TV pro: How to capture the inaugural parade on a smartphone

A practice inaugural parade was held Sunday on Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th Street. (WTOP/Bob Madigan)

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Many of us will line the parade route on Inauguration Day to be part of history, and some will try to document it with a smartphone.

Jim Long, video journalist with NBC News, encourages smartphone shooters to work within the phone’s capabilities.

“There’s going to be as many compelling stories out there that are told with people’s personal cellphones as there will be with network coverage,” Long says.

While convenient, the smartphone’s fixed lens doesn’t provide much flexibility for close-ups. With large crowds and from a distance, President Barack Obama’s limousine likely will look small in your finished video.

Many smartphones offer a zoom function, but the close-in object will appear grainier than a zoomed-out image.

But Long says you still should try to capture your surroundings. His suggestion: “You with your smartphone can really concentrate and focus on wonderful reaction” instead of trying to capture action.

Long says you’ll need creative shot selection to compensate for the smartphone’s limitations. To get the best-quality image, Long says get close to your subject.

“You’ll really be zooming in and zooming out with your feet – not with a camera lens,” he says.

Long says you’ll want to shoot a variety of shots, including close-ups.

“Maybe it’s people’s faces and badges and buttons they’re wearing, or hands clapping,” Long says.

When framing a shot, don’t put your subject in the center of your viewfinder, he recommends.

“There’s something called ‘look room’ or ‘lead room’ – you anticipate a moving object and you give it a little visual breathing space,” he says.

He says to get a steady shot, “You might want a threaded tripod mount from your smartphone and maybe a baby tripod,” which is a single, collapsible stick.

The tripod also affords you a better line of sight.

“You can hold that thing up over your head and over the head of people in front of you,” he says.

Long says you might want to outfit your smartphone with an external microphone, especially if you plan on interviewing people along the route.

“It’s going to be a noisy day. It may very well be a windy day. You want to consider getting external audio into the input of the smartphone,” he says.

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