Experiments in Storytelling with the iPhone using @FilMicPro @storehousehq @steller and iMovie featuring @fotopunctuation

I’m just back from the “RoosDagen” conference in The Netherlands where I held workshops on Mobile Journalism and also spoke as part of a Plenary session on the subject. While there I showed the most recent iPhone story I’ve shot: “Brendan O Se- iPhoneographer” which I filmed last week in Cork. As always I used FilMicPro as my camera App but I decided to experiment with the new version of iMovie (iOS7) on iPhone to see how far I could push it…

I’m actually very impressed with the new features which included Video Overlay, Detach Audio, Audio Fade in Fade out, PiP, Split screen and new title graphics etc.

Yesterday was an interesting day because it saw the launch of Steller a new Visual Storytelling App for iPhone. I’ve been a big fan of Storehouse for creating immersive multi media/visual stories since its launch but it is iPad only. However both are free and I would encourage you to try them both out if you can.

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Heres a link to a Steller version of Brendans Story (note max file size is 10Mb so I had to drop about 8 pages with videos to make it fit the size limit!)

https://steller.co/stories/205553277939484098

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Note: Best viewed using the App on your iOS device (as with Storehouse)

And I’ve just published a Storehouse version also. Download the App to view the full parallax scrolling/ immersive version

https://www.storehouse.co/stories/k113-brendan-o-se

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Mobile Journalism in the headlines, 3 recent articles. #mojo

Mobile Journalism in the headlines

PHOTO: RTE’s Patricia O’Callaghan, one of the first journalists to complete the mobile masterclass last Nov. with Circom in Budapest.

Its been a very busy month for mobile journalism, with the incredible inclement weather creating a “perfect storm” to test the capabilities of mojo in the field. I was interviewed by Broadcast Now as part of a comprehensive feature on mobile news-gathering which also included pioneers like Nick Garnett from BBC and SKY News with their broad adoption of live streaming via mobile.

Also I was invited to write articles for both the European Broadcasting Unions Technology magazine Tech-i (published quarterly) and Dan Chung, editor of Newsshooter.com also asked me to write a guest post on the topic. The amount of discussion and feedback about MoJo has been phenomenal and it really is great to see so many journalists embracing the new technology and pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved. Here are links to the pieces:

EBU Tech-i Magazine (PDF)
Broadcast Now (PDF)
NewsShooter.com (link)

A selection (not exhaustive) of iPhone media workflows as an infographic of sorts

A selection (not exhaustive) of iPhone media workflows as an infographic of sorts

A selection of iPhone media (photo/video) workflows to remind MoJo trainees of some of the options available to them to get their finished stories off their iPhone. There are others also ;)

Making news with an iPhone – the Quality debate

I’ve been researching and developing mobile journalism training for nearly three years in RTE. Most recently I’ve trained over 100 staff to shoot and edit and a few exceptional staff members have taken the challenge and created an entire news story – for broadcast. I have to point out this is not the norm, or even an everyday occurrence. But it is part of a pilot programme to examine and investigate the potential of mobiles and content creation / news gathering devices.

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Last Friday, Philip Bromwell, one of RTEs Full time staff Video Journalists, decided to use the iPhone 5S to shoot a complete story for broadcast. As usual Philip used the Mojo Grab bag I put together for his shoot.

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He shot in 1080p HD on the iPhone and then imported the footage into a MacBookPro to edit it in Avid Media Composer. At the end of this process he transcoded (downsized) the edit from full HD 1920x1080p to 720×576 SD and also converted the progressive scan to interlaced for our broadcast system.

On Friday night we agreed we would publish the SD version of the story on YouTube:

Then on Monday we published the full HD 1080p version to Vimeo

I would like you to have a look at both versions to see the difference in resolution from the TV version and the online HD version. This is one of the reasons that shooting with the iPhone (or smartphones in general) is ideal for online but somewhat problematic for TV broadcast. If you add into the mix the fact that the iPhone natively shoots at 30fps but in Europe (PAL) we transmit in 25fps then you uncover the second technical challenge for smartphone usage in broadcast. Professional Apps like FilMicPro and Voddio allow you to shoot in 25fps or in the case of Voddio render out in 25fps but Apple Apps like iMovie render out in 30fps. In order to convert the 30fps to 25fps you have to drop 5 frames every second, this leads to non fluid motion artefacts. This may seem like technical jargon to you and to a certain extent I agree with that – what most viewers watch is the Story, not the frame rate etc etc, so Philips story above is proof that in the hands on a professional storyteller – the device is almost irrelevant. THE STORY IS EVERYTHING!

Zoom introduces the Q4 Handy Video recorder 1080p video with Stereo Audio recording at 96Khz

Just happened on this and though its worth a blog. Zoom, the company that make one of the best Audio Field recorders for radio journalists the Zoom H4N have just announced a new product: the Q4. Image

Its a small HD video camera that shoots 1080p/30fps but is capable of recording stereo PCM Audio at 96Khz via its pop out X/Y config microphone. Things I like about it are the external mic in port, live streaming via USB connection (video or audio) and that they made it compatible with GoPro mounts!

This is not the first time Zoom have used their audio experience to add video into the mix, their Q2HD was an interesting solution for radio journalists who needed to record web video and more recently they introduced the iQ5 a lightning based microphone for iPhone 5/5s or newer iPads.

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No idea of price yet but pop over to the Zoom website for more info. UPDATE *** Actually I’ve just spotted it on Amazon.com for $369

Editing Video on Android – whats out there? Try TrakAx an Irish company with vision

In November last year I noticed a new follower on Twitter: @trakAx and after a little further research I discovered an Irish company who may well have addressed one of the biggest challenges for Mobile Journalism on the Android Platform: editing.

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With iOS/OSX Ive been using FilMicPro to shoot and iMovie to edit on the iPhone,  Pinnacle Studio to edit on the iPad and Final Cut Pro X on the Mac. The workflow is extremely easy no matter which combination you choose. With the iPhone you export from FilMicPro to the camera roll and iMovie sees the video immediately. With the iPad you transfer the video from iPhone either via the camera connection kit (as shown below) or via an App like Photo Transfer or indeed shoot on the iPad using FilMicPro.

It might be time to update this video with an iPhone5s, lightning Camera Connection Kit and iOS7!!!

With OSX you can connect the iPhone via USB and copy the files directly from the FilMicPro Library (no export to camera roll necessary) via App Sharing in iTunes of you can use iPhoto on the Mac to copy from the camera roll.

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The quality of the editing tools and the ease of the workflow is one of the fundamental reasons I teach iOS Mojo. However I have often publicly said I would love to have a comparable workflow for Android or even Windows Mobile.

In the case of Android, smartphones like the Galaxy S3 and the Note III have awesome cameras, which in the case of the Note III can shoot at a stunning 4K resolution. But right now (to the best of my knowledge) there is no Video Editing App that can deliver in-phone editing to the same standard as iMovie (or Voddio) can on the iPhone.

So when I saw this promo for TrakAx I got excited…

So here are my initial impressions:

1. There is a lot of potential in the App, it has a substantial advantage in the Google Play store right now as there is really very little to compete with the it.

2. The fundamental functions of editing are all within the App, Insert, trim, mix, audio fade etc.

3. The App leverages the power of the smartphone so as long as it packs a snapdragon 600 chipset or higher it will give great results*

4. The App accesses the photos App on Android so no exporting from other Apps – mind you, if FilMicPro had an Android version that would potentially be a great workflow.

5. I have reservations about the proprietary CHANNEL editing process which is currently limited to six channels, though each channel can support video or a stack of photos.

6. The live Mix solution before output is a novel approach to creating the final story, its more like taking 6 sources into a vision mixer and mixing it live that traditional non-linear timeline based editing. My concern here is that there is no way to pre-programme frame accurate cuts. You have to cut between channels as part of the final mix, the App records a macro of your mix cues, fades, audio mix etc and then at the final stage it conforms and compiles the final rendered story.

Overall I think it is a powerful App and its pitched at exactly the same price point as iMovie on iOS

€4.50, there is a free version too which the developers suggest is a good way to pre-test your hardware’s ability to run the App. Thats a very clever solution to one of the fundamental weaknesses of the Android platform: Market Fragmentation. So many manufacturers, devices, chipsets, cameras, specification variations and custom flavours of Android.

Anyway of you have a powerful Android Smartphone and want to experiment with video editing without having to dump it off to the cloud or to a PC/MAC then TrakAx Movie Express is definitely worth a look.

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Parallax Scrolling for the masses? Here’s two solutions/developers to watch @shorthand_ | @storehousehq

I was at News Rewired late last year and at one of the sessions a heated debate flared up about the NewYorkTimes Epic multimedia story “Snowfall”.

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Matthew Ingram of GigaOm argued that the entire story was an overindulgent fad and that that the move into this immersive long form storytelling was not being driven by what the audience/readers want but instead by the aspirations of designers and multimedia reporters. He cited the Guardians story FireStorm also.

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For my part I have to admit I was blown away by both – in part by the sheer scale and depth of the stories but also by the really stunning visual aesthetic they had created with Parallax Scrolling. In a quite remarkable revelation the Guardians head of multimedia special projects, Francesca Panetta, confided their FireStorm story had taken three months to shoot, edit, code and compile!

At the Q&A session that followed I took the mic and defended the form as being in its infancy and that this experimental phase is very important for introducing a new paradigm. I stated that the turning point would be when a simple, template driven Application was developed to make the process of compiling a Parallax Scrolling multimedia story simple and intuitive…

At the same session Ben Fogarty, executive manager with Startup “Shorthand” presented a demonstration of the product: a template driven Application for creating Parallax Scrolling multimedia stories :) Shorthand is still in private BETA but the latest iteration of their website gives a good taste of whats to come.

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On the longer 5 or 10 day Mojo courses Ive run over the last year I always included a session on photography to allow you to leverage stills, audio, video and text to create a multimedia narrative – If you are using an iPad to create your story then I have another App to check out for you. Launched in the last few days STOREHOUSE is a free App for iPad which also allows you to create immersive Parallax Scrolling multimedia stories. I love the interface and the extremely easy and intuitive UI. I compiled a story in 15mins with no difficulty – Give it a go, the results are excellent!

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For now the only limitations I can see with Storehouse is that the stories you make are retained within the storehouse ecosystem. To view a story after publishing it you must have the App installed. You can use up to 50 photos or video clips but the videos can be no longer than 30 seconds in length. Fonts are limited to 3 at the moment but presumably the current free version is an LE edition to create and inspire a dedicated user base. If and when they decide to monetize it I think (and hope) that for a pro version you could export your story as an entire HTML5 page or maybe as an embeddable iFrame or similar.

Either way with immersive content, gesture based interactivity and parallax scrolling, multimedia storytelling just got a lot more interesting and accessible.

OFF TOPIC: Living on the edge: Specialist iPhone cases for Surveillance, Survival and Safety

One of the trainees from the last Circom Mobile Journalism course recently posted a comment on our Facebook group about an experience he had when shooting with his iPhone in heavy Snow in Sweden. He was on a shoot for his TV station SVT and had an issue with the P2 cards he had with him so he decided to use his iPhone instead and he described how within “seconds everything froze, the iPhone rebooted several times and the snow kept blowing directly into the lens” which ultimately meant it was totally unusable. I had experienced the other extreme in June while working with AlJazeera in Qatar – the daytime temperatures were 47º+ and within 10 mins in direct sunlight the phone showed an overheating warning:

I should point out that the iPhone behaving like this may be extremely annoying but it is well within spec. This doc outlines the iPhone operational temperature tolerances: 0º to 35º Celcius.

In spite of several hours trawling the internet I still haven’t found even one example of an iPhone case that deals with the issue of extreme temperatures.
Sure, its an absolutely niche market but it exists nonetheless. There are LOTS of Extreme Endurance cases like the Otterbox DefenderGriffin Survivor, and even ones with integral battery like the Mophie JuicePak Pro Outdoor but none that address extreme weather/temperature specifically.

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Anyway thats a random preamble for this post. While I was searching as many possible keywords I could imagine I stumbled upon a few cases that caught me by surprise. So, as I’ve never looked at the weird and wonderful world of non-broadcast iPhone cases I decided to share these with you….

Up first, a case that debuted at CES this week and one I think has huge potential in the Surveillance and Emergency Services areas;

The FLIR ONE.

FLIRONE_ViewE  FLIRONE_PersonalSafety

The FLIR ONE is a case for your iPhone 5s that turns your phone into a thermal imaging camera. The potential uses are substantial both from a surveillance and safety point of view, particularly for anyone working in emergency services and search and rescue or even just if you are working in a hostile environment and want to ensure your personal safety. Here’s a little blurb from the press release:

“Using special sensor technology that was originally developed for military night vision, FLIR ONE converts heat, which is emitted from every object on earth, into color images. These color images allow users to not only see in the dark, but to also observe differences in temperature of fractions of a degree. FLIR ONE’s powerful capacity to augment human vision opens up a new world of possibilities for consumers. In addition to seeing in the dark and detecting invisible heat sources, the device helps users see through smoke…. “

For more information visit the FLIR website

Next UP an iPhone case that packs a hell of a punch:

The YELLOWJACKETCASE

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YellowJacket for 5/5s also debuted at CES this year and its a pretty novel personal safety device. Its basically a case that has a TAZER StunGun built-in. From the images I’ve seen the case looks similar in size to the FLIR or the Mophie JuicePak Pro but to the best of my knowledge this is a first in iPhone cases. The battery pack doubles as an extra battery for your iPhone but I like that the stun-gun section is easily detachable meaning you don’t have to have it with you ALL the time.

From the PR sheet: “Yellow JacketTM is a non-lethal, low amperage device that is temporary and not fatal…Yellow JacketTM will cause mild to serious pain and definite discomfort to the person it is used on. A stun gun shock’s severity depends greatly on where it is applied on the body and how long it is applied.”

For more information visit the YellowJacket website

*NOTE: To the best of my knowledge StunGuns are classed as concealed weapons in Ireland and are therefore illegal here.

Case number 3: Another personal safety device case: SPRAYTECT

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The Spraytect case is basically a small pepper spray canister strapped to the back of an iPhone. Not much more I can add to that really but if you want more information -Visit the Spraytect website

*NOTE: To the best of my knowledge Pepper Spray is illegal in the Republic of Ireland.

Finally, this is not a new one but interesting nonetheless…The TASKONE(iPhonknife) More info from the TaskLab website
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Maybe just me but the cutting the steak etc are all borderline hilarious but for the closet James Bond in you all…maybe?

Seriously though, think I’d still prefer a Leatherman.

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Sony launches the FDR-AX100 4K camcorder at CES. 4K for 2k – Can HDTV survive?

Sony have just announced the release of a 4K camcorder for under 2K.

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PS If you are watching this video on a PC or MAC with good broadband and lots of RAM then select 4K from the cog wheel resolution menu at bottom right

The FDR-AX100 could be the salvation of traditional Video Journalism from the clutches of Mobile! Or maybe Im guilty of writing a contentious headline just as click bait! :)

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What intrigues me about 4K is that it can look so real that it is like looking through a window. What also interests me is that the 4K revolution is happening on the coat-tails of the DSLR video revolution – both of which have had their greatest impact in content production for online.

Let me clarify that statement. I work in TV and at the same time Im a fan of new technology, this can sometimes cause friction with some of my engineering colleagues as Im prone to rave about new technology and they often feel like they are left to figure out how to make it work within the system and structures already in place in our station… This can be issues with frame rates 25fps/30fps, Interlaced Vs Progressive, Moire, Rolling Shutter etc etc. But heres the thing, most TV broadcasters have either transitioned to HD or are about to. To do this in a broadcast environment is a very substantial cost – millions of Euros usually. With that comes the commitment that the assets purchased will have a reasonable capital value for 5-7 years for accounting purposes. This then implies that the company is unlikely to look for another huge Capital technology investment for a similar period. However the revolution that is happening in mobile devices (Samsung Note III 4K), dslrs and 4K cameras is moving at an iteration rate far faster than that cycle.

What Im trying to say is that 4K as an acquisition format is likely to be adopted for online production with the same vigour HD DSLRs/ footage was. Remember the Canon 5DMarkII was launched on 17th September 2008, and look at the evolution of DSLR cinematography since. Sonys camera price point ($2K) makes it pretty accessible for anyone with a prosumer to professional interest in content production. Apples New MacPro, expensive beast that it is, is designed for 4K editing on FCPx. Netflix, YouTube and Amazon are all preparing to jump on the 4K bandwagon. The latest codecs HEVC (H.265) and XAVC-s will be capable of the necessary acquisition and streaming requirements to create and deliver the content over IP in pretty stunning 4K quality (compressed though it is) so the key point here is that there is a real possibility that 4K as an acquisition and delivery format will leapfrog traditional linear broadcast and be the key enabler of Video over IP and VOD on a massive scale.

http://thenextweb.com/gadgets/2014/01/07/first-impression-twice-bandwidth-lgs-4k-netflix-enabled-tv-sweet/

Will you buy a 4K smart / connected TV in the next year or two?

For more info on the Sony camera check out a comprehensive review from the always excellent Matt Allard on newsshooter.com

Here’s the official Sony Product page

Is 2014 the year of the 360º Immersive Video revolution? Check out some of the front-runners.

A little preamble….Danfung Dennis became famous for his documentary “Hell and back Again” which won both the World Cinema Jury Award and World Cinema Cinematography Award at 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was subsequently nominated for an Academy Award in 2012.

After the theatrical release of the movie Dennis founded a company “Condition One” which developed an Immersive 360° Video App for the iPad and iPhone. I remember downloading the App and being impressed with the fact that you were moving through space in realtime but could effectively pan the camera around to explore the scene. It reminded me of a ride at the Epcot centre many years ago which had a 360° fly through of Thailand from the air. The last I heard Dennis was working on 360° camera to contribute to his platform.

Over the last 10 years Nicholas Woodman, Founder of Woodman Labs – the makers of GoPro has been iterating a robust, wearable camera that can shoot HD video and HiRes photographs. In fact if you haven’t heard of Gopro then I would struggle to know how you ended up on this blog!. Woodman is now a billionaire after FoxxConn invested over $200million in the company.  Click here for a really great interactive timeline from Forbes.com of the evolution of Gopro from 2011 and here for the feature story

While the recent release of the GoPro Hero3+ was met with some mixed reaction, GoPro is still the market leader for wearable cameras. But, I’ve noticed in the last 12 months that there are several new 360° Video cameras appearing with their own viewer software and they may well steal a little Gopro thunder in 2014. Thats if GoPro don’t drop a Hero 360° this year! Of course theres already a couple of versions of this available (sort of) : http://www.360heros.com  http://freedom360.us

Here are the ones on my watch list.

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1. Geonaute (Photo and Video)

Retail Price: €399 (Pre-Launch offer) Launch date TBC – Sign up for info on their website or Follow them on Twitter

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 2. Bublcam (Photo, Video 720p/30fps 1080p/15fps, Live streaming)

Retail Price $579 Expected ship date June 2014  Pre-Order now on their website or Follow them on Twitter

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3. Panono (photo only)

The Panono is currently part of a crowd-funding project on Indiegogo Price and release date to be confirmed but it has already reached its funding goal. For updates follow them on Twitter

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4. Squito Serveball (Photo/Video)

The Serveball is currently in development by its inventor Steve Hollinger. No shipping date as yet.

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5. GoPano

You can record 360° Immersive video on your iPhone using the GoPano attachment. Obviously the overall resolution is substantially lower than that of multiple cameras stitched together but if you want to shoot on a shoestring this will be a good starting point.

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At the other end of the spectrum is a company immersivemedia.com who have several 360° cameras available with one suggested price being in excess of $20,000! Expensive to say the least and I doubt these guys will be happy if any of the above, particularly a 360° Gopro hit the market. Check out one of their demo videos: http://im360.immersivemedia.com/watch/?s=592 Follow them on Twitter

At the end of the day these 360° video platforms will live or die by the effectiveness and ease of use of their respective viewer Apps. While most support options to upload to the respective companies website into special viewer software, (which is embeddable) or alternatively to view the 360° video via a dedicated smartphone or tablet App, I think it would be very interesting if some of them developed a viewer  that works with the Oculus Rift which I mentioned in a blog post recently that truly would be IMMERSIVE.

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A final thought…If it becomes possible to live stream the 360° video to a widely supported viewer like Quicktime then the current trend for Radio stations to video live stream their radio studio output could get very interesting. In effect the audience could become the director of their very own show choosing which direction to look or which presenter/guest to watch. Fun times ahead!

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