?
Resource: Quinn’s book published July 2018: CLARITY: A guide to clear writing. Second edition. Free copies are available from the author. Or pay for it on Amazon.
Keynotes: Scripting and Language
Reading: Chapter 7 (pages 132-151) in Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Here is a useful article on how to write better dialogue for fiction scripts.
Dominic Morgan has created an excellent course in scriptwriting. It is new as of February 2023. Its title — Learn how to write for Hollywood and get paid — encapsulates the course content.
Exercise: Write a 60-second script (you choose the language) and record it with the Voice Memos or Voice Recorder app on your smartphone. Limitation: You can only use words of one syllable apart from Proper nouns (the names of people and places).
Lesson 9: Performance Once you have written your script you need to turn it into a narration. This is a form of performance. You must learn to get relaxed quickly. To do that you need to know how your brain works under stress.
Keynote: Brain tips
Reading: Pages 226-228 of Chapter 10 of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
Sarah-Jane Butler offers an excellent video (runs 23 minutes) on how to present well. Very much worth watching.
If you want to go “live” on Facebook, Justin Brown offers a simple guide. One of the keys to a successful “live” is being relaxed.
Exercise: Make a mojo video in which you tell me a joke or a sad story as a piece to camera. Maximum duration: 40 seconds.
Lesson 10: Headlines and file management We need to finish our videos by adding headlines, name supers, subtitles (if necessary) and credits. Then we need to deliver our story. Along the way we need to consider ethical and legal factors associated with being a mojo.
Reading: Page 228 (name supers) 10 of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
Discussion: Legal factors when reporting as a mojo, given the nature of mojo work.
Demonstration: The potential of secret recording apps. Demonstration using iPhone and digital TV.
Discussion: Ethical issues related to secret recording.
Reading: Chapter 13 (pages 268-283) in Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Reading: Chapter 12 (pages 246-267) in Burum, Ivo (2021). The Mojo Handbook: Theory to Praxis Focal Press, an imprint of Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York.
Reading: Chapter 13 (Ethical and Legal Aspects of Mojo, pages 264-283) of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
Exercise: Make a mojo video (maximum 100 seconds) in which you review something. It can be anything you choose: a book, a film, a play, the food in your local cafeteria or the music of a busker.
Here are two examples of interesting reviews: Harry Potter in 99 seconds, done to music. Five Guys burger review with subtitles.
Uploading, file management and social media The final stage in the film-making process is storing your video so others can see it. This can take time when it happens via wifi or 4G. When journalists report from the field it is vital they know how to get their video back to their producer / office. Similarly, film-makers need to have a place to store their films and to distribute that film for possible sale (more about that in Lesson 12).
Reading: Chapter 12 (File Delivery and Phone Management, pages 252-263) of Burum, I. and Quinn, S. (2015). MOJO: The Mobile Journalism Handbook Focal Press (Taylor and Francis Group), Boston.
Consider file storage methods such as SanDisk. This is a link to a website with a range of devices..
WhatsApp is great for quick transfer of video. But the app compresses video a lot, so that one minute of video that starts at about 114MB gets shrunk to about 12MB and looks awful when you play it. But it is useful if you’re in a hurry to upload. You sacrifice quality for speed.
Best to use the Telegram app to deliver files. Telegram lets you send uncompressed files up to about 1,500MB. Tap on the paper clip icon in a chat, select “File” and then choose the video in the Photos section of your mobile. Telegram is available for Android, iOS and Windows mobiles and also has desktop apps for Windows and MacOS. Best to use wifi when sending because large files will eat into your data allowances.
Florian Reichart has written a comprehensive article about transferring files in iOS and Android.
Lesson 11: Drones, underwater cameras and the future New tools are always being invented to help movie-makers. Drones, both aerial and underwater, offer great possibilities. So do camera spectacles and 360 degree cameras.
This link shows the rules relating to drones in Norway.
The UK-based company UAVHub offers free online drone training online. Details here.
Read this fascinating article about how drones are creating work for freelance mojos.
This blog post by Glen Mulcahy on underwater drones is dated 2016 but still useful.
Cinemagraphs are cool ways to combine video and photographs. Here is a video that teaches you how to make them and here is another.
Watch this video where Yusuf Omar talks about the potential of the camera on his spectacles.
Keynote: The future and you
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in relation to the media is a fascinating subject. Have a look at the DALL.E web site and click on the video link to see what the software can do.
The Axios media trends web site of 21 January 2020 wrote: “Media companies that lack true scale or dominance of a specific niche continue to face challenges. Most executives believe this trend will continue, leaving a small group of large publishers and high-quality niche sites.”
You need to consider “thin sliver niche” content for success. Identify a subject or area that you are passionate about. Find a niche with that subject or area. Then find a thin sliver within that niche.
The Drone and Phone site is a great example of a thin niche site. The broad area or subject is sport. Within that sport we have the niche of outdoor activities. The sliver niche within that is the intersection between hiking and technology.
Another option is to become a brand. It helps to have the advantage of getting in early. Jessica Yellin is an example of a traditional (CNN) journalist who became a brand on Instagram. Sophie Smith Galer has done the same on TikTok.
Lesson 12: Distribution Once you’ve made your film you need to distribute it if you want to sell it. The phrase “independent film distribution” refers to the delivery of films produced outside the traditional Hollywood system. Here is a suggested approach:
Ensure you have the legal right to distribute your film. This usually involves acquiring the rights for copyrighted music or footage you use.
Create a website for your film that includes information about the story, cast and crew. Use the site to publicise upcoming screenings. Do the same with social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
Submit to film festivals. These expose your film to possible distribution deals.
Consider distributing your film through streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime, Apple+ and Netflix. Note that most of these require you to submit the film through an agent.
Bypass traditional distribution channels by delivering your film through online platforms. Examples of these include Paus, ODMedia and Filmhub. They find markets for your film and typically take 20% of the sale price you nominate.
Develop a marketing plan to promote your film. You will need money, so consider tools like Indiegogo or Kickstarter or GoFundMe or Crowdfunder to raise funds.
Reality check: Independent film distribution requires a lot of time and effort, but it also gives you a high degree of control over the process.
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