Mobile Journalism

‘Mobile Journalism’ is a method of technology-enabled reporting that relies on smartphones and portable electronics to broadcast on mobile phone networks. The bandwidth and reliability provided by modern phone networks makes real-time, HD video broadcasts possible. Companies like Dejero develop equipment and software that now give broadcasters the ability to quickly deliver or upload video.

Modern smartphones are equipped with high-quality cameras. Apps like Filmic Pro give you control over a variety of advanced settings that you typically will only find on expensive, dedicated videocameras. Legendary director Steven Soderbergh recently shot a feature film using an iPhone 7! Nothing will replace a dedicated, expensive videocamera, especially in extreme conditions (telephoto zoom, low light). But for many situations, a quality smartphone rig can, to a typical viewer, provide video that is nearly indistinguishable from higher-quality systems.  Phone cameras are simply that good! They have their limitations, but they are surprisingly few and easy to anticipate.

Videojournalism is no different than every other trade or profession: You’ll come across purists who shun new technologies methods. Ignore them. All of the techniques I discuss here provide excellent, broadcast-quality solutions. Remember that it’s about the images, not the equipment. Your audience doesn’t care what kind of camera you use!

Ruggedness is an important quality in all of your gear. Mobile journalism is about speed, and when seconds count, you can’t afford to fuss with your equipment or worry about treating it delicately. Take durability into consideration in every equipment choice you make. Make it your priority. Stick to name brands – major equipment manufacturers have a reputation to uphold, and tend produce long-lasting equipment.

The Essentials:

Stability

Tripods (and monopods) are critical items. There’s no way around it: You need a stable platform if you want professional shots. Even the most sophisticated image stabilization solutions can’t compete with a rock-solid, stable foundation. Unfolding and configuring a tripod require time and attention. When you have neither, a monopod is an excellent alternative.

                                                   

Microphone

I recommend sticking to a name brand. There are plenty of manufacturers that produce cheap microphones, but they’re typically not well-constructed. Microphone are delicates instruments, so always pick one that can survive rough handling. Assume that you will need to stuff it into a pack or drop it repeatedly. Durability is more important than audio quality. Rode microphones sells reliable, affordable, and durable microphones designed specifically for smartphone video work. One of their mics clips onto the phone itself! Two affordable mics I recommend are the VideoMic Me (clips onto phone) and VideoMicro. There are more expensive options from several manufacturers, but these particular microphones are extremely durable and provide excellent, clear audio. Make sure you buy a microphone with a 3.5mm plug (traditional headphone-style jack). This streamlines your workflow. You can use premium-quality mic setups (XLR, preamps, etc.), but they’re better for studio environments. In mobile journalism, you will need to assemble your equipment quickly. Complex mic arrangements make this difficult.

                                                               

Mount

You need something to group all of your equipment together. Legos are an excellent conceptual model! Build a modular camera rig that allows you to quickly switch devices like mics and lights. Be creative! Remember that you’re writing your own manual. Always ask yourself, what works for me? When you have the right equipment, you can focus on what works best for you. At that point, there’s no right way to get the job done. Practice the assembly process and be able to do it blindfolded.

We’re not dealing with traditional shoulder-mounted cameras that are much easier to film without a tripod. If you need to get hand-held shots, you’ll quickly find that it’s difficult to hold your camera rig steady, maintain a well-composed shot (you don’t want to start drifting in the middle of an interview), and focus on the story. Your mount must be tripod-mountable!

                                                     

Battery

An external, large-capacity USB battery is essential. When you shoot video, your phone battery will quickly deplete. I recommend choosing a battery that allows you to charge your device a total of at least 3 full charges. I can’t emphasize this enough: You need to be ready for anything, and always assume that you won’t be able to use power outlets. It’s easy to shop for these batteries, and there are plenty of options. Amazon is an excellent shopping tool, even if you don’t buy it there. Use the reviews and star ratings to narrow down the best choice for you. I use RavPower batteries. I’ve dropped them plenty of times, and they’re still working well. Given their ruggedness, they’re quite affordable. You also need a long recharging cable (4+ feet). This allows you to put the battery in your pocket or a pack. Your hands will be free for more important tasks.                

                                                                    

Microphones Smart Phones Stabilization

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