What can I do with the Helium Core iPhone camera rig?

Various components on Helium Core

The Helium Core is an extremely versatile complement to your iPhone, but its versatility can also make it challenging to figure out how to start using it. Here are some ideas for how to start taking advantage of the Core’s capabilities.

USE A STRAP TO CARRY YOUR IPHONE

One of the simplest things you can do with your Core to make it easier to use as a camera is to put a strap on it so you can sling it around your neck.  In addition to being easier to carry, having the strap helps with adding stability when you’re shooting photos or videos. Tuck your elbows in close to your body, and hold your iPhone/Helium Core in front of you and away from you until you feel tension in the strap. You’ve now got three points of contact that provide steadiness when you’re shooting.

Helium Core iPhone photo rig on a strap

 

USE A HANDLE OR TRIPOD FOR STABILITY

Adding a dedicated handle, or a 2-in-1 handle + tripod, gives you the ability to both hold your iPhone and Helium Core in one hand, for more stable shots and a greater range of movement when you’re shooting video, or set it up as a conventional tripod on a solid surface for stability. 

Helium Core on a handle

Using a larger tripod, whether by itself, or in combination with some extension arms, lets you get the great macro shots that you might not ordinarily be able get because your hands are too shaky.

Helium Core iPhone photo rig macro setup

Helium Core iPhone photo case macro rig

 A stable camera is one of the keys to better photos and videos, so this is one of the simplest ways to improve your mobile photography or filmmaking. 

USE DIFFERENT LENSES AND FILTERS

Lenses can have an incredible effect on the photos and videos that you shoot. They can change the focal length (how far and how wide an image you capture), the perspective (the feeling of space and depth in an image) and the overall mood and feel of the shot. Until the introduction of the 7 Plus model, the iPhone had a fixed focal length camera, which is equivalent to about a 28mm lens.
Ordinarily, you’d have to use digital zoom to enlarge an image or subject. What this amounts to is the photo app simulating a zoom, which causes a loss in quality of your image. On the opposite end, you can’t shoot a proper wide angle, since the camera’s focal length is fixed and can’t go any wider. This is where lenses come into play. Adding a wide angle lens allows you to capture additional width in the scene you want to shoot. Adding a telephoto lens allows you to “get closer” to your subjects and do portrait images, without a significant loss in quality. Macro lenses and fisheye lenses are special lenses that allow you to capture incredible detail, and incredible width in a scene, respectively. To learn more about lenses and filters, and get our recommendations for lenses, check out our Lenses and Filters resource page.

 

USE A VIDEO TRIPOD TO GET SMOOTH, COOL-LOOKING SHOTS

Video tripods look almost identical to tripods used for photography. The difference is that they typically have a different “head”. Generally speaking, there are two major parts to a tripod, the legs, and the head. The legs are what most people generally think of when they refer to tripods, since they are the most recognizable part of the tripod. The head, on the other hand (no pun intended!) can differ quite a bit from tripod to tripod. What makes a video head unique is that it’s designed with movement in mind, unlike photo tripods that are meant to keep the camera static. To help with this, video heads usually have longer handles (technically called “bars”) to make it easier to control the movement. 

 Helium Core iPhone video rig on video tripod

 

IMPROVE YOUR AUDIO WITH EXTERNAL MICROPHONES

While the iPhone has a great camera sensor, one of its shortcomings when shooting videos or making films is the microphone. Most people are unaware that there are 3 microphones on the iPhone, which are used in different situations. However, they’re not great at recording audio because they’re small, and can’t be positioned really close to your subject. Since people are more willing to forgive bad quality video than bad quality audio, an external microphone is a great first purchase for aspiring documentary filmmakers and videographers who do interviews for their documentary, business or for posterity’s sake.

Helium Core iPhone film rig with shotgun mic

There are numerous types of microphones, but the one that’s most popular among videographers is called the shotgun microphone, or shotgun mic. A shotgun mic picks up most of its audio signal from the direction that it’s pointed at. This helps you get better audio, because you’re less likely to pick up interference or noise from the environment. A shotgun mic that’s pointed at your interviewee provides better audio than the built-in microphones on the iPhone.
Almost any shotgun mic can be used with your iPhone, but you’ll need to make sure that you have the appropriate cables.

ADD EXTERNAL LIGHTS FOR BETTER ILLUMINATION

The iPhone has an incredible camera sensor that does well when the environment is well lit. In darker situations, it becomes “noisy” - that grainy layer that you see in videos or photos that look like colorful little ants running about the screen. Thankfully, the fix is simple - add an external light. 

Helium Core iphone camera rig with light

External lights come in numerous sizes, but the ones that work well in conjunction with the Helium Core are compact LEDs. Manfrotto, Ikan and Aputure make great compact LED lights. They have built in, rechargeable batteries, diffusion to “soften” the light and make the subjects appear less harsh, and have variable power settings so you can vary the brightness of the light. Adding external lights lets you illuminate your subject better and helps separate them from the background by making them brighter than the background, both of which improve the quality of your videos. 

SHOOT “COOKING SHOW” STYLE OVERHEAD VIDEOS

You’ve probably seen the short cooking videos on Facebook or your favorite blogs that are shot from overhead, looking down at the prep and cooking area. Even if you’re not into cooking, you can still make some fun, informative videos using this vantage point. Makers, crafters and anyone interested in documenting a process can easily replicate this style of video.

The Helium Core’s multiple 1/4”-20 screw mounts make it easy to do so, because you can attach it to a tripod with a horizontal bar attached to it, or to a mic stand with the appropriate adapter. The video below shows both an overhead video setup shooting a time lapse. 

 

 

SHOOT TIME LAPSES

Time lapses are photos that are shot at time intervals, and stitched together to create a video. For instance, the video below shows a time lapse of a scene where the photos were taken every 10 seconds, then spliced together. 

Time lapses are a great way to show changes in a scene over a period of time, such as the movement of clouds, a room that is filling up or emptying out, the flow of traffic on an interstate or a building being constructed. Longer time lapses can show changes that would be almost impossible to notice in person, such as the blooming of a flower, weather changes in a landscape, or the emergence of a butterfly from a cocoon. A Helium Core, mounted on a tripod, and in some situations, with a light mounted on top of it, can help you take great time lapses. 

 

USE SLIDERS, JIBS AND OTHER GEAR FOR MORE COOL SHOTS

While tripods are the most commonly used piece of support gear, the types of camera movements you can get from them are limited to those that the camera can make without actually moving from its position on the tripod. That means that you’re artistically limited to pans and tilts. While you can do a lot with just those movements, more complex camera movements require different types of equipment. 

The slider performs the same function as a straight railroad track; it allows you to move back and forth in a straight line. That allows you to move closer or further away from a subject (a movement called “dolly in” and “dolly out”, respectively), or to move left and right (“track left” or “track right”, respectively). The slider is the little sibling of the dolly, hence the “dolly in” and “dolly out” phrases. Dollies are usually larger and travel on a track, so you can move in a straight line as well as along a curve.

Jibs look like cranes, and in fact, they’re sometimes also called cranes.* They allow you to make sweeping movements with your camera that look really cool and dramatic. Rather than try to explain it, we’ve just shot some video that shows you what those movements are.

* Jib = crane is a simplification. Jibs are a subset of cranes, but not the reverse.

Have you found a new use for your Helium Core? Share it with us by tagging us using #HeliumCore #HeliumCine!