by Eldred Bird
One of the most effective tools we have at our disposal for getting the word out about our books is social media. There’s also no denying that images get more hits than text alone, and videos garner even more attention. Videos and live streams served us well during the events of the last couple of years. They’ve allowed us to keep our faces in front of the reading audience while locked up in our private spaces.
Now that the world is opening back up and we’re starting to attend live in-person events again things are changing. It’s time to prepare ourselves to leave the house and take the show on the road. But how do we do that without breaking the bank? Let me introduce you to my mobile media kit.
My mobile media kit is a small pouch stocked with a few basic items that make recording or streaming video easier and give things a more professional feel. Let’s take a look at what I keep in my little black bag of tricks.
To record quality video on the go all you need are a few basic tools, one of which you may already have in your pocket or purse. I’m talking about your smartphone. The quality of video we get off modern phones has reached the point where it rivals, and sometimes surpasses, dedicated camera devices.
While phone cameras do have some limitations, they’re perfect for our purposes. They have the advantage of allowing us to stream to social media anywhere you can get a signal. Experiment with your phone and get to know what it can and can’t do. Study your camera app to get familiar with all the settings and filters you have at your disposal. Some phones even have apps to edit your footage and add text and effects. The more you know your phone’s features and limits, the better your videos will look.
For the best results you need a way to keep your camera stable. Most of the time that means a tripod. I have two different styles in my media kit. Both are equipped with universal cellphone mounts. The first is a small tripod with segmented legs (Gorilla Pod) that can either free-stand or be wrapped around things like handrails or posts. The legs can also be bent to work on uneven surfaces.
My second pod is a little more flexible in its use. It can be extended and used as a selfie-stick or have the legs folded out to stand on its own. This unit came with a Bluetooth remote that pairs with the phone so I can stop and start recording without touching and shaking the camera.
A variety of other mounts are available as well. Depending on where and how you plan to shoot video, you may want to investigate suction mounts for smooth surfaces like windows, or clamp-on mounts. It never hurts to have options.
Whether you’re shooting video inside or outside, proper lighting is going to make a big difference. Brightly lit backgrounds and low light situations cause faces to disappear into the shadows. Harsh lights create hard shadows and washed out images. Both will give an unprofessional look to your videos.
There are a lot of inexpensive portable lights on the market that can help you get better video. A quick search of Amazon will yield hundreds of USB powered choices including LED panels and diffused floods. My personal favorite is a USB powered ring light. They’re lightweight and usually come with adjustable brightness and color temperature. These types of lights deliver a soft, defused illumination that fill in harsh shadows on faces, even in bright sunlight. Mine also has a built-in phone mount in the center that swivels for both vertical and horizontal layouts.
When it comes to audio capture on the go, most of us rely on our cellphone’s built-in microphone. With the improvements in phone technology this will suffice in a lot of cases. The problem comes in public settings where background noise and echoes become an issue. Not being able to clearly hear and understand your voice can kill engagement and cause your audience to click away in a heartbeat.
One solution is a good set of mic-equipped earbuds (either wired or wireless), but they come with their own set of limitations. What happens when you want to interview someone like a fellow author? You may want to look into an external microphone. There are plenty available that will plug into your phone’s audio port. Many even come with a windscreen to reduce noise from fans, AC vents, and breezes.
Another good choice for quality audio is a lavalier mic. They are available in both wired and wireless models. The nice thing about this type of microphone is that it’s located on the person speaking. This not only ensures good voice clarity, but also cuts out most of the background noise as well. I carry two different wired setups, a single mic model and one with two mics. I also carry an extension cable in case I need to move the phone back for a wider shot.
Using phones and lights on the go requires one more thing—power. This is an easy problem to solve. Portable charger packs for USB devices are available everywhere these days. Look for packs that have more than one USB port, as you may need to have both your phone and a light plugged in at the same time.
When it comes to power packs, size matters. The small 2500mAh packs are fine for giving your phone a quick boost, but when you’re running lights as well bigger is better. I carry a 10,000mAh pack in my kit. It can give my phone a full charge and still have enough left to run my ring light for several hours. I can also recharge it using the USB outlet in my car, if needed.
The whole point of the mobile media kit is right in the name—mobile. The idea is to have everything together in one easy to grab package when you’re on the go. Once you’ve made your choices and pulled your gear together, you’ll need something to carry it in. Find a vessel that fits your hardware and your esthetic and keep it handy. All of my gear, except the ring light, fits neatly into a 9”x5”x2” zippered pouch and is easily slipped into a backpack, suitcase, or under the seat of the car.
In this article I’ve only touched on a few of the tools available to help make better videos on the go. These are the pieces I’ve found that work for me. Before you invest in building a kit like mine, do your research and figure out what tools will help to enhance the kinds of videos you want to produce.
Do you do live streams and videos from remote locations? What tools and tricks have you found that work for you? Let us know in the comments.
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Eldred Bird writes contemporary fiction, short stories, and personal essays. He has spent a great deal of time exploring the deserts, forests, and deep canyons inside his home state of Arizona. His James McCarthy adventures, Killing Karma, Catching Karma, and Cold Karma, reflect this love of the Grand Canyon State even as his character solves mysteries amidst danger. Eldred explores the boundaries of short fiction in his stories, The Waking Room, Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins, and The Smell of Fear.
When he’s not writing, Eldred spends time cycling, hiking, and juggling (yes, juggling…bowling balls and 21-inch knives).
Top photo by Ivan Samkov, all others by Eldred Bird
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