How to see it from your audience’s point of view (literally):

Smartphone qualitative is an amazing tool to let you see your participants’ lives from their point of view. Sometimes that means riding along on their smartphone and having them video key moments of their daily lives. Other times, “point of view” is meant literally.

Recently, more and more of our users have been using Over the Shoulder to capture the literal point of view of their participants. For example, a company that makes easy-to-prepare meals wanted to witness their customers actually using their product in their kitchens, or, a company that makes cleaning products who wanted to see how someone actually uses their product to clean their toilets and bathrooms.

This kind of literal point of view capture is already easy to do using the Over the Shoulder app, unless...the activity you want to see your audience do requires both hands. Two-handed activities mean participants won’t be able to hold their smartphone in one hand and do the activity you want to witness with the other.

Never fear. A number of clever designers have already solved this problem for us. At Over the Shoulder, we’ve been testing out various “POV smartphone holders” so we can tell you which work best and how to include actual point of view video in your project like a pro. The full breakdown of what we tested and what we learned can be found below, but we'll start with our recommended device:

Our recommended device:  The "Neck Rig"
In our test, the clear winner was the Neck Rig, which won across all evaluation criteria and is the best choice for most point of view video use cases.

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Video capture quality: The Neck Rig holds the participant’s phone below their chin so that you get a great point of view angle. It’s as close to eye-level as possible without obstructing the subject’s view, and the rig holds the smartphone up high enough that it stays out of the way when participants are moving their hands performing the task. The Neck Rig also holds the smartphone steady enough to capture video without appearing “jumpy” or hard to view. 

In the tests where the participant wore more than one rig simultaneously while doing a task, the Neck Rig was much more likely to capture the best vantage point of the action. Because it’s worn around the neck, it usually captured the best video when the subject looked up or down and even side to side, with the rig shifting slightly as the participant moved to keep the action in the video frame. Result: even tasks like a diaper change or laundry sorting where participants are looking up and down or side to side were more likely to be captured.

In addition to capturing great video, this rig also captured the best audio because the smartphone was held close to the subject’s mouth.

Usability: The Neck Rig was the most comfortable to wear as reported by participants.

Another crucial usability advantage the Neck Rig has is that it can be set up so that it holds the screen is facing in to the participant. That brings with it two crucial advantages: 1) the rear-facing (and typically higher resolution) camera does the recording and equally important 2) the participant can look down and know that they’ve successfully tapped the “record” button to start the recording and can ensure that they’re actually capturing the action in the video. That may sound trivial, but for our testers, it was a huge ease-of-use advantage because they didn’t have to worry that they would miss recording the action and have to repeat the task or submit an incomplete assignment.

Note: Most Neck Rigs do not come with very good setup instructions, so we've built a special Over the Shoulder assignment that walks participants through the setup process step-by-step to ensure participants can enjoy the usability benefits mentioned previously.

Cost/practicality: Neck Rigs are also inexpensive, though not “cheap feeling” and easy to send to participants via Amazon.com. Participants reported that the rig felt like held their smartphone securely enough that they didn’t fear having their smartphone drop out of the holder during use, but didn’t use a sticker. The right Neck Rig also fit all of the different device types we tested it with.


Runner-up: The Edelkrone “POVIE” Neck Rig
The povie is Great product overall, but it has a few specific features that make it less than ideal for qualitative research (at least the types of projects we see most often).

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Video capture quality: The POVIE holds the participant’s smartphone in roughly the same position as other Neck Rigs, so it’s just about ideal in terms of video capture quality.

Usability: The POVIE rig was comparably comfortable and benefitted from the same ability to hold the participant’s smartphone in such a way that the participant can see what they’re recording as they record it.

The POVIE is probably the best-designed of the holders we tested,  sturdier than other Neck Rigs and simple to set up.

The big knock on the POVIE is that current models require the participant to stick an adhesive magnetic disk to their smartphone to connect it to the POVIE unit. This magnetic connection holds the phone securely, but our testers didn’t like that they had to stick something to their smartphone, and worried that the magnetic attachment disk would get in the way of regular phone use or leave a mark on their phone when removed after the project.

Cost/practicality: The POVIE is currently available for $49.99 from a handful of online retailers. That price includes free expedited shipping, but it may be cost-prohibitive for many projects given the existence of a cheaper alternative.


Runner-up: The  “Chest Rig”
The "Chest Rig" that we tested is another good choice with great video stability, but some usability downsides.

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Video capture quality: Chest Rigs hold the participant's phone on the top third of their chest giving you a point of view from below the participant's eye level. The beefy straps and solid hardware included in most Chest Rigs hold the rig tightly into the participants chest which typically results in a relatively stable platform and nice, stable video. The only downside in terms of video capture is that the Chest Rig has the least ability to keep what the participant is looking at in view. Unlike a Neck Rig, which turns slightly as the participant turns their head and keeps the subject in view, the Chest Rig will capture what's directly in front of your participant even if they are looking to either side.

Usability: Chest Rigs are a little tougher for participants to put on than Neck Rigs. Some body types are awkward to fit into a Chest Rig, and the process of putting on the rig takes a few minutes.

Cost/practicality: Chest Rigs are in the middle of the pack for price (typically about $25 a unit for decent quality) so they're feasible, but overall they don't give many benefits that you don't get with a cheaper, easier-to-put-on Neck Rig.


Runner-up: The “Hat” Rig
Hat rigs have some specific positives in terms of tracking directly with where participants are looking and ensuring on-subject video, but some significant drawbacks as well.

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Video capture quality: The hat rigs we tried got mixed reviews in terms of actual video quality. On the positive side, a hat rig holds the smartphone at forehead level on a hat that’s included with the rig. That means that the camera directly tracks in the direction the participant is looking, so video is captured even if they change what they’re looking at throughout the capture.

On the negative side, hat rigs don’t allow the participant to see what they are videoing during capture, and are clumsy for participants to use. Video quality is compromised on all the hat rigs we tested because between the loose fit of the hat to the participants’ head and the bendiness of the holder itself, significant movement of the smartphone was common.

Usability: Hat rigs have some significant usability problems. Some of our testers felt self-conscious wearing the hat rig and felt as if the rigs were “wobbly” and could fall off, potentially dropping their smartphone. The weight of the smartphone plus the rig was also noted by many testers as distracting.

Cost/practicality: Hat rigs typically cost about $25-$50 and are widely available online for delivery to participants.


Last, but not least: The “Lanyard” Rig

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Lanyard rigs are cheap and simple, but we haven’t found one that’s well-suited to helping participants capture point of view video.

Lanyard rigs hang over the participant’s neck, so they have a tendency to flip backwards during video capture and miss the shot. The lanyard holders can sometimes inadvertently cover the microphone port on the smartphone compromising audio quality. Even when they stay facing the right direction they tend to produce video that’s frequently not on-subject and/or shaky because the lanyard is allowing the participant’s smartphone to “swing” rather than holding it firmly to their body.


Helping participants get their rigs set up right is crucial to success
One overall learning from our testing is that getting great point-of-view video isn’t just about choosing the right rig for the right task. You also need to walk participants through the process of receiving and setting up the rig correctly to ensure they have a good experience and you get the great video you want. We discovered that a specific “TAP THIS ASSIGNMENT WHEN YOU RECEIVE YOUR RIG” button with a full walkthrough of the setup process is essential to successful capture.


What do you think?
Have you got a favorite technique or a product we don’t know of that’s great at enabling point of view video capture in market research projects? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section!