Guest post by Philip Bromwell:
Wow. So you’re really going to film the whole thing on your phone?”, says the Dublin City Librarian with a quizzical smile.
Now this is a question I have been asked numerous times over the past few months, so I am ready with my answer.
I tell him that RTÉ (Ireland’s national broadcaster) has been exploring mobile journalism for some time now. I explain that I have taken on a particular responsibility for encouraging “mojo” in our newsroom and that yes, I plan to shoot this story on my phone.
I had been given an iPhone 6 Plus just a few days earlier. I had been reading the reviews of Apple’s “phablet” for several weeks before I got my hands on one. Or around one. Thankfully “the biggest ever iPhone” fits inside my Shoulderpod S1 smartphone rig. This tripod mount forms part of my “mojo” kit, along with an iRig-Pre, Lavelier clip mic, Mophie Juice Pack, Metz meccalight and a pair of headphones.
These kits were put together by Glen Mulcahy, my colleague and a mojo pioneer since the early days of the iPhone 4. He is the technical brains behind the work we have been doing at RTÉ. I bring twelve years of experience as a video journalist, a genuine love for telling stories and a willingness to experiment with how we tell them.
Today the story was about how Dublin City Council had acquired a unique logbook kept by the ambulance service during the 1916 Easter Rising – one of the most pivotal weeks in Irish history. It is a fascinating find, although the story had rather limited filming potential.
That said, the shoot went well. As always, I used FiLMiC Pro to film the item. This is widely considered to be the essential app for journalists looking to shoot video on their iOS mobile device because it offers the ability to lock focus, exposure and white balance. Because the iPhone 6 Plus was just released I had to use a beta version of the since released 4.0 app. This is optimized for iOS8 and offers full manual control and lots of other exciting features. However with the clock ticking to the evening programme deadline, there wasn’t too much time to explore them.
A story like this also wasn’t really a test for the 6 Plus’s heralded optical image stabilisation. But several things did stand out. The pictures look great when viewed on the large and lovely full HD, 1920 x 1080 display. The extra battery life is really useful too – for the first time on a mojo shoot I was nowhere near needing to reach for the Mophie Juice Pack portable battery. My 6 Plus is the 128 Gb model, so managing storage wasn’t a concern either. Finally for a “big” phone, it is still a “small” camera – so you can get some great detail by getting close to the action.
Back in the newsroom, I recorded my voice track and edited the story on Avid Media Composer on my Mac. I prefer this workflow, although it would have been possible to edit the piece on the iPhone too (Pinnacle Studio is our go-to app for editing). I did use the 8mm Vintage Camera and iMovie apps on the phone to create the sequence at the end of the report though. I find the ease with which you can add production flourishes like this to be one of the most attractive advantages of shooting on a smartphone.
Another plus point is that with all the content on your phone you can use a visual storytelling app like Steller or Storehouse to create a multimedia version of your story. Having filed copy and sent a few stills to our online desk for the report to run on our website, I was also able to combine text, images and video to create a story for iPhone too. I love the elegant, sleek look of stories done this way – they are easy and fun to do too.
Of course, I didn’t have to film this story on my iPhone. I use a Sony EX3 for most of my work. But I certainly regard the phone as an extra tool in my camera toolbox and I have really enjoyed exploring its possibilities and shortcomings. Having filmed in some pretty tricky situations in the Middle East and Tibet this year, it is also reassuring to know that I have such a versatile alternative should I need it.
Over the past 12 months I have filmed complete news reports on an iPhone 4S, 5S (see the videos above) and now the 6 Plus. I have also been training other journalists here and in Europe on how to do the same. There is definitely (finally) a buzz around mobile newsgathering which will hopefully bring the best mojo practitioners in the world to Dublin in March 2015 for “MoJoCon”, the first international mobile journalism conference. We’d love to see you there!
Philip Bromwell is a video and mobile journalist with RTÉ in Ireland (You can follow him on Twitter @philipbromwell)