Circom Regional / MTVA Mojochallenge Recap


I’m just back from a fantastic week in Budapest where I led the beginners training course of the Circom Regional / MTVA Mojochallenge. I was joined by some of the best mojo trainers in Europe, John Inge Johansen from NRK Norway, Guillaume Kuster from France Television, Darko Flajpan and Dado Pokec from HRT Croatia, Tibor Kormany from MTVA Hungary.

A total of 20 journalists drawn from stations and countries across Europe came to participate in the challenge. 10 beginners went through a very intensive 3 day mojo masterclass and 10 advanced participants (who had previously completed mojo training) were led through advanced editorial and storytelling by Karol Cioma, Training Manager with Circom Regional and Jane French from BBC.

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After the three days training on shooting and editing with the iPhone/iPad, each Mojo was expected to find a story, shoot it within a day and edit it the following day. Stories could be up to 4 mins in duration. Here are the final stories from the beginners group:

and here are the stories from the Advanced group:

Tibor and Dado worked away on a behind the scenes video of the event and I think it really captures the spirit of the Mojochallenge.

Thanks to the fantastic participants and trainers team for a truly wonderful experience.



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.


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.


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.


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.

Testing the Sennheiser MKE2 Digital and the ClipMic Digital at the same time. [audio comparison]


I’ve just taken delivery of the Sennheiser MKE2 Digital Lavalier mic for iOS products. I got the ClipMic Digital a few weeks back and did an unboxing video and audio test in this blog post.

Given the price difference between the MKE2 Digital (RRP €499) and ClipMic Digital (RRP €220) I wondered if I did an audio test using them similtaneously would there be a discernable difference in the quality of the recordings.g

I used the Apogee MetaRecorder companion App for the recording test on two iPhone 5’s and then imported and synched each (mono) audio track from the App into FinalCutPro to use with the footage shot on Google Glass. Its not a very scientific test to be fair but I was interested in the results. In the Video I panned the two track left and right so if you use decent headphones to listen to the video you should be able to notice the subtle differences.

But just in case you don’t notice any difference I’ve uploaded each recording from the App as an individual track on Soundcloud also. I’m curious to hear what you think. For me the MKE2 is cleaner, less hiss and not quite as heavy on the bass but it was interesting to note that at -18dB the ClipMic recording level was higher than the MKE2. It is a smaller capsule I suppose.

Is Apple’s New iPod Touch the best budget #mojo device?

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We’re recently bought a couple of Apple’s latest iteration of the iPod touch. I’ve been testing it for the last few days and I have to say – this really is a great budget #mojo solution.

I’ve tested our preferred video App: FilMiCPro on it and it works fine with only one little bug* which is in full manual focus mode, when you slide the control bar on the left to set a focus point the iPod Touch Autofocus overrides it. But that may well be something that the FilMiC team can sort out. 1080 25p works perfectly. The camera is the same 8MP iSight as used in the iPhone 5 (which was pretty damn good) though aperture is f2.4 whereas 5s/6/6plus all have f2.2.

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If you buy the new iPod Touch you get iMovie free (as well as a selection of other Apple Apps) and the great news is Audio In via lightning works perfectly too. I tested the Sennheiser ClipMic Digital and the iKMultimedia iRig Pro with the AKG 417pp Lav mic.

Speaking of the Sennheiser ClipMic Digital I found it for under €200 on the Thomann website thats the cheapest price I’ve seen anywhere (so far).

When you think about the inspired project that BBC’s Nick Garnett initiated with Dr. Alex Kumar during the Ebola crisis, where, with a previous generation iPod touch, Dr. Kumar shot first person iWitness content on the ground at one of the Ebola Treatment centres and it auto transferred back to BBC via Dropbox whenever the iPod was connected to WiFi.

Click image to view report:

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it suggests to me that the iPod touch may well be the perfect solution for Hyperlocal content creation or NGO projects. Remember you can pair the iPod to any smartphone via WiFi tethering to allow it to livestream and transfer so you are not restricted to just fixed wifi spots for connectivity either. If you go for the 128Gb version of the new iPod Touch it is less than half the price (€469 in the Irish Apple Store) of the 6plus 128Gb (€999) version – thats one hell of a saving!

So with all that in mind here is my latest #budgetmojo solution. (it links to an interactive Thinglink image)


Unboxing and 1st audio tests with the Sennheiser ClipMic Digital for iOS

Today I got my hands on the Sennheiser ClipMic Digital mic for iOS so I decided to shoot a quick unboxing video and then do an audio test and a video test to pitch it against the iKmultimedia iRigPro and AKG 417pp Lav which we currently use for Mobile Journalism here in RTÉ.

I have to say the build quality is excellent. The capsule is very high quality and the windscreen is a very snug fit (unlike the one with the AKG mic)

I decided to use two iPhone 5’s with the Apogee MetaRecorder App on both to test the audio performance. First in an open space (my training room) then briefly outside and then finally in one of our radio booths (sound insulated).

Lastly I tested both mic setups into FiLMic Pro to see how the audio performed in that situation.

Probably best to listen using headphones as I put both recordings into a stereo track and panned them L and R. I’m going to get some of my colleagues from radio to test the Sennheiser also, just to get their feedback (well trained ears!)

Also one final note – I was incorrect about the price of the Sennheiser ClipMic Digital, I said about €300 but I found it for €227 so quite a difference. Worth noting the iRig Pro €120 and AKG 417pp around €130 will bring them quite close cost wise.

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8 Journalists, 4 iPhones, one big experiment. NDR Hamburg tries out mobile journalism

Guest post by Bjorn Staschen NDR Bjoern The outset might have been a little bold: We wanted to try out the possibilities of mobile journalism for a regional newsroom. And we wanted to do it with colleagues who had quite some journalistic experience, but hadn´t tried reporting from their mobile phones yet. The goal was to produce a proper special edition of our regional news. It  wouldn´t go out on air, but we would use the studio crew, our known workflows and structures. The only thing that was differemt: The whole content should be produced on smartphones. Would it work? I work at NDR, the public service broadcaster providing Northern Germany with television, radio and internet. My department is the Hamburg Newsroom, which contributes to ARD´s national news in „Tagesschau“ and „Tagesthemen“, but also produces its own regional news bulletin „NDR Aktuell“. We had started intruducing a VJ workflow into our daily routines about a year ago, and we had looked into mobile journalism. Though so far we hadn´t actively tried it out. It was a Friday afternoon, when eight of my colleagues gathered around our conference table. The had a proper day´s work behind them already. But they were enthusiastic enough to try out something new. We had about three hours to prepare for the „big day“ on Saturday: We wanted to cover a civil protection exercise that the Hamburg regional government had organized with more than 300 volunteers. Their story: Hamburg was suffering from a great flood and had to open up emergency shelters for citizens who had lost their homes. For producing packages, I introduced my colleagues to filming with FilmicPro and editing with Pinnacle Studio. I had chosen both Apps in order to be able to film and edit with 25 frames per second. We had tried Pinnacle Studio beforehand and compared an edited report to the same material gone through iMovie which only does 30 fps – Pinnacle´s result on air was remarkably better. Our equipment We used iPhone5s with iRig Pre, the low-cost-alternative to iRig Pro (and that´s the reason – to keep it cheap…), and Rode (NTG1 & 3) microphones. The issues were the usual ones during our first trials: The focus was not in the face of an interviewee, but on the wall behind him. Same for the exposure, which highlighted a window, but not the person in shot. Sound was too low and editing was quite rough. We also planned to go live from the scene via LiveU and Dejero mobile Apps. We had asked the companies to install a server for this trial, and they had agreed. ARD had introduced a ReporterApp (VizReporter) about 2 years ago which we used for the upload of the finished packages. It doesn´t provide good enough quality for live links though. Then came Saturday morning. We had split up in four groups with two reporters each, having to produce one package and a live talk. And we had arranged a WhatsApp group for internal communication which helped a lot. I introduced my colleagues to the scenario bit by bit, like it was a real developping news situation: „There´s severe flooding in the South of Hamburg, homes being evacuated.“ „We´ll produce a ´NDR Aktuell extra´ at 2pm“.  Which meant: My colleagues had about two hours on the scene to film, edit and overvoice their packages before getting ready for the live link. Reporting via iPhone About an hour before the programme I sat nervously in front of my computer screen waiting for the first reports to come in. The first uploads appeared on the screen the blue progress bars moved nerve wreckingly slowly. When the first transmission was done, I looked at the news piece: It was a great report of nearly two minutes length, focusssing on the story of a family who had come into one of the emergency shelters. Four soundbites, good pictures – I was amazed at what my colleagues had done. All four reports would have been broadcast quality in an emergency scenario though some sound transitions were a bit rough and some pictures weren´t perfect. On two iPhones, we encountered a problem with Pinnacle Studio: During saving the finished report to the camera roll, some pictures were distorted by artefacts. I did some research with Glen Mulcahy´s help and spoke to Luma Touch. They came back to me quickly and acknowledged that Pinnacle Studio produces some glitches with the Apple H264 decoder when writing in „best“ quality. We started our bulletin on time at 2 pm. It went through without any interruption. Our sound engineer had to do some serious correcting on the packages and the life links, the audience though would possibly not have noticed a lot. The first live link via Dejero was great: My colleague Michael reported standing in front of a school that was used as an emergency shelter. The picture was good, he transmited with around 5 Megabit per second. Little arterfacts only showed up some seconds long. The second live link via LiveU app was about as good though the latency wasn´t put in correctly. Therefore we had a delay of about 5 seconds. Torben, the reporter on scene, didn´t get a second question therefore. The third live link to Elena via LiveU had some serious connection problems with only 2Mbps. Also, the camera tried to refocus throughout the link. It would have still been good enough in an emergency. With Daniel standing inside a building where an emergency task force was set up, everything went fine via Dejero. Livelink to studio via Dejero This is one feedback we gave to the Dejero and LiveU developpers: Their apps need some simple camera control like locking focus and exposure. That wouldn´t make the Apps much more complex, but it would improve the broadcast quality immensly. After 12 minutes, our bulletin was over. The studio crew was a little irritated by the picture quality and sound problems. They are used to perfect material. On our side though, we found the result at least good enough to use it in case of an emergency. And some stuff was really amazing. My colleagues had only three hours of training, and they had done some great work. Which was a surprising result to me: Mobile journalism doesn´t seem to be too complicated to open it up to many colleagues throughout a broadcasting company. Everyone taking part in our little experiment was enthusiastic afterwards. I am sure they will stay friends of #mojo. And for NDR Hamburg, we have discovered a way to improve our coverage of breaking news situations and go on air quicker, with more material from the scene. ***Editors note*** The manual focus and exposure controls were raised with both Dejero and LiveU at the Mojocon exhibition. I believe that if more broadcasters created/signed an online petition we would see faster respone to these requests. Also 3 hours training for a “as real world” live situation is really putting journalists and support crews under pressure. It takes some time to get used to the process of locking exposure, focus and white balance in FilMic and ensuring audio levels are set at their optimum. I would advise NDR to identify 8-10 Mojo “Champions” who could participate in a 4 or 5 day #mojo masterclass which **gratuitous plug** both myself and Philip Bromwell run on behalf of RTE. Your 8-10 mojo masters could then perfect the specific training for your staff and be the “Go To” people on the ground should an emergency like the one rehearsed for, ever actually happen. All that said, I think this was a very ambitious undertaking and I’m extremely grateful that Bjorn shared it with the blog. You can follow Bjorn on Twitter: @BjoernSta

DXO ONE – Could this be a “Game Changer” for Mojo? We’ll have to wait and see…

UPDATED 28-6-15 with 2 demo videos from the DxO YouTube Channel.

Two years ago Sony introduced the QX range of Cameras, designed to work as an image capture device which uses a smartphone as the viewfinder. All the heavy lifting was done by the QX camera with connection to the smartphone via WiFi or NFC. The cameras originally released were the QX10 and QX100 with the QX1 and QX30 being introduced the following year. I bought the QX10 shortly after release and I was very impressed with the image quality and the 10X optical zoom. Sony-QX-range The downsides however were the latency between the camera and the phone over wifi. At times this could be as long as 8 seconds which meant shooting video with any sort of movement was virtually impossible. They also lacked any microphone in which would have been excellent as the QX could be operated via over wifi with a substantial distance between itself and the phone. I’ve written previously about the QX and my colleague Ivor Carroll did a great field trial with them also. I picked up a story yesterday on Twitter from PetaPixel about a new iOS only Camera called the DXO ONE.DxO ONE iPhone Angle What we know so far is the camera is 20.2 megapixel, 1″ CMOS sensor, 32mm equivalent f1.8 lens. The body is aluminium. It has no viewfinder – the iPhone acts as the viewfinder using the companion App. It connects to the iPhone via Lightning connector. THIS IS NEW and to me this is big news. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time an external imaging device has been released which has connected to the iPhone via Lightning. I cannot say for certain but one immediate benefit should be the latency experienced with the QX range over Wifi is virtually non existent. But more importantly this means that the Lightning port can support Digital stereo Audio in AND camera control! Why is this a big deal…? It potentially paves the way for fantastic prototypes that really could revolutionise mojo. Screenshot 2015-06-19 10.33.14 Remember this from 2011 from Antonio DeRosa via  ADRSTUDIODESIGN? OK I’m letting my imagination run away with me but one thing is for sure the DXO ONE is an exciting development. Back to what we do know… DxO ONE Connecting to iPhone It has a rechargeable (hopefully removable) Lithion ion battery and a microSD slot. DxO ONE iPhone APri DxO ONE iPhone Selfie It records video .mov (h.264) at 1080p/30fps or 720p/120fps which is a bummer for anyone in Europe wishing to use the footage for broadcast. Hopefully the French company with look to 25fps in a firmware update in the near future. The Aperture range is f1.8 to f11. Digital 3x zoom, Shutter speed from 1/8000 to 15s and ISO range from 100 to 51200 (Hi2). It remains to be seen how well that camera performs in the real world. External audio in would be fantastic but I see no mention of it on the spec sheet. Better Zoom and Optical Image stabilisation would also be desirable. I’m not even sure if it sports a 1/4-20 tripod mount underneath. Pre Order price €649 via the DXO WEBSITE DxO-ONE-Fact-Sheet_EN

Mojo solutions: Are we ready to make documentaries and longer form content with mobile?

Are we ready to make documentaries and longer form content with mobile? This is a question which was quietly bounded around at Mojocon. The various responses were quiet interesting. For many the consensus was that #mojo was best suited to short form content like 1minute 30 news reports or shorter form social video and multimedia content. However, I pointed out that there were a number of different solutions available which would allow you to back up your HD video while shooting on location. To begin with…


Back up to iPad via Camera Connection Kit or Via AirDrop

Backup to a Laptop via USB and move to an external hard drive via thunderbolt/usb

Backup to one of the variety of cloud services (iCloud/Dropbox/OneDrive/Google Drive etc)

All of these solutions are tried and tested and will provide you with the necessary off-device storage.

However none of them are a 100% failsafe solution. What you hear again and again is the essence of Mojo: “the camera you always have with you” You won’t always have your iPad/Laptop/HDD with you. You won’t always have access to 3G/4G/Wifi. So what are your options if you want to shoot discreetly – for extended periods of time, without resorting to slow and expensive cloud uploads or carting around more and more gear (making you less mobile).

When Sandisk came on board as sponsors for Mojocon and opted to sponsor a product rather than financial support I was really delighted. I had read about the iXpand as well as a number of other lightning based external storage devices but hadn’t had time to buy/try any of them.

Having got my hands on one at the conference I decided to do a quick unboxing of the iXpand to run through its features and to elaborate on its potential for Mojo-in particular for how it enables longer form content production with a discreet “pocketable” solution.

When you think about the recent audio solutions that have hit the market from Rode, Sennheiser/Apogee and Shure and look at the extremely high quality lenses now available from iPro (Schneider Optics), Moment, MoonDog Labs and Olloclip it really shows how far mobile journalism and content creation has come in the last 12 months.


The quality and potential of this method of production is growing exponentially. Just think what 5G mobile networks, better optics and camera sensors and even more mojo accessories will bring with them in a few years!

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Unboxing and quick test with RodeLink Filmmakers kit

I just got my hands on the RodeLink Filmmakers kit and wanted to take it out for a quick field test. The RodeLink is different to most other wireless microphone solutions in that it uses Wifi frequencies instead of traditional UHF radio frequencies.

To begin I shot a quick unboxing video using Google Glass to show you the contents of the kit.

Then I decided to take the kit out to the front of the RTE building to do a rudimentary range test. There are at least 9 wifi networks in the area I tested the mics, two of which are campus wide with industrial grade routers supply a strong signal so its worth bearing that in mind while I do the test.

Until the launch of the RodeLink kit your radio mics options were most likely to be either the Sony UWP set or the Sennheiser Ew range. Both of which cost in the region of €800 for the set.

EG: Sennhesiser Evolution Wireless : €785 from

Sennheiser-ew-112  UWP-V1_zm

However Sony have released a new version of the UWP Wireless (D11) set and it is just over half the price of its predecessor positioning it in direct competition with the RodeLink system and it too is digital. €500 from


On the subject of microphones I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Sennheiser MKE ClipMic Digital and MKE Digital Lapel mics for iOS. These lapel microphones use an Apogee Digital preAmp which should position them as premium audio solutions for iOS Mojo. What remains to be seen is will Sennheiser make a USB version of these mics to work with Android devices like Samsung Galaxy phones and other high end smartphones.

ClipMic-3quarters SILVER-MKE-2-digital-3quarters-windscreen

Interestingly not long after the release of the Sennheiser solutions for iOS Shure, another premium audio device maker announced a new range of iOS compatible solutions also, including a direct competitor for the Sennheiser ones mentioned above.

One thing is for sure, with an ever expanding range of professional grade audio solutions being released targeted directly at mobile content production its the mobile journalists and mobile content creators who will reap the benefits.

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Finally!: Mojocon Sessions are now online

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I’ve been beavering away quietly trying to edit together the sessions from Day one of Mojocon. I know its taken longer than anticipated – mainly because I have a day job to balance with it and since Mojocon there has been a steady stream of Mobile journalism training requests. Right now I’m in Dundalk Institute of technology teaching 14 European journalists the principles of mojo on a 5 Day Circom Mojo Masterclass.

Joining me as trainers are my colleague Phillip Bromwell from RTÉ, John Inge Johansen from NRK Norway, Darko Flajpan from HRT Croatia, Guillaume Kuster from France 3 and Karol Cioma Training project Manager for Circom. I’ll post about the course once it finishes later this week.

Please note I did not censor the sessions – expletives are as stated on stage!

Here are the sessions in order:

I know there are some camera mistakes, audio mistakes and absence of screen displays a couple of times (where cameramen decided to wander off the screen and shoot cut aways) but in spite of those shortcomings I think the sessions capture the essence of the day. Enjoy!