A vast number of broadcast technology vendors are embracing the iPhone, iPod and iPad as a platform for professional tools of the industry. Head of technology and Digital Film at Pixion CCL Neil Sadwelkar provides some insights
From its introduction in June 2007, the Apple iPhone created a small revolution in mobile phone usage and applications. A year later, in July 2008 Apple launched the App Store. This worked through the iTunes application on Mac and Windows PCs and enabled iPhone and iPod touch users to securely download applications (or apps) via the App store online.
Anyone can make apps and upload them to the App store. Registered users download these apps and pay securely via their credit card. Apps cost between less than a dollar all the way up to tens or even hundreds of dollars. Apple keeps 30% and passes on 70% of the price to the developer. So far, in two years iPhone apps have grown to 2,25,000 apps with over five billion downloads. And Apple has distributed over US$1 billion (Rs4,600 crore) to app developers.
These apps cover a range of areas and run on iPhone OS (iOS) devices – comprising of the original iPhone 2G, iPod Touch, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, the new iPad, and the latest iPhone 4. As of July 2010 there are an estimated 80 million such iPhone OS devices all over the world. The recently launched iPad has sold 2 million units so far, and the iPhone 4 has sold 1.7 million iPhone 4 units in only 3 days. So, some estimate that there may be as many as a 100 million iOS devices by the end of the year – all models combined.
Whether it is the iPhone, or the iPod Touch or the iPad, small and large developers have come up with innovative apps that use the portability, touch-screen interface, excellent graphics, sound, and camera features of these devices, along with their communication capabilities over WIFI and 3G.
In the field of film and video production and post-production too, several innovative and easy-to-use, yet versatile apps have been around for a while now. These empower users to carry out complex tasks on a hand held device without worrying about the complexities of a PC and its general purpose operating system.
In the examples that follow, one can see that the strength of these iOS devices is in their role as a hand-held appliance. One that can run for long hours on batteries, be used without any special computing skills, and is cost-effective to own and distribute. And can be connected easily to public networks to transmit and receive data both as audio and video.
There is an audio recorder and a vision control system that integrates easily with professional video systems. One can also find a video distribution system and even a video editing application.
In the months to come we will see many such apps especially those that use the large screen of the iPad, or the front and back facing cameras of the iPhone 4, or even its very high resolution retina display. These will then be the appliances of the future and some might even integrate into video acquisition, controlling cameras and audio recorders remotely, integrating script management into actual shooting.
FiRe audio field recorder
Version 1.3 of FiRe, the professional field recording application for Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, developed by Audiofile Engineering, incorporates many new features including professional audio effects powered by industry leader iZotope.
The most notable of these features is the new Podcast Export option, which allows users to publish podcasts directly from the iPhone, the first app with this capability.
FiRe was designed to bring serious field recording to audio professionals and version 1.3 furthers this direction by being the first iPhone application to incorporate professional audio signal processing powered by iZotope, claims Audiofile.
“With a reputation for the best digital signal processing available, iZotope has become the leading provider of DSP for professional audio applications,” according to co-founder and operations manager with Audiofile Engineering Matthew Foust.
FiRe 1.3 is the first application with the ability to publish a finished Podcast directly from the iPhone or iPod touch. Several features make FiRe an excellent Podcast recorder, according to Audiofile, such as the ability to tag recordings with location data and the ability to insert and give names to markers.
When creating a Podcast with FiRe, markers are converted to chapters for easy navigation.
“Bringing professional audio processing to all platforms is part of iZotope’s main strategy,” explained CEO of iZotope Mark Ethier.
“We’re proud to have Audiofile Engineering as a lead customer on the iPhone with their professional-grade FiRe field recording app.”
Haivision unveiled the VFiControl application for its Furnace video over IP platform, Furnace. VFiControl enables users to control the Furnace’s recording process, apply real-time metadata on the fly, and review video recording directly on the mobile device. VFiControl is ideal for controlling the recording, review and publishing processes of medical procedures, medical skills and other training simulations, lectures, military exercises, and sporting events.
Users can instantly review the recording directly on their mobile device prior to publishing it directly to the Furnace IP video system. “With the ability to view and control live video using mobile technology, Haivision customers realise dramatic improvements in the speed, ease, and convenience with which they can view, enrich, and publish media,” said CTO Haivision Joe Gaucher. “The VFiControl makes Haivision’s Furnace IP video delivery system even more valuable and useful to our clients working in virtually any environment, anywhere. This new app provides intelligent control over intelligent video.
The development of VFiControl is indicative of Haivision’s continued pursuit of solutions that empower customers to make the most of media across their enterprises.”
Streambox launched the StreamboxME app at this year’s NAB.
The video-encoding application enables iPhone 3GS users to upload high-quality video using the dedicated Streambox Live broadband video contribution service.
Available for free download from iTunes, StreamboxME is a groundbreaking approach to field newsgathering and video capture that reporters and other content contributors can use to stream live or file-based video from their iPhones to broadcasters, news organisations, government agencies and enterprises.
StreamboxME is the latest free-of-charge encoding application in the Streambox Live solution family, adding iPhones to other 3G and 4G mobile phones and Wi-Fi-connected laptops that can be turned into tools for flexible field newsgathering.
By subscribing to the cloud-based Streambox Live service, news and media companies and other organisations can use low-bandwidth networks to enable many-to-many real-time and file-based video acquisition. After downloading the free encoding software to their mobile devices, video contributors, journalists, citizen reporters, and enterprise communicators can file breaking news stories from field locations that are difficult for satellite newsgathering trucks to reach. Once the compressed video streams are uploaded to the studio, they can be decoded and broadcast live or archived via the Streambox Live data centre.
“Streambox Live is a revolutionary approach to field newsgathering, enabling news organisations to expand their live coverage economically in remote, rugged field locations or those lacking high-bandwidth networking services,” claims Bob Hildeman, chairman and CEO of Streambox.
“Reporters can add iPhones to the arsenal of mobile devices with which they can quickly and easily record, encode, and transmit live video. All they need is an iPhone and a low-bandwidth IP connection.”
Broadcast Pix announced the iPixPanel last month, an application that will allow an iPad to control any of its Slate video production systems.
The iPixPanel combines the iPad’s user friendly touch screen and wireless control with a Slate panel’s unprecedented feedback, which shows device and file name on the panel’s buttons, helping users to create engaging live video. Users can try a portion of a control panel for free by downloading the Broadcast Pix iPixPad from the App Store, then run it on an iPhone or iPod Touch.
“Broadcast Pix has always been about harnessing new technologies to enable you to create the most compelling live video,” said Ken Swanton, Broadcast Pix president. “Now, the iPixPanel on an iPad lets us bring a powerful control panel to individual producers that previously could not afford one – and wireless panels to larger production teams to expand their control options.” Each Slate system has its own IP address, so iPixPad can control a specific system.
The iPixPad application replicates a Slate’s PixPad, the bank of 12 buttons on the Broadcast Pix control panel that allows the user to fire off macro memories, as well as select clips and graphics. Unlike macros on conventional switchers that only recall switcher moves, Broadcast Pix macros can also recall graphic and clip files, as well as camera positions. An iPixPad can control a simple show with macros that select and position cameras and automatically add the appropriate title graphics and animations.
The iPixPad can also be used to augment control of a larger production by providing an additional operator, or even the director, with a wireless controller that can be used to run macros or select graphics or clips.
The first professional video editor application for Apple devices was unveiled at NAB this year.
VeriCoder’s 1st Video app includes a multi-track sound editor, a video editor and a proprietary editing interface that the company claims makes editing with an iPhone easier than on a computer.
The professional version of the system 1st VideoNet can be integrated into a professional newsroom environment. Videos can be taken from external sources and cameras and then sent to Camera Roll, Mobile Me or YouTube or sent to an IPTV platform with VeriCorder’s IPTV solution.
The editor can handle resolutions of 640 x 480 although off-device rendering can be done at 720p.
“It really is the first fully featured system for filing news reports from the field quickly and easily,” claims Gary Symons, founder of VeriCorder. “In fact, there are features in 1st Video that are still not available in large, expensive commercial systems, such as the ability to simultaneously file stories to the newsroom and the web.”
App TV platforms
Mobiclip provides mobile TV and mobile video services to broadcasters including the option of an iPhone app-based TV streaming service.
Each application can be branded with the channels own look. The video is delivered at 24 fps and utilises the full area of the screen.
Mobiclip can also support ad insertion in a number of formats including pre-roll, mid-roll, insertion or fixed banner.
The service also has a bandwidth detector allowing it to adjust the bit rate of the video to the best achievable quality.
Customers can also receive full usage reporting including user location, phone model, time of day and duration of view.
App radio platforms
Streaming technology developer StreamTheWorld offers radio stations a customised audio platforms. The app uses Advanceed Audio Coding (AAC+) and uses a low enough volume of bandwidth that it can be used over a 3G network.
Several routes to monetisation via DoubleClick’s dart platform and through pre-roll videos.
Usage tracking statistics, in the form of total unique listeners, concurrent listeners and total listening time are also available.