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11 August, 2017

Should I upgrade to iPhone 8 and iOS 11 for video production?

A note to my #MoJO followers to upgrade with caution.

One of the biggest temptations is to upgrade you smartphone every time it appears that you will be gaining a better camera for mobile reporting.
Upgrades come with real risks for reporters who rely on their phones every day to capture, edit and share video stories.

There is no compelling reason yet to jump to iPhone 7 (or 8) or iOS 11.

A few thoughts on this . . .

When Apple released the iPhone 7 without a headphone port it tempted many to upgrade and then live to regret the choice.

The loss of that jack meant that they couldn't use a low cost gimbal and a microphone any more.

If you don't want to lose this important functionality - stick with the iPhone 6S+

The iPhone 6S+ mounted to an Osmo Mobile gimbal captures smooth 4K video and includes a headphone jack allowing low-cost mics to be attached. See more gear options here.

This same gimbal rig can also be used to make a low-cost LIVE video studio. An iPhone 6+ is main camera. You can livestream at 1080p HD video with the iPhone 6 models, use the headphone jack for a microphone and keep constant power supplied with the lightning connector.

Here is more information on that solution.

If you don't have money for a gimbal,
then this mini-tripod configuration will do the job just fine.

While you can use this rig with the newer iPhones there are limited solutions to being able to monitor the audio with headphones while using the lightning connector for the mic in.

The lack of a headphone jack means a loss of function and versatility for a field reporter.

There are a couple of new digital mic input solutions with headphone monitoring that are coming to the market.

We'll be testing these and updating Smart Film School students once more is known about how they work for live streaming and longer video recordings.  

I have 10,000 students in Smart Film School courses and advise clients about workflows, training and technology packages for video storytelling.

Sometimes waiting for the latest phone models and software updates is the best advice. It can take some time for manufacturers and app developers to deliver tested solutions that best serve professional journalists.

Because these folks need reliable solutions that their reporters can depend upon, it is my habit to advise them to proceed cautiously with OS upgrades and new models of phones until robust working solutions have been vetted under demanding field conditions.

18 July, 2017

iPhone filmmaking: Helium Core iPhone rig with Filmic Pro, Moondog Labs Anamorphic lens & Røde Videomic Pro

Can you film cinema-quality scenes while hiking between remote Alpine huts with your iPhone?
And also edit the widescreen anamorphic footage with the same iPhone?

This Helium iPhone rig did not let my phone overheat, delivered pro sound and made it easy to attach an Anamorphic lens and ND filters.

Here is a short scene that was shot, edited and shared from the film location at 2,100 meters elevation.

Locking the focus and shutter speed in Filmic Pro to achieve proper motion blur effects.

The gear travelled in waterproof bags as I hiked for six hours each day.

In the rain.

The week before the Alps trek, I built and tested this iPhone film rig that captures 4K, anamorphic footage with proper sound and motion artifacts.

I built it by wrapping an iPhone 6S+ with a Helium Core cage and attaching it to a modified GoPro chest mount.

The Røde VideoMic Pro on top captures pro audio (As you can see in the YouTube clip at the end of this tutorial)

The complete cinema quality film rig packs flat. It will join me and my backpack on a six-day trek across the Alps next week where I will be making a film project.

The chest mount combined with the extension bar make it very comfortable to record interviews, too.

I attach the Moondog Labs Anamorphic lens adapter and ND filters to be able to record 4K widescreen footage in bright light with a slow shutter speed.

Without an ND filter, the camera has no choice but to record with a high shutter speed - in this case at 1/12,288 of a second.

Which produces strobe motion footage.

With two ND filters attached (An ND 4 and an ND 2), the camera sees less light and I am able to record at 1/48 of a second to achieve a proper 180° shutter.

This allows the motion blur to be recorded in a way that more accurately mimics the way the human eye sees motion. This is one of the keys to pro filmmaking.

In the FilmicPro app, I make a preset to capture 4K video and set it to display the proper 'de-squeezed' preview for Anamorphic filming.

An overview of my Filmic settings.

And how it looks in the viewfinder while filming.

I also am experimenting with different video capture profiles to achieve a film look and am having great results with the Flat gamma curve in FilmicPro.

Recording 4K Anamorphic clips at 'Filmic Quality' means I have to clear off my camera roll and watch for apps that also copy clips inside their sandbox.

That's more like it! I conservatively estimate that the Filmic Pro settings I am using will require about 600MB of memory per minute of recorded footage.

In this ungraded example, I recorded 44 clips to make this film and when I transferred my clips to my Mac (using iTunes) the folder measured 9.54GB and the runtime of the raw footage is around 16 minutes when dropped onto a Final Cut Pro X timeline.

I applied cinema grading to this natural sound short film to show how a final treatment can look for cinema projection.

This means with 100GB of free memory on my iPhone.

Make a film with Robb

14 July, 2017

Reuters Institute - University of Oxford white paper on mobile journalism #MOJO

Closer to the Story? Accessibility and mobile journalism

Reuters Institute - University of Oxford have released this white paper on mobile journalism by Finnish journalist fellow, Panu Karhunen.

Can journalists get closer to the story and subject by utilizing mobile journalism?

Karhunen interviewed 11 mobile journalists. They said they were able to film stories that would have been impossible with a TV camera and a multi-person crew. They suggested that mobile journalism can lead to more genuine and more intimate journalism. Most of the interviewees felt that people prefer to give an interview to a mobile journalist than to a multi-person TV crew.

Full disclosure: I was one of the 11 interviewees for this report.

Read the report

» Discuss Mobile Journalism with Robb

05 July, 2017

#MOJO: Make a low-cost video studio for Facebook Live, YouTube and Periscope

Facebook live

Periscope livestream

SMART FILM SCHOOL: At the heart of the system is an iPad Pro running the Live: Air app.

Caution. This 'free' app features several expensive in-app purchases for unlocking advanced features. (I paid $49.99 to remove the Teradek watermark, for example.)

The studio cameras are iPhones that have been retired from #MOJO field work. Camera One is an iPhone 6+ that made MOJO reports from over 20 countries over two years. I attached a small lens from Olloclip to frame the shot for a presenter.

Camera Two is my current #Mojo cam - an iPhone 6S+ - placed into an Osmo Mobile rig. The microphone is not really needed in this configuration as I explain the video.

The iPhone 4s in the teleprompter was rescued from the disabled list to pair up with the $120 Parrot teleprompter.

This gear - plus a versatile studio design - allows me to quickly produce event videos for Webinars, Live Shows for social streams, and video tutorials for e-learning courses.

Bonus: It's awesome for making Skype calls to your mom.

Now that we have built this studio from top to bottom and tested it with three live platforms, I plan to film a comprehensive course for the Smart Film School.

Those tutorials will go into more details and highlight all the working parts of building a low-cost video studio that delivers high-end results without requiring a big crew or typical TV budget.

Here is the setup I use.

Add iPhone cameras as sources in the app.

The iPhone is now a live video camera source.

The switching app running on a iPad Pro. All shots, segments, show graphics, text overlays and logos are pre-loaded before the show starts.

Set the video file to 'Stop when done' to prevent pre-recorded clips from looping.

Set up the livestream for your Facebook page.

Ta da! We are live on our Facebook page.

Happy Filming!

» Discuss your mobile studio design with Robb

26 June, 2017

These 10 tips will improve your smartphone videos

Do you struggle to make great videos with your mobile phone? 

Here are 10 tips to that will help you begin to shoot and edit like a pro.

1. Wipe the lens clean
Your phone spends a lot of time in your pocket and on tables. Gently wipe the lens of your phone’s camera with a soft cloth.

For example, use the inside of your t-shirt! Only a clean lens can produce clear images.

2. Don't shoot vertical video
Video projects over 10 seconds long are best viewed horizontally. Remember, we live in a world of widescreen cinema, HD TVs and laptops. Other caveats: Very few editing apps allow you to edit vertical clips and it is very difficult to frame people and film satisfying action shots in a vertical window. Exception - SnapChat (Natch!)

3. Remain calm
Stable video is far more watchable. You can often improvise a tripod look by anchoring your body to something large and heavy and bring your arms in close to your body.

There are many great mini tripods on the market that will hold your phone and  many of these are light and small enough to fit in your purse. Remember, you must use a tripod when filming time-lapse videos.

4. Don't use the ‘zoom’ controls
There is no such thing as ‘Zoom’ on a phone camera. You are actually cropping the image and losing resolution.

Instead, use ‘Sneaker Zoom’ and move closer to your subjects. If you feel the need to include a subject’s shoes in a shot, then simply move in and get a close up shot.

More iPhone filmmaking:

5. Sunshine on your shoulders
Pay attention to the quality and direction of the light for the scene you are filming. Beware of high-contrast locations and seek out window light whenever possible.

Avoid capturing backlit shots by remembering to let the sunshine kiss at least one of your shoulders and back.

6. Lock exposure and focus
When filming with the native camera (video or Photo modes) tap and hold on the are you want focus and expose for. Hold this until a yellow bar appears displaying the text “AE/AF LOCK.”

Holding focus and exposure will help your clips look more professional and give you greater control of the final quality.

7. Get your microphone close to your subject
The key to capturing clear audio is to get a microphone close to your subject’s voice box. One easy and low cost way to do this is to plug in your Apple earbuds and extend your hand forward while filming.

Lapel mics are better and there are even pro mics available for when your budget allows the upgrade.

Clean, clear audio is what separates pro videos from everyone else. It begins with the mic.

8. Plan camera motion before filming
Does your next shot need to dolly in to focus the viewer's attention on one subject’s expression or will you need to pan away and hold the framing on another part of scene while the narrator speaks?

Camera moves are effective when used for narrative purposes like this. Avoid moving your camera just because you can. "Wallpapering" a scene is the worst.

9. Go into airplane mode before recording interviews
A mobile phone has a radio that can interfere with your audio and video recordings. You will not notice the static and beeping interruptions until you listen to the playback. Also an unexpected call can blow an interview.

10. Learn Picture Language
After you master these basics for camera usage, you are on your way to recording better video clips. To learn how to plan and produce video stories with your phone, you will need to study and practice building visual sentences.

Filmmakers call this Picture Language and there are elementary visual grammar rules that can help you build logical visual sequences. For example your shots must answer story questions for a viewer.

Certain shots can be considered verbs, others can be seen as nouns and so on. When shots of the right size and content are correctly placed one after another they flow together because they obey the rules of visual grammar.

Want to learn how to shoot and edit a professional-looking video or film experience using just your iPhone?

The Smart Film School is a collection of e-learning course packs that teach you how to shoot and edit video on a mobile phone, produce social video content and master mobile journalism.

Happy Filming!