Why mobile devices are big in broadcast

Smartphones and tablets have taken the world by storm, being used as gaming devices, web browsers and even fully fledged portable offices. Now the latest raft of mobile devices like iPads and iPhones is making waves in the broadcast industry.

One factor behind the industry acceptance is their function as a mobile computer. If you’re at your workstation, you don’t necessarily want to navigate out of the program you’re using to check your emails. With an iPad, you have all you need at your workstation to browse the web and check emails without disrupting your workflow. Secondly, there’s the budget factor. A small control surface will set you back hundreds to thousands of pounds. But now there are free apps designed specifically to control major NLEs, allowing access to multiple control surfaces for editing, audio mixing, colour grading and more.

The app market is getting increasingly competitive, with hundreds of apps vying for the attention of editors’ and video producers’ mobile devices. I’ve put together a few below which can genuinely improve workflows, including apps for controlling editing and grading software, as well as inventive video production apps that that do the jobs of expensive bits of kit like teleprompters and digital clapperboards.

Control surfaces

The iPad‘s multitouch gestures lend it perfectly to adjusting knobs and faders in your choice of grading or editing software. Of course, you don’t quite get the ergonomics and response of a full-on hardware desk, but for apps which are free or cost a fraction of the price, they’re very useful for using out on location to grade on the fly, or in conjunction with your existing surface. These are a few of my favourites…

AC-7 Core. This app looks great. It’s designed to look and act like a dedicated Final Cut Pro controller, and does so by taking advantage of CoreMIDI support in iOS. As such, AC-7 Core is also compatible with many other suites which support MIDI controllers including Logic, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Sony Vegas/Acid Pro or Adobe Audition. It’s incredibly easy to sync your iPad with FCP using AC-7 Core too, as you can see in this video tutorial from Creative Cow. Price: £5.49.

Tangent v-Wave Lite. v-Wave Lite’s three digital trackerballs let you simultaneously control the colour differential and masters in the Primary In, Secondaries and Primary Out rooms in Apple Color. It’s a proper standalone controller, but you can also use it at the same time as your CP200 or Wave, so you can even have two people grading together. Price: FREE.

Blackmagic Videohub Control. The Videohub app lets you control your Blackmagic Videohub broadcast SDI routers directly from your iPad. It’s easy to use as you simply tap a destination button to show the connected source, then change sources by pushing any of the source buttons. As it’s a free download, you can equip your whole crew with their own Videohub control panel for nothing! Price: FREE.

Production apps

On set, everyone has their smartphone (set to silent!) in their pocket, but as budgets are strained the iPhones and iPads have been coming out in favour of more expensive broadcast kit, or with bespoke programs written for them (like Sony’s XMPilot) to directly save time in post. For filmmakers and producers on a budget, there are hundreds of apps out there that can turn an iPad into a veritable broadcast toolbox for next to nothing. From useful tools for calculating depth of field up to apps that will make you wonder why you ever needed to spend so much on autocues and clapperboards, there’s an app that comes in handy for every aspect of the set. Here’s a handful of the best…

MovieSlate. This clapperboard app lets you log footage and take notes as you shoot, so you can save time by only capturing the good shots. You can then export your notes and logs into various file formats daily shot reports, archiving and ingesting shot data into Final Cut Pro, Media Composer or Premiere Pro. But the most interesting thing is that MovieSlate will receive timecode (as an in-app upgrade) – just connect a compatible audio cable from an LTC timecode source to the headphone jack of your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. Price: £17.49 (£34.99 upgrade for Timecode Sync).

Sony XMPilot. The main advantage of XMPilot is you can add metadata to the camera over the air while you’re still shooting. As well as helping you keep track of what you’re doing, this also means the moment you import your footage into Avid or FCP 7, it’ll automatically create bins and an ordered project. Price: FREE.

i-Prompt Pro. A budget version of professional teleprompting software, iPrompt Pro is handy for any broadcast application where a script is required. Speed of scrolling, size of text and fonts can all be edited to suit the speaker and manufacturer Datavision also sell mounts and hoods to fit your device. Price: FREE.

AJA DataCalc. This is very handy for working out the storage requirements of your media during shooting. DataCalc tells you how many GBs you’ll need based on your chosen video format (including ProRes, DVCProHD, HDV, XDCAM, DV, CineForm, REDCODE, Avid DNxHD, Apple Intermediate, 16 bit RGB and RGBA, uncompressed and more) and video standard (including NTSC, PAL, 1080i, 1080p, 720p, 2K and 4K). Price: FREE.

DSLR Filmmaker Toolkit. If you’re shooting on DSLR, this compendium of clever tools is everything you need to set up perfect shots, log them and more. The comprehensive set of functions includes a Slate, Shot Log, Viewfinder, Depth-of-field calculator, Sunrise/Sunset Tables and a Spirit Level all within one app. Price: £5.49.

There’s a whole host of apps for production and post-production workflows out there on the App Store. We’d be interested to hear what apps you use to accompany your production or post workflows – just leave us a comment in the box below with your favourites and we’ll get back to you.

Find out more about using Apple’s iPad for video – call 03332 409 306 or broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. You can also keep up with the latest broadcast news and offers by following @JigsawVideo on Twitter or heading to our Jigsaw Video Facebook page.

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