Story vs Tech: some missing commandments

Steve and Moses

This is an archetypal battle that began playing out in the garden of eden and long before Moses went up the mount with his tablets and returned with a ten chapter story we all thought was possibly missing a few essential commandments. Continue reading

Wireless media drive transfer tests

Hey – having trouble getting your media from or onto or between your devices? Try a WiFi transfer drive. What are they? Well they are a couple of inches long, large, square, rectangular. They create their own WiFi network, that generally talks to an App that lives on your smart device. They are also USB in and out for connection to Desk or Laptop. They use an SD card (10 or higher is best) which can also be stuck into a card reader that’s plugged into a laptop. They generally enable streaming to a bunch of devices simultaneously. They are essential for mojo work and the missing link between iDevices and other platforms.

We tested these four some months back for our soon to be published book Mojo – The Mobile Journalism Handbook, which my mojo colleague Stephen Quinn and I have just finished.

Transfer Devices

Here’s what I found:

The Airstash by Maxell and the Connect Wireless Media Drive by SanDisk are useful transfer tools and an essential part of the mojo kit. Both use an SD card. The SanDisk has the advantage of shipping with 64GB of on-board memory and is able to run a whopping 128GB. Both devices will run for 7hrs plus and stream to multiple devices simultaneously. At the time of test the SanDisk Wireless wouldn’t talk with Camera Roll, because, SanDisk say, Apple hadn’t yet authorised the handshake, but they had with the cheaper SanDisk Flash. We are told this has now been sorted and connecting with the App enables the required Firmware update.

The cheaper option from SanDisk, the Connect Wireless Flash Drive, uses a Micro SD card and offers 4 hours of battery life. Why the Micro SD card?

The Kingston Mobile Lite Wireless drive has up to 5 hours of battery life, will enable the use of 128GB SD cards and acts as an emergency battery for mobile devices.

All devices require a free App and all transfer a variety of content and media across devices and platforms.

The above wireless connect devices can cost from $55 AUD to $250 AUD.

We have been using Airstash and the San Disk Flash for 6 months because of their camera roll handshake protocols and they rock.

Two track video edit Apps for Android (maybe soon :)

Here’s to those who ask…

I’ve produced thousands of hours of prime time television and I can honestly say I’ve learned that editing is all about storytelling and not necessarily about NLEs, Apps or technology. For me, it’s about how you structure moments and even before this process begins, how you capture moments and evolving actuality. Planning for an edit begins long before you set foot on location. Mojo, or mobile storytelling, relies on seizing the evolving moment, covering story as it happens and not sitting on a tripod and being stuck in one location. Mojo’s need to be mobile, physically and mentally, in order to capture story as it unfolds.

Editing is all about having the right material and knowing how to stitch it together and not necessarily about tech; except maybe, when trying to edit on a smartphone. Then it makes sense to begin with the App that’s right for the job.

I’ve said it before and here it is again – I use iOS devices to shoot and edit my mojo stories, because until recently, professional edit Apps, offering two track video editing didn’t exist for Android or other non iOS smartphones.

But a few years on and the edit options for mobile devices are increasing, possibly even for Android loving mojos.

I still use two Apps with my iPhone or iPad – Voddio by VeriCorder and iMovie 2.0 from Apple. Voddio was the first App I used because a few years ago it was the only App offering two video tracks. Today, iMovie 2.0 – see my review of iMovie 2.0 – is my go to App, primarily because I don’t need the network features Voddio is selling and because when I teach mojo, journalists and students understand the tap and swipe actions of iMovie, which they say is, just like using an iPhone.

One of the major obstacles I’ve encountered when teaching Android users to create user-generated stories (UGS) is a lack of Android or Windows edit Apps that offer two track video editing. However, this all began to change last year. I have just played with two edit Apps which offer two track video editing for iOS, and allegedly coming soon for Android and Windows devices . They’re interesting, relatively easy to use and effective on iOS, I also hope its the same on Android. Lets wait for the review and the developers. Will the real Android Cute Cut please stand Up 🙂

VideoPadVideoPad by NCH is an excellent NLE App that works across iOS, Windows, Android and Mac OSX – yes the good folk at VideoPad have taken a leaf out of Apple’s play book and made the App a cross dresser – a multi-screen, multi-device, multi platform player. The truth is we all say we need the grunt of Final Cut, but many times iMovie is sufficient and it has the added advantage of being cross platform. VideoPad offers the same benefits. It is an interesting App that took about 5 minutes to learn. VideoPad enables the user to select MOV or MP4 render and play out formats, offers half a dozen frame rates and about the same number of resolutions. The only down side is that it’s only available for tablet and not yet developed for smartphones (or, I couldn’t find a smartphone version today 🙂

Audio MIx Video Pad has advanced audio tweaking and mixing and video optimising or grading facilities. optimize

Cute Cut Pro (don’t let the name put you off) is an NLE App that offers multi-track video for iOS smartphones and tablets. The great advantage of this App is that while it offers two video tracks, you can add many more tracks of stills or graphics (I stopped at eight), making it a terrific choice for compositing or pre-packaging complex sub-clips containing layers of graphics. Make up the sub clip with many vision tracks then render and export to your preferred edit APP, or just use CCP. This App also seems to offer unlimited audio tracks (we stopped checking at 15).

One downside is that the export settings are set at basic High, Medium or Low. This is not a new App. it’s been around since at least Jan 2013 and it’s not, as Cute Cut suggests, Final Cut Pro on your iPhone, far from it. Nor is it as intuitive as iMovie 2.0, or as intricate as Voddio, but it is effective and quite user friendly. See @cutecutapp

Cute Cut Pro

Finally an effective but busy App for the iPhone and iPad with a desk top option, that doesn’t offer two track video on its iOS system, is Pinnacle Studio (formerly Avid). It has an interesting picture in picture (PiP) feature, where I can position the PiP anywhere on the screen and resize it to any size, including full screen. This makes it useful for B roll. PiP source includes video but the only problem is it freezes the content. Am trying to find out if PiP with video can remain a moving B roll image. I guess the problem is the audio algorithm or track type conflict that Pinnacle haven’t sorted, yet. Anyone?.

Reviews coming soon – both Apps function well on iOS (as per above) but we’ll need to wait and see if they will eventually work with Android and Windows devices. The plot thickens. We’ll see soon. Here’s hoping.

Go mojo…


Atomising a News Digest: from Aristotle to D’Aloisio

A 15 year old west-London entrepreneur born in Australia raises $250,00 in Hong Kong to develop an App that chooses news and trims it into atoms. Almost immediately he flips the APP and sells a new version to Yahoo who promptly shutter it and use the IP to create Yahoo News Digest. When a schoolboy can do this there’s no denying we are witness to something extraordinary, even by today’s virtual yard stick. But it can’t be based on the traditional bi-daily news-publishing paradigm we grew up with, can it?

English schoolboy Nick D’Aloisio launched Trimit in early 2011. It was a teeny, but not a tweenie news editor; because At 15, D’Aloisio was already well past being that descriptor. Trimit allowed users to take large chunks of text, which they write or import through a link, and shrink it down to fit a social network update – essentially to summarise and shrink a web page.

Initially developed to help D’Aloisio mange the mega bites of online information he was wading through doing his homework (he was reading books on Artificial Intelligence), Trimit snuck onto the radar of Hong Kong Billionaire, Li Ka Shing, who invested $250,000. Trimit was flipped by the young entrepreneur, who re-launched it six months later, as Summly.

The main difference between the two Apps, said D’Aloisio, was that Trimit was about content creation, whereas Summly solves the need for more concise and efficient content-consumption, while browsing on a mobile device.” Summly users evaluate results with content summaries and that’s what D’Aloisio began spruking with investor and mentor Stephen Fry, acting as side-kick.

The master and the apprentice

The master and the apprentice

Watch video of D’Aloisio and Fry

Selling like an ad-man twice his age, D’Aloisio offers us something we all need, an App that delivers more than Twitter, 260 characters more; but only as Fry adds, “the sentences that matter most.” Deep…Fry !

The cool thing about Summly is that if you want you can swipe to read the full story or double tap for a longer summary.

But was (yes already past tense) Summly so different from other summary type news Apps like Circa, which calls itself, “the first news organization to write strictly for the mobile lifestyle,” ?

According to Circa, voted App store best App of 2013, it’s they who are different from every other summary news App. For starters, Circa says they atomise but don’t summarise. Atomising, they add, is breaking down a story into its core elements – the facts, stats, quotes, media etc. According to Circa, summarising, where you create a smaller version of the existing piece, for a quicker read, is very different.

Hello, am I missing something? Maybe. The truth is and we all know it. No matter whether it’s atomised or summarised, what we are now seeing is what Aristotle noticed years ago, when storytelling dies we are left with decadence. It’s called fragmentation resulting from what’s being called a disruption or, every person online for themselves. What Circa and Yahoo News Digest may be trying to achieve, apart from a profitable business model, is to create some order up there. In essence this is what user generated stories (UGS) can do for millions of hours of UGC, and what user generated programs (UGP) will do for UGS; help curate the fragments.

D’Aloisio believes the difference lies in Summly’s human touch. It’s genetic and not linear algorithm that mimics “how a human actually thinks” and uses “organic metrics” to, says Fry, “think like you and not a robot,” and before you know it, “you are learning more, learning faster, getting information that is more meaningful and you are staying smart,” spruiks the young entrepreneur. They are still talking about an App, right?

And that’s probably why Yahoo spent 30 million dollars buying Summly and not Circa, who say their atomised summarised stories, are actually really “long form in disguise.” Maybe they needed the young schoolboy to tell them that Yahoo was looking to spend big on atomized summaries, not atomized long form news.

A million people bought D’Aloisio and Fry’s double act and downloaded Summly. A small number in the App world, but enough for Yahoo to shell out a whopping 90% in cash and 10% in stock before shuttering the App and making D’Aloisio their new product manager for Summly’s replacement, Yahoo News Digest.

Since taking up the reigns as CEO at Yahoo, in 2012, Marisa Mayer has shuttered 30 of the 40 startups like Summly, according to Read Write Web.  Unlike Facebook, which has been known to buy Apps and strip back its own service to grow the new App, Yahoo seems to have a buy and shut approach.

Mayer explained in an interview with Tech Crunch that in the past people came to Yahoo for single use experiences like Mail or Finance, but stayed because they fell over an unexpected site. She sees Yahoo’s vision as one giant hangout App, maybe like a pizza with various combos that are easily sliced and accessed by the user.

What’s interesting about the Yahoo News Digest, say’s D’Aloisio, is it’s traditional news paradigm based on bi-daily briefings. The New York Times has launched New York Times Now, which also provides two daily updates. The thinking behind these new old paradigms is, that after years of online bombardment, the fractured online information sphere, with its continuous stream of information – bombarding people every moment of the day – may not be working.

The philosophy is not unlike the old days where the paper boy delivered the morning paper and you read the evening news before dinner each day. “We wanted Yahoo News Digest to revisit a content format that when read, led you to a sense of completion and conclusiveness, much like reading the newspaper did.” D’Aloisio says, “So it doesn’t matter what time zone you are in, the notification timing will still be 8am and 6pm local time, you’ll still get a morning and evening digest at your morning and evening timing – and the promise is that when you open up that digest, whatever time it is in the world, those stories will be the most important of the moment”.

One advantage of merging Summly with Yahoo is the size of the parent company. When Philip Seymour Hoffman died Circa says they experienced growing pains when the rush to its site slowed their service. Yahoo’s size should theoretically provide it’s Yahoo News Digest with the appropriate size of pipe it needs in rush hour.

So this is what comes from studying artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and ontology techniques at the age of 15. Aristotle worked it out years ago, but it took a young ex Melbournite, to turn it into a 30 million dollar pay check – for 18 months of work. What were the rest of us doing at 15?

Digital Evolution

Mojo trainer and journalist Ivo Burum and Flemming Monster the Aarhus Editor of Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet, use an iPhone to edit on location at a murder scene, while the TV camera person looks on, wondering how he can get the footage. Ivo and Flemming were already updating their earlier send.

Mojo trainer and journalist Ivo Burum and Flemming Monster the Aarhus Editor of Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet, use an iPhone to edit on location at a murder scene, while the TV camera person looks on, wondering how he can get the footage. Ivo and Flemming were already updating their earlier send.

The shift from print to online news has moved into web TV. While the dust settles management and journalist can have differing views about what’s needed and what constitutes a positive result. Here’s a look at how one European media house is dealing with digital disruption Walkley Magazine Article. Minimising the fall out is not always easy.

iMovie 2.0 ahead of the pack

iMovie 2.0 iOS

Whether Apple is feeling guilty about binning FCP 7, it’s new lean, mean iPhone edit machine, is a marvel. Knowing Apple (and none of us really do), iMovie 2.0, is probably only a first step in giving us the full bottle video editing package for the iPhone. And why not, with companies like Intel spending more on mobile chip development than ever, mobile just could be the anytime anywhere platform that helps us segue between life moments. If that’s true, then iMovie is probably a smart glue we carry and use to structure and give gravitas to those moments we want to remember.

I have spent the past 4 years teaching communities, students, teachers and professional journalists how to make digital stories using the iPhone. I have predominantly used the Voddio edit App, primarily because it has two video tracks enabling B roll editing, which is crucial to fast and dynamic news type story construction. And because if its audio edit functions. But with the release of iMovie 2.0, smartphone and tablet video editing, has entered a new era. It even stores the video content in the right spot, on the back of that incredibly utilitarian workhorse, the Camera Roll.

Some one asked me to do a comparison. Those who use Voddio use it because of two track video editing and it’s audio mix and ducking capabilities. Some organisations also use it because it integrates into its own suite of content management tools. There are a couple of other features like WiFi sharing between devices and computers (which is cool) and the push every track left or right button, which is a professional feature that’s important, but one that Apple has covered.

But this post is primarily about on location in field smartphone edit Apps. Hence, I am going to review iMovie on that basis and those of you who use Voddio, or used to, like me, can make your own comparison, like I’ve done. After all smartphone editing is a very personal thing.

I posted a few days ago that I would be trying iMovie for my next mojo training session. I have just done this and it was a real winner, here’s why.

The first thing you notice with the new iMovie 2.0 is the slick user interface (UI) that allows you to create a project quickly. A number of icons on the home screen hide an array of functions that make this a powerful and intuitive App.

Tap Project and the “+” key and then “Movie” and choose a style and the tap Create Movie and the following UI will appear. The buttons do the following.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Timeline Interface

On the right side:
Help unlocks a number of help options
Change themes allows the user to choose an edit theme
UNDO button is a must.

On the left side:
Insert media: takes you to your Library where choosing Video, Stills or Audio toggles between three storage areas. Now this is where it becomes interesting and where the power of iMovie becomes evident.

You choose media (in this case Video) by tapping a clip, then you simply drag the Yellow bar at each end of the clip in to the desired in and out point. You can then play the chosen portion of clip before deciding to import it. A dialogue box appears when you tap your clip offering number of powerful options that makes this App a very news friendly tool.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Adding media

1. Drops the selected portion of the clip into the time line
2. Plays the selected clip
3. Detaches audio and places this on an audio track. This effectively gives you another vision track because this audio, that’s detached from a vision clip, can have another two vision clips layered above it
4. Creates a second B roll vision track and locates your overlay with its audio muted (this is the key new feature that enable fast and professional editing)
5. Picture in picture – place the selected vision (video or still) in another piece of vision
6. Split screen – creates a split screen of the vision.

It all works very well!

Back to Figure 1
Record Video or Photo – enables the user to record video or photos directly into your timeline, almost live over existing VO (so you know exactly how long these need to be over, for example existing VO) and this is placed exactly where your cursor is parked. These will be stored in Camera Roll.

Record Audio – is an excellent feature that provides a countdown and a view of your new voice over running against your picture in the timeline as you record it. This gives you an idea of required length and whether you need extra pictures or a shorter VO. When recorded you can review the VO, discard it or keep it.

The audio area is where we run into slightly slow mode when mixing or ducking is required. The two problems I noticed immediately are as follows. VOs are part of the project but can not be stored separately. But if you need more control over your VOs to reference their raw form,you can use this workaround.

Tip: Record VO as a Video then select the whole or portion of it and use the detach tool (wave like icon) to insert the audio into your timeline and you always have the original as a file.

Key frame audio ducking is not possible on the iMovie 2.0 except for iMovies own version which requires you to, for example, split your music track (or detach audio from sync) at the point where levels need to be changed before lowering the section that needs to be ducked and raising the levels on the incoming section. You can also fade each of the in and out points. This is done by double tapping the audio track before accessing the dotted more features on the bottom right of the timeline. Tapping here will reveal a number of options, choose Split and go from there. This worked together with mix options on each track just fine for me enabling me to duck sections of music. If that’s not enough, here is another workaround.

Tip: on iMovie cut and mix your story but leave music out before doing either of the following (a) on iMovie 11 for the Mac you can split audio tracks and duck by fading each segment in and out before independently setting its levels, so export the project to iMovie 11 for Mac and audio duck there, or (b) render the project to a video without music before exporting to Voddio, for key frame ducking. Import and insert the music and duck there;  or (c) simply insert music into iMovie iOS and turn the Green or Background audio track into Blue or Foreground. This enables music to be cut, shifted on the timeline and mixed. Only function iMovie for iOS doesn’t have is key point ducking and VU meters.

In the Timeline
Figure 3 below shows a very dynamic representation of the elements that come together to make the video. You see elements clearly – all video and audio and a music track.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Dynamic Timeline

Video Tracks – there are two possible video tracks. I believe this feature alone has taken iMovie into the pro-sumer level and arguably beyond. Having two video tracks enables very fast story editing where the user can concentrate on getting the story right on Video track one, before going back along the timeline to insert the B roll to cover edits and highlight story points, on Video track 2. This is exactly how the experts do it. Why? Because it’s the fastest way of constructing story and allows you to play with and change your story structure without having to undo your color or B roll, which is inserted on Video track 2, once you are happy with your story.

Two Audio Tracks and embedded in video tracks, effectively enabling six audio tracks. We often make TV with just two. Tapping the vision or audio tracks revels a bottom of screen slider for altering audio levels.

Moving along the timeline – either sliding the timeline left of right with a light figure pressure, or by pressing a clip and dragging it to another position on the timeline.

Tip: iMovie for iPad and Laptop have many more advanced audio features which include the ability to view dynamically updating audio waveforms as volume adjustments are made, perform split edits, or fine-tune transition points. iMovie 2.0 allows iPhone users to quickly rough up an edit, then wirelessly transfer the project to an iPad via AirDrop, where it can be completed with slightly more advanced tools. If you need any more tools.

Transitions – the default transition between shots is a dissolve but this can be changed by highlighting it that reveals another set of dissolve options where you can choose “none” or some more fancy offerings like wipes.

Titling Tool – this offers a number of titling options but with out a duration timer, at least not one I could find on this first look. Choosing a theme will unlock various titling options. Once you choose the titles style then simply Tap the titling box and write.

Tip: The work around for duration is to split the shot at the duration point. This is also how I would do subtitles.

Splitting shots – this is done by holding the white Play Head at the point you wish to break the shot, press and pull down like a swipe and the shot splits. Now you can insert another shot between this and all tracks will move right in sync. Or you can highlight a clip on the right, the excess amount and bin it.

Figure 4

Figure 4: Splitting Clips

Saving and sending options

Once you are happy with you video and your audio has had a mix, you can play the completed story in full screen to check your edits, and when happy you can save it to Camera Roll, or send it to a number of locations via a myriad of methods, including AIR DROP, which is a cool way of transferring your project to iPad to access the additional audio and other tool sets.

Tip: Camera Roll is the iPhone’s intersect hub. Use it to send your videos to FTP sites and other systems like Xstream, which are used by news organisations.

You access these functions by tapping the upload button on the home screen to reveal the following screen, Figure 5.

Figure 5: Send and Save options

There are a number of other features to play with including slow-mo. The best way to learn Apple stuff is to play. Learn to use the above and you’ll be making dynamic videos in literally minutes.

I think Apple has created a terrific App for the mobile journalist, which might lack one or two audio enhancement tools. But with its own ducking workaround for the citizen, student or journalist interested in capturing footage quickly and creating a dynamic and professional edit with an audio mix and titles, that can be uploaded from location, iMovie packs the punch you’ll need to get the job done. In many respects this App is so powerful that it is definitely a contender for the bad boy of smartphone editing.

The proof is in the pudding, so what are you waiting for, Go Mojo.

Full review to follow.