Mobile video’s growth is astronomical. Today mobile video is not just for watching, creating stories with your tablet and smartphone is changing both creation and distribution. Over the past year Paolo Tosolini and I have been working with folks to get the most from their smart devices. We are passionate about the possibilities of leveraging the tools, accessories and apps available for your tablet and smart phone. One request we hear is for a shopping list of all the gadgets, gizmos and tools we demonstrate. So culled from StoryGuide’s “Video Tools that Work” Pinterest board, and applications we use from the iTunes store, here is a catalog where you can pick and choose what works best for you. Please let us know if you find something you think needs to be added, or if you have any questions.
The applications included in this list are all exclusive to the Apple iOS. Unfortunately, most are not available in alternative operating systems like Android or Windows Mobile. This is particularly true for video editing applications. It appears developers prefer the predictability of Apple’s walled garden where they only have to write code and provide customer support for a single device-type or operating system. As the market matures we should see more professional-style applications in the Android and Windows Mobile market, but for now most options are limited to clever photo apps for shooting "selfies" and creating photo montages..
|FiLMiC Pro FiLMiC Pro turns your mobile device into a broadcast worthy, High Deﬁnition video camera. It gives you full control over focus, exposure, white balance and frame rates including a host of slow motion and fast motion options. Additionally, FiLMiC Pro has additional professional tools such as audio meters, and aspect ratio overlays.|
|Avid / Pinnacle Studio Pinnacle Studio for iPad replaces Avid Studio. This editing application is the most powerful and easy-to-use video editing tool for the iPad. When Avid sold its consumer division to Corel, support for the Avid app went away and Corel moved their efforts to the Pinnacle Studio 2.0. Pinnacle studio is being upgraded with support for 1080 and voiceovers. No matter what they call it, for $12.99 it is the best investment you will make on your iPad. You can find a great user guide to the software here|
|Ustream Broadcast live and watch live video on your device – anytime, anywhere! Ustream powers live interactive video that enables anyone to watch and interact with a global audience.|
|Animoto Turn your photos into videos, complete with music and text, with Animoto. Choose your photos, video clips, music, and video style. Within minutes, you’ll have a video slideshow you can save and easily share.|
|Eyejot Eyejot is simply the easiest way to create and send video mail to friends, family members and business colleagues. It can be used from any web browser running under Windows, OS X or Linux, as well as directly from mobile devices such as the iPhone or iPod Touch.|
|Book Creator The simple way to create your own iBooks, right on the iPad. Read them in iBooks, send them to your friends, or submit them to the iBookstore. Ideal for children’s picture books, photo books, art books, cook books, textbooks, and technical multimedia manuals.|
|Prompterous Prompterous will guide you during presentations, lectures, broadcasts, interviews, sermons, reviews, podcasting, selling, acting or pitching. Import any type of document for both online or offline reading. Prompterous is the only application, of its kind, to support 24 formats including popular DOC, TXT, PDF, EPUB.|
Audio is always a problem with Apple devices. The in-device mics are useless for video production. While the jack on your iPhone or iPad appears to be a standard mini-jack, it is not. An external mic needs to have something called a 3.5mm 4 conductor TRRS connector. Because of this hardware mismatch, there is an entire ecosystem of accessories that has blossomed around overcoming the audio limitations of your phone.
UPDATE July 2013: We are beginning to see lavaliere microphones designed specifically for smartphones and tablets. The Gold Pro Tie Clip Lapel Lavaliere mic from Micronic comes with a gold plated TRRS 4-pin plug (the connection on your iPhone’s and iPad’s headphone jack) so no KV adapter is required. Cord lengths vary from 3 to 90 feet, and the microphone is available as either omnidirectional or cardioid unidirectional microphones. This is a UK based company and you purchase directly from the manufacturer. Price for the cardioid version with shipping to North America is approximately $55.
The Rode SmartLav microphone is a bit more expensive. Like Micronic’s mic, this lavalier is designed specifically for production using mobile phones. The mic cable is less than 4 feet in length, which is fine for most head-and-shoulders framed interviews. But if you are looking to place the camera more than arm’s length away you will need to purchase an separate TRRS headphone extension cable. This microphone appears to have been designed only with digital audio recording in mind, rather than video production, as evidenced by this snappy product video. The expected audio only production path is the likely explanation for the unreasonably short cord. Price is $60
At some point in time you will need an audio cable to extend the reach of your microphone. One example is the TRRS Headset Extension Cable by StarTech. A cable like this extends your microphone’s cable length when shooting. Because you are using microphones that leverage the special TRRS connector, you need to ensure your cable has the same connections. Unfortunately, a standard headphone cable from the electronics store rarely works. A TRRS cable like this is less than $7 and will afford you the flexibility to get the shot you are after without the hassles of trying to use the wrong cord.
This $25 cable from KV Connection is a must if you are using standard TRS connector microphone (like the Pearstone or Audio Technica described below.) The TRS-type connector is used for most headphones, earbuds and low-cost microphones. Unfortunately, Apple devices requires a TRRS connector.
To use a low-cost microphone you need a converter cable like this KV cable to connect your mic to your phone.
It is easy to tell the difference between the two once you know what to look for… simply count the number of metal sections on the pin. The TRS has 3 sections, and the TRRS has 4. Click on the image above to see the difference.
Be it iPhone, iPad or Touch you can’t simply plug in a mic and have it work. It needs an adapter to connect the microphone to the smartphone.
The Pearstone OLM-10 Omnidirectional Lavaliere Microphone is one heck of a bargain. This $25 investment, paired with the KV connector, will make a significant difference in your video. If you audience can’t understand your story they will leave. A mic like this will keep them listening to your video.
The Audio-Technica ATR-3350 lav microphone is a very cost effective solution for good audio when shooting an interview or talking head… especially when using a small format pocket camera like the Kodak Zi8 or Zi10. At $24-$30 it is very affordable.
|This accessory significantly improves the sound quality of iPhone 4/4S videos. The Fostex AR-4i Audio Interface for iPhone 4/4S & iPod touch 4G gives you great quality stereo audio recording using the dock connector and built-in AD/DA converter. The device features LED input level metering, gain control and headphone monitoring. As it will only work on the iPhone 4-series devices, the prices are dropping now to about $90, a bargain if you plan to use your previous generation phone for another year.|
The KV Connection adapter (see above) is adequate for attaching consumer-grade mics, but often I am in a situation where I would like to leverage one of my professional mics. Most require something called phantom power (a low voltage external power source) and the KV cable won’t cut it. IK Multimedia has a solution, the iRig Pre, a small preamp that connects your XLR microphone to your device (Android or Apple). It has 48v Phantom Power using a 9v battery and runs only $36.
|At $400 this solution is not cheap, but if you expect to be in a variety of difficult audio situations a great pre-amp is worth its weight in gold. The juicedLink RA222 Riggy-Assist Dual-XLR Preamplifier has both phantom power and an audio meter. Designed for use with DSLRs, it works great in the small form factor of mobile production when paired with the KV cable. I would expect for you to be shooting often to justify the expense, but it will save you from bad production over and over.|
Finally, one note about audio quality when using any of the mobile video solutions currently in the market, the pre-amps in most smartphones tend to be a bit noisy, so expect some hiss in the noise-floor of your recording. The noise usually has more to do with your handset and less to do with your microphone. But a bad microphone in phone is only marginally better than a no external mic. I always recommend you select the best mic you can afford. It will make a significant difference to the quality of your videos.
Lenses and Lights
In June this year I purchased an olloclip for my iPhone 5 and I have been really pleased with their optics. They work well because these lenses are glass, not plastic. The Olloclip 3-in-1 system falls into the positive school of "you get what you pay for". While more expensive than competing iPhone lens attachments, the images you capture with the olloclip are sharp across the entire canvas. Many accessory lenses are acceptable in the center and lose focus the further out you get to the edge of the frame. Not with these lenses. You can capture compelling wide shots and captivating close-ups with the macro lens (Check out this quick little video of worms I grabbed on the fly with my iPhone. The macro gives you a memorable view of the Mississippi floods.) The fisheye is great for creating shots that demand attention.
UPDATE: On November 1, 2013 olloclip released a new 4-in-1 lens system. The lens improves on the previous 3-in-1 kit with the addition of a 2nd macro lens so you can choose your photo’s level of detail (focus distance for the lenses are now 18 and 12mm). Earlier this summer they released a telephoto lens. While the 2x zoom is not likely to capture dynamic close-ups from the back of an auditorium, it is a significant improvement over existing add-on zooms available for the iPhone. Great for interviews. Both products would be a great addition to your mobile production accessories.
For two years previously I had used the Photojojo Phone lens series. The telephoto is not all that great, but the macro and fisheye lenses are a life saver. The magnetic attachment system lets you connect a lens to almost any camera phone and tablet, not just the iPhone. Besides, pulling your lens kit out of an Altoids box is always memorable.
Either is a recommended solution for your mobile production kit.
|LED dimmable lights are a must-have component in your mobile production accessories. I have been very happy with my low-cost Neewer light, and it was only $36. You can’t light a room, but they are critical for adding sparkle and illumination when shooting an interview. This light is far from indestructible, as you would expect from the price point. But I have used mine for two years and it still works. If you need something closer to the top of the LED light food chain I would consider an instrument like Litepanels LP Micro Compact LED Camera Light or the GiSTEQ Flashmate F-198C LED Video Light.|
Brackets and Holders
|The Adorama Heavy Duty L-bracket (w/ 2 Shoe Mounts) costs less than $8. A bargain. You want at least two shoe mounts on your bracket. One for an accessory light and the other for attaching audio (mixer, wireless receiver, shotgun mic, digital recorder.)There are plenty of L-brackets available in the market, ranging in price from $6-25 dollars. The price variation is for better hand grips, adjustment options and number and placement of shoe mounts. Find one that works for you.|
|Joby makes a solid and reliable mount for attaching your smartphone to a tripod or bracket. For less than $20 the Joby JM1-01WW GripTight Mount is one of the better solutions out there.|
|For flexible tripods my favorite is iStabilizer’s Flex. At $30 it is a little more expensive than competing flex-pods, but it will last you twice as long. It is not susceptible to heat, will grip tightly to small cylinders like tree branches and hand railings, and has a grippy exterior that feels like a wet suit.
|While shooting video with an iPad is somewhat like “pressing a toaster oven to your face”, the tablet is a great way to shoot, edit and distribute your video from one device. The Makayama Movie Mount for iPad 3 gives you a hot-shoe mount for a mic or light on the top. And a tripod mount.|
@drewkeller © 2013 StoryGuide | Drew Keller