At EventLive we’ve been following up with videographers who are live streaming multiple events per month, and we saw a clear shift towards smartphone setups.
Even the pros are slowly simplifying their live streaming equipment and deciding to try easier alternatives with the EventLive app. Many of them are actively looking to reduce the event fatigue that comes from preparing a complex setup every single time.
That’s when smartphones come into play. They’re quick, affordable, and you already own one. But… do they solve every problem? With the right tools, they do.
Here’s a list of items that will help you improve your smartphone streaming experience:
- Smartphone Mounts
- Light Stands
- Extension Brackets
- Smartphone Lenses
- Cables & Adapters
The first piece of your kit involves a tripod mount. You can get away without one if you’re using a gimbal or a similar tool, but you will likely need one at some point.
When it comes to smartphone mounts, you can find them ranging from 4 dollars to 300 or even more. The price difference usually comes from materials, but also for flexibility. Some of these mounts allow you to attach multiple items and move freely without bumping into your smartphone camera.
Let me show you a few mounts that are worth considering.
Moment Tripod Mount for MagSafe
At 60 USD, Moment offers a fantastic simple solution that relies on MagSafe to attach your phone. This means that it is very easy to remove it and attach it again, but it also means that your phone could fall off if you hit it accidentally from the sides.
The worst part of setting up a live stream is connecting things and finding that you left some parts at home. That will never happen with this tripod mount since it uses magnets to attach your smartphone. One less part to worry about.
The best of this setup are the magnets. Second best? It includes a cold shoe mount, so you can place a microphone, led light, audio mixer, or anything you need on top of your phone without adding extra dangling parts.
One more thing to consider is that Moment is a company known for good quality products, so you’re not getting cheap parts there that will break in a month or two.
Manfrotto TwistGrip Complete Kit
For 149 USD, you get a minimalist’s dream phone mount. It folds and packs into a tiny item that you won’t mind carrying around. It’s a metal mount, so it has some weight to it.
On the two cold shoe mounts, you can add a microphone and an audio mixer for perfect balance.
Manfrotto is known to be a great quality brand, so you won’t be disappointed if you mount the phone as instructed by them. It’s a tight fit, and it packs nicely.
Please note that at the time of writing this post, it’s much cheaper to buy both Manfrotto parts individually than buying the complete kit.
If you’re looking for beautiful and useful products, look no further. Shoulderpod offers products that feel professional because they’re designed for that.
The G2 Video Grip offers 6 cold shoe mounts and two tripod mounts. You can mount two microphones, an audio mixer, a led light, and still have room available. For 70 USD you get a premium product.
If that one feels like a lot, you can opt for a simpler version like the R2, “The Pocket Rig”. This little mount includes a single cold shoe mount and a clamp for your smartphone.
This company offers a cage for your smartphone, which is great in theory, but it might be a little cumbersome in practice. One of the main advantages of your phone is to be able to set up the entire kit in a minute, and this cage might delay that a little bit.
It includes 2 cold shoe mounts, which are very helpful and properly placed, as well as handles on both sides, in case you decide to do some hand-held streaming. At 130 USD, it might make you look like a pro, but I’m not sure if it’s useful enough at a real event.
Ulanzi U Rig Pro
The most affordable one on this list is an all-plastic smartphone rig from Ulanzi. This is a fantastic piece of equipment if you don’t mind the materials in it. The plastic is sturdy, but it’s still plastic.
It fits all smartphones in the market and includes 3 cold shoe mounts which are probably more than you will ever need at a live event. For about 30 USD, you can’t go wrong with something like this. Personally, I find it too big and cumbersome for a smartphone setup, but it works and it’s very affordable.
SmallRig Universal Mobile Phone Cage
This smartphone cage is made of aluminum and steel, it is very affordable, and it is worth considering. The size feels just right and the materials are better than most of the alternatives.
With two cold shoe mounts and a 40 USD price tag, is one of the best options on the market right now. SmallRig also sells side handles, but you don’t really need them for live streaming.
You can mount it on a tripod and include everything you need, including a microphone and an audio mixer, if you use one.
For a smartphone setup, you don’t need much. Depending on the locations you usually stream from, you will need to choose a tripod, monopod, or stand that allows you to work easily. To break this category down, I’ll point the benefits and inconveniences of each of these alternatives.
Tripods for Smartphone Setups
Tripods offer the most stability of all three. They take more space and can be a problem if you need to move often. They are the most expensive of all three, but also the most versatile.
- Manfrotto Element MII Aluminum with Ball Head: For 99 USD, you’re getting a tripod that can hold any smartphone streaming setup easily. It’s a recognized brand that uses good materials. You can’t go wrong with this option. Maximum height: 63" / 160cm.
- Magnus Travel Tripod with Dual-Action Ball Head: At 75 USD, this is a very affordable option that works just as fine. This one includes a basic smartphone mount. Maximum height: 62.5" / 158cm.
- Oben Travel Tripod + Monopod with Ball Head: This $110 tripod converts to a monopod using one of its legs. Maximum height: 61.8" / 157cm.
Monopods are only worth considering if you’re moving around, as they require to be held most of the time. They are extremely affordable, but also the least versatile of the three.
- Benro Monopod with 3-Leg Locking Base: This Benro monopod offers a locking base that allows you to momentarily leave your kit unattended. For 88 USD, it’s a very good choice.
- Oben 4-Section Aluminum Monopod: Believe it or not, 40 USD gets you a great quality monopod that weighs about 1 pound. You can’t lock it in place, but it serves its purpose.
Light stands offer a mix between stability and versatility. They can be great for tight, indoor spaces, but can also be problematic in windy environments or uneven surfaces. Try to stay away from the most affordable ones, as those can be too shaky for a live stream.
- Impact Air-Cushioned Light Stand 8': This is a very affordable light stand that features air cushioning. If you lose the knobs, it won’t fall and hurt your fingers or break your gear. At 33 USD, it’s a great solution for indoor spaces.
- Mevo Floor Stand: At 80 USD, it’s almost the price of a full tripod. It’s built with good materials, and it includes a basic ball head on top, a much-needed feature with other light stands.
- Manfrotto Alu Mini Compact Air-Cushioned Stand 7': For 85 USD, you get a light stand built with better materials, air-cushioned, and with a simple design that folds easily. At this price range, you’d have to consider whether a light stand is a better option than a tripod for your setup.
Depending on the gear you choose, you might need an extension bracket to mount a microphone or any other accessory.
I can recommend different brackets, depending on the number of devices you need to attach:
- Ulanzi PT-7 Cold Shoe Extension Bracket: This is perfect for a single item. It’s small, lightweight, and it’s cheap.
- Ulanzi PT-13 Cold Shoe Bracket: The Ulanzi PT-13 feels like a premium product, at $25. It allows you to attach three different items without taking extra space.
- BOYA BY-C12 Cold Shoe Mount: Even though I’m not a huge fan of this piece, it is a fantastic choice for minimalist setups. It is attached directly to the smartphone, without any clamps or screws, and it provides a single cold shoe mount.
The best way to move around during a live stream is using a gimbal. If you don’t have one, your movements might feel rough and unpredictable for the live attendees. Most of our phones have a decent stabilization system built-in, but gimbals do make a big difference.
Gimbals can replace your smartphone mount, which means that you can save some money by attaching them straight to your tripod, monopod, or light stand.
Smartphone gimbals won’t cost too much, and they are a great addition to any live streaming kit. Here are some of the ones we can recommend:
DJI OM 5 Smartphone Gimbal
It’s no secret that DJI offers the best gimbals in the market. The same can be said about the one designed for smartphones, but with a few things to keep in mind.
Even though I’m writing about the DJI OM5, I believe that the OM 4 is a better option for most live streamers. The OM5 version adds an extension rod, kind of a selfie-stick feature. It might be ok for vloggers, but it’s not required for broadcasting.
The biggest advantage of the OM4 is that its battery lasts twice as long and it works perfectly fine. If you’re tired of recharging batteries, the OM4 is the better option of the two.
At the moment, the DJI OM5 sells for $159, and the OM4 costs $145.
If you feel like trying other brands or you’re not a DJI fan, the Zhiyun-Tech Smooth-4 promises to be an affordable alternative. At 99 USD, you get an amazing little gimbal.
Please note that Android users usually experience some problems with this item, and it’s better suited for iOS.
Zhiyun just released the Smooth-5 version but the starting price is 169 USD, a little above DJI’s offerings. They also released a Combo for $219, but spending that much on a gimbal is not necessary.
If you’re looking to make full use of your creativity, you might feel stuck with your phone. Smartphone lenses allow you to get more creative, get different angles, and get good close-ups even if you don’t have an iPhone with a 3x Optical Zoom.
The best brand for smartphone lenses is Moment, and they attach very firmly to your phone using a proprietary case. Each lens costs about 100 USD, and I think that the optical quality is very good.
You can choose from a 14mm (fisheye), 18mm, 58mm, or even an Anamorphic lens, my favorite of their lineup.
Just like with everything else, the decision here depends on whether you’re looking for simplicity or a mix of ease-of-use and creative possibilities.
Moment lenses are great, but you don’t really need them. They are a nice-to-have item but it is one more thing that you need to set up before every live stream.
When building a simple smartphone setup that yields amazing results, smartphone lenses could give you an edge.
When connecting your microphone to a smartphone, you will need a TRRS cable. As you might already own a mic that uses a TRS connector instead, these adapters might be exactly what you need:
- Rode SC7 3.5mm TRS to TRRS: This is a male-to-male cable that works for both Android and iOS, but you need a lightning adapter to connect it to an iPhone. To save a few dollars, you can opt for a Saramonic cable instead.
- Rode SC4 3.5mm TRS to TRRS: This is a male-to-female version of the same cable.
- Movo Female 3.5mm TRRS to Lightning: Movo sells a TRRS cable adapter that connects straight to the Lightning port of your iPhone.