Yesterday, the folks from the Creative Pro User Group, or CPUG, game rolling into San Francisco for the annual SuperMeet, a convocation of editors, cinematographers, producers, gearheads, and other assorted folks that are interested in visual content creation.
Having volunteered to help out with social media, I was ready to do the usual live-tweeting of iPhone photos and running commentary on the stage show, but to wanted to use the opportunity to try out some new tools and bring a bit of spontaneous video into the mix.
One of the things I love about the smartphone age is the ability to create and share media instantly, anywhere you can get cell phone access, and to do so without carrying around a ton of gear. Gear, although both useful, and essential to most production situations, limits your freedom and, depending on what you are creating, can weigh you down with a lot of stuff that you may, or may not, actually use on the day of whatever event you are covering. My goal is to be able to go to a convention, or trade show, wearing no more gear than a backpack, and some small video/audio capture device, and be able to create and webcast photos and videos almost immediately.
I’ve been a fan of Taz Goldstein’s Hand Held Hollywood site for a few years now. Taz covers every aspect of portable content creation, with an increasing emphasis on iOS devices such as the PadCaster for the iPad, or the ALM mCAMLITE for the iPhone 5. In fact, Goldstein has just completed a reference guide to portable production with iOS devices, called Filmmaking with the iPad & iPhone. The book is an idea-generator, and will give content creators interested in this kind of filmmaking plenty of food for thought, as well as gadgets to buy…I highly recommend it.
For the SuperMeet, I brought an iPhone 5, iPad (4th Gen.), the ALM mCAMLITE, and a Mophie reserve battery to keep my devices charged throughout the day, along with a smallish LED video light and accessory cold shoe bracket.
This was my first real opportunity to shake down the mCAMLITE. I’m going to do a video review later, but the first impressions of the unit mentioned in my post from Tuesday still hold up: The base adds weight, stability, and a decent form factor to the iPhone 5. The mini boom mic is not really suitable for any but the most quiet, noise-free environments (in other words conventions and trade shows are out), and the wide-angle lens is very nice. One other thing to note is that the built-in cold shoe, as well has additional 1/4″/20 threads, allow you to build out the device very easily with accessores, such as outboard mics and lighting.
I was able to shoot two short pieces with the SuperMeet producers, Michael Horton and Dan Bérubé, including the 30 second on-the-spot promo included with this post. Both videos were uploaded in standard def to YouTube and Tweeted out before the event, which had the desired spontaneity. The video looked serviceable, for what it was, but the audio left a lot to be desired, which was to expected. The big take-away for me was that in order to do video with the iPhone, and come out with a professional-looking result, it still requires the camera rig to be built out with additional hand-holds, a video light, and an improved microphone…Oh, and BTW, because of the funky headphone/earphone jack on the iPhone, an additional adapter is required to make your video mic, or boom mic with a mini jack, compatible.
Right now, I’m not sure the trade-offs in quality are worth it, with the availability of small HD camcorders like the Canon HF100, which will take all of the same attachments and get vastly superior footage without a significant increase in carrying weight…Unless, of course, the point of the exercise is to have bragging rights to having shot your video with an iPhone.
There are some additional challenges in getting your media from the iPhone up to YouTube (or any other Internet destination.) The YouTube app for the iPhone is inhibited from uploading HD video unless you are on a WiFi network (most apps, including my favorite audio book and podcatcher apps are similarly hobbled…and will likely stay that way as long as cell carriers try to get the most money for the lowest bandwidth from the consumer.) I wound up having to tether my AT&T iPhone to a Verizon iPad in order to fake the YouTube app out. In the end, it just wasn’t worth it, so I uploaded SD on the day, and transferred the HD footage later, at home.
Bandwidth will be the primary determinant in just how successful this type of on-the-fly videocasting will be, the the tools are getting there.
Also, the mobile YouTube apps for Chrome, and other native iOS apps, lack most of the functionality that is found in the regular “PC” (anything running MacOS, Windows, or Ubuntu, I guess) browser apps. Better tagging, access to annotation and basic editing tools are going to be needed if a tablet is ever truly going to become a replacement, or alternative, to a traditional “PC”.
Another part of this workflow has to be editing. There have been some iOS-based NLE’s out there as of late, but one of the apps shown at the SuperMeet looks to have a lot of potential at bringing the power of a full-featured NLE to the iOS Market. It’s called TouchEdit, and is being developed by editor Dan Lebenthal A.C.E. (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys & Aliens…He works a lot with Jon Favreau.) Lebenthal demoed the current beta last night at the show. It will be available in the Apple App Store next week, and will be selling for $50. Check out the TouchEdit site for more features and info.
A couple of the best shares of the night came from the new Vine app, a social media sharing app that allows the user to shoot a short section of video that is immediately uploaded to cyberspace and made available for tweeting or Facebook posting, where the clip will loop ad infinitum. I captured a couple of clips of key moments last night, like this one of Adobe Product Evangelist Jason Levine performing his trademark presentation high-kick while singing the praises of Adobe Creative Cloud, and another moment where Jeff Stansfield, of Advantage Video Systems, demonstrates the proper attitude to display when winning a prize in the world-famous Supermeet Raffle.
Vine is brilliant at capturing the essence of a moment in video and instantly presenting it to the world in a way that turns an otherwise “you should have been there” moment into a shared experience with your community. This app, which has only been out about a week, is going to be huge.
So…More experimenting, and gadget testing to come. I’m pretty sure that the way of the future in light-weight, portable, video production, and spontaneous net-casting is right around the corner, and will keep on digging until I can create content that is both compelling and of high quality. My gut feeling is that spontaneous post-production and sharing is entirely doable within the range of phone and tablet devices, but it will be some time before we can fully replace our camcorders and professional camera gear with them.