Using a Mobile Phone to Capture a Testimonial Video

testimonial video TeddingtonYou’ve got happy customers, right? They’d recommend you to friends, right? You’re leveraging this free advertising to build your business? No? Well, surely you’re at least thinking about testimonial video?

It’s worth putting in the effort to get them the testimonials, and to get then right – testimonials can really help your social media profile, and you can put them on your website.  But you’ve got to get the nitty-gritty right, or you might be wasting your time. 

testimonial video TeddingtonCollecting testimonial video is easier said than done, and employing a pro film maker will get much better results than you can do yourself. But, it’ll be much harder to pull off once you and your client have gone your separate ways. They’ll soon begin to forget just how pleased they were with your work, so why not grab a few words on video while they’re hot with enthusiasm? You have a pretty decent video camera with you all the time on your phone, so just do a few things to get yourself prepared, make up your mind to NOT be embarrassed, capture some words of adulation, then pump it up to social media.

9 Things That Will Help Make Your Testimonial Better

Here are four things to think about before you try it, and then another five things to keep in mind when you’re shooting your testimonial video.

Assuming you’re not a Hollywood film director, it’s ok if the vid is a bit rough and ready. But, it can’t be completely rubbish – that’ll reflect badly on you and your business, so put a bit of time aside and do these things…

  1. Make a resolution – to go through the video settings on your phone, make sure you understand how it works
  2. Don’t forget your memory – clear out of your phone’s memory so there’s space to record your video
  3. Rock Steady – how will you keep the phone stable while you shoot?
  4. Can you hear me mother? – how are you going to capture the sound?

Once someone agrees to record a testimonial move quickly before they change their mind. You’ve got to take control, move them to where you want them and even shift the furniture around to make a better shot.  

  1. Landscape, landscape, landscape – let me say it again, landscape! Use the phone on it’s side
  2. Let there be light – find the best light for shooting
  3. You’ve been framed – compose your shot, if it looks nice people will watch for longer
  4. Keep it Focused – check the camera’s focused in the right place
  5. Listen – encourage them by nodding and smiling. Ask open questions to illicit the comments you want, and make a mental note when they say something usable.

This post is part of a short talk on capturing testimonial video using a mobile that I gave to a business networking group, and this is the video we shot at the time using my mobile phone as a demonstration.

Resolution and Settings
Look at the user manual or some YouTube videos and go through the menus on the phone. Make sure you know how to work the video, and set it too record at 720p. It’s good enough for online and takes up less memory space than 1920p or even 4k!

Memory
How much does your phone have? You really don’t want to run out just as you subject’s getting into full flow, so copy everything you want onto your computer or up into the cloud and then delete it from your phone. If your camera can take extra memory, buy some! 1GB will hold 15-20 minutes of video.

Support
Unless you’re shooting a sequel to the Blair Witch Project, you need to keep the camera still. Wobbly video is horrible to watch. A tripod is ideal and there are some nifty mounts you can buy to hold the phone. However, a standard lamp and some elastic bands can work just as well. It’s best to have the phone at the same level as the speaker’s eyes, or slightly higher. You might be able to balance it on some books on a desk, but it can look a bit amateurish, and if it falls down.

Sound
Most of the information  in a testimonial video is in the sound, not the pictures. It’s really important that this is not left to chance, and probably means buying and external microphone. The built-in mics are really just souped-up telephone mics so there’s a limit to how good it can ever be. To get the best sound, the microphone must at its optimal distance, which depends on the type you’re using. The aim is to deliver as much of the desired sound as the microphone needs to operate effectively, and as little background noise as possible. The nearer to the subject the phone is the better the sound will be, but getting too close starts to distort the image seen by the camera. Practice makes perfect, so annoy your family by videoing them lots, then look and listen on a computer so you can judge the quality and learn from it.

Types of Microphone

Mobile phone built-in microphone
Working distance – No more than 1.5 metres
Pros – No cost! Convenient, Will work
Cons – Picks all sounds equally, including handling noise, not high quality
Expect to pay – nothing

Levalier or clip-on
Working distance – Clip to clothing, but mind where the wire goes
Pros – Good quality sound, excludes other noises
Cons – Only suitable for a single person speaking. In shot.
Expect to pay – £14 upwards

Directional or gun
Working distance – 2-4 metres
Pros – Good quality sound, versatile. Can be out of shot.
Cons – Still picks up other sounds.
Expect to pay – £50 upwards

testimonial video TeddingtonPicture Format
Always shoot in Landscape format, not portrait. That means using the camera on its side, otherwise there’ll be wide black lines either side of the video when it’s viewed on a computer, tablet or TV. Some aps like Facebook Live can accommodate portrait format, but only when live.

Composition/zoom
Don’t be tempted to use the zoom, instead move the phone closer to the subject or further away. Most phones only have a digital zoom, which can lower the picture quality.
Rely on your own eye to frame the subject and compose the picture, does it look right? Then it is right. The ‘rule of thirds’ can be useful, rather than having the subject slap bang in the centre, frame the shot with the subject one-third in from either side and balance with something like a pot plant or shadow on a wall.

It’s behind you!
What is? The thing that’s going to distract the viewer from your subject. Look around the image on screen, once someone has agreed to be videoed they’ll put up with being told what to do, so move them to a better position or move the ornaments.

Focus
Take care that the camera hasn’t latched the focus onto a background object. Mobile phone cameras are really made for selfies, so they’re good at spotting a face and focusing on it. But, it’s still worth double-checking by touching the screen on the subjects face, the camera will also adjust exposure and colour to that spot. Beware that phone cameras find it harder to focus in low light.

Lighting
The way the subject in the video is lit is single, biggest influence on the aesthetic quality of image. My favourite light is from a north-facing window, it’s soft and flattering. It doesn’t have to be north facing, but there can’t be any direct sunlight. Put your subject sideways to the window, then look to see how the shadows fall. Does it remind you of a Rembrandt painting?
Here are some suggestions for the light source in video, in my order of preference.

  1. Window, but no sun
  2. Outdoors on an overcast day
  3. Outdoors on a sunny day, but in the shade (if there’s a sunlit area behind the subject they could be silhouetted or at least under-exposed)
  4. Indoors with diffuse ambient light (no strong shadows)
  5. Indoors, under a spotlight or top-light, with a reflector to fill the shadows
  6. As a last resort, outdoors in sunshine, using a reflector to fill the shadows (don’t let the subject wear sunglasses but make sure they don’t squint)

The camera sensor in a mobile phone is tiny, so to work properly they need plenty of light. If it’s too dark the camera will compensate by increasing the ISO or sensitivity. This may make the video noisy or gritty and effect the colours. Or the camera might slow the shutter speed, which could result in blurry image. Most mobiles have fully automatic cameras with little option to take manual control. Try not to have more than one source of light, they may have different colours and the camera will be confused! Don’t expect the cameras to be as good or as versatile as a proper camera, their strength is their portability and convenience – it always with you, so use it!


Another meeting, and another talk about testimonial video. This one was in a noisy hotel bar next to a wedding reception, so really not the right place to record video! Sometimes you can’t change things – there wasn’t time to drag the audience of thirty to another location, so should I have given up? I made the point that if it’s your only opportunity to record a testimonial then why not give it go? I positioned the phone quite close to Margaret so it could hear her, so it’s not a great shot. Judge of yourself whether it was good enough. Thanks to Margaret for being a good sport!

Read Twitter’s advice on what people want to see in videos.

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