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Rory Cellan-Jones

News from a Mobile

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 15 Feb 08, 09:09 GMT


You may have noticed the video clips embedded in this blog over the past few days from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. They marked the beginning of an experiment which will see us try out various ways of video blogging from mobile phones. So how was it done - and what do we think of it so far?

I took a number of mobile phones to Barcelona, intending to film with two of them, the Nokia N95 and the LG Viewty. The Viewty can produce better quality video - but I found the battery dies within two hours, so I ended up just using the N95.

The clips were recorded onto a Micro SD card, and then transferred to a laptop, either by bluetooth or via a card-reader. I then used Apple's free iMovie 6 programme (iMovie 8 which ships with current models is a disappointing backward step) to top and tail the clip. iMovie could then compress the clip from something like 80mb to just 6mb for faster uploading.

At first, we uploaded to my own account on Youtube - simple enough, but you get no information about the speed of upload. Then we started an account on a rival service, blip.tv, which gives you more information during and after the upload process, with a typical clip taking just two or three minutes to arrive. Let's make it clear at this point that we are not endorsing any products or services - we intend to test-drive whatever is around and see if it works.

The whole process was pretty speedy - so for instance I dashed off to film ARM's Android prototype, then found some free wi-fi in the T-Mobile pavillion and had the video online within an hour.

But what about the quality of these shaky clips, shot by someone who couldn't quite make up his mind what to point at? We had decided that this would be unedited material, so it all had to be done in one take. So, for instance during the ARM clip, that meant moving the camera from the interviewee's face down to the prototype phone and back again. It would have been better to shoot close-ups of the device separately to put over the interview but that would have involved a lengthy edit - and I had my proper job to do. Sound was also a problem - the N95 picks up everything from wherever you point it, but unless you are quite close to the interviewee you may get swamped by background noise.

It's fair to say the reaction from blog readers was mixed: "Thanks for the video but you may want to invest in something a little better than your cell-phone to film stuff. This is definitely not "broadcast" quality" and "Give this guy a steady cam! It's like the camera's strapped to his head" said two of the critics.

But some of you understood that this was not about producing high-quality television packages: "There is a big difference between filming for TV and filming for the internet," said one man. "Webcams allow you to capture stories opportunistically without having to wait for a TV crew."

And that's the point. Alongside this blog you will find links to the high quality television reports, beautifully shot and edited by my cameraman Peter Page, which were the main focus of our trip to Barcelona. Material shot on a mobile phone will never replace the real thing - but I think it can be a useful addition to our professional toolkit. Mind you, I think it might be worth investing in a mini tripod and an external microphone.

The video above - all shot on the mobile - gives a bit of a flavour of our multi-platform expedition to the Mobile World Congress.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 10:37 AM on 15 Feb 2008,
  • Neil wrote:

Hmmm.... I'm with the critics on this one. Immediacy is all very well but frankly there's already too much arty wobbly video around. If you can't find the time to create a steady and properly edited video clip I'd rather you concentrated on the words: perhaps add a still image or two for illustration, at least that doesn't leave me feeling queasy!

Was talking to some film people last night, they were saying they were having to learn how to make content that looks like it was made for YouTube with their expensive gear - ie planning in the camera shake, lousy lighting etc - because there is a growing taste for this sort of look and feel...

  • 3.
  • At 03:57 PM on 15 Feb 2008,
  • Alan wrote:

I think it's useful if it enables us to get additional interviews/video that wouldn't otherwise be popular, but it shouldn't take the place of 'proper' camerawork. I'm happy with 'wobblevision' to see new products, etc. but for interviews it's maybe better using a proper setup.

The thing I DO really like is the Flash-based video. It's being used more and more on the BBC site and to be honest I wish the RealPlayer streaming was just stopped altogether - it's so much quicker just to click 'play' on a Flash video than waiting for a separate window to open and RealPlayer to start buffering, etc.

Are we going to see Wapping style riots from the cameramen?

I think for the mobile conference, that using that sort of style was completely relevant.

About using it more for news, I think tha tyou may haveto master your camera man skills, Rory.

Good luck in the future, I'll be following

Even with a steady cam you can wave around the camera like a lunatic and zoom in and out until you and the viewer feel motion sickness. Those are typical beginner errors. Talking about the ARM clip, your camera man could have given you some simple pointers. He probably would have done magic with the device.

And note editing of video clips and downsizing can be done on the device.

Concerning sound, could you not simple connect the bluetooth headset and give it to you interviewee? Or use a handsfree headset that has beamforcing. Those are simple but very effective solutions.

Hi Rory,

we developed infrastructure allowing realtime sending video from mobile to web 2.0 served as widget and very easy to configure, and one the infrastructure once the stream is over (the limit is the battery life) can autopost in blogger or youtube.

We were at Innovation Zone, hall 7, in the MWC last week, our videos showcasing the technology

http://solaiemes.blogspot.com/2008/01/liveserve-20when-mobile-and-web-20-walk.html

and

http://solaiemes.blogspot.com/2008/02/yes-we-did-using-3g-videoshare-to-real.html

I tested this camera for a client. I didn’t have the light running for more than 15 minutes. The battery lasted approximately 6 hours before recharging. The LCD, however, had a few dead pixels - never saw this before. Tried returning for exchange and had to put up quite a fight. Anyone else seen this? http://www.batteryfast.co.uk
Verizon is about the only place you can get the authentic RIM product and matching door. Most other sites are out of stock and even when they are in stock they have the black battery door which looks like crap. http://www.batteryfast.com.au
:)

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