It’s now been a year since I packed away my laptop, digital recorders, microphones, cables, and cameras, and began covering Washington, DC with only my iPhone.
So, it’s probably time for some introspection into what is going well, and what isn’t. We’ll end each section with a rating — 10 = Incredibly Satisfied, 1 = Not Working.
AUDIO EDITING: I’m very pleased with the VC Audio Pro app by VeriCorder. The three-track recorder allows me to quickly pull cuts, assemble wraps, and adjust volumes. I’m told the ability to import emailed audio into the editor is in the works. I’d still like some basic compression. The amount of time saved by not having to boot up the laptop and transfer audio has been the single greatest work flow improvement. The finished wrap that used to take 30 minutes to produce and transmit can now be done in 10. Rating: 9 (Update: As of 6/2013, Audio Pro has been replaced by Voddio)
MICROPHONES: When I started my iPhone-only reporting on a 3Gs, I liked the BlueMikey. It had some nice bottom, and with three volume settings had enough flexibility for different situations. But BlueMikey isn’t compatible with iPhone4, and the company hasn’t worked out a solution. After trying several iPhone mics that sounded thin, I’ve been using the built-in microphone, and am satisfied with the sound quality.The iPhone is very susceptible to wind. Rating: 4 (Updated May 9, 2011: I’ve purchased an XLR adapter, which allows me to connect a broadcast mic to an iPhone, along with an audio out jack. In an A-B test, built-in mic sounded fuller than my Shure SM63.)
PHOTOS: The ability to quickly snap, edit, and transmit photos to the webbies at wtop.com is another huge time saver. It’s also causing me to rethink my news gathering. Since “once in a lifetime moments” can’t be recreated, at times I find myself taking a few pictures first in breaking news situations, then gathering natural sound. I use the iPhone4’s built-in camera. For editing, I select the picture from Camera Roll, re-frame, then take a screenshot of the improved image by simultaneously touching the sleep/wake button on the top of the phone and the Home button. It’s then ready to be emailed. Rating: 8
LIVE REPORTS: I’ve experimented with two mobile VoIP apps, each which requires a hardware “receiver” in the newsroom. We beta tested Report-IT Live. I liked the ease of the app, and was satisfied with both the wifi and 3G audio quality. However, since the station didn’t buy the needed Tieline hardware the test was brief. The other app, Media5-fone “talks” to the station’s Comrex Access. I find the app “forgets” the number I need to dial, often doesn’t connect, and sometimes provides choppy audio. I’ve decided it’s too risky to use for a live report, so will usually prefeed a recorded report. Rating: 2
VIDEO: I like the flexibility of the VC 1st Video app. It allows precise video cuts and has two audio tracks. Right now, we’re not doing involved production for wtop.com. Short “money shots” to complement text can often be trimmed with iPhone’s built-in video recorder, which requires less time than importing video into 1st Video. Good audio for video is almost impossible using only the iPhone. The built-in microphone points away from the interviewee who is standing several feet away. I’ve experimented with the JK Audio BlueDriver-F3. It’s a Bluetooth unit that plugs into a broadcast mic that pairs with the iPhone. While the unit allows the mic to transmit to the iPhone, the iPhone’s built-in mic doesn’t mute. I fear the only way to get good audio with video may be to use a XLR adapter cable. Rating: 2 (Updated May 9, 2011: XLR adapter mentioned above improves audio for video substantially.) (Update: As of 6/2013 1st Video has been replaced by Voddio)
TWITTER: The role of Twitter in complementing my on-air and website reporting is already major and growing. I find myself reporting stories first on Twitter. At times the first web version on wtop.com is based on three or four tweets strung together. Tweeting pictures has a quicker upload time than emailing them, so often the website will capture the tweeted photos for inclusion on wtop.com. I’m very happy with the free version from Twitter, Inc. My backup is TwitVid. Rating: 9
All in all, I’m pleased so far. I feel like my work output has increased, in the midst of the evolution of my news gathering strategies. I trust the next year will bring some technological improvements, as well as new applications that can be tailored for my needs.
It’s an exciting time to be a reporter!