Radio Northampton films mini-documentary with smartphone

Rob in factory Rob Adcock's reports on the shoe industry were filmed entirely on a smartphone

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When Radio Northampton reporter Rob Adcock filmed some short documentaries for his station's Facebook page, he had no idea that, in his own small way, he was pioneering the use of smartphone technology within BBC radio.

Focused on the local shoe industry, his recent five-part series was the first time a documentary had been shot entirely on an iPhone for BBC local or network radio.

"The shoe industry in Northampton is a massive, massive part of the area - it's been around for hundreds of years," he told Ariel.

A local shoe factory was covered in BBC Two's Trouble at the Top series, which inspired the British movie Kinky Boots with Chiwetel Ejiofor and an award-winning Broadway musical.

However Adcock focused on other lesser-known factories and how they may fare in the future.

Keep it short

Radio Northampton wanted to try something new for their social media output, so he decided to use self-shooting skills learnt during a previous job on Newsround.

Then he had access to a Z4 camera, but at local radio, there aren't many of these to hand.

There has been a rollout of iPhones and iPads across English Regions, enabling reporters to file audio, photos and short videos from the field. But Adcock decided to use his personal phone and edited footage using iMovie on his MacBook.

Workers in factory A still from Adcock's reports on Northampton's shoe factories

"It wasn't exactly the quickest job in the world but I really wanted to try it. It took time but once you get used to it and know exactly what you're looking for, it gets quicker."

By using his phone, Alcock was able to kill two birds with one stone as he used audio from the films for local radio, while the videos were uploaded to Facebook.

He says he will use his phone again for filming, but acknowledges there are limitations.

"The sound on the phone is not very good so we used an old lapel microphone and a Marantz sound recorder. It was quite technical and laborious but we're quite happy with the results."

He advises keeping videos short as the longer they are, the longer they take to upload to social media. If tripods aren't available, he recommends filming in short bursts and priming interviewees to make their comments concise if possible.

"You can't do everything on an iPhone but I can't see why not in the future."

  • You can see the films on Radio Northampton's Facebook page. A video tutorial on filming with smartphones is on the BBC Academy website.

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