Today we’ll be talking about mobile production for YouTube and YouTube Live. This will be a broader approach to mobile production but we’ll go into more gaming-specific details further down the article, so bear with me.
Most of us in 2020 have a smartphone ready to use at all times, so making content isn’t limited to sets and recording rooms anymore. For almost 4 years now, mobile production has been around on a larger scale with the introduction of Instagram stories in 2016 and the YouTube Player allowing vertical videos since the beta in 2017. For a large portion of that timespan, this branch of web video has been smiled at, including me not believing in this type of content. But here we are now with one of the fastest-growing web video platforms taking off (TikTok) and we need to rethink how we can adopt basic principles of mobile production so they fit within our YouTube workflow.
Before jumping straight into the production, think about the format and set. Vertical videos (9:16) are great for having a commentary or conversation since the frame is limited to roughly the rectangular shape of a face. If you want to show more action or drama, it is usually a better choice to use a horizontal video (16:9). If you want to scale your production value later on and maybe want to see your film in cinemas, you might even want to consider widescreen (21:9). When it comes to choosing a set, keep lighting and sound in mind, but we’ll go over some hardware choices together.
Usually, smartphones are your all-in-one device when it comes to rough mobile production. They have a main camera for shooting landscapes and scenes and a front camera for vlogging/commentating as well as an internal microphone. With this basic setup, you are able to create crude momentary shots without a big budget.
But as we all now – smartphone mics aren’t the best when it comes to quality and we established earlier that
audio > video when it comes down to the importance of quality (refer to this guide). Your options to improve mobile audio on a small scale production are mostly limited to lavalier and shotgun mics. Of course, you can go fancy pants with a portable audio link (but they are a well above 500€ each, so let’s ditch those for the moment, as we all know creators are working on a budget 😉). Personally I found cheap solutions from well-known brands such as Røde or Sennheiser ranging from 50€-200€ for shotguns and lavaliers. Which isn’t too bad of an investment if you plan to stick to this hobby or are pushing your channel to a semi-professional or fulltime position. Also, keep in mind the shape of the environment/room while filming. Atmospheric sound is nice to set a scene, but you still want to differentiate a conversation from background noise. If you are keen on learning more about audio, let us know and we’ll put an audio guide onto our list.
So you’re on the road with your friends having the adventure of your lifetime (with acceptable social distances) and are filming all the goodness up to the climax of the story you want the world to know about. And your phone dies. How do we prevent this problem? The answer is pretty simple – get yourself one or several large power banks to charge your devices AND make sure they are charged before you head out into the wild or onto your couch just out of the reach of your power plug. For your reference, streaming usually eats up 1% of battery each minute (measured on a Galaxy S9 with medium screen brightness); recording a bit less.
Given you want to film indoors or at night you want to think about lighting as well since most smartphone camera sensors aren’t known for their lowlight quality. Keep natural lighting in mind during set choice! When talking about handheld lights, we are talking about lights directed to your face, usually clipped onto your smartphone. Cheap LED panels for about 20€ have power for about 45min runtime (and can be charged by one of the power banks you took with you).
Smartphones also don’t have much image stabilization so you might want to think about adding a gimbal to your shopping list. This might be useful for running on the beach, a bit of biking or even some smooth pans across the floors of your favorite games expo (either E3 or Gamescom when they are reopened after the pandemic). Here is an example of some DIY OIS and for the interested ones the Making Of.
Now let’s get to the gaming section. Screen recording your favorite mobile game CLASH: CANDY LEGENDS (totally not sponsored, but if you want to pay me for these guides hmu). No seriously capturing mobile gameplay has always been something I’ve tried to avoid since there is a lot of crappy capture software out there that does not only capture the video but rather other data as well and also doesn’t deliver a proper encoding and sometimes comes with a watermark. But hey, there is an easy solution to that as well. Next to mobile encoders like streamlabs (an encoder based on OBS), Android, as well as iOS, have decent integrated screen capture software.
On that note keep in mind:
Mobile live streaming from the YouTube App itself requires your channel to have at least 1000 subscribers as a prevention measure for streaming suicides or mass shootings. From the last paragraph, you might have guessed that with a little technical understanding it is pretty easy to circumvent this soft lock. Although I have to admit that the stream game feature within the YouTube App is fairly comfortable to begin with. Letting you set up a PiP camera, a thumbnail, and more important the game title (for better search results) within the streaming setup, without having to rely on making those adaptions beforehand on your YouTube Studio Desktop. If you want to search for some YouTube live mobile encoders, here you go: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=live%20streaming%20app%20for%20youtube&c=apps&hl=en_US
If you don’t want to Livestream, that’s totally fine as well since you can either keep the footage and transfer it to a PC to use your usual editing tools. But don’t worry if you are just starting out, there is a good variety of basic editing tools for phones as well. From experience, I can recommend Adobe Premiere Rush (which works surprisingly well for an Adobe product and comes with your Adobe CreativeCloud subscription) but you can go for a one-time semi-pro tool, too. Yes, you could use the ‘free’ versions but is it really worth the 5€ to have a big watermark across the screen? I don’t think so…
Last but not least we have to keep one important thing in mind. Videos and live streaming in a decent quality eat up data like nothing else. A 5-minute Video in 1080p60 can easily be 1GB or larger as an unedited file. When you are constantly in your home WiFi, this might not be an issue, but on the road, it definitely can be. Yes, you could be a filthy parasite and take advantage of your nearest Starbucks WiFi (which has a surprisingly high average upload speed), but let’s be honest:a decent data plan of the mobile provider of your choice makes you way more independent and you don’t have to pretend you like the coffee.
Mobile gaming is the largest market on youtube gaming (surprisingly I found out about the literally HUGE FreeFire Spanish language market as a result of the research on this topic). So if you are looking for a way into getting started with YouTube, mobile production could be the first step as it requires even less prerequisites than the basic setup we introduced in the ‘Getting started on a budget‘ guide. I still recommend editing and uploading via a Laptop or Desktop as it provides far more options and optimization opportunities.
As always, you can follow up on the articles with questions either down below, or on discord.gg/youtubegaming.