We use iPads a lot in the school I teach in. In fact, we have issued one to each member of staff and each student. iPads are amazingly useful in the classroom in a variety of different ways, and certainly one of the best features is the camera. Back in the day, you’d have to book a video camera, film what you wanted, download the file, and hope that it was compatible with your creaky PC video editing software. Now, students can just shoot, edit and they are done all on one device. We use iPad in sports coaching in school and while it works great, it relies on either a student holding the iPad still, or the coach filming, rather than coaching. The Nexstar Training system offers a custom made solution to this issue, and it has certainly been thought about with sports training specifically in mind.
Essentially, the Nexstar system is a tripod based holder for your iPad to safely film whatever it is that you are filming. There are, of course, many different iPad holders that you can buy on Ebay, for example, that do the same job. However, I’d like to emphasise from the outset of this review that although the Nexstar is more expensive than these, you are getting a custom made, solid as a rock piece of kit that will keep your iPad safe whilst you are using it. The Nexstar has also clearly been designed with schools and sports coaching in mind.
Firstly, setup is extremely quick. I timed myself and it took around about 90 seconds to get it up from packed away, complete with iPad securely locked in place. As anyone in the coaching, or teaching business will know, a quick setup is absolutely vital because you need to be ready to film a particular technique, or if you are in the middle of the lesson, you can’t spend 5 minutes setting something up when you should be teaching your students. Setup is extremely straightforward too. I described setting it up to our swimming coach, who trialled it and they had zero problems getting it ready. In the heat of a lesson, this is a big tick in the box.
The iPad holder itself is very solid. It’s constructed primarily for the iPad 4 and below body size, although Nexstar does include an iPad Air adaptor which makes the iPad housing slightly smaller to accommodate the size of the Air. As the iPad Air 2 is virtually identical to it’s predecessor I would expect this to fit with little drama too. To use the holder, slot your iPad into the housing, and screw in two holders which keep everything firmly in place with no damage to the iPad or space to allow it to move around. It is worth noting that you will need to remove any covers that you have on the iPad before you place your iPad in the holder. The holder has a few nice touches, like spirit levels which would be very useful if you are making a more professional broadcast, and also attachments for lighting accessories. The only minor thing is that I’d like to see it incorporate a holder for the iPad mini, especially now the iPad Mini has such an excellent camera and screen.
The iPad holder clips into the tripod much like a camera would clip into a normal tripod. As said before, the set up is quick and easy here and the iPad sits very solid on the tripod. The tripod is a solid piece of kit, no different to a decent camera tripod. It offers the same locks and stability that you would expect to find if you were using a decent tripod with your DSLR. The only major difference is there are holes in each leg that you can use to peg the tripod to the floor if you are coaching outside on the grass. This is useful for a variety of reasons as I wouldn’t want my iPad to go toppling over if a stray ball or person decided to collide with it on the sports field. Pegs are included and as said previously, this to me, shows that the product has been created with some careful thought about what it’s purpose is, rather than something that has been thrown together with random parts.
Everything is packaged up neatly in an easy to carry, padded bag, with space to hold an iPad so if you do use it regularly, you can just grab and go. There are a couple of other accessories too, such as a handle that you can attach to the iPad holder, which enables you to film handheld, but slightly steadier. There is also a table top accessory which if you need to film without the tripod, you can simply place the iPad on a flat surface to do it.
Clearly, this product is aimed at sports coaching, but with a lot of schools having mini film studios, or green screens, and the availability of cheap apps which facilitate their use, I could see the Nexstar being used for this sort of thing very easily to replace the slightly precarious ‘pile on a load of books’ or ‘hold as still as possible while you film’ situations.
If you’ve read any of my reviews before, I normally give a thumbs up to products that have been carefully designed and thought through with the user’s end goal in mind. The Nexstar falls into this category in that it is non-intrusive in terms of it’s use, safe to use and does the job that it is supposed to quickly and efficiently. You may think that it is on the pricey side at $149.99, but for this you are getting a complete system which minimises problems and does exactly the purpose for which you are going to buy it for. Yes, you could buy something cheaper on Ebay, but I wouldn’t trust it not to fall over and smash my iPad or send it for a swim in the pool. You are also unlikely to get your teachers and students complaining that it is difficult or laborious to set up.
I would quite happily recommend the Nexstar to other schools and coaches or individuals who are looking for a way to use their iPad to record and analyse performance, but also with the inclusion of excellent new cameras in the iPad Air 2, I could easily see this becoming part of a cheap and professional looking iPad film studio.
Nexstar is available from www.nexstartraining.com and it is priced $149.99.
Disclosure: The manufacturer send me a unit for this review.