How To Make iPhone Travel Videos: Cinematic Tips

I want to start off by saying something that might sound a bit cliche by now, but I’m going to say it anyway:

"The best camera is the one you have on you." 

On the surface it's obvious as your phone is a camera that is always on you. Even with a locked screen, with just a single swipe, you can be ready to capture any unique and special once-off moment, as it happens.    

I’m sure this is where the first counterargument will come up… "But the quality of a DSLR is better!"

Even I will admit that iPhone footage is not as colour rich and dynamic as a Sony or Canon DSLR. Yes the truth is a DSLR will capture better images, but the truth coin has another side to it, and that is that cinematic travel videos are more about WHAT you capture, than what you capture it with.

Knowing what shots to get and how to MAKE A STORY OUT OF THEM,  will take your videos from below average to way above average, instantly. And when you start getting this right, knowing what shots to get, then you can consider upgrading YOUR GEAR, like  adding lenses, a gimbal or even upgrade to an expensive DSLR which will up the quality that extra few percent.

But the point is a “better” camera will not make your travel videos more cinematic and amazing, unless you know the tips and tricks we are about to discuss  in this article.

No extra Gear required, just your iPhone

So if you have a gimbal and lenses that cost upward of a 100 dollars a pop, great, but if you don't, that is ok too. We are going to focus on improving your travel video creation ability by 70% to 80% using just your iPhone.

On this point, I’m also going to say,  don't go for next level apps to film and edit with either. Again, yes these will tip up the final travel video's quality, but only by marginal amounts.

The gear and accessories and apps are not the foundation of a good video, your story and your shots to support that story are the thing to focus on. 

HOWEVER, what I will say before we touch on my top 4 iPhone Travel Video tricks is you do need to pay attention to storage and battery life.

Filming kills iPhone Battery Life

 When you are on the go you will want a few solutions for battery life, depending on the nature of the experience. Whether it's a cable or adapter for the car or a battery bank while you out in nature, this is something you want to consider when using an iPhone for videography.

At the end of the day this is more than just your camera, it's is also your communication, navigation and internet browsing device. If you want all of these features to keep working, you going to need battery power. 

Ah Dammit!

iPhone Storage

Athen naturally the same can be said for space. Make sure you are ready for the day with enough space. The last thing on earth you want this to see something amazing and then have to go look for things to delete…  then you delete them, and still you have to go to recently deleted, and delete again before you acquire the space...

... and now you are really bummed out, because you don't want to loose this, but what's happening right now is even better.  By the time you done deleting it's all over and you now have nothing… do not lat that happen to you!!!!

Its all about the story

So now cinematic travel videos with an iPhone, what is the focus here exactly? 

Story. Story Story. Story. Story. 

Everything about what we as humans connect with is story. We are social creatures by nature and we want to share our travels with our friends. Naturally not everyone you know can join you on all your amazing adventures, but still you have that yearning to show them what you saw. 

You want to share the experience with them. 

And home footage videos just don't cut it. 

So many people come back from vacation with photos and video clips, end up showing us a series of boring photos and video clips of the typical sights and attractions. You look at their content and think: "What? The brochure did better than you."

"Thank you for showing me your image of the pyramids." - sarcasm

It's not that it's terrible shot, it's that it has no story.

And so you listen to their story about what happened. They describe the heat, the smells, the noises of the camels. Their excitement comes alive. And suddenly you are listening. You've forgotten about the generic images and start to engage with them.

The human story is what carries that attractive emotive response. Suddenly your thoughts are: "Oh awesome, what happened next?"

That is what your travel videos needs too.

And this is something you can do with just an iPhone. 

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4 Tips to Create Cinematic iPhone Travel Videos

So how do you get this right ? Below are  4 tips you can implement right away to begin making Travel Videos that tell a story while using cinematic elements.

Tip 1: Shot variety

To make a video story you need a variety of shots. You got to get in close, get far away, up in the middle, change the angle, get high, get low, do a POV… by mixing it up you are feeding your viewers more information, both visually and psychologically.

With each shot they learn more about where you are, what you were doing and what it was like. Give the smells a visual. Give the heat a visual. Give the landscape a visual. 

How could one shot  do all of this? It cant. This is a story.

But this lesson is just the beginning of understanding how to make a great Travel Video. On it's own its good for story, but we are not quite cinematic yet.

Tip 2: Micro Movements

The second step is to add micro movements to each of your shots.  Not big massive movements with the camera flailing around, but small emotive micro movement.

Movement is something most people get wrong with video.

Most beginners assume they must move as soon as they hit the record button. But it's actually the content that is moving, when we add camera movement in it must be controlled. This is where the word cinematic really comes in.

You want to give the shot a reason for moving. Like if you're on a path or a walking towards something, then this is perfect.  See example below how moving forward works with small movements. If you don't have a gimbal, which is what this is all about… then don't attempt to do long shots like a hyperlapse as seen in the example at the bottom of this page, use short shots. Because this is enough to get that cinematic feel.

It's a really small movement.

Tip 3: Slow Motion

Slowmo is great for Travel Videos. It's just got the right feeling.

Not only does it look cool, but it represents time slowing down which is exactly want you want for your story.

Slow motion is like floating on a cloud. It's all about taking life in; living in the moment. This is art of the story of being on vacation. Life is supposed to slow down to enjoy the world. This is the story.

By using slow motion you are giving the viewer not just something nice to look at but a feeling of what it was like to be there in real life. 

It's a good thing slow motion is a built-in feature in all iPhones. So use it. Use lot's of it. 

Tip 4: The People

The fourth and last thing I want to tell you about iPhone travel videos is focus on PEOPLE.

What makes a travel video, are the people in it. Doesn't matter if it is you in selfi-mode, in POV mode or your travel companion, friends or even strangers. Travel videos as the name name suggests, is all about travelling to amazing locations. But those locations are nothing without the people in them. They are just post cards as we described in our first point earlier. People are what the viewers rely on for emotional connectivity. 

It doesn't mean every shot has to be people. You only need to make an effort to include at least a of shots of people.

So what has this got to do with iPhone travel videos?

An iPhone is invisible. When you take pictures and videos with a phone, the world around us carries on like normal, which is what you want. As soon as you bring out a DSLR with a fluffy mic,  everyone around does a jump to get out of the way. So when it comes to travel videos an iPhone is like a spy camera capturing the experience like a fly on the wall, exactly what you want to get the story right.

Bringing it all together

Ive picked out a video made by Harshit Vora to highlight some of the things we spoke about in this article. This video was filmed on an iPhone 11.

Your first video might not look like this right away, as there are a few tricks used that we will still discuss in the future, but look out for how everything is moving. Most shots are micro movements.

Look out for slow motion and the shots containing people. This video although very shallow in its narrative has a story to it. We know what they experienced though an emotional journey.

So those are the 4 best beginner tips I can give you that don't rely on having extra cool and expensive gear to bring your videos up to the quality mark you been looking for. Don't get me wrong we love new gear and toys, but it's time people started to understand that knowing what to film and how to film it is more important than what you capture it on.

Leave your questions in the comments section below.

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