What I learned using Videolicious on assignment

What I learned using Videolicious on assignment

In the business of online media, videos may be the next and most promising frontier for financial gain. One of the platforms my employer is testing to surf that wave is called Videolicous.

I was first introduced to the app last year during the ONA13 conference. It was in my tool kit for the Super Bowl but went unused as I was primarily using my DSLR for gathering and not my phone.

But now as my employer is making this our iPhone video app of choice, I used it on an assignment to tour a $20 million mansion that is being auctioned in Parker, Colorado. I did three test videos in the app and learned something interesting from each.

My approach was to gather photos using my DSLR and sync them into my iPhone using an EyeFi card. (Many of the photographers I work with are equipped with those cards, but iPhone photos would have worked as well.) Beyond that, all I brought inside was an iPhone, a pen and paper and a rubber band.

Before departing, I loaded a video from our station’s helicopter onto my Dropbox. I was able to use that video in some of my rough drafts, but it did not make it into the final version.

I tried to use the rubber band to secure the phone to my car’s mirror and record the drive up to the home from the gate. If it hadn’t been for the reflection of my dashboard in the windshield, that would’ve been the best video of the day. Unfortunately, it was not useable.

The next step was photographing the rooms during a tour with the brokers selling the home. I gathered about 100 photos of various rooms and closeups on interesting elements.

Lastly, I recorded an interview with one of the brokers on my iPhone. I stopped and started the clip after each question so that they would each be separated. This was lucky, because as far as I can tell Videolicious does not allow for the video to be inserted with sound at full volume and my only option was to use her sound as a prerecorded voice over track.

(Here I must admit that I ended up stitching two clips together to make the sequence longer, but I imagine that a more seasoned interviewer might have not stopped the recording as hastily as I did. The two clips were, in reality, separated by no more than a second.)

After all the gathering was complete, I went outside to the front lawn to try and compose a one-minute segment about the home. I composed a script and paired photos and video broll to the various sentences, then tried several times to put it all together.

The first lesson I learned about Videolicious is that it takes an awful lot of coordination to do a longer segment. I had many false starts — and false endings — as I tried to put together the clip that ended up running just over a minute. Sometimes I’d mess up my lines, others I’d miss an image or sit on it for too long.

You’ll hear that hesitation in this, the best take of that longest attempt.

The second lesson I learned came after the completion of my second, shorter version. By keeping the script shorter I was able to get through it in far fewer tries, but when I reviewed the result on a full-sized screen I noticed the sections covered with video had some of the wobbly effect a filmmaker might use to simulate a drunken stupor.

I blame the bad video on three things:

  1. For some of the shots I was walking while carrying the camera.
  2. It appears in the opening section, which was recorded live through Videolicious, that the app camera is continually making minor adjustments to the focus. I do not yet know if that was because of the app or because of the phone’s own camera software.
  3. In the final moment of that opening clip, the app requires the user to move a finger to press the button that moves the screen to the next image. This movement causes unavoidable movement and may require the viewers to use Dramamine. If the other video was shaky, this is an earthquake.

The final lesson came when I returned to the station and realized that I could use those sound bytes from the broker and start the video without recording a live opening segment. The result was a much smoother video that did not seem to be assembled by child who shaking after consuming too much caffeine.

Some of the roughness of the video could easily be forgiven in a breaking news situation where crews are trying to send content back to the newsroom digital staff hastily. In an enterprise news situation, however, I do find that the high production value with Videolicous’ suggested live introduction is not possible. Given enough time, it is better to record a video of yourself or your subject with the narration and import that as a voice track when compiling the final video.

That final version was good enough to attach to the story and slideshow I produced from the tour.

All-in-all I would have to say the app succeeds in simplifying the process of video editing on an iPhone but its only area of true standout excellence is in making it easy for journalists to send that video back to the newsroom via FTP — of course, that is an enterprise solution and not part of the free user membership.

One of my videos had transferred over the cellular network before I even left the property. The other was apparently delayed as I used the phone to make calls, but finished as I arrived to the office. The last, which was uploaded over wifi, took just seconds to transfer.