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Summer Of Mobile Sport Video & Tall Ships

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Jason DaPonte | 16:06 UK time, Friday, 25 July 2008

Whether you've got a sparkly new 3G iPhone or not, more and more of people are watching video on their mobiles. Here's some of the work the BBC Mobile team has been doing to try to bring more of the BBC's video to you.

Between January and May 2008 our video (and audio) downloads have almost doubled and the length of time people are spending consuming audio visual content has nearly quadrupled. We're not sure exactly why the change has happened so suddenly, but I reckon it has to do with more devices being wifi-enabled and/or having larger screens.

We're in the middle of a summer full of sports video that you can watch on the go. And we're experimenting with how mobiles can be used to capture media and tell stories in new ways.

One of the more original video projects we're working on is the Liverpool Tall Ships Race.

Our team worked with BBC Liverpool on this year's Tall Ships race to capture the first-hand experiences of five crew members - with videos taken on their mobiles and viewable on yours.

We selected a range of crew members on different ships that would give us a good spread of stories and shots from this dramatic event, especially since using the mobiles would allow us to tell the stories of the journeys as they unfolded instead of having to wait for traditional cameras to come back to shore.

tall_ships.jpg
Lovely picture "Tall Ships at Liverpool" courtesy of John Kennan on Flickr. There's also a Tall Ships Races 2008 Flickr group

We then kitted them out with Nokia N95s (with fingers crossed that none of them would go overboard!).

Some News Online reporters used them to report from this year's Game Developers Conference, but this was the first time that we've put them in the hands of the subjects of a story to understand it from their perspective.

We offered them some light directorial and filming advice, but the decisions were theirs and we didn't edit the clips (some were stiched together for the web to make pieces that were longer than would be digestable on mobile).

We used ShoZu, commerically available media upload software, to make sure that it was easy to send videos back from sea and hope dthat the ships would be within range of a decent 3G signal to transmit the videos back over. ShoZu worked well for us, but our team had to do a lot of re-encoding of MPEG-4 to AVI to MPEG-1 before we could put it onto our mobile video portal. The option to record in 3GP was also available but we weren't happy with the picture quality that the N95s gave using this standard. If anyone knows of a media loader that will let us go direct from phone to MPEG-1 (and give us good picture quality), let us know, as we're looking for one.

We're still waiting for the final videos to come in - one camera is still at sea and will complete the trip to Norway before the phone comes back to BBC Mobile HQ - so I hope you'll take some time to watch them and let us know what you think of our experiment (positive or negative). The feedback will help us to figure out whether to do more like this in the future - and ways of doing it better.

Other video highlights this summer included UEFA Euro 2008, which featured more video than we've ever provided for a major sporting event and the Olympics On Mobile will have even more. If you sign up for Olympic Mobile alerts, they will warn you shortly before the biggest events are on in Beijing so that you can tune in and watch on your mobile and never miss a thing - even if you're at work. (Or you could be boring and tune in on telly - but I would say that, being the mobile editor, wouldn't I?).

To promote the Olympics, we've got exclusive videos and wallpapers of Monkey created by the men behind Gorillaz - Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett.

If you're not sure of how to access BBC Mobile, Kate Silverton will be happy to give you a lesson.

Jason DaPonte is Managing Editor, Mobile Platforms, BBC Future Media & Technology.

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