Using the iPhone to Shoot High Quality Video with Jules Watkins

In the second episode of The Multimedia Marketing Show we chat with Jules Watkins from iPhone Video Hero about how to shoot high quality web video with the iPhone. We cover equipment and budget required, types of video that works well for the iPhone plus it’s limitations and much more.

Jules Watkins is the creator of iPhone Video Hero, A former photographer, journalist, and a well-known TV producer/director, Jules has produced two online video courses to date.


  • iPhone Video Hero and Jules Watkins – A brief overview of Jules’ career.
  • Equipment Required – Think about the whole kit – not just the camera.
  • iPhone Video Hero – Why the iPhone? What’s in the course.
  • Video Types – What to shoot and what-not-to-shoot types of videos.
  • iPhone as your camera limitations – Unsuitable uses of iPhone for video productions.
  • Video Shooting Skills – Learn how you can enhance your video and shoot them like a pro.


Jake: Welcome listeners. This is Jake Hower from Video Edits with another episode. This week we’re discussing improving your web video, particularly you’re shooting with an iPhone. I’ve got the creator of iPhone Video Hero on the call today, Jules Watkins. Welcome Jules.

Jules: Hi, Jake. How’s it going in Australia today?

Jake: Really good, thank you. It’s 9 p.m. and I’m sitting in the closet recording this with you.

Jules: Whatever takes your fancy. It’s 10 p.m. here in London, so great to connect with you anyway.

Jake: I really appreciate you coming on the call today. Today I’d like to discuss a few things with you, Jules. First, I think it would be worthwhile for you just touch on your background and explain a little bit to the listeners how you got to where you are now, and then introduce this particular product, iPhone Video Hero, and then we might go through a few of the steps and techniques our listeners can implement themselves to improve their own web video.

Jules: I’ll give you the short story. About 11 years ago, I got a break into working in television. Previous to that I was a photographer. I was also a journalist as well. I managed to get this break into TV, which was fantastic for me and I managed to work my way up, working in television for big channels here in the UK, like for BBC, Channel 4, for MTV. I worked my way up to become a producer/director, who also was a shooter. That means that I had to be very multi-skilled. Produce shows dealing with all the talent, the experts, the contestants, script writing, directing, camera crews and often self shooting TV shows myself. Then I would sit in an edit suite with an editor for six, seven weeks editing these shows. Worked my up in TV and it was all a fantastic, amazing experience. About two years ago, I started to take a big interest in looking online and seeing people who were starting to create their own content and actually owning it.

One thing I never did in TV was own any of the shows that I created. In essence, I was creating wealth for other people. I started seeing people with their own video shows, creating video episodes, whatever kind of video it might be, and thinking that’s really interesting, to actually have ownership and to be able to do what you wanted to do without having about five executive producers breathing down your neck, telling you what to do. I got interested in that and started experimenting with online video and found it really, really fascinating. I was looking for a way to transfer my skills into the online world. It was a really natural fit that I discovered that there was a lot of people out there in business, entrepreneurs, small business owners, bloggers, who wanted to really learn video skills that I had built up over a lot of years. I decided to actually start teaching my video skills to other people, and cut a long story short, I’m a big, passionate i-junkie. I love my iPhone and it just seems that that was the one camera that everybody seemed to own. Almost everybody. I think they’ve sold around about 250 million iPhones, something like that, and it was the one camera that was an amazing tool that a lot of entrepreneurs own, so I thought what better than actually teach people to use the camera that you already own. That’s how I gave birth to my program, which is called, as you mentioned, iPhone Video Hero.

Jake: That’s fantastic. I know it’s certainly a very interesting niche to get into, particularly given that one of the biggest barriers to entry for many people is technology. Not having to go out and invest in a whole lot

of expensive video equipment removes one of those barriers for people. From my perspective, learning to shoot with something like a camera is a fantastic concept and the iPhone is probably the first camera or the first phone that we’ve seen which has produced a quality which has allowed us to actually do this.

Jules: Absolutely. One thing I would say is that when you’re buying camera equipment and budgeting, you’ve got to think about the entire kit. It’s not just about the camera. Some people will put all their money into also the $500, $600 camcorder and have none left, or not invest any more in any of the other accessories and other kind of things that you need to own to make good videos. Video is not just about the camera, it’s about audio and lighting, as well as knowledge about how to create videos. In a way, the fact that people already own this device means that they can then, if they’ll go ahead and invest a bit more, can maybe pick up a microphone or some lights and create a really low cost, overall total kit that means that you can really up the quality of your videos. At the end of the day, the iPhone is a high definition camera and as long as you use it within its limitations, you can create videos on a par with some of the $900 to $1500 D-SLR cameras, for example.

Jake: Let’s move into the product a little bit. I’d love for you to give us a little bit of an overview, A: of what actually led, at the end of the day, to you creating this product, and B: maybe a little bit about what you put into it, as well.

Jules: For me, it’s just all about leveraging my time. If you’re listening to this and you’re interested in using video to make use of your time better, that might be an example. Maybe you want to use video to answer people’s questions that you keep on being asked all the time. Video is great. I describe it as your virtual workforce. You’re sending out your little workers out onto the Internet, and it’s working for you, talking about your products, your services, bringing people back to your websites. I wanted to leverage my time. I didn’t want to just go from working crazy hours on MTV to working crazy hours producing videos for other people. That would be pretty much similar to how I was before. What I wanted to do is leverage my time, create a training product that people could go into wherever they are in the world. I’ve got people from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, all the way through to Los Angeles, going into my product every day and learning. I could basically leverage my time better.

The reason I chose the iPhone, again, if you’re creating any kind of product or service, you’ve just go to really go and find your audience. Find out where they are and see what they’re talking about. I spent quite a bit of time going into forums and groups and really getting into that community. In my particular niche, which is business owners and entrepreneurs, and seeing what were they talking about when it came to creating videos. I would go in and be very helpful as well, and learn from them. That just helped me find my niche and made me realize that people were discussing about their iPhones and their iPads in the context of making videos. That gave me the clues and I had to go and create the product. I wanted to make it really good. When you are creating a video product, I treated it like a TV show, really. When I made TV shows, I would have tight deadlines. With TV, if you miss a deadline, then you end up with a black screen. No TV show. That’s obviously not acceptable. I’m quite good at working to deadlines. I set a deadline. I figured what would help people get from A to B, and how could I make it engaging and not just lazy. There’s quite a lot of lazy products, which are just all screen capture or all about the owner of the product sitting at that desk talking to you, whereas I wanted to get out and about, film real situations, meet entrepreneurs and show them how to use their iPhone. I made it quite engaging.

I wanted to cover the second part of your question, is to cover the main aspects. For example, the basic how to control your phone. You might think it’s so simple, you open up the app and you hit a button. In fact, there’s a lot more controls that you can actually use, particularly if you add in apps and things. Controls, I wanted to go deep into all the various cool apps that you can get for the iPhone and that are what distinguishes it from some many other cameras like your regular camcorder. You’ve got all these developers making really cool apps that will help you make more professional videos. I go into that in great detail. Audio solutions, lighting solutions, some strategy, some training about how to be better on camera. A lot of people are frightened of getting of getting on camera. How to basically infuse your videos with a bit more energy, a bit more entertainment value because I think that video isn’t that new anymore. People are making videos, but it’s really now about making better videos and making your videos much more engaging compared to what your competitors might be doing.

Jake: That’s a fantastic overview, and it gives a good indication of what’s in the product. I’ve had a look through it myself. I must confess I’m not an iPhone owner. I’m an Android devotee, but I picked up a lot, particularly around some of the composition information, and just the basic setup of how you’re framing shots and with your lighting. There’s a lot you’ll get out of the actual product itself.

Jules: Getting these core video skills is just becoming a key part of doing online business. If the past, you think about word processing and maybe more recently how to set up a WordPress blog and basically create pages and content. Now video skills are becoming part and parcel of being online. I’m basically taking you through inside this training program, some basic video skills and some more intermediate skills as well, and just really getting you into a new mindset. I’ve spent a lot of time getting my head around how to make content quickly and make it engaging. In TV, there’s no room for bad content or for dull content. Anything that is made that doesn’t work gets immediately axed. My idea was trying to get people thinking a little bit differently about the way they make videos. Also, doing videos with their iPhone. When you show them to somebody online, they’re going to say wow, who did he pay to make that? How much did he spend on that video? Videos that people can’t actually believe that they were actually shot with an iPhone.

Jake: That’s a fantastic segue for my next question, which is what best types of videos can you shoot with the iPhone?

Jules: Definitely a good point, because I don’t think as I mentioned right at the top, the iPhone is great. You need to understand it’s limitations as well. What I don’t recommend, for example, is trying to shoot a football match. That your company has a football team. Don’t try and shoot an amazing football video standing on the touch line with your iPhone. For that kind of video, you need a long zoom lens. The same if you’re doing a conference and you want to shoot the speaker up on stage and you want to get nice close-up shots of the audience. Those are not ideal, but the way you need to use your iPhone is in these ways. Firstly, it’s great for your home studio type video, where you’re in a very controlled environment, where you can get a tripod mount and put it on the tripod. Basic lighting. As I mentioned, the quality is excellent if you use your phone well, you can create some really high quality looking small studio type videos. That would be one type.

The other type would be social videos. Videos that don’t have to be particularly amazing. They have to be good content but no videos where you happen to, for example, stumble upon things. Say you’re going to a lot of meetups for example, or conferences. You meet people who are in your peer group. People that you look up to or even clients. Or you can do these really nice interviews, quick interviews with them. You can basically pull them aside and say is it okay if we do a five minute interview? Go find a quite spot and shoot an interview. It could be a content interview or it could be a testimonial. Those kinds of videos, particularly the content interviews work great on social media, on Facebook and things like that. People will stop and watch a video on Facebook way beyond just seeing a still image; they’ll actually be a lot more engaged with a video, so those social videos.

The other one I quite like is what I call slice-of-life videos. That means open up the curtains a bit of your own life and what are you about? What do you stand for? What does your business stand for? Maybe you’ve got a hobby, a very visual hobby. Your business you might think is not very visual, not easy to cover on video. If you’ve got a hobby, for example, I know one business owner does a lot of bungee jumping, that’s his hobby. Or another one does a lot of sailing. Try and bring that into your business message and show what kind of person you are, how adventurous you are. You can talk about your business in different locations, not just in your office. You can get out on location and use that message, use the metaphor of the sailing or the bungee jumping and apply that to something you want to talk about related to your business. The fact that your iPhone is portable, it’s the camera that you always have with you. That means you can leverage that at any time to create these really much more personal, engaging videos.

Jake: That’s absolutely spot on. From the limited amount of video stuff that we’ve done, since initiating our video news updates with our audience, we’ve found that engagement with us has increased tenfold. People don’t expect 100% polish, what they’re looking for is a human connection. That’s the beauty of video. It’s the closest thing to having a one-on-one conversation with somebody.

Jules: Absolutely, and I’ve got a direct example of this. Only recently I was trying to contact the CEO of a big American company. I won’t name names right here, but I basically was trying to figure out how could I contact them? I went through the usual channel which is the “contact us” link on the website. Went through there. Took me ages to get any kind of reply back. When I did, I got into an email conversation with somebody working there and it just wasn’t going the way I wanted to. I just felt like I basically hit a brick wall. What I did was, I thought I’m going to go direct. I recorded the video. I got on camera. I recorded the video for the CEO explaining who I was, what I’ve got to offer, why think I would be good for them and they could be good for me and got on video. I put it on YouTube and set it to unlisted, meaning that nobody else could find it and such. I sent the CEO an email and very important to put a good subject line in your email. I put simply, “From a fan in the UK.” It wasn’t a pitching email; it was just from a fan in the UK, which I thought would be quite intriguing. A little email in there saying I’ve made a video for you. It’s unlisted, so it’s only for you. Please check out my video. About a day later I got an email directly back from the CEO saying, “Loved your video. Thanks for taking a fresh approach. I never see this kind of thing. Let’s talk.” And that basically started a direct email correspondence with the CEO. That’s one example of what you’re talking about there.

Jake: That’s fantastic. It wasn’t Tim Cook at Apple, was it? You’re trying to get inside word on the next iPhone release.

Jules: That would be a great idea. No it wasn’t Tim Cook. It wasn’t Mark Zuckerberg or someone like that, but it was somebody pretty big. That’s just one example of what you’re talking about there.

Jake: It’s great. It just opens up the line of communication to people and it just gets people’s guard down because they just know who you are, or they can connect with you at a deeper level.

Jules: They can just see how you’re coming over or how passionate you are. In an email, everything looks the same really. When people see you and they see a little bit of your background, where you happen to be and just everything about it makes you feel like you’re talking to people. I’ve had the same when as my products sort of become quite famous, not myself personally but my product, people tend to notice it and they say watch your video and things, and I’ve been to meetups here in London where people have come over to me and said I know you from somewhere, don’t i? They spot you and they’ll come up and say alright I’ve seen you on video. Let’s talk. And it opens up this immediate dialog, whereas if you go unknown into a meetup it’s quite daunting. You don’t know who to talk to first. Sometimes if you approach with your videos, people will start to recognize you and your niche. That just opens up these conversations in real world meetings as well.

Jake: Who needs broadcast TV these days? I’d like to pull it back a little bit. We got a little bit off topic there but let’s go back. We’ve just touched on some of the best uses of video. What are some of the uses which aren’t really suitable for the iPhone?

Jules: Apart from what I mentioned, which was shooting football, trying to shoot zoom shots of football matches close-up and that kind of stuff. That would be the one thing. There’s not too many I think of, really. I think if you’re doing real, documentary-style filming, it’s a bit of a challenge. You can do it, though. There are actually journalists who are using iPhones for big American news organizations. They’re using them to actually capture news that actually gets broadcast on TV. I think if you’re trying to shoot more of a documentary style, which you might want to do for business as well. It’s quite hard sometimes just to be able to vary the shots by zooming a lot. If I was shooting a documentary I would constantly shifting to zoom on a bigger camera to get a face shot, and then a wide shot, and then a mid-shot. That can be challenging. On the other hand, if you move, my tip is zooming with your body, zoom with your feet. Zoom with your feet. That means move in and out and move around the action, get in close. Don’t hang back. Try and move in. It can be done. It’s just a little bit more challenging.

Other than that, I think it’s much better to shoot regular videos on your iPhone than only shoot one video on your proper camera. Some people I know that I deal with, I say to them you’re going to get a video and they’ll say we’re planning our video for next March. That’s going to be our video and it’s going to cost us about $10,000. I’m saying that’s great, but that’s not til next March. What are you going to do about video now? This is a revolution going on right now, and you’re going to get left behind. You’re better off making little, shorter, easy-to-make videos now than just waiting and waiting and waiting to get your one big huge video. I’m not saying that having a great professional shot video is bad. Sometimes that can be idea for a home page, and that could work really well for you. Also have another approach as well to create more regular content.

Jake: I think we’ve convinced the listener that they need to go out and shoot some video. We’re already got the iPhone. What other tools do we need to allow us to shoot good quality video?

Jules: One is getting your brain in gear. How you plan your shoot and how you visualize what you shoot. That’s the first thing that comes before anything. Developing some of those skills, very useful for whatever videos you’re making.

Secondly, in terms of hardware and things like that, keeping the camera stable. One mistake I see people make is they film things that don’t need to be handheld, but they tend to hand hold it. For example, I’ve seen a fitness coach, they’re doing some kind of exercise, they’re not moving around that much. They’re in a frame. They’re not moving out of frame, but they just hand their phone to somebody to hold it, and it’s just wobbling around so much it just makes you absolutely seasick when you watch it. There’s no reason why that phone shouldn’t be on a tripod. There’s a whole range of difference cases you can get. I go into more about that in the training. One example would be the Glif, which you can look up on Google or on Amazon. It’s a low-cost little case that the iPhone slides into and that gives you a standard tripod thread. That means you can use it on pretty much any standard tripod. That would be a key bit of equipment.

Then you’re going to start thinking about microphones and adapters. You can get an adapter that will enable you to plug in a lot of different microphones into your iPhone. That’s again a big advantage over some of the older pocket cameras that have no microphone input socket. Then you’ve got to decide which microphone. I won’t go into that in too much detail, but you’ve got to think what kind of videos are you going to make? Are you making static videos? Are you going to be moving around in your videos? What kind of conditions? Are they going to be outside when you shoot videos? Is it going to be windy conditions? Getting a microphone and you can start off low cost, $25 at one end for a microphone upwards. That would be another handy accessory.

As you get more into it, you’re going to think about lighting. What’s amazing now for me is that the cost of lighting has tumbled. When I was looking at lighting of five, six years ago, I would be looking at $2000 at the lower end, upwards to get two or three head lighting kit, minimum. Now on Amazon you can find these soft box lighting kits. They use these daylight fluorescent bulbs. You can pick up a three headed kit, a kit with three lights, in the region of $180, even a bit less sometimes. Three headed kit. A three headed kit can give you a nice looking studio type environment. Also just using one light if you’re speaking to camera and you’re sitting at your desk, just using one light can be very effective or doing an interview. Those would be the keys bits of kit.

Jake: It sounds like you don’t need a lot at all to actually get out there and actually start shooting. Certainly from my perspective, there’s nothing holding you back. Now go out there and shoot some video.

Jules: Improvise. I think that case is about $20. Getting that and a small, little mini tripod. You can shoot with that. The other thing is, if you don’t yet want to get into the microphones, if you happen to be wanting to film yourself and you’ve got a laptop or a desktop and you already record audio for your training videos, you could actually use the microphone that you’ve already got. So you could basically record the audio using your desktop microphone. Whatever you happen to be using. Record the audio onto your computer and shoot the video on your phone and you can send those files off and get them matched up together. That would be one way of doing it if you want to sort of starts slowly.

Jake: That’s a great tip. Obviously the embedded microphone on the iPhone is not that good a quality, I’ve heard. Is that right?

Jules: It’s actually quite good. Compared to the older pocket cameras, it’s actually better than a lot of them. It’s actually fine if you get close, and if you’ve got no other choice than having it close, make sure you choose a room that’s not too echo-y, where the acoustics are quite good. I advise people to dampen down their room. A TV trick would be using a blanket on the desk or on a window, something to basically dampen down the echo. That will help your videos.

It’s also not bad if you’re shooting reality-style, where you’re shooting things in action and you haven’t got a microphone. You’re going to get pretty good results. There’s nothing to beat having a microphone up on your lapel collecting that audio. We just talked about this kind of one-to-one personal contact. If your audio sounds rich, if it sounds good, that really creates that connection because you really feel like that person is talking to you in the kind of way that your ear is used to hearing them, as opposed to them sounding really distant or echo-y. The answer is you can shoot without it, but I advise using a microphone wherever possible.

Jake: One tip I’ve got for that, if you’re looking at getting something which is going to have multiple uses, I’ve got something called the Zoom H1, which is a little personal recorder. Generally what I’ll do with my video is I’ll actually record directly into this audio device and hold it just under the frame. Hold it in my hand and hold it just under the frame. It produces a really good quality sound. In fact, this podcast is using the H1 right now.

The other good thing is that it has so many other uses, so it’s very portable and light so you can travel with it, no problems at all. You can use it as a USB microphone on your computer, and you can also mount it on top of a tripod or a camera as well. You can use it almost like a shotgun mike.

Jules: That’s a great tip. Another one is if you’re really stuck and you don’t have a mike and you want to just buy something else, if you happen to have a second i-device. Maybe you’ve got another iPhone in the house or you’ve got an iPod or an iPad, you could actually capture the audio to that. Say you’re trying to interview somebody and you’ve got a friend with you who’s doing the filming. You could hold your iPod and use that as the microphone.

Jake: That’s a great tip. Everybody has more than one i-device.

Jules: Normally they do. You’re exactly right. This is all about using this equipment that you’ve got around you and coming up with some great results.

Jake: Jules, I think that’s probably it. We’re going on just about 30 minutes now, so I appreciate that you’ve got some more appointments. I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Let’s wrap it up now. In summary, do you have anything to add to what we’ve discussed?

Jules: Just to go back to what we were saying before, the opportunity is really, really now, because a lot of people are using video. They’re basically carving up the land, really. Kind of optimizing videos and then they’re using key wording to keyword their videos. The opportunity is now to really carve a bit of territory out there for your particular business online. That requires regular video content and coming up with a plan to create video. Set yourself a deadline like I mentioned before that I used to have to do in TV work. The idea being you’re going to say let me see if I can make one video a week for the next six weeks. Write that down, and try and figure out your content, what you’re going to do and make your life easier. If you can record a batch of videos together, then do that. In TV we’d never record, particularly with studio shows, we’d never record one show unless it happened to be a live kind of show, we’d never record one every week. We’d normally record a few in a day. The same goes with your videos. Come up with a plan and something that’s going to work for you. Literally try and record a bunch of videos together and that makes it a lot easier for you. Then use things like outsourcing to carry the burden of the editing side of things. You create the video, you shoot the video and you can always let somebody else like your good self-take care of the other end.

Jules, where can people go to to find out a little bit more about you do have any products that people might be able to find a little bit more about what you do?

Jake: We’ll put links to all the websites we’ve discussed in the show notes below.

Jules: Excellent.

Jake: Jules, thanks very much for coming on. I have one more favor to ask of you, if you don’t mind. For any of our listeners out there who have any questions, do you mind popping back to visit our site every now and then just to check out the comments below?

Jules: Absolutely. That would be a pleasure. I definitely will.

Jake: Listener, if you’ve got any questions at all that you want to shoot at Jules, just use the comments below the show notes and I’ll ensure that Jules is notified of those, and he’ll come across and answer any questions you have.

Jules, thanks very much for coming on the call. I really appreciate you taking the time today. I look forward to hopefully speaking with you again shortly.

Jules: Cheers, Jake. Thanks very much indeed.