3D Printed monitor mount for @DJIGlobal Phantom2 controller

UPDATE: 5th August 2014

Rave Creative (makers of the 3D printed Mount below) have launched a dedicated website for the mount-Click Image to visit

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 16.16.18

Over the weekend I took my DJI Phantom2 Quadcopter out for a quick flight test. I recently got a pair of Zeiss Cinemizer HD Glasses and wanted to test them in parallel with my current set-up with a SmallHD DP4 field monitor.

carl-zeiss-cinemizer-head-mounted-display-e1331248300823

 

Screenshot 2014-06-23 22.24.34

I have the DJI AVL58 Wireless FPV (First Person View) transmitter installed (€250) on the Phantom2 but its not HD.

DJI do sell a 1080p HD FPV system called the LIGHTBRIDGE but it costs around €1,200 so its out of my price range given I’m just an enthusiast and not a professional user. Though today I saw a tweet from Philip Bloom which referred to the Teradek Clip which looks like it might be a good alternative to the Lightbridge-the only downside is its aimed to be used with an iOS or Android receiver-if you enable the RTMP open stream (with the extra license cost) it ends up equivalent to the Lightbridge.

The other thing that might be of interest is the custom 3D printed monitor mount I’m using with my Phanotm Controller…

photoaaaa

This is a 3d printed Monitor mounting bracket designed especially for the DJI Phantom controller. Its designed by Phil Ravenshear from Ravecreative.co.uk and printed using their Makerbot 3D printer. If you are interested in one just drop Phil an email for a quote. Its very sturdy when fitted to the controller and I much prefer it to the carbon fibre-frame options you see online.

photo-2a

photo-3a photo-4a photo-5a

 

DJI Phantom, GoPro and that video of Howth Harbour

****UPDATE**** Ive just spotted on http://radiocontrolledshop.ie that the Zenmuse Gimbal has also been reduced. So you could buy the entire Rig I have, which cost me €1800 approx 6 weeks ago for just €1277.94. Other resellers include http://www.camerakit.ie and http://www.connscameras.ie though their prices may vary.

A few weeks back I blogged about the DjI Phantom Quadcopter I’d just bought.

Image

I promised I’d upload some sample vids but have failed to do so until today. On Saturday evening I took the Phantom out to one of the most picturesque parts of Co. Dublin: Howth and did a few short flyovers. The day was very calm, with very light wind and as sunset was approaching the light was great also (golden hour) .

At time of writing the video had just over 4000 views which Im well chuffed with! Anyway Ive had quite a few tweets asking about the rig, costs etc. So heres the lowdown….

The DJI Phantom was €650 when I bought it 6 weeks ago but the price has now dropped to €420 as the release of the new Phantom II and the Phantom Vision are imminent. (Rumour suggest mid-late October) with the result that if you bought the Phantom 1 recently you will get the option of a discount to upgrade to the Phantom II. More Info here

Image
NOTE: This MAY NOT be what the Phantom II will look like! 😉 (Image Unconfirmed and unlikely as the props look way too small IMO) Could be a great April Fools joke though!- Thanks Tommy.

Image

The Phantom Vision will have its own built in (stabilised) HD Video Camera with a FPV (First Person View) Video Downlink allowing you to SEE what the camera is recording while its flying. No price confirmed yet but to build the extras onto the Phantom 1 (Zenmuse, FPV Transmitter and Viewer, GoPro Hero3 etc) would cost about €2,000 all in.

I added a Zenmuse H3 2D Gimbal (€700) to stabilise the video from the GoPro Hero 3 Black edition (€450). This is how I achieved the smooth flight but I also used the image stabilisation feature of FCPx to remove any slight jitter.

Image

Its worth pointing out that GoPro announced this morning that they are now shipping the Hero3+ which will retail for the same price as the Hero3 was offered – the Hero3 presumably will be available at a discounted price.

Image

The Spec on the Hero3+ still shows 4K video at 15fps – which is no noticeable improvement on the Hero3. The body is smaller (again) the battery life is improved by up to 30% and the Wide angle shot is even wider but there is no Killer feature that Ive read about yet that makes me want to put the Hero3+ on my Xmas wish list.

On the 4 K issue Im surprised GoPro didn’t spec bump this to 25fps given both Acer and Samsung have 4K mobile phones shipping now. For more on the Samsung 4K mobile, watch this video from David McClelland : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ8UvEdlEbg.

If I was thinking of buying a Quadcopter I would hold off a few weeks for the release of the Phantom II.

DJI Phantom Quadrocopter with GoPro Hero 3 mount

Its August but it feels like Christmas to me, not because of unusually bad weather – this is Ireland after all, bad weather is par for the course, but because I collected my DJI Phantom today and am absolutely gagging to try to fly this thing this weekend.

Image

If you have no idea what the hell Im taking about then this awesome short Youtube Video by Matt Quest (aka @questpact) might explain my excitement…

I first saw the DJI Phantom in previews from CES last year. Im already a big fan of GoPro

Image

so when I saw Colin Guinn, CEO of DJI Innovations show a really great UAV / Quadrocopter for less than 1K that came with a mount for a GoPro I got just a tad excited. Its taken me this long to convince my ever suffering better half to let me buy one… You see I bought the Parrot AR Drone a few years back and having flown it about 12 times and smashing it quite badly at the end I felt a bit sheepish about making a case for buying another drone.

Image

But to be honest the only thing the two devices have in common is 4 rotors. With the best of respect to Parrot, its a great thing to play with and the latest version of the ARDrone App that allows you to see the video from the camera on your iPhone and record the video is a huge improvement on the original but it really is a toy by comparison to the Phantom. DJI recently launched a high end Gimble for the Phantom called the Zenmuse H3 2D which will allow you to tilt the GoPro while flying and also has  some vibration dampening in the mount to keep the camera more stable. 

Image

DJI will be launching a new version of the Phantom called VISION soon- it will be more expensive than the current model as it will have its own integral HD / 14mpx camera built in with a gimble (camera stabiliser and tilt controller) and a wireless video relay system so you can see the pictures from the camera on your iOS device via the DJIVision App.

Image

Heres an interview with Colin Guinn shot by Bryan Conover | LightsoundImagination  and a piece from Gizmag about the Vision preview. Hopefully I’ll have some decent sample vids to show you in coming days/weeks (weather permitting!)

SubAqua – the next frontier for Drones

I know its been a while since I posted to the blog and I have to admit I’m struggling to find the time to maintain it. When I started this (over 5 years ago) I was newly single and in a new role in RTE so finding time to research and share was no problem. Now with two wonderful kids and a wife to consider, my evening are precious and with that comes the struggle to balance priorities and interests.

That said I’ve wanted to post this for quite some time…I’ve been a huge fan of UAV’s/RPAS/Drones since the launch of the DJI Phantom 1. The market for unmanned aerial vehicles has exploded over the five years since and the quality, features and range of models has grown exponentially. I’m still flying my Phantom 2 and have been tempted on many occasions to upgrade to either the Phantom 4 or the 3DRobotics Solo but for now I’m cash strapped so will have to make do and mend.

However there is one new area of Drones that is now starting to gain momentum: SubAqua.

I’ve been patiently waiting for a cost effective, HD/4K underwater camera system and in the last few months a few interesting ones have *surfaced*.

1. Aquabotix 
This company, based in the US, have 2 main Subaqua Drones. The Endura and the HydroView. Interestingly no prices are listed on their website (I have requested a quote) but the videos from the Endura look pretty good. Arguably they could do with a 3 axis gimbal with “soft follow” to stabilise but the most impressive thing is the depth. The Endure 300 can dive to 300m although it comes with a 100m tether out of the box so presumably you have to buy extensions to reach that depth. Will update with price if I receive a reply.

***UPDATE: The Endura 300 starts at $25,000 and the Endura 100 $17,000. You would want to be a pro user for that pricepoint.

More infro from their website: http://www.aquabotix.com/

2 . TTRobotix
The TTR Seawolf is a cheaper solution and aimed more towards the enthusiast. Again it is a tethered solution but in this case the depth is limited to 25m-60 meters depending on model. Interestingly one of the versions of the Seawolf has a VR/360 cameramount which in their promotional material shows a LUNA 360 camera attached. The Luna 360, recently funded via IndieGogo is waterproof and submersible.

More info: http://www.ttrobotix.com/ 


3. iBubble

The iBubble, recently successfully crowdfunded via Indiegogo, follows in the footsteps of the aerial equivalents of autonomous drones like the hexoplus, airdog and Lily. The iBubble will autonomously follow a tracker bracelet underwater, which has 8 pre-programmed camera moves but can be switched into manual operation mode or used as an underwater handheld camera. It’s target RRP when finally released* is expected to be around $2000.

More info: http://ibubble.camera/


4. OpenROV
If you are technically minded you could go the open source / DIY route and explore the OpenROV project. Kits are available to buy/build from $899 – $1399.

More info: http://www.openrov.com/


5. BlueRobotics 
An alternative DIY solution is the BlueROV which also relies on open source software via https://ardusub.com/ The BlueROV kit costs $1290

More info: https://www.bluerobotics.com/


6. Fathom

Details are sketchy about the Fathom underwater Drone. Its due for release in “Summer 2016” The team behind the Fathom have said their target price is +/- $500

Limited info: http://fathomdrone.com/

If you know of any other subaqua drone projects please let me know in the comments section. Equally if you own one and have some interesting video to share please post that also.

3DRobotics Solo “Smart Drone” – automating the craft of aerial cinematography

Preamble…I’ve written about my interest in UAV’s previously

You may already know I’m a UAV enthusiast. I think it goes back to my childhood. My dad had a private pilot license when I was a child and he used to take me flying with him every Sunday. I guess I got the bug for flying yet never really thought to pursue a career as a pilot.

Jump forward 30+ years and my latent interest and enthusiasm for flying was reborn of sorts. When I first saw the DJI Phantom I was blown away and had one of those “just take my money-now” moments. I bought the Phantom 1 and quickly learned that flying blind was a tricky undertaking. The first generation carried a GoPro which recorded HD but the out of the box version had no video monitoring or image stabilisation so to be perfectly honest, much as I enjoyed the experience of flying the P1 the user experience was pretty crap and the end results (without stabilisation) were even worse. Yes it created HD aerial footage but after de-fisheye and post production stabilisation the footage looked like jelly.

p1

Then a breakthrough came: the Zenmuse Brushless Gimbal was launched as an add on to stabilise the GoPro on three axis while in flight. However, in order to retrofit the Zenmuse I had to disassemble the P1 and take to soldering components to the motherboard inside. In spite of my time as an engineer I’m no much for teardowns (taking things apart to see how they work) I like seeing other people do it but don’t get a buzz out of it personally. So having reassembled the P1 there was a sense of tinkering with a hobbyist platform which I didn’t like. However the 3 axis stabilised footage was stunning in comparison to the previous footage so that was a big step forward however I was still flying blind.

About 7 months later the Phantom 2 was launched and more accessories had come on stream. I bought the P2 and added the AVL58 RF Video transmitter system (which also required a teardown of the Phantom 2 to retrofit it) But now, with the use of a SmallHD monitor, I could see what the GoPro was shooting while in flight. So my footage improved-somewhat.

p2

Then came the big revelation. The basics of flying a UAV are actually quite simple. Take off, landing, flying straight or even orbiting can be mastered with practice BUT and its a big BUT, with less than 15 minutes flight time you need a LOT of batteries to keep practicing and perfecting. If I’m to be critical, you’ll see why in the video below- in spite of repeated attempts to master orbiting (17 attempts for the Poulnabrone Dolmen for instance) I never really perfected it. I realised that just getting the drone in the air is not enough.

When Philip Bloom shared his award winning Koh Yao Noi I dawned on me that there really is an craft to using the camera on a UAV as a cinematic tool. So much of the content I was seeing shared on YouTube was “raw” in flight footage, no composition, no story. What Bloom managed to achieve (and he is not the first to do it by any means) was to execute cinematic shots with the Phantom and to do that requires 1. Knowledge of Cinematic Composition  2. Practice.

Skip forward to a few weeks ago. I was invited to the launch of the 3DRobotics Solo Smart Drone in London. I’ll be 100% up front and say that as a Phantom2 owner (and someone who is still lusting after the Inspire 1) I was more than a little skeptical about the new platform and DJI competitor.

The day began with a presentation from Colin Guinn, Chief Revenue Officer with 3DRobotics. Guinn was once the face of DJI America, but in a somewhat sensational series of events he left the company before sueing DJI for summarily freezing all the assets of DJI America and firing all the staff.

Guinn has an air of profound confidence on stage and his passion for the entire UAV industry is very apparent. The presentation consisted of a brief background of 3DR, founded in 2007 by former Wired Editor in Chied Chris Anderson. An overview of the technology and a series of explainer videos which will form part of the “Introduction to your Solo” training programme on YouTube.

Of all these the video about the Solo’s “Smart Shots” was the one that peaked my interest.

The smart shots functionality was pitched as the real breakthrough with Solo and having witnessed nearly 80 people, many of whom were absolute UAV novices, take the Solo out for a flight (under the supervision of 3DR pilots) I have to say I really was genuinely impressed with the potential of them.

smart-shots

The four Smart Shot modes straight out of the box are:

Selfie – where the UAV will fly from its hover position to a definable height, range and co-ordinate and back again

Cable Cam – where you can set two user defined positions A / B and record yaw, and tilt for your shots

Orbit – (Which is the one I was most impressed with) where you can define an axis point on the map on screen on the App and then define the perimeter circle the UAV will fly. What I didn’t realise was that you can dynamically adjust the height and diameter as well as tilt on the camera while the Solo is in Orbit mode. This means you can create an incredible spiral shot which stays trained on the subject in the centre of the shot throughout which would be as good as impossible to do manually.

Follow – as the name suggests the UAV will follow the controller at a defined height and range, this also can be modified during flight.

These four functions allowed novices at the flight demo to execute shots that took me months of practice to try to create with the Phantom and it is the Smart Shots which for me, really do make the Solo and exceptional device.

Colin Guinn talked about future firmware updates which include “Dynamic return to home” which will return to the controller position not the point of takeoff (imagine you take off from a moving boat, if the UAV returns to “Home” at takeoff position it will land in the sea where you were). Another future feature is a “playlist or queue” of smartshots where you can schedule complex moves which tap into a combination of the individual smart shots. I caught up with Guinn briefly to ask a few questions after the presentation.

It should be noted that only a couple of days later DJI announced that they would be including an equivalent to “smart shots” in a firmware update very soon.

Either way it is fair to presume that the “cinematic” quality of UAV footage is about to take a big leap forward.

Interview with the Sunday Business Post about MojoCon

I was approached just over a week ago by Steve Dempsey who writes for the Irish Newspaper: The Sunday Business Post.

Screenshot 2015-02-11 23.33.58

The article Steve wrote about MojoCon is available here but its behind a paywall so I asked Steve if he wouldn’t mind me posting the questions he asked me and my answers here on the blog. So with Steve’s permission, here it is:

Q1.     How would you explain to a technophobe grandmother how mobile technology is changing journalism?

A1. I work in television so I will take TV as my case study. The simplest way to demonstrate the evolution of mobile journalism would be to do a quick demonstration. I would begin with a compare and contrast exercise showing traditional television equipment versus mobile:

Here’s what it would involve:

A Photo of a Broadcast Quality News Camera Kit Value: €50,000

A Photo of a Broadcast Editing System Value: €25,000

A Photo of a Broadcast SNG (satellite) Vehicle: Value: €250,000

vj-kit hdslr-kit

I would explain, in simple terms, the role of each of these pieces of equipment and the highly skilled people who operate them in making the evening news bulletin. I would talk about how a television journalist works with these different people to create their stories for the news or how it happens that a journalist can appear live on air. Once I can see that the “granny” has understood the process, roles and logistics of traditional news gathering I would take an iPhone out of my pocket, connect it to her television and play a news story shot by one of our mobile journalists. Then I would ask her did she notice anything different from the stories she sees each night on the news. If we have done our jobs well, then she should notice no discernible difference save perhaps the subject matter is a little lighter than the “top stories of the day” and it is at this point I would demonstrate, not explain, how the story was shot and potentially edited using just the mobile device and a few small accessories.

The second part of the demonstration would feature a bag of traditional journalism equipment. In the bag would be a radio, a laptop, a pocket stills camera, a consumer dv video camera, a minidisc audio recorder, microphone, headphone and notepad and pen. Then item by item I would demonstrate how the mobile phone has a similar function built in and how it really is the swiss army knife of the modern journalist. If the message was received – job accomplished.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 14.53.03

If not, for my last attempt, I would borrow a tale from Michael Rosenblum, who started the self-shoot journalism (video Journalism) movement. Rosenblum, who is speaking at the conference, uses the the introduction of the Gutenberg Printing press as an example of disruptive technology. He compares the process, roles and logistics of making a Bible by hand, the painstaking craft of creating the vellum, harvesting and sourcing the spices and berries to make the ink, the years of learning needed to become a scribe and the additional skills of the illuminator/illustrator – a process of immense skill and craftsmanship and one which produced about one exquisite, priceless Bible per year, per monastery. Then Gutenberg created a way to cast the characters needed to create typefaces and once he had those moulds he could create identical multiples of each character, then with care assembling those characters into sentences and paragraphs he could ink them and apply the ink to paper and in a fraction of the time to produce a page or an entire Bible.

Rosenblum poses the question, how might the scribes and illustrators have reacted when they first laid their eyes on the work of Gutenberg?. Might they have called it inferior quality, poor craftsmanship, might they have gone further and cited his work as heretical and an insult to God? Several hundred years later Gutenberg’s Press is generally regarded as the disruptive force which created the modern print industry. The memory of the highly skilled scribes who handcrafted manuscripts on vellum are reserved for the annals of history.

Q 2.     Where are we in the evolution of journalism due to technology; tip of the iceberg, inflection point, or has most of the disruption you expect already occurred?

A2. I believe we are in the early days of this disruption in journalism and mobile is only one aspect of that evolution. The iPhone was launched in 2007 so it will be 8 years old this year. It has evolved a lot over this time and inspired many similar devices and platforms. Even at that, it is still not a mature product, there are several unfortunate limitations which are slowing adoption and preventing mobile journalism from becoming a truly mainstream solution. Those issues relate to battery life, storage capacity, robustness, lens and imaging chip specifications, technical standards and interfaces and cost. Most of the pioneering work that has taken place relating to mobile journalism has happened in spite of these limitations. There are now numerous accessories and workarounds available to overcome these challenges but these complicate the process, unnecessarily in my opinion.

I do believe that we are probably about to surpass Moore’s law with regard to the technological development cycle of processors etc, the new challenge is in fact overcoming the obvious policy of manufacturers to build in annual obsolescence cycles and force strictly managed, year on year, modest incremental improvement policies. In other words the biggest thing holding back mobile journalism is not actually the evolution of technological capabilities, its the desire to maximise profit year on year by the manufacturers. Sure you might challenge that statement by countering, without the profit there would be no product, but I don’t agree. Mobile journalism at the moment is taking a selection of devices which are not strictly “built for purpose” and using software (Apps) to overcome some of those shortcomings and accessories to overcome the rest. Where the inflection point will appear is when one of the manufacturers decide the journalism & professional content creation market is ready for a dedicated product solution (or accessory) which combines all of the core functionality currently in use but with all the limitations listed above mitigated by being factored into the design also.

There have been some attempts at this already, the Samsung Galaxy Camera, the Panasonic CM1 and a limited number of others but all these devices are aimed primarily at the general public with a few high end “niche” features to try and lure journalists to adopt them also. For me the most interesting thing here is that this bespoke device/accessory may not come from one of the big mobile manufacturers, it may evolve through a crowd funding campaign which will eventually be swallowed by one of the behemoths to take ownership of the IP and see if the product is ready for mass market production. While this process bubbles away in the background, new devices will come on stream that no one in mainstream media will have envisaged but which will leverage the highly connected global user base to bypass traditional delivery channels.

googleglass-prototyping

Though the jury is out on Google Glass, (I’m not convinced Google is finished with it yet,) I think all eyes will be on the Apple watch to see can wearables go mainstream. Glass may have received the lions share of publicity but there is an ever expanding range of alternative wearable cameras which will be far more discreet and less likely to provoke the ire of the “innocent bystander”. Also I believe 360º Video, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality and RPVs (UAV’s/Drones) are all in their very early evolutionary cycle and will in time have an even more substantial impact on journalism and visual content creation.

Q 3.     How is the day to day job of the journalist changing due to mobile technology, and what does a modern, mobile journalist’s toolkit now look like?

A3 That depends very much on two things, one, the attitude and aptitude of the journalist and two, the awareness and vision of their editorial team/management. I’m still surprised when I deliver presentations to management in organisations who are very obviously taken aback by the quality and diversity of content that can be produced with a mobile device. At the end of the day the journalist is a storyteller, what mobile content creation does is offer a new set of tools to allow the journalist to approach how they tell a story and most interestingly adapt the story for different platforms (print/online/mobile/radio/tv). The toolkit is very much dependent on the primary platform the journalist works for. Put simply the mobile tools that a radio reporter needs to fulfil their core role are quite different to those required to produce a mobile journalism story for broadcast television. That said, the principles of demarcation which defined and isolated these platforms are blurring at an unprecedented rate. Newspapers and Radio stations are now commonly producing their own live, WebTV shows. When I researched the accessories that I would ultimately recommend for the RTÉ mobile journalism project I chose solutions which fitted our specific needs. That said, if i were to do that project again now, three years later, I would choose some different accessories which have come onto the market since and which take advantage of the the latest operating system features and new connections.

Be6AQdkIgAAasti.jpg-large

Q 4.     What’s the 100%, full on vision of the journalist of the future? A reporter doing a piece to camera, filmed by a drone mounted camera – programmed to get B-Roll, which will be edited on the way back to the newsroom? What other Sci-Fi stuff can we expect?

A4 As innovation lead part of my role is trying to predict and analyse trends which may have potential and which may be disruptive for our organisation. Oddly enough everything you’ve mentioned in the question is technically possible already. (note https://www.airdog.com | http://hexoplus.com) Forecasting beyond three years is where crystal ball gazing may be required though!

I think the internet of things (IoT) and “Big Data” are the trends that journalists will learn to utilise going forward. More sensors, greater access to data and information will all contribute to journalists roles. Learning to search, collate, curate and verify content will become a prerequisite for journalists, it arguably already is. Faster connectivity, 4G+/LTE and eventually 5G will offer unprecedented connectivity speeds – with those come the potential for realtime remote collaboration, using the cloud to have multiple journalists/storytellers working on a combined story each contributing content and editing it collaboratively in realtime.

DJI-Phantom-Zenmuse-H3-2D-Brushless-Gimbal

I believe that Remote Piloted Vehicles/RPV’s (drones) will get smaller, cheaper, more intelligent spatial awareness, better image quality and longer battery life – with that will come greater regulation and risk management requirements but I have no doubt that live broadcast video from UAVs will become the norm in the next 12-18 months. The technology exists already.

Live video is the one thing that is destined to grow exponentially. Mobile phones, GoPro cameras, DSLR’s all have or are getting realtime connectivity either built-in or via accessories. With all that potential live content how will it be consumed? Online on Mobile- via social media. This week Twitter introduced the Twitter Video platform with the ability to record and edit 30 second sequences and share them directly into your twitter timeline. Twitter is a realtime platform, once they deliver an API that can support a live video stream into your timeline (perhaps Live 360º video) the journalists ability to share realtime content with their audience will grow exponentially. If you would like a great example of what that 360º video might look like then visit http://polarsea360.arte.tv and download their App.

Screenshot 2014-11-30 16.17.27

The other trend I’m watching with interest is personalised news/content. The vast amount of information we reveal about our digital life is been constantly analysed to serve us the most relevant ads, that information is ripe for being fed into an algorithm which will pump out personalised content. Platforms like Flipboard, Zite and others have been experimenting in this space for some time with mixed results but new metrics like device motion activity and eye tracking will allow those algorithms to fine tune content – possibly even measuring emotional sentiment from facial expressions. What would this mean for journalists? I think journalists have always had a “following”, readers, listeners, viewers who like what they say and/or how they say it. What hyper focused personalised content will offer is a new global audience for the journalists who have adapted to the concept of them as a “brand”, their stories, their product will develop an audience on an international stage once it strikes a chord with that audience. It will be a ruthless game though, where mediocrity and lazy journalism will vanish into obscurity – a survival of the fittest. You can see the early stages of this “own brand” content creation with the current generation of YouTube creators. For some, creating daily vlogs or video diaries for YouTube is enough to earn a living, for others, all the effort in the world won’t be sufficient to carve the niche necessary to secure a foothold and loyal following to make it financially viable and sustainable.

One other side note. I believe mobile content creation is perfect for hyper local news and would love the chance to reach out to communities to empower them with the basic skills to create great video content, its been tried by many stations around Europe but has always been predicated on “consumer grade” video cameras and editing software on laptops. Mobile negates the need for that expensive kit, with a few basic accessories and some simplified training anyone can become a visual storyteller (not a citizen journalist).   

Q 5.     Do journalists need to stay on top of technological developments to protect their jobs?

A5 I think the core skills of a journalist are still the most essential part of the role. In fact I think fairness, objectivity, accuracy, impartiality, credibility, verifiability and sound editorial judgement are, and will continue to be, the cornerstone of journalism, irrespective of platform. However I think journalists have an opportunity to add value to their role by enhancing their skill set. Being aware of technology trends is not the same as being a super geek (as I’ve frequently been accused of) it simply means taking a little time to digest some information about the newest gear and if time and budget afford, buying, experimenting with and becoming proficient with these new tools can only be advantageous in the medium term. I’ve been writing a blog (https://tvvj.wordpress.com) about such tools for over five years now, which as much as possible gives an honest and impartial account of my tests on this equipment. If you are a Twitter user then you can readily find and follow influencers who test and review new gear also.

Q6.     How did the idea for the conference come about and are there any other conferences like it internationally?

A6 There are lots of conferences held every year which seek to address shifts in journalism and news gathering. Similarly there are lots of conferences where the emphasis is almost entirely on equipment. Over the last three years I’ve spoken at over 20 such conferences around Europe and the Middle East and I’ve been struck, time and time again by the absence of a holistic approach to the topics. I took my combined experience from those events and put together a proposal to address what I saw as a substantial vacuum in the available conferences exploring the incredible potential of mobile content creation.

When I pitched the MoJoCon idea to Richard Waghorn, RTÉ’s CTO and my line manager, I outlined the concept that I wanted to create the conference around the experience of the delegate. The idea translated into three core strands.

One: The Plenary Sessions. To facilitate the delegate to come and hear experiences and case studies from pioneers and innovators from around the world who have all pushed the boundaries of mobile content creation.

Two. The Exhibition. To have the opportunity to explore a selection of the accessories and Apps that make professional mobile content creation possible and if you wish, test out and buy the kit you will need.

Three. The Workshops and Training. To offer the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the industry, with the option to choose two, 3 hour workshops designed to give the delegate the confidence to start their journey in mobile content creation.

In hindsight there was a fourth element which has only started to become apparent now that the event is nearing fruition. Networking and building a global community of mobile journalists and content creators who can share, encourage, support and inspire each other going forward.

Screenshot 2015-02-11 23.50.14

Ironically several weeks after we launched Mojocon I was contacted by the ONA (Online News Association), an american non-profit journalism association with chapters around the world, who told me they were planning a mobile journalism conference for March in London and wondering how much crossover there might be. Luckily they wanted to focus quite specifically on optimising content for mobile and less on the content creation side. A number of speakers I had provisionally approached have since joined their lineup, mainly UK based ones but overall the impact has been minimal. I am not aware of any other dedicated conferences which explore mobile journalism, filmmaking, photography and storytelling in one event.

Q 7.     What keynote speakers/main attractions will be there? Who are you most looking forward to seeing?

A7 Our two keynote speakers are in my opinion, exceptional. Richard Sambrook, Director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff School of Journalism spoke at the Future of News Session at the International Broadcast Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam in September and he was the talking point of the entire session. Richard was formerly the director of the BBC World Service and he will give a keynote on audience and content trends. Gerd Leonhard, is a futurist. I’ve been following him for several years after I saw a Ted Talk he did on the future of business, communications and media. He will deliver a keynote looking at future trends in journalism and the media and some of the topics I outlined earlier. Between them the delegates will get a state of the nation and the future disruptive trends and opportunities to watch.

Uneasy_3 
Image Courtesy of Detention Films

I’m personally particularly looking forward to the mobile filmmaking session. Conrad Mess has won numerous awards for his iPhone short films, Michael Koerbel was one of the first directors to make an iPhone short film and he subsequently was one of the directors of photography who took part in a controversial documentary called “Revenge of the Great Cameras Shootout” which compared cameras ranging in price for €80,000 down to €800 (the iPhone) to see if the audience could tell the difference. Ricky Fosheim is the director of “And Uneasy Lies the Mind” one of the very first feature length films shot using an iPhone – which is timely given all the recent buzz surrounding Sean Baker’s “Tangerine” Movie at Sundance.

tangerine

The photography session has a slew of great smartphone photographers, I’m really looking forward to both the presentation and Saturday workshop from Jack Hollingsworth but Dan Rubin is a phenomenal photographer also so looking forward to see what I can learn from him and the other photographers. Having my former colleagues Mark Little (Storyful) and Blathnaid Healy (Mashable) back in Dublin to join the social media panel is a highlight, I could go on and on. Have a look at the full list of speakers yourself and you’ll see the immense diversity and range lined up.

Q 8.     What will the conference offer the different tranches of media professionals?

8a.     Management

For managers the highlight of the conference will be to see the diverse case studies from individuals and organisations who have already embraced the potential of mobile. My experience of senior managers when talking about mobile journalism is they perceive it as a journalistic pressure group seeking a method to get the most expensive “trophy phone” available. Once they hear and see the real world examples and use cases I think they will seriously revisit and re-evaluate what mobile journalism can/could do for their organisation. There are some truly thought provoking case studies in the line-up. Coupled with that will be the exhibition where they can learn about the costs of equipment and the functionality they can achieve, all this assisting with building a business case for how, why and what to pursue strategically.

8b.     Reporters/foot soldiers

For journalists working in the field they will get a chance to hear from and enter into debate with their peers from a substantial range of respected companies including BBC, NRK, CNN, Aljazeera, and more. All the sessions are designed to demonstrate and illustrate different content types that can be created using mobile. I’m hoping the diversity will be eye opening to all the delegates who may not fully understand how much can be achieved with a mobile device.

The journalists I’ve met on training courses usually fall into one of three categories.

1. The enthusiast, who sees the potential, is ambitious and can easily connect the dots that join the additional skills with their professional value/desirability.

2. The procrastinator, who understands the value and gets the logic of mobile but is hesitant because of concerns about professional credibility (“how can I be taken seriously as a professional journalist if I take my phone out to shoot an interview?”) or more commonly are extremely worried about being ostracised by their colleagues who perceive mobile as a direct threat to their roles, by this I mean photographers, cameramen, editors etc.

In truth mobile journalism is not a replacement or alternative but in fact an additional tool in the overall organisational strategy. Managers need to make it clear that mobile is not being embraced to cut costs or to reduce staff but in fact to empower every member of staff as a content creator.

3. Hard-bitten, cynical hacks, who are potentially resistant to change…

8c.      Hard-bitten, cynical hacks, who are potentially resistant to change

Tough crowd by all accounts. I’ve delivered training to journalists in organisations who are “very traditional” and perceive mobile content creation as just another way for management to squeeze more work out of them for no additional pay. Upon further discussion though it is usually apparent that there has been no dialogue with the journalists before the course. They have been sent, to participate, sometimes obliged to attend without any idea of the motivation or possible outcomes. If I was in that position I would be inclined to be suspicious too. To this group I would say this. The keynote speakers will give you statistical analysis of trends that will illustrate how your audience is getting their content, what they watch, what they don’t, what works and what doesn’t work and where these trends are likely to go. The plenary sessions will give you a very broad insight into global usage of mobile journalism and content creation in lots of different situations and scenarios. If nothing else, come and learn whats going on and at least be informed when the discussion finally kicks off in your organisation about mobile.

8d.     Others, I’ve forgotten in my rush to stereotype media workers

Several people have expressed surprise that I included NGO’s and PR agencies in the target audience. But both of these groups can derive huge potential from the sessions. NGO’s traditionally commission TV crews to produce highly polished promotional videos to highlight their efforts and demonstrate where funding is being spent. I’ve long held the view that I would prefer a weekly/monthly video diary shot by an aid worker where they are working to explain their efforts, even if it is comparably raw footage, because with that rawness comes authenticity. NGO’s can use these videos and photographs from their field workers to document their efforts and share via social media all the various projects they are involved in. The benefits are more intimate, immersive content- more transparency and credit for their efforts. Yet most NGO’s have never even explored the potential of up-skilling their staff to produce this content, usually under the misimpression that it is too complicated/expensive etc.

Similarly PR agencies often rely on traditional media to turn up at launches and press event to garner publicity but in fact they could use mobile content to create their own exclusive clips, interviews and content for their website, clients websites and social media. Again few PR agencies have even considered this potential.

Last but not least, journalism and media students. The students studying media production and journalism today are graduating into a brave new world where “career for life” jobs are long gone and the best they might get starting out their careers is an internship. Yet some of the mobile filmmakers speaking at MojoCon managed to make entire feature films by thinking outside the box. Ricky Fosheim used crowdfunding platform “Kickstarter” to fund his film. For students, who often learn from academics that follow a tried and tested curriculum, but who are not necessarily always aware of the latest disruptive trends, the conference will give them an insight into opportunities they may never have even thought existed.

Q 9.     How’s registration going? Is there a big interest? Should people who are interested be rushing to get tickets?

A9 I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the feedback and interest to date. Over 50% of the tickets sold are for overseas delegates and with 44 days to go, overall ticket sales are ahead of expectation. Vodafone Ireland came on board as our partners for the event and their sponsorship was pivotal in making this event happen. I’ve dealt with a very small number of complaints (four in total) about the ticket prices being too expensive but this is not an event aimed at the general public, its strategically targeted at professionals and businesses and it is cheaper than many comparable industry events in the U.K. It is important to consider that bringing over 40 speakers from around the world to Dublin, providing accommodation for them and then the venue and catering and marketing budget means there are very real costs associated with running this event.

Mojocon is not for profit, none of the speakers are being paid to speak, in fact the ticket prices are pitched to just break even. I was determined to keep the numbers intimate so there are only 300 tickets available in total, with less than 100 remaining now. To make it accessible to students there is a student discount code which you can request from us via email and a buy four, get one free group code also.

I think it will be interesting to watch the remaining tickets sell over the coming weeks. We still have a few interesting announcements to make. A few more intriguing speakers to reveal, lots more Saturday workshops to announce and another couple of interesting sponsors to reveal too. Plus I will start a weekly Google Hangout on Air with a number of guests on each show to ramp up the mojo conversation.

MojoConTFcomp-POSTERv1

If the ticket prices are completely beyond reach for you, we are running a competition, in partnership with the Thomson Foundation, to win flights, accommodation, VIP tickets and a complete mobile journalism kit -all you have to do is create a mojo story that captures the imagination of the judges.

Full details are on our website: http://mojocon.rte.ie

Which Lapel mic for mojo? Final Microphone test (for a while) AKG 417pp Vs MXL FR 361 Lavalier

Sennheiser MKE 2-EW GOLD  Mke2 Gold For Evolution Wireless With 3.5Mm Jack.  Black**     009831.jpg

Back in 2011 when I tested various bits of gear for our RTE Mojo kits I was initially going to go for the Sennhesiser MKE2 OR the Sony ECM77b. Both these microphones are exceptional quality and are in everyday use for broadcast. However the price of them is what sent me digging deeper for an alternative! The ECM 77b is approx €450 and the cheaper Sennhesiser MKE2 is around €300.

Be6AQdkIgAAasti.jpg-large

Given that one of the aims of the mojo project was to try to create a “grab bag” with all the accessories needed to equip a mobile journalist in the field, but ideally not costing more than that phone, the inclusion of either of these mics would have blown the budget. I found the AKG 417pp Phantom Lavalier and it ticked all the boxes – the sound was good (perhaps not as good as the Sony/Sennheiser) enough, the build was robust and the price was right. €110-€130. We’ve been using it in our kits since.

Recently however I noticed that MXL Microphones had started to explore mobile content production in a BIG way.
They have a set of  mobile specific accessories including a dedicated lavalier and miniature rifle mic with grip (Click images below for more details) but it is their Pro grade Lav mics that were of interest to me…

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 13.56.25 Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 13.55.49

MXL actually have two microphones in the Lav kits. One Omni Directional and one Cardioid.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 13.59.33

So I decided to test the FR-361 against the Akg 417pp in two different situations. First I did a sound ONLY test in one of our radio booths.

As with all the recent audio tests I used Google Glass to record what I was doing and posted the two separate clips to Soundcloud directly from the Voice Record Pro App…

Then I enlisted the help of RTE News “Mojo Champion” Philip Bromwell and recent mojo trainee Aisling Kenny to do a real world interview setup using FilMic Pro. Philip chose the RTE canteen, which is a noisy environment but with good light, and we set up two iPhone 5S with FilMicPro, IKMultimeida iRog Pre and the two lab mics which recorded the interview in parallel.

I would encourage you to listen using good quality over ear headphones to assess the sound.

So YOU decide if the MXL Quality and Value is a rival for the AKG, Sennhesiser and Sony. I think its fair to say there is a choice for every budget available now.

akg-mxl-price

DSLRPros Sp1 Handheld Smartphone Gimbal- Initial thoughts

Have you ever looked back at a video you shot handheld on your smartphone on a big screen and couldn’t believe how shaky, wobbly, jelly like the footage was?

Most smartphones are prone in varying degrees to this “jello effect” aka jitter and also to rolling shutter which makes vertical lines in the shot bend when you move above a particular speed. One way to avoid these issues is to put your smartphone on a tripod or a flat surface to KEEP IT STEADY! But there are alternatives if you really must shoot handheld with movement…I recently blogged about some of the current Smartphone and GoPro Gimbals that are available or are about to launch so I’m not going to repeat any of that just click the link above to read that original article. I’ve had my eye on two of the ones I mentioned and yesterday the first order arrived:

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 13.48.14

The DSLR Pros Sp1 Handheld Smartphone Gimbal.

I avoided the usual unboxing video and decided to jump straight in. I put the 3S 11.1V Lipo battery on charge and then prepped to take the SP1 for a test.
Unusually I decided to use Google Glass to record the setup and test also so you can see what I see (through Glass) and what the iPhone 5s is shooting using the Gimbal as two separate recordings.

A few notes.

The SP1 is listed on the DSLRPros Website as $299 but, as I mentioned in the first video if you are in Ireland, theres a surprise in store when you go to checkout and select your shipping options:

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 13.52.48
The CHEAPEST delivery option is $153.41 in addition to the $299! Maybe its just me but that seems like an incredibly expensive price for a small box. Perhaps the Lipo battery is seen as high risk and is partly responsible but even still I think those prices are WAY WAY WAY too expensive. So much so that I tweeted DSLRPros about it on 31st July but have still received no response from them!

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 13.58.08

The other cost to bear in mind (in Ireland anyway) is the customs duty which in this case amounted to a further €70 bringing the grand total for this unit to a whopping $546.16 (€407) 

Anyway in spite of the cost this is the first of its kind that is already shipping and I’m already aware of how effective the DJI Zenmuse H33d gimbal is with the GoPro on my Phantom Quadcopter so I had to check this out.

Interestingly, Once you open the handle the battery is clearly labeled…
BeHolder 3S 1000mAh 11.1V
and as the SP1 only comes with one battery included I decided to google the BeHolder name to see if I could source spare batteries…

Thats when I discovered that the SP1 is re-branded by DSLRPros, it is in fact made by teamrebeldesign.com but it appears they don’t sell direct via the website. This would lead me to believe that the Ikan model in the post mentioned above may well be the exact same unit from Teamrebeldesign but I cannot confirm this.

UPDATE: @Lucas_Afrilive contacted me to say that in fact TeamRebelDesign DO sell direct- here is the link

hsp-02_resize

Anyway the point is..IS IT WORTH €400? Having played with it for several hours now I’m actually inclined to say YES – it would be much more tempting if it were cheaper though, but there is no doubt that it really does make motion VERY smooth and its much much easier to use than a manual steadicam like the Smoothie. One of the really nice features is you can “lead” it into turns by twisting you wrist and it gently follows the move. I’ll be playing with it more over the weekend and if i shoot anything half decent I’ll share it but as a closing note I do think this is a landmark in Mojo filmmaking and I’me really excited to see how these units develop over the coming months.

I found the manual on Slideshare in case you need it:

Or alternatively it can be viewed here

 

PS My only disappointment with the SP1 is that I can’t balance it with my MoonDogLabs Anamorphic Adapter which is such a shame as I would love to shoot some 2.40:1 Footage with it! 😦

The Jello Effect in Mojo and options for stabilising your Smartphone or GoPro

If you are a regular follower of the blog you’ll know I talk about the iPhone as a mobile journalism solution a lot, but I also occasionally blog about one of my other interests: UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or “Drones” as some call them, though thats a title I loathe.

Anyway the two topics have a common thread and that thread is becoming quite a substantial crossover. UAVs like the DJI Phantom have the option of a Go Pro Stabiliser Gimbal called the ZenMuse H3-3D. What this device does is it corrects the position of the GoPro relative to the pitch/yaw/tilt of the UAV. Or in simple terms it keeps the GoPro steady while the UAV is moving and tilting around.


dji-phantom-2-uk-stock
Image via http://www.quadcopters.co.uk

The iPhone (particularly the older 4/4s) was extremely prone to rolling shutter and jitter-sometimes referred to as the “Jello Effect”. If you’ve tried walking behind a fast moving subject you may often notice the extreme shake in the picture and if you Pan (turn left or right) quickly all the vertical lines will bend very noticeably. During our Mojo courses I strongly recommend that trainees get into the habit of using either a tripod or monopod but thats not always practical. This is where the UAV Gimbal Stabiliser technology is now starting to have an impact on smartphones and GoPro.

A growing number of manufacturers are using the same Inertial Monitoring Unit Chip (IMUs) as those used in UAVS to create handheld brushless motor gimbals for Smartphones and GoPro. I’ve been trying to decide which one to buy for some time so I thought I’d share the ones I’ve been considering in case you are in the market for one also.

This is a THINGLINK image grab – If you click it you will be redirected to the Thinglink site where you can click on each image and go to the manufacturers website to get more information and pricing.

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 12.31.09

 

Its probably worth mentioning that these handheld units are baby versions of the much bigger and more expensive Stabilisers like the pioneering  FreeFlyCinema Movi M5 | M10

moviM5-1_8fb63030-3e61-4167-8295-5cc7cc600eba_1024x1024
and many of the others who have subsequently created their own versions.

If you want to see what can be achieved with these handheld stabilisers then checkout this Playlist

IkMultimedia iRig Pre Vs iRig Pro – quick video test

Ive been waiting for the iRig pro to arrive since it was launched at IFA Berlin a few weeks ago. This Video was shot on an iPhone 5 with FilMicPro and using an aKg 417PP Lavalier (Lapel) Mic. Until now the iRig Pre has been a pivotal part of my MOJO Grab bag allowing me to connect any XLY microphone to my iPhone and set levels, monitor (if the app supports it) and add Phantom power – The iRig Pro has the same features but it connects via the Dock port instead of the headphone/microphone jack hence the connection is completely digital. Decide for yourself if the Pro is worth the €150 price (versus €29 for the Pre)

UPDATE******
A member of the IKMultimedia team replied to this post to establish the key differences between the iRig Pre/Pro:

1) As iRig PRO uses the Lightning/30 pin digital connector, the sound quality is far higher than the iRig PRE which relies on the analog input circuitry of the device. If you need broadcast quality, then digital is the route to take.
2) iRig PRO is also a guitar interface, which can additionally take line level audio signals
3) iRig PRO is also a MIDI interface allowing you to receive MIDI data from keyboards, drum pads and other similar devices.
So it is a 3 in 1 interface with 24 bit digital quality. So we think it is definitely worth the extra cost!