Still using the default video on your smartphone? Pah! Amateur.
Phones are now a fully portable production studio IF you’re using the right apps with it.
There’s a universe of apps out there for filmmakers and vloggers alike. We’ve been having a play with some of the more obvious ones and some lesser-known ones to try and find the best apps for vlogging on your phone.
Here’s a quick round up of the results – there’s a review of the main contenders but then also a recommendation on the workflow we’d use if only using a phone to shoot, edit and distribute.
So if you don’t care about what all these different apps do and want to just take my advice – jump to the end now.
Apple clips was first released in 2017 when it was dismissed as a bit of a gimmick but there’s been a slew of updates that make it worth revisiting.
Yes there’s the fun stuff which I imagine were included to get people trying the app, and you can put yourself inside augmented realities like the Millenium Falcon and the Incredibles movie as well a host of other random sets, but for regular vlogging, there’s more here than meets the eye.
Once you get your head around the fact that you need to build short clips and then export them together, you can use this app quite effectively as an all-in-one production studio.
Also, it has a built-in captioning ability called live titles, which can caption you as you speak and bake the subtitles in. It’s about the same sophistication as Youtube auto-captioning, so if it’s for Youtube, perhaps not worth the trouble, but if you’re using other platforms and don’t want to add more to your workflow via rev.com and wrangling with .srt files then this a bit of a find.
There are other auto-captioning apps out there, but none that do it as part of a filming, editing, and distribution package.
You can even edit them afterward to tidy up imperfections in execution, especially the way apple interprets my kiwi vowels, which are all over the shop.
If you’re in the Apple universe, start here for a simple all in one that can export straight to Youtube, Instagram, Facebook or be exported for further editing and distribution.
Downsides to Apple Clips
The only drawback is the lack of options in the edit. This could be a good thing if the aim is to keep it simple, but to build and maintain a branded look for your channel, this is probably a bit too simple.
I would use it for personalised updates, though, where you’re capturing something spontaneous and making commentary on it with subtitles. I think this could be a useful app for business people making on-the-fly content for Linkedin, but it’s hard to see it being a workflow for Youtube creators day in day out.
Staying with apple – the default editor – iMovie – is also an effective all-in-one studio. You can record straight into the timeline, although it’s not obvious at first that you can do this. Once in the edit function, if you hit the plus button and select camera, you can record yourself or any footage. Perfect for making short clips on the fly, but don’t expect to make anything ambitious.
The limited editing options give a simple set of functions that won’t distract or bamboozle the beginner, but for more advanced editors, it’s going to feel like a step-down.
To get the most out of any camera you need to go manual. This app does if for your phone camera. There is no built-in editing, though you could easily export your footage and import into another app like iMovie or VideoLeap.
If you just want the camera to automatically set everything for you then Mavis does this, but you may as well be using any of the built-in video capture features with a dedicated studio platform like iMovie or clips on IOS or Kinemaster on Android.
The one big drawback is that it has no selfie mode! That’s fine if your filming with a pal, but what about framing yourself if you’re on your own? Mavis Pro Cam tell me it ain’t so?!
I found this a bit of a deal-breaker after initial enthusiasm – it’s just a significant oversight. I will be very embarrassed if it turns out you CAN selfie on Mavis, but I was too thick to find the setting.
Another app for creating manual configurations on your phone’s camera. If you’re a bit more advanced with cameras and find yourself frustrated with the lack of pro features on a smartphone like focus peaking for instance – this is the app for you.
Again it’s much like Mavis Pro Cam, but with a selfie mode except the illusion of focal depth it can create is quite convincing and can make for a more richer depth of field. It’s quite surprising, the shots you can pull off using this app.
Videoleap is a great little editor only. No recording in the timeline with this one, but it makes up for it with the most intuitive and advanced editing on a phone that I could find.
We will mention price on this one because it may look expensive at £65 british pounds if you want to buy it outright but on a twelve-month contract, it’s only £3 per month so if your studio is going to be your phone – this is a solid bit of investment.
Only prerecorded footage can be imported into the timeline, so as long as it’s on your phone, you can use it.
To my eyes, it’s got a more professional set of options to the point where it becomes a bit fiddly on a phone and I can’t help but think you’d be better off editing on a dedicated PC or Mac – BUT – to avoid that investment for now or to be the most compact traveling vlogger out there – Videoleap is not too shabby.
Even if you’re a beginner, you will still manage the basics and after a steepish learning curve, be able to layer in coloured backgrounds, subtle filters, chroma-keying, and even masking. And for once, I didn’t mind the default transitions on offer, which are usually something of an 80’s car crash.
This is another editing only app and we didn’t love this one.
It’s ok for editing when it wasn’t crashing or locking up, but one saving grace is that you can connect your Facebook and Instagram profiles to it and then select footage related to those accounts for further editing. But otherwise, there are better apps.
Available on both IOS and Android, this is a seriously powerful editor.
There are features in here that even professional editors would be surprised to find like a layers function that allows you to build on top of your main timeline or A roll that was a lot more robust and simple than any other apps.
If you’re already a decent editor and just want the sort of features you’re already used to in Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere then Kinemaster is going to suit you down to the ground.
Easy to do the basics, solid on more complex edits as well. Plus it has a connected remote app that you can put on your tablet or another smartphone to control the device from a distance over blue tooth.
Great for making use of the better front camera when filming pieces to camera on your own. And it will record in the timeline on the front or back camera so this is the best all-rounder for vlogging if the only device you have is a smartphone, and you insist on using one app.
If you’ve just tuned back in to get my advice – you lazy sod – I was just saying that Kinemaster is the best all-rounder for filming and editing in one place. BUT
The one big problem with all of these apps is you can’t currently film using them with a teleprompter, and that is a big deal-breaker for the workflow we have – batching a load of videos in one session.
If you don’t care about using a teleprompter and you’re just a natural at keeping your train of thought and presenting to camera, then the workflow we would use is:
The most pro option
Film all the A roll pieces to the camera using Pro Movie on the manual settings if you need selfie mode – unless you’re moving about in which case use Mavis on the auto settings with the built in stabiliser.
If you’ve got a partner in crime – use Filmic Pro on the back camera so you can access the manual settings which are just better.
Film all the B roll on Filmic Pro and really get to grips with the focus puller and the quirky ISO wheel.
Then import the footage into Kinemaster which is super easy and quick.
Export from Kinemaster to Youtube.
For the fastest option that will keep you sane
Film and edit everything inside the Clips app and export straight to Youtube.
Don’t do Mac? Film everything inside Kinemaster, avoid anything fancy and export straight to Youtube.
For teleprompter people use PromptSmartPro, import your script and then click into it and tap on the settings cog. You’ll need to turn on the selfie mode and set the side margin position to ‘narrow’
Then film yourself on landscape and make sure the text is at the camera end so that your eye line will be closest to the front camera when filming.
Otherwise you’ll be looking slightly off-camera, which is the sort of thing your dad does.
When you’ve finished export to Kinemaster for editing as above.
There you go – you’re now ready to smash out vlogs on your phone!
It’ll never be quite the same as using pro cameras and a pro editing suite but it will give you options for a simple vlog and / or a way to supplement your main vlogging style with a super lightweight traveling option.