How to Use Your Smartphone as an External Monitor and Recorder

The best portable screen you have is likely the one on the phone in your pocket. Since smartphones are now mostly screen, a lot of effort and resources has been put into making them better and better.

Retina resolutions. HDR. Wide Color. There is a lot of love about them. The only problem is that there isn’t some easy way to use it for anything else, like say using it as a monitor/recorder for your camera. There is actually a way.

Filmmaker Kevin Raposo of Speedy Photographer has found a reliable way to wire up a camera and Android smartphone to work as an external monitor and recorder.

The best part is that it is wired and doesn’t require working with Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth or the dedicated apps from the camera manufacturer. The bad part is that it doesn’t work with iPhones.

To connect the camera to your phone you will need an HDMI cable, an HDMI-to-USB capture card, and a USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable. If you are mounting the phone on your camera you might want to go with shorter cables. You can go with practically any cable you want.

Kevin uses a somewhat generic HDMI-to-USB capture device – and there are a ton out there that do the basic conversion well for little money – but I personally use an Atomos Connect 4K at home and would recommend that if you want something guaranteed and that can accept full-quality video output. Many cheaper options only support Full HD input.

Image Credit: Atomos

Next, you’ll have to find some mounting accessories to get your smartphone on your camera. All you need for the basic option is pick up a smartphone clamp with a 1/4”-20 thread, like the Ulanzi ST-02S, and a cold shoe to 1/4”-20 screw.

Once it’s mounted and connected you’ll want to download the USB Camera Pro app from the Google Play Store. The pro version costs a small amount to get rid of apps. You can then record up to 4K H.264 with a custom bitrate and in-line audio recording. That’s all you need to get up and running. 

Still, some drawbacks are that you are will be limited to Full HD with most systems. It does require enough processing power from the phone itself otherwise you might get some dropped frames. And, it won’t record in 10-bit. The best uses are more to record proxies or have a larger screen to preview your footage as you shoot.

[source: Kevin Raposo]

Order Links:

  • Atomos Connect 2 4K HDMI to USB Converter (B&H, Amazon)
  • Ulanzi ST-02S Smartphone Tripod Mount (B&H, Amazon)
  • SmallRig Cold Shoe Adapter (B&H, Amazon)

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