Monday, September 22, 2014

Modern day video

When I first started working in the public information officer field, there were very few ways to get your message on video. If your department was rich enough, you would have a video team which could shoot on the field or in a studio and you put it out over your organization's cable channel. Or, you got the television media out to cover what you were doing. That was pretty much it.

A typical studio shot back in the 1990s. 
Today, however, the options are a lot more wide open. Smart phones with HD video. GoPro cameras you can strap to your hat. Online video services like YouTube and Vimeo.

I can't even begin to tell you how having something to video a briefing on scene and posting it online in minutes can do for getting the word out to the public. In our office, we responded to a water main break late one evening in December of 2011, and could have used that ability like nobody's business. But, we were just getting into the world of social media and online video, so we missed the opportunity.

A setup similar to the one we use in our office
But, no longer. Our office has invested in a video rig that is so easy to use, the PIOs can bring it with them out into the field to capture what is happening and post it quickly.  What's in the kit?

  • An iPad mini. The iPad mini comes with an HD camera mounted built in, and provides a great platform to record video files, edit them and upload them to an online video server of your choice. With the mini running about $150 less than the full size iPad, it can save you some bucks while providing the same level of service.
  • An iOgrapher mounting case. The folks at iOgrapher made a pretty handy case for shooting video. Two large handles on each side allow a great, rock solid grip, and a 1/4" mount allows it to be mounted to any tripod you want. Three cold shoe mounts at top also give you the ability to add on a set of lights, a wireless mic receiver, the works. You can also buy a set of screw on lenses that allow you to get better shots.
  • An iRig Pre microphone amplifier. While there are set ups that allow you to plug a cordless or corded mic right into the iPad's earphone adaptor, the iRig allows us to use our existing studio quality XLR microphones and gives us the ability to boost the volume of the incoming volume for recording.
  • Filmic Pro. This inexpensive software takes the standard camera app a step forward, allowing to set the focus to one point, but the exposure to another. More advanced controls give you theability to change frame rates, preset zooms... it's a real multi-tasker.
  • Pinnacle Studio. This app goes above and beyond the offerings of iMovie, allowing the ability to insert graphics, do multi-channel audio, zoom within the video frames and do a ton of other things right on the iPad, without having to upload the video to another computer to edit on. And, once the edited piece is done, it can be uploaded to your iPad right to your video server.

Of course, the real question is, "How does it look?" The video I posted above was shot and edited on the office's iPad mini. From a technical aspect, it came out looking pretty decent.

Sure, as with any system, there is always room to learn and improve upon. Don't think getting a set up like the one we have in our office will make you the next Martin Scorcese. Learning the basics of the program, video composition, editing techniques are all going to be part of your improvement plan if you want to shoot and produce uber-high-quality video.

But, the way I see it, this set up is kind of like Orville and Wilbur Wright flying on the beaches of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It can be done, now it's just a matter of improving upon the concept.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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