A Tale of iPad 2, iMovie, Citizen Journalism, and Getting Breaking News to CNN in Minutes

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Breaking News Video from @rstephens–done with iPhone, CCK, iPad 2 and iMovie


Yesterday Robert Stephens, CTO of Best Buy and founder of Geek Squad, was driving to work when he spotted a huge gas main explosion. Stephens quickly put his iOS devices to work to capture video and still images of the explosion scene. He used his iPhone to film the events, the Camera Connection Kit to transfer his video to his iPad 2, and iMovie to enhance and edit the video. He then fired off the video to YouTube and CNN’s iReport.

Stephens’ video and stills ended up being used by CNN, MSNBC and other major news outlets to accompany their breaking news pieces on the explosion.

A few things about this are very interesting to me. For starters, it’s another strong case study of the iPad – in this case the iPad 2 – as much more than a ‘consumption device’. iMovie played an instrumental role in making Stephens’ footage compelling for the major news agencies – as he used it to edit his footage, add a map of where the explosion occurred and narration to accompany the video, and upload the video to YouTube and iReport.

It’s also a great example of the role iOS devices can play in citizen journalism – especially the iPad 2 with its video editing capabilities.

I’ve chatted often with Stephens on Twitter about iPad-related topics, and as soon as I saw reports about this story yesterday I asked him if he would be willing to talk about some of his thoughts on the whole experience. He was kind enough to oblige and I’d like to share some of those here:

On Using iMovie on the iPad 2:

I tweeted earlier that "Screw the explosion, the REAL story is how easy it is to edit video onto the iPad and edit it with iMovie". I also think little details like the addition of more themes, like upload to iReport for CNN, Vimeo, Facebook, and voiceovers allow for more polish than in the past.

I also think that as non-geeks will find this easier and easier, they will start almost unconsciously preparing for capturing moments like this.  Until now, it’s just been too hard for the avg person to even contemplate this. 

The next issue will be upload speed.

Some have commented, "Why not use iMovie on the iPhone?".

1: Yes, I COULD have used it, but that is more of a backup when your iPad is not handy.  Editing is still the most intensive and difficult part of production, and a larger screen is preferred if available. 

2: I have experienced occasionally crashing on iMovie in Iphone4, so I did not want to waste time knowing that the Ipad2 recently passed the MacBook Pro in terms of iMovie performance due to the new processor.

Features I expect and can’t wait for:

– Effects like Slow Motion, speed up, etc

Tips for those interested in video and reporting:

– Run a fire drill.  Meaning: practice shooting, editing, and uploading video to YouTube.  Make sure you create accounts at both YouTube and CNN iReport.  (Coincidentally, I had just created a CNN iReport account the day before after seeing the upload option and theme in iMovie)

– knowing video takes longer to upload, I started tweeting photo stills from the video right away, which made my photos first to be picked up by all the news services

– include @CNN, @MSNBC, etc on your first tweets with photos to get local and other news stations tuned in to your feed. Photos are a great way to prepare attention for your video once it uploads.  The two photos I tweeted became the key image used by all local and national media, including the front page photo in the print version of the Pioneer Press.  I was shocked to see that, A testament to the quality of the iPhone4 camera.

– I made sure to tweet "All news orgs have my permission to use my media with credit" after seeing so many manual requests come in for permission to use.

– use titles : Notice the title of my YouTube video includes my twitter account.  Think ahead and embed your twitter at the end of your headline as a way of driving credit.

Lastly- SHOOT IN LANDSCAPE MODE! One tiny flaw in Apple is that taking photos tends to cause a habit of shooting in Portrait mode.  Unfortunately, that means the image will be smaller.  I wish I could either set a default, or at least default it to landscape for video.  So start watching for that bad habit.

Great stuff. I’ve been meaning to start trying iMovie out on the iPad 2 and this story has really got me psyched up to get on that.

Thanks to Robert for sharing some of the background, and some of his great tips, on all of this!

If you’ve been doing great things with iMovie on your iPad 2, please tell us all about it in the comments or send us in your cool videos via our Contact Us page.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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