The mobile video rig, 2014 edition

Electronics continue to get smaller and more portable every year. Recently, a few folks have asked what the video gear of choice is these days, especially for road warriors. Here’s my current gearing strategy – and bear in mind, this is subject to change, too!

First, this is what all of the gear looks like, arranged on a desk – you can see how easily it will fit in a backpack or bag.

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This is what it looks like, set up:

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Gear

Camera

Most smartphones these days take good enough video. Your iPhone 5s/6/6+ or Galaxy/HTC/Nexus will do the trick in normal or good lighting. What makes or breaks video with a smartphone is stability. You don’t get stability from holding the phone in your hand.

Stability

Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight Camera Tripod

For conferences, nothing beats a small table-top tripod. I use the Ultrapod; I’ve broken way too many Gorillapod tripods in my time to ever recommend one again. The Ultrapod is good enough, and has a velcro strap so you can always bind it to a pole or chair or something.

Norazza Monopod-lightweight TD140

For moving around, the Norazza TD140 monopod is my choice. Folded up, it’s a 14-inch monopod, which means it fits inside a roller bag with ease, and even in some backpacks. Most other monopods fold to 22 inches or 24 inches, which is a problem.

Professional Mini Ball Head Camera Mount

Almost every monopod will need a ball head if you don’t want to risk damaging the top eventually. A good ball head will also let you walk around with the monopod dangling loosely below it, which in turn allows the weight of the monopod to act as a stabilizer.

Square Jellyfish Smartphone Spring Tripod Mount for Smart Phones 2-1/4 - 3-5/8' Wide (Stand not Included)

For mounting your phone on these units, use a spring clamp. I like the Square Jellyfish, but nearly any will do as long as it doesn’t damage the case of your phone.

Audio

Ampridge MightyMic S iPhone Shotgun Video Microphone MMS

Because we’re using the smartphone as the recorder, you can use any mic accessories that are phone-compatible. I like this little shotgun mic from Ampridge that delivers decent sound, especially for interviews, and plugs right into the phone’s audio jack. Bonus: it’s super lightweight, so you can get decent audio without 20 pounds of mice and cables.

Power

APĀ® 15600mAh Power Bank Charger Universal External Powered Backup Porable Battery Pack Backup Travel Cell Phone Charger for Mobile Phone, iPhone, iPad, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, LG, BlackBerry, iPod,MP3,MP4,PSP,PDA

This right here is the bane of smartphone video: running out of battery power. Video consumes an inordinate amount of battery, so having an external battery pack is essential – and ideally more than one. A big power bank will let you record all day and only need to sync with a laptop when you have to offload data, not because you run out of juice.

Software

I’m on a Mac, so I use iMovie.

Adobe Creative Cloud

If you’re looking for something a little more robust, you can rent Adobe Creative Cloud for $50/month and get Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Audition to bring some heavier horsepower to your video work.

Process

Great video requires great audio. Use the gear above along with the leveling process I described in this post on how to get iMovie and Levitator to work together. If you’re using Adobe’s suite, you can do the same by roundtripping the audio from Premiere Pro to Audition and back.

Output

Here’s a video I shot with this exact setup at the MarketingProfs B2B forum:

This is the Tufts Beelzebubs at the conference opener, shot from tabletop.

I hope this helps aspiring videographer road warriors streamline some of the gear you’re carrying while not sacrificing a great deal in the quality department! Unsurprisingly, all of the products mentioned here are Amazon affiliate links.


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Solicited Review: Clickshare from Barco

I recently had the opportunity to test out the Clickshare group screensharing system, sent to me by Noel Bellen of Barco. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the premise is fairly simple: sharing screens is harder than it should be. If you’ve ever sat in a corporate conference room and watched as someone struggled to find which of the cables (Thunderbolt? HDMI? VGA? DVI? DisplayPort?) fit into their laptop, you’ve questioned two things:

1. Why is this so hard?

2. How did the human race survive?

Once you get the cable of choice plugged in, you hope it continues to work. On top of that, if you need to change laptops for any reason, you get to do the entire dance again.

Barco’s ClickShare promises to make the process less difficult. When you get the unit, it’s shipped with comparatively few directions, making it a fairly decent challenge to anyone not already technically savvy. Once you install the base station, get it hooked up to a display, and turn it on, the process gets slightly easier, but it definitely needs more and better documentation in the box.

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Once set up, it’s effectively a new Wi-Fi point on your network. To share a screen, you plug one of several USB remotes into the laptops that will be presenting, or connect a mobile device via Wi-Fi to the ClickShare. Push the red button on the USB remote and you’re live, or transmit files from Dropbox on your mobile.

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That part in and of itself is handy. It simplifies getting a meeting started, and you can even run network screen sharing apps like GoToMeeting on your laptop while still transmitting to the ClickShare, for combination webinars and in-person seminars. Got more than one presenter or machine to share information from? Tap the button and the screen shifts instantly to the other display. Super handy. I’ve used it with my iPhone and laptop and it works well for sharing files. One limitation on the mobile version is that you have to present files – PowerPoints, PDFs, etc. It doesn’t present a live view of what’s happening on the mobile device.

Now, where this little device is going to shine isn’t the corporate boardroom per se, though it certainly is handy and easy for people to understand once you get it set up. No, where the Barco ClickShare is going to shine is at conferences, because inevitably there’s the guy (and yes, sometimes it’s me) who brings his or her own laptop, iPad, mobile, etc. or the laptop provided by the venue or conference organizers blows up or can’t project. There’s the inevitable “my slides are 4:3 and the display is 16:9″ to contend with as well.

The ClickShare would be ideal for conference organizers because it streamlines much of that, and with multiple USB remotes, one speaker can be on stage presenting while the other is prepping their laptop. Because the device is wireless, the laptop doesn’t have to be with the AV guys in the back of the room, thus causing the clicker to either not work or rely on the manual clicker (which does nothing but turn on a “next slide” lightbulb in the back of the room, the remote I despise the most). The ClickShare would let presenters sit anywhere in the room they wanted, run their decks from their laptop, and not have to spend 25 minutes rewiring the room just for their slides to work.

The Barco ClickShare is available on Amazon. (no surprise, all my Amazon links are affiliate links)


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Video amusement: Instagram Hyperlapse

On August 26, Instagram debuted a new app for iOS devices called Hyperlapse.

Hyperlapse_from_Instagram_on_the_App_Store_on_iTunes

Hyperlapse is beautifully simple: record video with it and it will accelerate it between 6x and 12x, add motion stabilization, and publish it for you. You can use the Instagram platform or simply pull it off your mobile device for other purposes. I took this video of a portion of my commute to work at sunrise and fed it to Hyperlapse:

This video was shot using my iPad and a dashboard mount (hands-free for safety!) over the span of 15 minutes. The app did a wonderful job of smoothing out the many, many, MANY bumps in the road (because taxpayer dollars pay for the existence of roads, but not necessarily their quality) and then I added Matthew Ebel’s “Drive Away” in post-production.

For marketers, Hyperlapse offers some easy potential to take long snippets of video and then condense them down, from conferences to trade shows to events. It’s full motion video, as opposed to time-lapse (which will make its debut in iOS 8 natively), so if you need additional smoothness (in exchange for only 12x acceleration), Hyperlapse is a good choice. It’s absurdly simple to use, and I foresee some neat uses for it. For example, the Parrot and DJI drones can have iPhones attached to them (typically by a Joby mount), so imagine combining a drone’s flight abilities with a Hyperlapse video.

The only limitation I see right now is that Hyperlapse can’t import existing video – you have to shoot raw video with the app itself for it to process the video and apply its signature stabilization and acceleration. The price is right (free), so get it and see what you can do with it.

Click here to download in the Apple App Store.


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