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05 January, 2017

This free iPhone app converts Live Photos into video clips




I love the live photos feature found on the iPhone 6S and up models.

Live photos are actually video clips.

Every time you have the camera app open in 'Photo' mode, the iPhone is also secretly 'rolling' on the video side of things.

What I mean by that is that it is also recording frames before and after the still photo you are actually intending to record. 

These animated still images (called Live Photos) look magical when played back on the phone using the Photos app. So good, that you may be tempted to forget about the still and edit a reel with the short video clips.

These files are written at a lower frame rate and resolution than native video recording and lends a genuine 'Super 8' film feel to the footage. Perfect for cutting together a family vacation highlights reel while waiting in the queue for Harry Potter rides.

That is what I had in mind after filming all day with my kids at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.

Throughout the day I filmed many face, reaction, pov, tracking, wide, creative, and over the shoulder shots as still images.

And then I wanted to import the video the phone also recorded using a video editing app like iMovie, or Clips. (still my fave video edit app for editing a loading up all clip material and cutting into rushes)

The trouble is I could not locate the video clips on in the Photos app. 

Oh, Apple. What have you done? I thought.


Now, within the 'Photos' view of the Photos app, it is possible to create and export an entire movie clip that the app will generate from your related material. (See above photo)

This is one way to export the video from the live photos out of 'Apple Photo Jail,' but it is a bit messy and not very intuitive.

'What would be a better workflow?' I muttered as I waited in the queue for the 'Dragon Challenge' ride.

I was starting to get frustrated and thought an inverted rollercoaster ride would dislodge some solution.

Sure enough after braving five outside loops with screaming teens . . . 

It came to me that some crafty developer would have an app that would reveal those those hidden live photo video files and a user simply copy them out of 'Apple Photo Jail' so that they can be edited and shared with the wider world.


After some digging, I found a free app called LP converter.


And it does the trick, lickety-split.

You open it up and batch select a load of live photos snaps and export them as video clips.



No water marks, no in-app purchases, and no ads.

Love it!

The app's other tricks are also handy, like the ability to export a selected freeze frame as a still image . . . 





 . . .  or save a live photo as a looping GIF animation.



Fun. Practical, and free.

I was able to cut a 4-minute reel from that day at Universal Studios and nearly all of the material was video clips from Live Photos.



And for journalists, it is very handy to have those fleeting moments automagically recorded just before and after taking a snap.

It could be really useful for getting alternate material and takes from breaking news scenes, for example. Or if something unexpected happens when you are shooting something else.

Me, before the T-Rex attack.










15 December, 2016

Which camera should you buy to produce Facebook 360 video?

Now is the time to start getting excited about what we can do with live, spherical video broadcasts.

National Geographic posted the first Facebook 360° live video from the Mars Simulator research site in Utah using four Nokia OZO Live cameras, wireless mics and picture-in-picture live feeds from famous scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson.




Of course, not everyone has Television-sized budgets and technical teams to produce to a live 360° VR broadcast with that kind of complexity, but the good news is that you can still do some compelling spherical storytelling on a smaller budget.

NOTE: Facebook's product managers report that "Live 360 video will be available to more Pages via the Live API in the coming months, and rolling out more broadly for all Pages and Profiles in 2017."

The scale and cost of this type of PR stunt indicates that Live 360° video will be a BIG deal for all of us media makers.

When Facebook decides to put their thumb on the scale of what users see (video, live video, 360° videos ,and now 360° live video) it is natural to guess that a lot of people will see these posts and Facebook will be selling ads against those eyeballs.

I advise broadcasters, publishers and educators about 360° video production, video livestreams for Facebook and YouTube, and the gear that makes all that happen.

Let's take a deep dive into a few new gear choices that complement the strategic workshops I am currently producing.

In those visits we combine research, tech and strategy to develop new business models and programming approaches for reaching the social video crowd - The YouTubers, Facebookers, Snap chatters, and Instagrammers.

One of the keys to continuous innovation is a regular replenishing of your Sandbox.

And this is the time of year that many of my partners are asking me how to spend their budgets before they expire at year's end.

A sandbox is designed for play and healthy experimentation and is assembled for the purpose of allowing the staff to test out ideas and develop new story formats before their competitors do.

These are the top tools in Robb's Sandbox for 2017.



360° Live Video Production

The Orah 4i VR camera from Video Stitch.





This compact little camera streams 4K resolution live virtual reality video to headsets–all with the push of a button.


It features live stitching and four microphones to capture the ambisonic 3D sound which enables the viewer of the content to locate the origin of the sound source with a VR headset.

Ambisonic audio is critical to VR storytelling.
(Read the full technical details)

The camera is powered by an ethernet cable that runs back to this live stitching production box.


A box with a mic input.


YES! This means we can have the ambisonic sound mix from the camera PLUS a wireless mic in for a presenter or host using a Sennsheiser AVX wireless mic.

Nice.


Live video switcher
If you want to simulate what NatGeo did with live shot switching from the field, you will need something like a Sony Anycast Live Producer.




360° Cinematic film production


GoPro Omni



BH Photo bundles this six-camera rig with everything you need to capture and stitch together high definition spherical video.


And by everything, I mean it is all inclusive.



It is a fantastic camera array for offline video production.

It does not do 'Live" and it will not record 360 ambisonic audio.

To produce a 360° sound track that matches the video quality, you will need a tetrahedral microphone:

A VR Microphone



Sennheiser Ambeo


and a multi-track field recorder:


Zoom F8 Field Recorder




This is just the bare basic kit.

Sound design is super important for 360° films.
Don't take just my word for it.

Here, have a look at the audio engineering prep for a pro 360° video shoot.




You can get started with a smaller investment.

360° Mobile Journalism field reporting
You will want to experiment with the low cost Insta360 Nano for producing livestreaming 360 video reports from your smartphone.



It costs less than $200 and an Android version is in development.


Stepping things up a notch . . .


4K cinema camera rig


I spotted this sandbox kit at the #IBC2016 show in Amsterdam in September.


I am happy to report that my clients are now using this kit for daily video production. It is a rock solid system and a pure joy to use.




Sony a7S II Body (4k video camera)


Sony G Zeiss 28-135mm video lens


Movcam Cage for A7S II


Vocas Spider (Shoulder mount)


Video Devices PIX-E5H 5" 4K Recording Video Monitor


PIX LR Audio interface


The PIX-LR unit screws right into the bottom of the PIX-E recorder and adds high-quality dual XLR I/O featuring Sound Devices mic input preamps with phantom power, limiting, and high-pass filtering.

The PIX-E recorder allows you to capture the 4K video from the Sony A7S II as well as giving you a glorious monitor.

Put this all together and you have a powerful and extremely versatile 4K package that weighs not so much.

Production values, elevated.



Flying cameras (a.k.a. 'Drones')

Mavic pro drone kit



The flying camera has finally come into the mobile era.

The Mavic Pro folds up small enough for me to take with on my outdoor adventures.

A drone is a special shot, but it is the shot that makes reports like this one from The New York Times simply magical.



The Mavic comes with a 4K camera AND it would be the first drone that I would want to also try attaching the Insta360 Nano camera too.

That's right the Insta360 can record video without being attached to a smartphone.


One last thing: a friendly reminder of how NOT to film in 360.

 

06 December, 2016

Unboxing: GoPro Omni VR 360 video Camera



I am in Zagreb at the offices of 24SATA where today the video team took ownership of one of the hot new 360 video filming rigs: The GoPro Omni.


I am here all week visiting with the teams, making a film documentary and spending time sharing best practices for 360 video, Branded Facebook live streams and creating hit YouTube channels.


24SATA is doing five Facebook live events per day, this one streamed live with the DJI Osmo camera and a Sennheiser AVX Wireless mic.
Make sure you get an ambisonic microphone and 6-track field audio recorder BEFORE you go out and buy an expensive camera like this.


High quality 360-audio is much more important than having a six-camera rig.


Why? The audio narrative is a high-fidelity UX. And, 360 video visuals for journalism projects are usually pixellated and highly compressed due to streaming and buffering.
The audio delivery is not.
Also on-screen graphics are key . . .


Anyways - you probably know all this . . . if not. 
I am available for consulting in the new year

18 November, 2016

Fake news or not: Facebook is a media company

Are Facebook, Google and Twitter media companies? Fake news, hate speech, regulation, and journalism’s future just might depend on the answer.

Let's begin this deep dive with something simple, like a definition.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a media company as:


Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis argues that we shouldn't define companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Snapchat as media companies.

But wait, Google and Facebook do pay to have original content created for their products.



A Google employee creating content in the Grand Canyon for a Google product called "StreetView." 
Here is a link to dozens more photos of Google workers creating similar rich-media content.

And Facebook has been paying millions of dollars to create original, exclusive video content for them.

Link: Facebook Pays Publishers Over $50 Million to Start Using Live Video

And celebrities, too.


So, by definition Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat are media companies that broadcast videos, AND they provide Internet services.

More importantly, they build mass media audiences and bundle content with advertising and deliver that to users.

They run global commercial operations.

Oxford's definition of a media company as a company that provides broadcasting, film, and Internet services describes these activities very clearly.

These firms also demonstrate a willingness to control content to varying degrees.

Facebook filters for nudity, Google filters and ranks the results for the Google news product from a short list of quality sources, and Twitter bans users for posting hate speech.

All of those decisions are editorial functions.

It doesn't matter if a bot or human does the work, except that we have seen many recent examples that these media companies are struggling with exactly how to provide editorial oversight to the content that they package and sell online.

Of course, not all media is journalism. Much of it is just entertainment.

For example, Sean Hannity is not a journalist.
He is an entertainer. His cable news show is designed to look like a news set and it is broadcast on the Fox News channel, but he will be the first to admit he does not do journalism.
He is in show business.

These new media companies just don't want to admit to being media companies.

Matthew Ingram writes for Fortune,
"Here's One Reason Facebook Doesn't Want to Admit to Being a Media Company."


Are you a media company if you publish fake news?

All of this matters because these media companies would rather not have to pay reporters to create material, or pay editors to vet it, or face scrutiny when they get it wrong.
And, they have been getting it on many occasions very wrong during the latest US election cycle.

Google's top search result the morning after the election for "final election numbers" lead to a fake news site.

Google execs admit that result is an error.

And the fake news sites (some created by Macedonian teens) are out cashing in big time. Both Facebook and Google have been shamed by this news and have promised reforms.

A Buzzfeed analysis found that "Fake Election News Outperformed Real News on Facebook."

According to Business Insider, “Google said it is working on a policy change to prevent websites that misrepresent content from using its AdSense advertising network, while Facebook updated its advertising policies to spell out that its ban on deceptive and misleading content applies to fake news.”

That is a good start and these statements also indicate to me that both of these "media companies" not only know who the good and bad actors are with regards to publishing fake news but they also have the means to mute spurious content. 

President Obama sums up the problem elegantly when he spoke with The New Yorker.

The new media ecosystem “means everything is true and nothing is true,” Obama says.
“An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll. 

And the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal—that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation.”

After first denying that Fake news was a problem in the newsfeed, Mark Zuckerberg tells ReCode that Facebook plans to.


  • Add a warning label to stories that users have flagged as inaccurate.
  • Work with more third-party fact checking organizations.
  • Improve the accuracy of “related articles” that it suggests for users to read.
  • Block fake news distributors from paying to promote their content. (Facebook started that process this week.)
  • Build better algorithms to automatically detect fake news.  


Maybe these media companies can start squashing fake news by testing these MIT professor's five principles:

  • Responsibility
  • Explainability
  • Accuracy
  • Auditability
  • Fairness


LINK: We need to hold algorithms accountable — here’s how to do it.

Real news journalists should recognize that this also a short list of what defines bona fide journalism.
This list is kryptonite to fake news.

Meanwhile, a group of undergrads at Princeton U. were able to build a quick and dirty fake news app during a 36 hour hackathon.

The key to making all this happen is happen seems to be applying machine learning and neural processing to separate the fake from the genuine.

So the question is Does Facebook really suck at machine learning or are they willing to play dumb just to avoid being properly classified as a media company?

We may soon find out, because the German ministry believes that they already are.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told Reuters this about social media companies. “In my view they should be treated as media even if they do not correspond to the media concept of television or radio.” 

One final thought, it is important to remember a few years ago Zuckerberg patented something called a 'Newsfeed'.

You don't get to do something like that and then go out tell journalists you are not a news guy.






11 November, 2016

The Journalism School where every student learns #MOJO

What if Mobile Journalism skills were required of every journalism student?

 


We are about to find out.

#MOJO coursework is now mandatory for every journalism student at the EFJ school in France.

Read the school's news release translated into English (Thanks Google!)

In France, the push to embrace Mobile Journalism methods comes at a time when a Parisian news channel goes 'all in' on smartphone filming the news.



How are they doing this? 
I was asked to write the MOJO curriculum by the Dean of the School, Jacques Rosselin, and work with the professors to flip their classroom.

Delivering MOJO education is actually fairly simple to do once a school decides to provide every student with an online video course from the Smart Film School.


I am making similar agreements with other journalism schools in Europe and the USA through my company - Smart Film School.

The Smart Film School offers education pricing for the online courses.

We also produce certificate courses, private training and workshops in mobile journalism for working professionals.



Contact me if you are interested in learning more.