How to film an epic Sunrise with your Smartphone - FILM - TEACH - CREATE - VIDEO

How to film an epic Sunrise with your Smartphone

A sunrise is often associated with beauty, serenity and of course the word time lapse. All of these are great subjects for making a video. We are going to break down all the details on what you need to make a sunrise video with your smartphone.

The Story

When people make a video they focus too much on the obvious. For example it is OBVIOUS that we are going to film the sunrise itself. But a sunrise on its own is not a story, and if your video does not have a story it wont be awesome to watch. The difference between a lonely video clip on your phone and watchable youtube video is the stuff that happens around the sunrise.

1. Where are you?
The location is going to be your first Go-To theme. Give the viewer some context of where you are. Have you travelled far or are you at home?

2. Who are you with?
Look around you. Are you alone or are you with people? Are they enjoying this occasion? There are so many opportunities to extend the journey of your sunrise video by including the other people involved in this experience.

3. Why are you here?
Like with the previous two questions you can break down the reasons why you came to film the sunrise in the first place. Maybe you are travelling or maybe you have never seen the sunrise from a mountain near your home. Show us why you came to be here for this epic moment.

Ask yourself the questions
We made a sunrise video too. We wanted it to be a collaboration video so we teamed up with Cape Town Tourism & fellow YouTuber Cameron Fous. We looked at all the elements we wanted to place in a story and used the sunrise as the subject to bring it (us) all together. What do you want to say about your experience? This will be your story.


When making a video of a sunrise with a smartphone there are two pieces of technical advice. One, make sure you have good stability for your smartphone & two, you might want to find a second camera.

Sunrise Video Stability
Let's face it, what is a sunrise video without a time-lapse? The sunrise takes a bit of time from first light till day light. In order to compress this into a watchable moment you need to speed up time. A time lapse is exactly that. 99% of all smartphones have the ability to make time lapse videos, but you will need a stand or a tripod to hold the camera still. Get yourself a Guerilla pod & phone clamp or worst case scenario just lean your smartphone on a rock. (i've tried, it works too)

Extra Camera
While your smartphone is busy filming the sunrise (time lapse) you will also want to get the reaction shot of yourself or your people. Take an extra phone, a gopro or a friend's phone and get those B-Roll shots of other stuff that's happening at the same time. If you don't have access to extra gear then just do it afterwards. Set the camera up for the reaction and use your acting skills. Haha, all you need is that moment.


With your story now in place you can start to construct a build-up. This is a great technique to keep people engaged and thrilled. The suspense of the build up to the moment the sun breaches the horizon can be quite exciting, so use things like slow motion to emphasise the drama. Good Build-up music will also help achieve this.

A little trick we used in our video was to darken the shots that happened before the sunrise took place. This way you get that feeling of really being in the dark before the sun comes up.

Plan & Practice

You need to know when and where the sunrise is going to happen. Too many people get to the place they want to film too late. Make sure you know what time first light is and get to your shoot location a good 30min earlier to set up in peace. Then find out exactly where the sun breaches the horizon so you don't have to move your camera once you start your time lapse. If you don't know exactly where this is, ask someone who knows the place or download a sun tracker app.

You now have all the tools & info you need to make a sunrise video with your smartphone. But maybe you still not sure exactly what shots you need to get to tell your story? Check out our list of online courses including a Ready Made Template for Sunrise Videos. This is an added bonus part of our Basic Smart Phone video course. 
If you have already filmed your story and need help editing we have a series of Free editing tutorials for Android & iOs devices.

Have fun out there.

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