Transvideo Blog

5 Reasons to Avoid Using a Smartphone to Shoot Professional Video

Why do I need that fancy camera? My iPhone shoots 4K.

How many times have you heard this? Or worse, see those wheels turning in a new client’s head as they ponder the camera rental line item?
Let’s face it, smartphone camera technology has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. It’s hard to keep up. I’m just getting used to the fact that everyone has a camera. I remember a time when being able to take and produce photos was a feat in and of itself. Good photography was a separate issue. Not today. Unless it’s a stellar moment captured with expert skill, it’s simply not shareable.
Not only are Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and Google Pixel providing all humans with a way to “capture the moment”, they are piling-on features that, in effect, replace the time consuming process of adding filters, cropping, reframing….
In film and video production we call that process post-production, but the average person calls it annoying. So Apple and the other “bigs” have added the ability to alter images on the fly, removing the barrier of having to think too much about an image before sharing it with the universe. These features are great and a lot of fun. I definitely take far more photos with my iPhone than I do with my DSLR. The convenience and quality are undeniable.
The same applies to the video function of these devices. Since they shoot 4K, why not use one to shoot commercials, corporate videos or films? Why use a camera that costs anywhere from $5000 to $100,000 to purchase?

While I’m sure there are people out there that do use iPhones or Galaxy’s to shoot professional projects, there are some very good reasons not to…

1) Image Quality

While many of these smartphones now offer a 4K option, that doesn’t mean it produces an image that competes with a professional camera. Most devices, Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy, have a 12 megapixel chip that generates a 4K image. A chip of any size can generate a 3820×2160 (4K) image but the more megapixels of that chip, the better. The benchmark chip size to achieve is 35 to 38 megapixels, which is equal to what a 35mm film camera would produce. A lot of DSLRs, like Canon 5D, and pro cameras are 20 to 30 megapixels. Higher-end cinema cameras, like the RED Helium, RED Monstro, or the Arri Alexa, will have a chip size of 30 to 38 megapixels and are considered full-frame. Some of the higher end full frame cameras now offer the ability to shoot up to 8K for large format exhibition or for special effects work.

Camera Chip Comparison

2) Lens Variation

Another barrier is the lack of lens variation with smart phones. Most smartphones have a focal length of about 28mm when relating to a 35mm film camera. In short, focal length determines how much field of view a lens has, affects the sharpness of an image, and affects the dimensionality of the image. The lower the number of a focal length, the more you’ll see and the sharper everything is. This is why a wide lens is the choice for smartphones. But, seeing everything and having everything in focus isn’t always the best way to tell a story. There are times when you want to zoom-in to see just what is necessary or pleasing. Using longer lenses (anything over 50mm), also creates planes of soft focus and makes objects feel further apart giving the image more of a 3D effect. Zooming in with the camera’s electronic zoom quickly degrades the image. There are third party lens attachments for smartphones but you’re just putting a poorly made product on camera that only records 12 megapixels in the first place. This is what is called polishing the proverbial turd.

3) Post Production Flexibility

Many pro cameras have the option to shoot with RAW color systems; C-log, V-log, RED RAW… This gives filmmakers more flexibility to sweeten the image during post-production. Unfortunately, RAW camera original is low contrast, de-saturated, and in some cases overly green. This would not be acceptable for a consumer product since there is automatically a lot of work that needs to be done to the image. Shooting RAW is totally worth it in most professional settings since we have the time and ability to do color correction to the images, and the range of what can be altered is much more broad with a RAW image.

4) Audio

The audio set-up with a smartphone could be awkward, as well. The best way to go is to record the audio separately and synch up the audio before you begin to edit. It’s an extra step but doable and standard in many cases since no cinema camera will have audio inputs. If you’re working with a professional audio technician and you show up with a smartphone, they’ll record digital audio files for you and take your money but they won’t respect you.

5) Overall Flexibility

Lastly, adding filters, cropping, or changing the image on the fly is the opposite of what a cinematographer, videographer, or cameraperson should do. Flexibility is key. Believe it or not, clients change their minds about style, strategy, branding, just about anything. Having a look or an alteration “baked-in” to the imagery has a big chance of backfiring. Being able to keep up with these changes is crucial to a successful edit.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Camera System

There are many factors at play when choosing the right camera for you. Even when you have a good idea of what those factors are, the choice can be daunting. The information from the manufacturers is not objective. They will never say anything disparaging about their product unless it’s to up-sell you to their newer, more expensive, option.
While it’s impossible for me to consider the needs for everyone and every scenario, I will focus on my company’s needs and the best solution for it.

When is it time to purchase a camera system?

At Picturelab, we produce commercials, explainers, overviews, corporate videos and ads… for web and broadcast. We produce projects that have large budgets and some that have modest budgets. We tailor the equipment to the assigned budget. We have found it more cost effective to purchase our own camera gear that is well suited for the medium to lower budgeted projects as opposed to renting. The larger projects have enough budget to rent high-end camera packages, like RED MONSTRO or ARRI ALEXA. In our current situation, we own two Panasonic DVX200 4K cameras. These are well suited for documentary, testimonials, and b roll. They have fixed Leica lenses and micro 4/3 sensors. I’ll get into why these features are important later as I rundown the primary purchasing considerations…

Panasonic AG-DVX200 4K Camcorder with Four Thirds Sensor and Integrated Zoom Lens

The first consideration is price.

What can you spend on a new camera? You must keep in mind all of the accessories, from batteries to media to tripods or other support. The cost of these essential extras can cost as much, if not more, than the camera itself.

The second consideration is how often you use the gear.

If it costs you $500 to rent a package that costs $3000, it’ll pay for itself after six rentals if you buy it and rent it to your clients. It might as well be you, instead of a third-party vendor, making that rental fee, right? If you only use the camera a couple of times a year it may not pay for itself before the next version of the camera is released.

What camera system is right for me?

There are many solutions that have high-end features, but there are often drawbacks in other areas. Example, our Panasonics have a fixed lens that is convenient. It’s also Leica glass, which has a long reputation for making elite lenses. The drawbacks are a long minimum focus (around 3’) and the micro 4/3 sensor, which is on the marginally acceptable size for professional level use. This makes getting really nice bokeh or focus falloff to feel organic. While the frame rate range, the shooting codecs, v-log capability are also convenient, it’s small-ish sensor and fixed lens work against it for producing commercial level work. While I’m more than happy to use the DVX200 for documentary or testimonial work, I wouldn’t bring it to a large budget project. This camera also has XLR inputs to pull-in audio directly to the footage. Again, good for doc work.
A customer testimonial video shot with the Panasonic AG-DVX200:
There are camera systems that have a larger sensor, or full frame. Some of the most popular are the Sony A7s series. This is a DSLR that will also shoot video. It’s drawback until recently has been it’s lack of 4K ability. They have changed that with the Sony A7iii but it still uses a h.264 codec which is not acceptable for camera original under most circumstances. This is a good codec for uploading a finished project to the web, as a delivery codec, but not for editing.

Sony Alpha 7 III

The work around here is to use an external recorder with an A7iii that will capture in 4K ProRes. This is a $500-$1000 expense. Add on a lens(es), since this is not a fixed lens camera. I find this to be a technical plus but a drawback because lenses can be expensive and can easily match or go past the $2000 cost of just the camera body. A cine lens, like the Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS lens ($1300) or the Sony E PZ 18-110mm F4 G OSS lens ($3500), would be useful if using the camera in a commercial setting. On the other end there also some third-party audio accessories that will enable it to take an XLR feed for docs.

Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens

Most importantly, you must know what you are you using the cameras for.

Filmmaking, advertising, documentary, journalism…? It’d be great if there was one system that works for everything but we’re not there, yet. Camera tech is very close and there are ways some clever camera gurus can accessorize and tweak a package so it can fit any bill. This takes know-how, resources, and a keen sense for reselling because buying and selling camera gear goes hand-in-hand, if you want to stay relevant and profitable.

Customer Testimonial Videos: 3 Reasons to do it Right

There’s no question the value of customer testimonial videos. It’s an endorsement from an impartial witness of the impactful and life-changing power of your product or service. We rely on third-party opinions every day, for simple things like buying a book or grabbing dinner. But unlike customer reviews on platforms like Amazon or Yelp, the testimonial video is an opportunity for prospects to truly connect with a person’s experience. It has the power to engage emotions and convey the value of your brand in narrative form, which studies have shown elevates sales results.  
The video will live on your website and social channels, and be seen by every potential buyer. The ROI is there, and the investment should be made to not only produce them, but to do them well.  

Here are three reasons why customer testimonial videos are a must….

Reason 1: Storytelling is an Art

A testimonial is a hero story. There’s a problem and a hero shows up to save the day. A well-told story will take us on an epic journey that connects us emotionally to the hero’s cause. By the end, we too will be shouting, “I am Spartacus,” usually without knowing when or where we joined the caravan. We know from family gatherings that not everyone knows how to tell a story well. Aunt Maggie will mesmerize us with her exploits at a bake sale. And then every family has an Uncle Reggie, whose nephews and nieces are secretly passing smelling salts to each other. When producing a customer testimonial, it’s very important that Aunt Maggie, or an expert storyteller, crafts your narrative.  

Reason 2: Presentation Matters

A testimonial need not be a landmark piece in videography, but it does need to look good. Most viewers might not know or care about every detail that goes into making a quality video, but they will know if something is bad. They’ll feel it, and consciously or not, it will taint their perception of your brand and your customers’ as well. You don’t need expensive equipment to make a good looking video, but you do need professional expertise. The right talent will make sure every shot, graphic and audio represents the quality of your brand.  

Reason 3: Make your customer look good

Yes, because they’re making you look good. Use a decent camera and professional lighting. Maybe a little make-up as well. Don’t overlook audio — nothing ruins a video more than a bad sound recording.  Do a professional edit with graphics and some nice b-roll of your customer’s awesome place of business.  Make your customers look good because you’re promoting their brand as much as yours. That will make them very happy with you, and other customers will be more inclined to do testimonials for you as well. It may be very tempting to get budget-conscious and DIY with your phone. But invest in producing a quality customer testimonial video, and you’ll definitely see the returns. For more information on Transvideo’s customer testimonial service and to request a quote, email

Award-winning eSignal Campaign

Interactive Data has been riding a wave of creative recognition with us for the past few months. Recently, the commercial campaign that we created for their eSignal product won a 2016 Pixie Award for Outstanding Motion Graphics & Animation. And now we’re proud to announce that this campaign has also won the 2016 Gold Communicator Award of Excellence in the Financial Services Commercial category.

Gold Trophy                                         Gold Trophy

eSignal is an online trading platform for use by professional day traders. We wanted to highlight the platform’s powerful tools that traders use to benefit their work and the financial interests of their clients.

These commercials manage to blend the need to make a highly specialized software feel warm and inviting to the general public without simplifying it’s professional strengths.

GeneWEAVE takes home the prize

Our heartfelt congratulations to the team at GeneWEAVE for winning the First Place trophy of the Dx Creative Communication Awards! They won for best tradeshow and another First Place for the animated video we produced for them.

Geneweave DX Award

Using design standards inspired by our Integrated Videos, the video was created to exist in harmony with its environment. The looped video begins and ends in a design that completes the logo element within the tradeshow booth.

With GeneWEAVE’s Smarticles technology, we expect them to make a big impact in the biomedical industry and to perhaps revolutionize the way we treat bacterial infections.

It was a pleasure working with them, and it looks like everyone’s hard work is getting recognized.


eSignal: Home of Successful Traders

The project we just completed is a commercial spot for eSignal, currently airing nationwide. eSignal is a platform designed for dedicated, professional day traders and we wanted to emphasize the sophistication that eSignal guarantees its users.


The 3D graphics bring eSignal to life, mirroring actual features within the product. This is some of our best work to date and we couldn’t be prouder of our team.

Produced by Transvideo Studios and its creative division, Picturelab


Pebble Smartwatch Video

Breaking news: Transvideo Studios produced the Pebble video posted today on their site, yielding over 50k views in its first day. Video

What We Do: A Manifesto

Transvideo Studios has been in business for more than 30 years.  During this time, we have learned a lot from working with the largest companies in Silicon Valley, and beyond.  As a result, here is what any client can expect when working with us:

  1. We are experts in how video works for companies and organizations, worldwide.  We engage our clients and help them to discover precisely what their messaging should be through video.
  2. Our expertise extends beyond the production of the video. We provide insight into how best to deliver and make use of our product to improve its effectiveness.
  3. We are experts in emerging web technologies. We are up to date on the latest trends so we truly understand the environment. This gives us insight into how to differentiate products in a tight market.
  4. We learn from every project.  We follow-up with our clients long after the video has been delivered to gauge its success.
  5. Our work is highly polished and tailored for the specific needs and style of our clients. Our clients know that a video we provide will not be done in the “Transvideo” style, but rather in the style of the company we work for. We avoid trendiness in favor of what actually works.
  6. We manage the tight deadlines and shifting nature of web tech without blinking an eye. We structure our projects to accommodate the way clients work. Our job is not to educate them or fit them into our model – we adapt to their needs.
  7. We provide a spectrum of creative products that others simply can’t provide at our price point.
  8. Our Silicon Valley California location is ideal as a content provider and thought leader in our market. It is incredibly convenient for local companies to come to us simply due to geography, and we’re growing internationally as well. We’ve produced videos for companies in over 40 countries and languages.
  9. Our longevity and past experience assure our clients that we are not a flash in the pan.
  10. The work we produce is both engaging and effective, thanks to the investment we make in deeply understanding our clients’ needs.