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25 April, 2013

Android apps for mobile journalism video reporting

Radio Free Europe is arming reporters in the field with smart phone kits that allow correspondents to produce and deliver high quality multimedia from just about anywhere in the world. 

The iPhone still has the largest ecosystem of apps and accessories to be able to produce high quality video, audio and other multimedia reportage, but iPhones are not always practical to deploy for reporters working in many parts of the world where Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty operates.

For live streaming a Q&A with a reporter and interview subject, Bambuser is the way to go.

To collect a series of Vox Pops and export them as a real back to your video editing desk, the camera app, Androvid and Video maker suite of apps are currently the way to go.

Apps + Accessories + Training + Workflows is what makes the pro difference.

Training and workflow development need to be integrated with the field multimedia storytelling ass.

I have worked as a technical and training consultant over the last year to guide RFE/RL managers and staff to the apps, accessories, training and workflows that will allow their field reporters to quickly file high-quality multimedia reportage from Android smartphones.

Most of the field staff are carrying Samsung Galaxy S2 and a few have S3's.

Links to training details

Training workshops brochure

Mobile Reporting brochure

Going Pro

The majority of multimedia apps for Android are consumer-focused and include many 'features' that professionals don't need and are missing some of the critical items that field reporters need on a daily basis.

Because of the state of maturity of the Android market, RFE/RL is also developing a reporter app to address these shortcomings.

Since November, I have been advising them and their developers on the critical front end and back end features to include as they develop their first custom app for RFE/RL reporters. That process has been a revelation: Developers have very little knowledge about mobile journalism and editorial workflows. Working journalists often do not have deep knowledge of codecs, SDKs and the memory and CPU limits of Smartphone apps.

The user-interface is so hard to get right when a knowledge and expectation gap is this wide.

But get it right they will.

Video on Android

At present there is no one video production app for all Android models that is the equivalent of Voddio for iOS. And that it is a shame.

The feedback from the engineers I have spoken with boils down to the fact that Android OS comes in so many variants and video editing functions are often in control of the app that manufacturers allow in their root configurations.

So what does work?

Three things . . .
  1. Livestreaming video 
  2. Video sequences 
  3. Video interviews 

For livestreaming, the app to use is Bambuser.
For RFE/RL it is Bambuser until their custom app is released.
RFE/RL needs live video from the field to be transmitted securely to their CMS system rather than rest in the hands of a third party.

From the places they report from, that makes sense.

To capture, trim and assemble video sequences you need three apps.

Built-in Camera app

Androvid Pro is used to log (Rename) and trim the in and out points for video clips.

VideoMaker is an app that you have to download from Samsung or comes pre-installed.

It is used to easily build and export a video sequence from the clips that were logged and edited in AndroVid Pro.

After video sequences are exported they are quickly transcoded for Adobe Premiere and can used as elements of a video package.

These are often the simplest to produce.

One more thing . . .
Sometimes (Despite the best thinking) you capture or collect vertical video with a smartphone.

For Android there is a helpful app to correct video that was recorded in portrait mode.

Video rotate.

This is a paid app and a one-trick pony. It works well and works fast without any transcoding or rendering time.

Apps are only the first step

Getting high quality video results from the field requires three things.
  • Training
  • Workflows
  • Apps + accessories

Video is just one story form that can transform a smartphone into a reporter’s notebook.

Additional training offers:
Publication design and redesign
Rapid prototyping ideas for new products and services
Data journalism, social media and writing for the Web
Video journalism and documentary filmmaking

More training workshops