Portable, Professional HD Video Recording with the iPhone 4

Please read this article for background/more info: iPhone/iPad external microphones

I am now pretty confident in my portable video/audio recording solution using my iPhone 4. Everything I need to do on-the-spot interviews, B-roll filming, and even more advanced shooting, I can fit in my iPad's bag.

Portable Recording Studio with iPhone 4

Here's my basic setup - everything I need (with the exception of the iPhone 4), I put together for under $100:

DIY $10 iPhone 4 & 3G/3Gs Tripod Adapter/Case

Please read this article for background/more info: iPhone/iPad external microphones

[Update] Here are a few other commercially-available tripod mounts:

In earlier posts, I've written about my new highly-portable audio/video recording setup, using an iPhone 4 and an external microphone. Getting great sound is half the game, when it comes to video recording. The other half is a stable platform by which to record. (Yet another half—making more than a whole—is good content to be filmed... and great editing...).

iPhone 4 in DIY Tripod Case/Adapter

After watching this video on YouTube, I was inspired to make my own DIY tripod case/adapter for my iPhone 4. And, in lieu of making a video about it, I figured I'd just give a quick step-by-step of the build, along with a parts/price list, like I did for my DIY Blue/Greenscreen Backdrop.

Using a Lav Mic with the iPhone 4 - HD Video/Audio Recording!

Please read this article for background/more info: iPhone/iPad external microphones

Formula for success: iPhone 4 + iPhone TRRS Mono Mic Input Adapter + RadioShack Lav mic

Using this setup, I am able to record interviews on the go on my iPhone, without carrying around a mess of equipment. This rocks. Here's a picture of my entire on-the-go interview kit:

External Microphones for iPhone 5s, 5, 4S, iPad and iPod Touch Audio input

iPhone 5 with Microphones and Input Adapters
A few of the many microphone options to make your mobile recordings better.

Note on iPhone 5: Right now the only confirmed way to record stereo on the iPhone 5 is with the GuitarJack Model 2 and an Apple 30-pin to lightning adapter. All other headset-jack based solutions work as well as the iPhone 4/4S!

To dramatically increase the quality of the sound you record on your iOS device, you should use an external microphone or mixer, or a direct line input.

You can use external microphones/inputs with any of the following iOS devices:

  • iPad (audio recording), iPad 2/new iPad/iPad mini (audio or video recording)
  • iPhone 3G, iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 (audio or video recording)
  • iPod Touch (3rd/4th/5th generation) (audio or video recording)

Skip to: Recommendations | Details

Video: iPhone External Mic Comparison

(See also: iPhone 4/4S External Microphone Comparison, listing of mics and adapters used in this video)

My Recommendations

Software - App Recommendations

  • iPad: Use GarageBand. It's not expensive, and is awesome for recording and editing.
  • iPhone/iPod Touch: Use FiRe, FourTrack, or even built-in Voice Memos.
  • Camera/iMovie (Built-in) - Quick and simple to use, can lock focus, but has very few settings/features. Handles different audio inputs, but without much configuration or level control, and no monitoring.
  • For Video: Although the built-in Camera app is pretty good, I prefer FiLMiC Pro, which allows focus, metering, and white balance lock/unlock, and has a built-in audio meter. No audio play-through yet (as far as I can tell).

Simple, one-mic setup (podcasts, one-person interviews)

Buy a RØDE smartLav, and plug it into your iPhone. If you need more than about 5' of cable (so you can record an interview with the iPhone's camera, for instance), buy a 2m TRRS extension cable as well.

Another option, which allows you to have a more flexible mic setup so your mic can be used with other equipment, is to buy a microphone and adapter to use together:

For better quality recordings

This setup will allow you to record a little nicer quality sound, especially since the VeriCorder cable or Tascam adapter boosts the signal a bit so it comes into the iPhone at the right level for more clarity and amplification:

For wireless mobility and great quality

Another option, for more freedom of movement, a perfect recording level, and much more flexibility with one mic (this is the kit I use most often now - plug the line/headphone output on the wireless receiver into the KVConnection line-level adapter):

For multiple-mic interviews/recordings

Buy a Dual 1/8" Microphone to iPhone adapter from KVConnection, and plug one Audio-Technica ATR-3350 into each jack. (If you use XLR mics, get this adapter instead).

Another couple of options include:

  • The GuitarJack Model 2, into which you can plug a stereo input source (or two microphones that go one in left, one in right channel).
  • You can get a Monster iSplitter and plug a lavaliere microphone into each side, then plug this into a KVConnection mic adapter. (See example video).
  • The Fostex AR-4i works great for the iPhone 4/4S (put one lavaliere microphone in on the left channel and one on the right), but doesn't work with the iPhone 5.
  • The Line 6 Mobile In, which also has a stereo input like the Guitar Jack.

For recording loud music, concerts, environmental sound

Right now, there aren't a lot of out-of-the-box options for recording sound in high SPL situations (loud rock concerts) or other environmental sounds. However, there are three solutions I recommend:

  1. The Tascam iM2 - a great stereo mic for the iPhone 4/4S/5 that provides a simple AB-pattern stereo microphone (that can handle up to 125 dB).
  2. The GuitarJack Model 2 (read my review of the GuitarJack Model 2) allows for padding and relatively high sound level input.
  3. A preamp or mixer in-line before the iPhone. This is more clumsy/less portable, but if you simply plug the output of a mixer or preamp into the iPhone (or a product like the AR-4i or GuitarJack), you can handle as loud of sound levels as your mixer/preamp can handle.

For line-level inputs (Guitars, Mixers, Sound Systems)

One option right now is the Apogee Jam, a nice interface for guitars and other 1/4" plug line-level inputs, that works through the Dock connector, and is specifically advertised for use with GarageBand on the iPad. Another simple option (if you want a little nicer build quality than the KVConnection adapters) is the iRig from Amplitube. Another inexpensive option is the iJAM cable from Ampridge.

KVConnection provides two nice adapters, though, which I use because they're cheap and reliable: Line-level 1/4" adapter w/ attenuation ($28), and Line-level 1/8" adapter w/ attenuation ($28)

The Details

I'll run through most of my kit for mobile recording, following along with the picture below:

Mobile iPhone 4 3G/3Gs video and audio external microphone podcasting kit

  1. iPhone 3G/3Gs/4 Tripod (instructions for building the tripod mount)
  2. Crown Sound Grabber II PZM Boundary microphone ($80)
  3. Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Powered Lavaliere Microphone ($20)
  4. KV Connection microphone-to-iPhone audio adapters (read more about them, and about available alternatives below)
  5. Spare batteries - you can never have too many
  6. Sony WCS-999 Wireless Microphone Adapter ($100 - Note: Throw out the included mic, and use the ATR-3350 with this. Only good for 10-50 ft., but nice and cheap, that's why I'm recommending it.)
  7. (NOT PICTURED: The following items have been added to my kit since I wrote this article)
    1. Rode VideoMic shotgun/condenser mic ($150)
    2. VeriCorder XLR Adapter Cable ($70)

One option for easy external audio in a pinch is to plug in your headset, hit record, and voila! You have a much better sound-isolating mic than the iPhone's built-in mic (especially over distance). The disadvantage here is that the iPhone's headset cable is pretty short.

Review: iPhone 4

Jeff's Rating: 5/5

tl;dr: The iPhone 4 is another great step forward from Apple. From the dazzling quality of the built-in camera and respective app, to the brilliance of the Retina display, this iPhone is an all-around winner.

After having tried an iPhone 4 display model at my local Apple Store, and tasting the Retina display kool-aid, I couldn't wait until my pre-ordered unit finally came in. Well, it did, and I have to say that one day's use has already impressed me enough to look on older iPhones with some amount of disgust. How could I have possibly coped with the low-resolution display, grainy camera, and rather sluggish upload speeds on the 3G and 3Gs?

My iPhone 4 on a Table

Video from Newport Aquarium (Shot with my D90, 720p)

The video below is a montage of clips from Newport Aquarium in Newport, KY. I finally had some time to compile the clips, and back them with some ethereal music I had sitting on my drive. The video includes some jellyfish (even a tiny one that lights up its back somehow), turtles, coral reef plants, and a few other fish, big and small. All clips were recorded with my Nikon D90 at 720p, with a 50mm f/1.4 lens (it was DARK in there!).