On Tuesday, May 28, we hosted our latest #ConnectChat, "Intro to DIY Mobile Journalism," with Cindy Rodriguez (@CindyERodriguez), a Journalist-in-Residence at Emerson College in Boston.
Cindy told us how to use a smartphone to collect soundbites, do interviews, tips on which apps work best for mobile storytelling and much more.
Our guest today is Cindy Rodriguez, a Journalist-in-Residence at Emerson College in Boston. Hi, Cindy! Thanks for being our guest. Cindy, please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Emerson.
So happy to be a part of this chat. At #EmersonCollege, all journalism students learn how to write and produce news stories across all platforms. I created a class called Covering Immigration this spring and we had a great semester. I’m teaching it again in the fall. This summer, I’m piloting a class called Creating a News Show for the Web. We’re going to have a blast.
That sounds exciting! Great classes, Cindy! What exactly is mobile journalism and does using small cameras in addition to smart phones still qualify under mobile?
Anything that you can take with you to produce journalism on the go is mobile. As long as you can upload it to your site (if you are one-person-banding it) or send it to your editor (if you work for a news outlet, it’s mobile).
Can any smart phone be used? Which do you recommend?
Yes. I use an iPhone because I’m a Mac user and find that it’s easier to stick with one platform.
Cindy, what about tablets? Can these also be used in place of smartphones?
iPads are great because you have more screen room to see what you are editing. You can take photos and video with it, too. You’ll need a tripod. There are many on the market. As for audio, you’ll need to wire it so you can get good sound. Put your iPad or iPhone on Airplane mode so you won’t get a call or notification sound in the midst of collecting audio. Also, turn off all apps running in the background so that you’re not wasting battery power. If you’re going to be out for several hours shooting video, you’ll want back up power. A recommendation: ht.ly/ltCK6
Placing your phone on airplane mode is a great tip especially when you can't redo the soundbite, especially with breaking news. How do you gather and generate attractive soundbites for a story using a smartphone?
On the cheap, use the built-in mic and remember it’s on the BOTTOM of the iPhone. Keep it about 8 inches from the person speaking. Make sure you don’t have distracting sounds in the distance. Having a mic will guarantee better sound. This one works well and it’s $40: ht.ly/ltDn0 It comes with the iRig Recorder app, which will allow you to edit on your phone or iPad.
Is there a way to remove any background noises such as sirens? Will these sounds drown out the soundbite?
Not really. You're best off redoing the interview. OR, better yet, get that person somewhere quiet if you want good soundbites.
I'm just thinking of getting the Chief of Police and then not being able to get him back if there's too much background noise and then you can't use the soundbite he gave. Cindy, to gather b-roll are you using the camera that's provided with the phone or are you using an app or a specific site?
There are so many options. You can use the camera and video recorder that comes with your phone. You MUST use a tripod for both, however. Keep in mind that you need to zoom with your feet. Get close to your subject. Do NOT use the zoom function. Zoom with your feet means you get close to your subject. Get up in their grill, as young people might say. For $50, ht.ly/ltF31 It's as good as it gets. If you don't have a tripod, place your phone on a solid plane. Make sure you shoot close, at eye level. If you want to go all out, this is more expensive option: www.thepadcaster.com You will still need a tripod. That last tripod is specific for iPads.
Cindy, how do you conduct interviews with a smartphone?
I always tell my students to record in chunks. That way you can easily send the smaller files to yourself. This is especially important when shooting video. You want a bunch of short interviews so you can easily edit. Plus, it takes longer to transfer bigger files.
Are recording individual soundbites better than doing a complete interview in one take? Let me please clarify that I mean for both video and audio.
For audio, you can do it in chunks. I say hit stop and record every 15 minutes. For video, you should shoot your A-Roll (interview) in chunks as well. B-Roll will require lots of short (10-second) clips, shot in sequences. It makes it easier to edit video if you have shorter clips. Don't shoot everything. Shoot what you need, otherwise you will be in editing hell with a ton of video that you don't need.
Could you talk about use of social media as it relates to mobile journalism? Any sites you particularly like?
I love using HootSuite on a larger screen to get rich media (audio, video, pics, docs) out via tweets, but you can use any third-party Twitter app. If I'm using my phone, I use the native Twitter app because it's easier.
Can someone usually tell when watching a final report if someone has used a smart phone to get b-roll and soundbites? Is the quality affected?
Sometimes the sound can be a bit tin-y using an iPhone without a mic. If you hold it right and the conditions are good (no noise in background, no wind) you’ll be fine. Wind is your worst enemy. And if you must record outside, use a wind sock. You can make one: ht.ly/ltI4U Reiterating the need for a tripod. These are some cheap DIY options for an iPhone tripod: ht.ly/ltIhw Make sure you don't talk. Nod your head. Make sure your interviewee answers in a full sentence.
Cindy, when you have the elements needed, how do you edit your story?
You should have a script written with your SOTs and narration. This is a basic template I give my students: j.mp/videostoryboard You will edit your story based on your script. Often you'll need to rework your narration to make it work. You don’t have to worry about time codes if you are producing it yourself. That way you can edit with scenes in mind. It will keep the viewer engaged. An audio story needs Nat sound. ht.ly/ltJDG It's essential to collect and include in your story script. It's a great way to start a video piece as well.
You’ll need a laptop and the right cables to transfer your files to your laptop for editing.
You lose quality using an iPhone or iPad but when you are dealing with breaking news, quicker often is better. If you are adept at using a smart phone, it will sound professional. Practice! And, there is an iPhone film festival: www.iphoneff.com/
What are your favorite aps to work with?
For audio, use the Voice Memo app that comes with the iPhone. I also like Audio Boo. ht.ly/ltL0v It allows you to record, edit and publish.
What about for video?
Magisto, Splice and Qik are good for simple shooting and editing on an iPhone they are FREE.
Thanks to all of you on today's #ConnectChat and thanks to you, Cindy, for all of this great information! Thanks for being today's guest!
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