Hints & Tips Series


Getting to know the settings for recording video on your smartphone

Hints and tips to get the best settings to record video on your smartphone for your needs.

This article is part of a wider series of hints and tips to help you great video from your smartphone. Check out the rest of the series.

Setting options

Here’s a quick 101 on what the settings options for video on your phone mean.

720p, 1080p, 4k. These numbers represent the number of pixels in the image. They are shortened to the number of pixels across the height of the screen. The full descriptions are 1920 x 1080p, 1280 x 720p, 3840 x 2160 (this is referred to as 4K as the width pixels are approximately 4,000).

You will also hear these numbers described as SD – Standard HD, HD – High Definition or Ultra HD. These are standards set by TV broadcasting and describe the capability of TV to accept and display different formats. For example, if  you an HD TV it can display 1920 x 1080p format as footage filmed in 1080p was intended to be viewed.

Now which one to choose in your phone? Generally speaking, unless your subject matter needs very high levels of crispness or will be shown at large scale, HD works for most purposes. It’s great for web footage, social media videos and will be compressed to a smaller file size on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram etc.

Resolution Described as
720p 1280 x 720 pixels SD (Standard High Definition)
1080p 1920 x 1080 pixels HD (High Definition)
4k 3840 x 21604 pixels Ultra HD

To access your settings you will need to navigate to the settings area on your phone. The screenshots below are from an iPhone, but you will see similar options across most smartphone. In the examples you will see that my phone is set to 1080p at 30fps.

Frames per second – fps

The ‘fps’ is the frame rate described as frames per second. Our eyes can process about 10 to 12 images per second, so 30 fps is easily enough for a sequence of images to be interpreted by the mind as moving image. The main reason to increase the fps from 30 to 60 is to give you the option to slow down the footage when you are editing it, and it will still remain smooth and continuous to the viewer’s eye.

A quick note on slo-mo. If I plan to use a sequence for slo-mo, I will generally want the flexibility to slow it down up to 3 or 4 times. This is why you can see my slo-mo settings are 1080p 120fps. Because the phone is taking so many images per second, the video files take up a lot of space on my phone (external storage option Apple!?) so I have to be fairly selective when I use slo-mo on this setting.

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