Vertical Video Rig for Mobile Journalists?

Live Streaming Smartphone Rig

This week I’ve been experimenting with Periscope, the newly-launched Twitter-owned live-streaming social network, to broadcast some behind-the-scenes glimpses from the Gadget Show Live.

I’m very excited by its potential as both as a social network and as a broadcasting tool used by news outlets, event organisers, brands, citizen and mobile journalists.

Like many I’m still trying to work out the best ways of getting get the most from it, both in terms of content and and quality. Inevitably, I tend to look what kit I can use to accessorise my smartphone to help produce better quality video with better quality sound.

Now, one of the primary challenges is that Periscope uses vertical video – shock horror! As much as I stand-up for vertical video (let’s save that discussion for another post) there are precious few accessories which support filming with your phone in portrait mode, at least with the flexibility and connectivity that I’d like.

Undeterred, I’ve been strapping together various components of my existing smartphone filmmaking kits to see how a perfect Periscope rig might look and feel.

So I reckon there are three primary criteria for a Periscope rig:

  1. Improve video
  2. Improve audio
  3. Maintain mobility

And what better platform to share what I’ve come up with so far than Periscope itself? So, here’s a Periscope I broadcast earlier this week from the Gadget Show Live (where I’ve been all this week presenting shows about wearable technology and top smartphones and tablets) in which I talk through one of my rig experiments:

I should add at this point that, as yet, Periscope does not let you embed uploaded videos directly into web pages. Instead, I’ve uploaded this film from my iPhone’s camera roll – an option in the Periscope app – to Vimeo and embedded it here with modified iframe embed dimensions to maintain the vertical video aspect ratio. I did a quick experiment with YouTube but just couldn’t get it to work – tips anybody?

In any case, the response to the original/live Periscope on social media was terrific, with people writing in during the broadcast and afterwards to say how much they enjoyed it and whether I could give a quick run through of the kit I was using.

So here goes:

The Olloclip Quick-Flip for iPhone 5 gives me the option of mounting the phone vertically with a standard 1/5″ 20 screw thread at the bottom. In the absence of anything else to hand I took the handle from my Shoulderpod S1 and used that; I also used its wrist strap through which to loop the XLR cable and the Velcro from the IK Multimedia iRig PRE.

Of course this rig can be vastly improved – it feels unwieldy at the moment and, to be honest, putting it together loses some of the spontaneity that makes many Periscope videos great to watch in the first place.

But for planned Periscope broadcasts, for example the interviews I’ve been doing here this week, the rig ensures decent lighting and excellent quality sound, particularly in environments with lots of ambient noise where the iPhone’ internal mic would otherwise struggle.

On the subject of sound, While the IK multimedia iRig PRE does provide the capability for audio monitoring unfortunately the Periscope app does not yet supports this.

My challenge now is to get this rig working with an iPhone 6 Plus, my new mobile journalism smartphone of choice. I did speak with the Olloclip team today – creators of the Olloclip Quick-Flip case above – but they have nothing at the moment that supports a tripod mount on the iPhone 6 Plus. Not naming names but there was a hint of a product coming later on this year that might do what I wanted it to. Away from Olloclip, I checked with Manfrotto a couple of weeks ago when I was at The Photography Show and they too didn’t have anything yet for the iPhone 6 Plus.

It seems that while the iPhone 6 Plus is becoming the smartphone of choice for many mobile journalists and filmmakers there’s still relatively little support from accessory makers – disappointing given the handset is 6 months old already. Again at the Gadget Show Live this week I had problems finding even a regular case for the 6 plus.

Let me know what you think, particularly if you’ve been experimenting with iPhone vertical video rigs for Periscope reporting.