Looking to build your own video rig with your smartphone, here is a quick and cheap solution to produce professional quality video shoots with the iPhone X, DJI Osmo Mobile and Rode MicroVideo Mobile Kit.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, Google Pixel 2 XL, Huawei P20 Pro*, HTC U12+, Apple iPhone XS and other high-end smartphones are very capable camera phones with 4K video capture capabilities. These phones can produce amazing quality video footages. With the right equipment for stabilising and directional microphone to cut out the noise, you are well on your well to owning your first smartphone video rig.
Our Video Rig Build
For our budget smartphone video rig, we chose the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 gimbal and the Rode VideoMicro mobile kit. Our affordable video rig consists of:
- Apple iPhone X 256GB
- DJI Osmo Mobile 2 Handheld Smartphone Gimbal
- Rode Video Micro Mobile Kit
- Rode SC7 TRS to TRRS Patch Cable
- Apple Lightning to Headphone Jack Adapter
- L-shape flash bracket with cold shoe mounts
If you already have your own smartphone, you can pick and mix from our list above or buy equivalent accessories that work with your phone. We ask that you use the list above as a rough guide.
DJI Osmo Mobile 2
The second generation DJI Osmo Mobile 2 video gimbal is better than the first in so many ways. It has longer battery life, you can mount your phone in portrait mode if you prefer to take selfie videos and there is a zoom slider so you never have to touch the screen to shot or zoom. The gimbal still spots the same easy to use single handed profile with 3-axis stabilisation.
Once balanced and connected via the app, the gimbal performs exceedingly well in ensuring that you capture smooth video in landscape or portrait mode. What is missing from this iteration is the side mounting thread but you do get a new tripod mount on the bottom of the handle. This is handy if you are looking to record a time lapse video or from a stationary point in the room.
The real advantages of the gimbal apart from motion stabilisation and to keep your video smooth is in the app. The DJI GO app, the same app that lets you control DJI drones taking photos, videos and watch the in-flight live view in HD also lets you control the DJI gimbal. The integration is seamless. Connect your gimbal via the app using Bluetooth and you can use the record button to start and stop video recording or take photos, the zoom slider, the manual panning joy stick and power / mode button to control the camera functions. You can also control the gimbal via the app with features like automatic tracker. Tap on the subject on your screen and the gimbal will track it automatically.
The DJI GO’s camera app controls and settings include Standard Camera, ActiveTrack, Timelapse, Motionlapse, Hyperlapse and panorama. The latter takes 9 photos in a 3 x 3 grid and stitches them together for a big seamless image so don’t feel like you are limited by your smartphone’s viewing angle. There is also a neat video editor that automatically converts you video clip into shareable montage complete with background music. Charge up the gimbal quickly with a 2 Amp charger (not included) for a maximum of 15 hours use. With the right adapter, it only takes 2 hours to fully charge the gimbal.
Rode Mobile Microphone Kits
While our chosen microphone for our iPhone X was the Rode VideoMicro, Rode has other mobile microphones that goes with your chosen smartphone for video recording be it Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, Google Pixel 2 XL, Huawei P20 Pro*, HTC U12+ and Apple iPhone X. These smartphones are capable of capturing stabilised 4K videos at 30fps except for iPhone X and Galaxy S9+ that records 4K at 60fps.
Some of these mobile microphones are designed to go straight on the 3.5mm socket or on the Lighting connector. However, these don’t work well with the gimbal as the mic would hit the arm of the gimbal or is in the way of the clamp. See images below:
Others are designed with the flexibility for use not only for the smartphone but on DSLR cameras too. These directional on-camera microphones have integrated cold-shoe mount with 3/8” thread. There is no obvious and easy way to attach the microphone to the smart phone but we have a solution for that in the next section.
The Rode VideoMic GO and Rode VideoMicro are such microphones, compact, lightweight and affordable, these on-camera microphone works just as well for smartphones as they do on DSLR cameras. You can also consider the more expensive Rode VideoMic Pro mobile kit, a bigger version of the Rode VideoMic GO. See images and links below:
Both Rode VideoMic Go and Rode VideoMicro require an SC7 (TRS to TRRS) patch cable as well as lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter for newer iPhones without headphone sockets.
Connecting the Microphone and Mounting the Camera to the Gimbal
Mounting the iPhone X with the camera lens away from the gimbal arm meant having the lightning connector and the SC7 patch cable on the right. The manual says you are meant to place the phone on the clamp keeping the phone close to the right. This blocks the lightning port which is needed for the lightning to headphone adapter. Once connected, we pushed the phone to the right carefully forcing the adapter against the rubber padding on the right.
We then rebalance the gimbal and phone as best we can with the phone and adapter attached (see image below). It won’t be as balanced as just the phone on its own without the adapter in the lightning port but the gimbal seems to cope when switched on. It compensates and stabilises the phone with no problem at all. We saw the app complained once to balance the phone again. Other than that, we got on with recording and faced no problems doing so.
The trick is to ensure that the adapter and patch cable are not exerting too much force on the gimbal until it restrict its motion. If it does, this causes the gimbal to go into manual mode.
L-shape flash bracket with cold shoe mounts
If you are in the same boat as I am, trying to use a camera gimbal, the DJI Osmo Mobile 2, with one of these video microphones with cold-shoe mount you will find an even greater challenge looking for a way to mount the video microphone so it is out of the way of the gimbal and still points in the direction you want it to.
Thankfully, there is a cheap solution. You can find an L-shape flash bracket with cold shoe mounts that hold both the microphone and gimbal together in a way that does not restrict the movement of the arms and phone. The L-shape bracket offers an extra handle so you can operate the gimbal and microphone holder with two hands for even more stability and support.
Our L-shape bracket had three positions to which you can have the cold shoe mount. We chose the middle one as it is furthest away not to be in the line of sight of the camera or in its way but not too far that the cable exerts a force on the connector and phone. A 1/4-inch mount on the base connects to the bottom of the gimbal.
We found that in order to not have the cables pulled too far causing the phone and gimbal’s movement to be restricted, the L-shape bracket need to be positioned to the right of the gimbal (see image above). This seats the microphone nearest to the lightning adapter and SC7 patch cable.
This meant, you will need to operate the gimbal with your left hand but as you are holding the rig with both hands, there is plenty of support and you can get used to the setup even if you are right handed like me.
The result is; superb sound quality, smooth video framing and easy to handle video rig that works just like a professional setup. The most expensive component of this setup apart from the smartphone is the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 gimbal. The other components especially the L-shape bracket are cheap and affordable. If you have other similar setups, please do share with us here.