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How to Create a Basic Vertical Video Camera Kit

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:

Vertical video definitely gets a lot of filmmakers bent out of shape, but were we a little too hasty? Whether or not you think it’s an aesthetically pleasing way to present a story, there's no denying that for many people, especially people with smartphones, the vertical format is a natural way to record.

Whether you’re going to use your cell-phone, DSLR, action cam, or a video camera, it's possible to assemble a totally workable vertical video kit.

Person in a green coat filing vertical video with a cellphone

Let's assume for a second that there are some nice ways to present vertical video (we'll get to those later), plus positive aesthetic and story-telling reasons to use vertical video (there are). I think it's important to treat shooting vertical like any video project: if you want to do a good job of it’s important to consider strengths, weaknesses, and needs, and then choose the right tools for the challenge.

There are several options that make vertical-mode filming easier, and most of them are pretty affordable. Some can be taken from your existing camera kit or are modifications to tools that you already have. Others you might need to purchase, but for the most part, the mounting tools and techniques for vertical filming are simple and easy to do.

Camera Rig Options for Vertical Filming

You won’t have to go out and buy a specific camera to be able to film vertically. Get started with whatever you have on hand!

Cellphones are Easiest and Lightest

If you’re going to use a cellphone to film a vertical video, you’ll want to make sure that it meets a few specifications. It probably shouldn’t be a flip phone, and the camera on the backside of the phone should have ten megapixels or more so that you are ensured good image quality. You’ll also want to make sure your camera has video recording capabilities, of course.

DSLR and Video Cameras for Image Quality

The difference between a DSLR and a video camera is that a DSLR is made to take photos and might have a video filming capability, while a video camera is made for filming. You can definitely use a DSLR, just remember that many don’t have autofocus for the filming function, so you’ll have to manually do that. It's sometimes a little bit tricky to do with the camera turned on the side. Both video and DSLR cameras these days come with high megapixels and good resolutions.

Camera Mounting Options

So you won't have to buy a specific camera to be able to film vertical, but you will want to try and keep it as steady your can for clean easy-to-use footage. There are a few choices.

The basic concept is the same as regular filming or picture taking: keep things steady, stable, and comfortable to use. However, because most cameras (besides smartphones) aren't meant to be used vertically, it takes a little extra gear to make them usable. Even smartphones benefit greatly in teams of usability from a bit of added kit.

Child plays piano with cellphone in clip holder recording video

Clips (Phones) and L-brackets (Cameras)

Clips hold the phone, and L-brackets, or right-angle quick release bracket, fits on the base of your camera (that’s if you use a DSLR or video camera, not a phone). Either system allows you to quickly release, turn and remount your camera for either a horizontal or vertical shot. This way you don’t have to flip your tripod head on its side or upset your shooting position. If you're planning on doing a lot of vertical video, these are a great investment.

Regular Base Plate on a Video Tripod Head

If you can’t get your hands on a L-bracket for your camera, or you're just testing out vertical video, you can use a regular camera base plate. Rotate the baseplate to a ninety degree angle on the bottom of your camera and tilt the tripod head into a vertical position.

Photography Tripod Heads: 3-Way Tilt Heads and Ball Heads

A three-way tilt head or a ball head can give great control on panning horizontally and moving your camera vertically. These heads are meant for photography, so they don't provide the same dampened fluid motion as a video head, but they do work great in a pinch.

Gorillapod

You know those tripods that look like your camera or cellphone has three weird bubbly legs? Yup, that’s a gorilla pod. They can be purchased for a DSLR camera or even a cellphone and are used to create the perfect shape to balance your camera the way you want it to sit or stand—this makes vertical filming pretty easy.

Gimball Stabilizer

Gimballs are stabilization rigs designed to balance your camera and simulate a “weightlessness” or floating type of motion, where the camera can be moved freely but stays level. Gimbals for DSLRs and video cameras are a bit pricey, but for action cams and phones there are many affordable options. Gimbals can give your footage a fluid, cinematic look.

Extras

Shooting Handheld

If you don’t have a tripod, that’s fine! You can use your hands and body to create stability. But make sure that your stance is secure and stable. It might be a bit uncomfortable to hold, though, which means the length of your shots will need to be shorter.

Image Stabilization

If your lens or camera has image stabilization features and you are recording hand-held, turn them on! These features reduce shake and give you smoother video.

External Monitor

This is totally not needed, but it totally helps. Having an external monitor can help visualize what you’re filming, and is especially helpful with vertical video because tipping the camera on the side will likely put the on-board screen in an awkward position. However, if you’re working in the field it might not always be easy to bring along an external monitor.

monitor displaying video output from a production camera

Get Started!

So there you have it: besides a camera, there's nothing 100% must-have to making vertical video. You can start shooting vertical today! Adding an L-bracket to a simple rig can really make your life easier, and an external monitor will really make things deluxe. They're not essential, though.

In the next tutorials in this series you'll learn what kinds of subjects work with video, some techniques for getting the most out of your shots, how to edit, and how to display vertical video works.

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