In March 2015, RTÉ, the Irish national Broadcaster, hosted the first Mojocon: A conference dedicated to mobile content creation, mobile journalism, filmmaking, photography and storytelling. I was the event organiser and it was my idea to bring the growing global community of mobile content creators together for a summit on the technology and where it might go in the coming years.
In the run up to the event I was frequently asked “Why would a national broadcaster host an event about mobile?” This became a recurring theme
in interviews and one that left me both curious and bewildered. It was as if the preconceived idea was that footage from a mobile phone could not be taken seriously. It appeared to be acceptable for breaking news and for sharing on social platforms but on TV? No that couldn’t make sense, could it?
— Glen Mulcahy (@GlenBMulcahy) July 15, 2015
I started my journey into mobile journalism back in 2002. Well, that’s not strictly true. I started my journey into journalists operating as single person content creators in 2002. I was sent by RTE to visit NY1 in New York, which was one of the first TV stations in the world to employ the “VJ” method of production. VJ or Video Journalism was the brainchild of Michael Rosenblum and it was Rosenblum who had started NY1 to some extent as a proof of concept. The idea was both simple and complex at once: using a smaller camera (in the early days it was Hi8 and subsequently DV/BetaSP) a journalist would operate alone and shoot all of his/her content for their news service. What surprised me was that the journalists I saw on “the beat” in NewYork did shoot their own material but used “craft” editors back at base to edit and finish the stories before broadcast. With the exception of the fact that some (not all) of the journalists shot their own content NY1 was otherwise a relatively traditional TV setup with Sat Trucks and TV Studios and Production galleries etc etc.
— Glen Mulcahy (@GlenBMulcahy) January 13, 2016
At the time I had just taken on a new role in RTE as Production manager and I was responsible for the news directors, editors and camera crews for our nightly news in Irish: RTE/TG4 Nuacht. I was based in the west of Ireland in TG4 the Irish Language TV station set up by the Irish Government to help develop the Irish Language. TG4 had achieved its own “1st” when it launched back in 1996 because it had one of the first news services to employ a networked non-linear editing system for the journalists to self edit. So in a reversal of the NY1 model TG4 Nuacht used traditional ENG cameramen shooting on BetaSP for pictures but the journalists captured/ingested the content and edited the stories themselves on desktop workstations using iNews and Editstar software.
The reason I was sent to NY1 was to do a feasibility study on whether the “self shoot” model of video journalism would work for the Nuacht Team. To cut a long story short it was decided we would do a pilot for VJ both in TG4 Nuacht and in the main RTE Newsroom. RTE employed 3 VJs full time and the team I worked with in TG4 trained almost all of the staff in the basics of self shooting with a VJ style camera. And so it was for the next 8-10 years. Both newsrooms employed traditional 2 person crews (journalist and cameraman) with the journalist self editing and a selection of VJs who shot, reported and edited finished stories for broadcast. Not long after the project started I began training journalists to shoot with VJ cameras.
In October 2012 I was abroad in Budapest on a VJ training course for Circom Regional when I happened to have an iPhone4 and the first generation iPad with me. While some of the trainees were out doing a shoot exercise I decided to test the quality of the camera on the iPhone and editing on the iPad using iMovie. I used a Sony radio Mic set (which would be standard issue for our VJs) and plugged it in to a Fostex Ar4i cradle for the iPhone. The Ar4i was ahead of its time as an iPhone accessory as it allowed you to plug 2 microphones into the iPhone and set an audio level for them. I used an early version of an App called FilMiCPro to shoot as it gave far greater control over the camera settings like focus, exposure and white balance than the basic iOS5 camera. Moving the content onto the iPad was done using the Apple camera connection kit and it was a very simple workflow as I documented while in Budapest…
What surprised me most was that I could use an FTP App on the iPad to send the finished footage back to our newsroom and so thats what I did. To my surprise the footage passed the QC tests at ingest. It was at this point it occurred to me that mobile would revolutionize news gathering in the coming years. bear in mind the iPhone 4 was only 720p whereas the iPhone6s now supports 4k.
In the following year I redesigned the VJ course I had developed and used modules of it for a new mobile journalism course. Sure, there were many limitations – lack of zoom being by far the biggest. (the iPhone cannot optically zoom but now the iPhone6s can “punch in up to 4/5x losslessly in 1080p because of the 4K sensor).
In the years since I have trained several thousand journalists about the Apps, Accessories, Grammar of Television, technical basics of photography and great sound and editing all using the iPhone/iPad. If you want an example of the type of stories RTE mojo’s have created watch this from my colleague, Philip Bromwell:
For the Android fan club I will say that in the early days of exploring “Mojo” I shot with several handsets but iOS had a distinct advantage when it came to Apps (It still does but to a lesser extent) See my “long iOS App list” :
There are trainers like @DerMedientyp who specialize in Android Mojo training – which had its benefits and drawbacks but for me iOS is still the most diverse content creation platform.
Mojocon attracted 350 delegates from 27 countries, with the furthest coming from the US, China, and Trinidad & Tobago. The audience was a mix of journalists, media executives, NGO staff, PR Agencies and the education sector. The conference was never aimed at the public, its an industry event with an emphasis on mobile content creation. The panel of 44 speakers were drawn from across the globe and for many it was their first time in Dublin. The feedback from the delegates and speakers was exceptional.
As a result RTÉ has decided to run Mojocon again. This year we will change venue to the Aviva Stadium which can readily accommodate our plenary sessions, exhibition and our training and workshops.
The sessions will include the core subjects of mobile journalism, photography and content creation together with new sessions on 360 Immersive Video, Drones, the journalists toolbox, a session entitled “Is it still mojo if shot with a DSLR?”, and more. We have announced 16 of the total 40 speakers with more to be announced shortly.
I’m particularly excited to have Molly Swenson of Ryot News and yet to be announced Laurent Keller, Editor in Chief of Leman Blue, a Swiss TV News network who have adopted mobile as their defacto solution for reporting both pre-recorded and live.
If you would like to open your eyes to the potential of smartphones and mobile devices as professional content creation tools then you need to be in Dublin on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th April 2016. That’s where the global mojo community will be. These are just some of the companies who have all ready signed up.
Sign up here for tickets.