My iPhone “In the Field” Video Production Set Up!

Every so often, I venture out of my usual workspace to cover events in person like last week’s Pepcom New York City tech event. My workflow for these events has evolved significantly as portable video technology has improved.

These events used to be a two person job using a much larger camcorder, but a year or two ago I switched to a GoPro that allowed me to operate as a “one man band.” For my latest trip I experimented with using my iPhone 15 Pro Max which has superior video options versus the GoPro.

You can see how I used it in my latest video. I also have a list of everything I used up on Amazon (compensated affiliate link).

The iPhone’s versatility, especially with its camera options, make it an attractive alternative to the GoPro. The iPhone boasts ultrawide, standard, and telephoto cameras, providing a range of shooting possibilities along with the ability to switch between them even while recording. The video quality, particularly the ability to capture fine details, is a significant advantage over the GoPro. The iPhone’s optical and digital stabilization features also do a great job keeping things smooth and steady.

The foundation of my setup is a small Manfrotto “pixi” tripod, which doubles as a handle. This tripod’s adaptability make it easy to switch between handheld and stationary shots. To secure my phone, I used the Glif, a robust phone mount that I’ve come to trust over the years. Its sturdy construction ensures the phone remains in place, regardless of movement or angle. Unfortunately the Glif has been sold out for quite awhile and I’m uncertain if its manufacturer, Studio Neat, intends to make more of them.

Lighting is crucial for any shoot. I employed an old Lite Panels LED light that I’ve had for well over a decade. Its brightness and compact size, powered by AA batteries, make it a reliable choice.

Sound quality is paramount, and for that, I turned to the Sennheiser AVX handheld mic. Its reliability in congested areas, like trade shows, is unmatched. The cardioid head I added to the mic better isolates my voice from the surrounding noise, ensuring clear audio in the final footage. Note that the AVX handheld comes with an omnidirectional head. You can see an example of both microphones in a trade show environment here:

However, connecting the microphone to the iPhone presented a challenge. The iPhone’s lack of a headphone jack meant I had to use an Anker USB-C to headphone adapter, coupled with a TRS to TRRS adapter. This setup ensured seamless audio integration with the video.

While shooting, I primarily used the iPhone’s standard camera app. The absence of audio monitoring meters was a minor inconvenience, but the overall experience was smooth. The transition between shots, especially when switching from a subject to myself, was slightly rocky, but manageable. In terms of storage, the iPhone’s 256GB capacity was more than sufficient for the footage which I was recording with the phone’s HEVC codec.

The iPhone’s battery was surprisingly good throughout my coverage. The event spanned roughly two and a half hours, and by its conclusion, my iPhone still had about 75-80% battery left. To be fair I wasn’t shooting for the entire time but I did have the phone on the camera app, unlocked, for most of it. For added assurance, I carry an Anker battery pack, offering rapid charging via its USB-C output.

Overall I was pleased with how well this set up worked for a solo operation. For the next outing I’m going to use the awesome new (and free) video BlackMagic Camera App that provides much greater manual control along with on-screen audio meters. It apparently was released just a day or two after my live shoot!

The New and Notable Features of the iPhone 15 Pro & Pro Max

I once again upgraded to a new iPhone, going from last year’s iPhone Pro 14 to the new iPhone Pro 15 Max. In my latest video I take a look at some of the new features introduced in this year’s model – many of them centered around Apple’s move to a USB-C port.

I opted for the larger Pro Max, which boasts a 6.7-inch display. It’s been a while since I had a phone this large, the last one being the iPhone 7 Plus back in 2016. The reason I went for the larger phone this time was the 15 Pro Max’s superior camera system. The telephoto lens on the larger phone offers a 5x Zoom, compared to the 3x on the smaller variant. This provides around a 120mm equivalent for zooming in, which I found might be useful for my video work.

Surprisingly, as someone who prefers a smaller phone the larger size of the new Pro Max didn’t bother me. It felt comfortable, and I can type on it one-handed. The slightly thinner bezels do make a difference in the hand. Even though it’s heavier than my old 14 Pro, the 15 Pro Max feels lighter. This might be due to the materials used and how the weight is balanced.

Unlike prior versions, the new iPhones have an “action button” vs. a switch for silent mode. But it can now be configured to do other things. By default, holding it down toggles between silent and ring. However, you can customize the action button to perform different actions. I had fun setting mine to activate the Tesla fart machine, much to the amusement of my kids.

The most significant change is the shift from the proprietary lightning connector to USB Type-C. On the pro phones, that port can run at Gen 2, get a 10 gigabit speeds. As a full service port the phone can take power in, output to an external display, and work with USB data devices simultaneously when connected to a USB-C dock or hub.

For video professionals, the iPhone 15 Pro can record professional ProRes video onto external SSDs at up to 4k at 60 frames per second. The phone will output HDR, SDR, or LOG video.

The camera system of the iPhone has always been impressive. With the new iPhone, you can now switch between lenses at 4K 60 while recording. The new 5x lens offers a nice natural bokeh, but it requires a lot of light to get the best results. In low light conditions, the image quality isn’t as good.

Performance-wise, the new iPhone showed a 22% performance boost over the iPhone 14 Pro in gaming on the 3DMark Wildlife Extreme Test. But the phone tends to throttle significantly when under load, leading to a drop in performance after a very short period of time.

Battery life seems decent on the phone but it’s hard to say how long that experience will last given what I experienced with my iPhone 14 Pro which lost nearly 14% of its max battery capacity in less than a year. Apple did finally add a means of checking the battery’s charge cycle count in the about section of the settings app.

While the new iPhone doesn’t feel groundbreaking compared to its predecessor, it does offer several improvements. The 5x lens, the switch to USB Type-C, and the ability to record ProRes video onto external media are the most notable new features.

PTZOptics Studio Pro Camera Review

For years I’ve been using camcorders in my production environment, shooting videos live to disk. In the past, one could easily find reasonably priced camcorders and set up a mini studio with tools like OBS or Vmix.

But recently new affordable camcorders have become scarce. This is where PTZOptics sees an opportunity with their new Studio Pro camera. Designed specifically for streaming, this camera boasts features similar to a camcorder along with a ton of flexibility for powering and extracting video from it. See more in my video review.

The Studio Pro is priced at $699, and for that, you get a camera capable of 1080p at 60 frames per second max. It can also output a true 1080p at 30 frames per second, which eliminates the interlacing issues found on many consumer camcorders.

The camera’s design includes a handle, though it lacks image stabilization. It also features a stereo microphone and a cold shoe mount. One of the standout features is its versatility in video output. You can use HDMI, USB-C (which the computer recognizes as a regular webcam) or ethernet for various digital formats, including NDI HX3, SRT, RTMP, and RTSP. This means the camera can even stream directly to the Internet with no computer required.

For those looking to shoot vertical videos for platforms like YouTube shorts or Amazon live, the camera has a switch to enable vertical video mode. It has tripod mounts on the bottom and side to accommodate both horizontal and vertical formats.

Powering the camera offers equal flexibility. You can use USB-C, the provided 12-volt power adapter, or use Power over Ethernet (PoE). The advantage of PoE is the ability to manage video output, power input, and zoom controls with just one cable.

The camera’s 12x zoom is impressive, providing sharp details even when zoomed in fully. However, it lacks physical controls on the unit, relying on the provided remote control or software interfaces. The camera’s build is solid, with a metal casing that feels professional. It weighs about 1.5 pounds, making it suitable for field production work. However, it’s primarily designed for studio environments.

The image quality is decent. Whether zoomed in for detailed shots or zoomed out for medium close-ups, the camera captures clear and detailed visuals. However, there’s a slight rolling shutter effect with fast motions, making it less ideal for high-speed events like sports.

The on-camera microphone offers sufficient audio quality, suitable for capturing ambient sounds or dialogue in a pinch. But external microphones should be used for the best results.

For camera control, I found the web-based control panel to be the most convenient. It allows for granular image setting controls, streaming methods, and audio level adjustments. For those with multiple cameras, PTZOptics offers their free content management platform software compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. Additionally, there are apps for iPhone and third-party options for Android.

The PTZOptics Studio Pro camera is a versatile tool for streamers. It combines the features found on their high-end pan, tilt, and zoom models but of course this one only has the zoom. With multiple output options, easy controls, and a design suited for both horizontal and vertical videos, it’s a good addition to any live streaming setup.

See more of my production videos here.

Disclosure: PTZ Optics provided the camera free of charge for this review. However they did not sponsor this video nor did they review or approve my video before it was uploaded.

Prime Day Stream and Vmix 4k Experimentation

As many of you know I use Vmix to produce my videos here on the channel. It’s by far the most efficient and highly optimized piece of Windows software ever made. It’s absolutely incredible.

My appreciation of it went further this week during one of my Prime Day live streams. I figured I would do an evening overview of the three TV boxes on sale this week (Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV) and I wanted to get all three running together in 4k simultaneously along with my three 4k studio cameras. You can see the stream here.

My current production machine is a home-built i9-9900KF based Intel machine with 32GB of RAM and a recently added RTX 2080ti GPU. For video capture I have a Blackmagic Decklink Quad HDMI card which can capture four 4k sources simultaneously. I brought the cameras and the Apple TV in through the Decklink card.

But Lon, you had 6 sources! Yes and thanks to the modern miracle of NDI I was able to bring in those additional two sources using a Newtek Spark box and a Kilo U40 (affiliate link). These boxes take HDMI video in and output a lossless video signal that can get ingested into Vmix with minimal latency. Those two sources generated about 500 megabits of bandwidth but Vmix easily kept up.

The most amazing thing about this set up is that my system still had plenty or room left for more. I also connected a 4k display to the back of my GPU and was able independently switch what appeared on that screen. Check out this short I made once everything was set up.

Virtual Set Tech Goes from Star Wars to Trek – Are YouTubers Next?

Virtual Set technology is moving in some exciting new directions. It all began with the Mandalorian and their use of the ILM “Volume” to merge virtual sets with physical ones. What makes these virtual sets so unique is that the images are not added later in post-production but are there in realtime with the actors during the shoot. It adds new levels of realism as the light from the volume reflects off of costumes and other props naturally. The set also aligns with the camera’s point of view allowing for camera movements and depth making the background look almost three dimensional.

ILM documented the use of the Volume technology in this YouTube video.

But Star Wars is not the only production making use of this. According to this Twitter post, Star Trek Strange New Worlds has a volume of its own to do similar effects. This might be why the production looks so much more expansive than the other recent Star Trek shows on Paramount+.

What I’m most excited about is this technology making its way to small creators. Many of us with gaming PCs have the processing power already – it’s just a matter of packaging this display technology into something smaller and affordable for us basement dwelling YouTubers.

Upgrading to 4k!

This weekend I had some time to see if switching to a 4k workflow was feasible. Before doing this I had to upgrade the GPU in my production machine, fix a network problem that you’ll see in another video I uploaded this week, and of course ensure that our editing workflow could handle larger files and resolutions.

Let me know how everything works in today’s video.

As many of you know I shoot my videos the same way livestreamers work in that I shoot everything live to disk vs having to edit everything together later. So while I own cameras that can do 4k, processing and recording multiple 4k streams in realtime with no frame drops needed some additional hardware. I was also reluctant to throw a wrench in a very smooth and efficient workflow – especially one that likely won’t result in increased viewership.

But the stars aligned this weekend – I was ahead on content and had a good runway of opportunity now that all of the hardware upgrades were done to the production machine.

The best part is that because I use the same workflow for live and recorded productions I am now able to livestream in 4k too! Check out what it looks like here on YouTube. Right now I’m sending YouTube a 4k 30fps stream at 30 megabits per second. I will continue to stream to Amazon too but they are limited to 720p at 2.5 megabits per second. Still I think the Amazon stream looks better downscaling from 4k vs. 1080. Check out the Amazon version here.

There is still one 1080p video left in the hopper. I’ll be going 4k from now on provided I don’t have any deal breaking gotchya’s in the week ahead.

New Video: What to do when your boss asks for a livestream..

My latest Weekly Wrapup video was inspired by a blog post I did the other day on putting together livestreams. I’ve been asked to help with a bunch of these over the last year or two and they tend to have the following things in common:

  1. The audience is limited to invitees only
  2. The streams will not be one-off events but done on a regular basis
  3. These are hybrid events that have an in-person audience along with people watching the presentation remotely
  4. The presenter usually has a Powerpoint that needs to be shared with both the in-person and livestream audience simultaneously
  5. They don’t have a huge budget for consulting or gear

I’ve found that Zoom paired up with an ATEM Mini tends to work best for these sorts of events primarily because it’s easy for both the presenters and the audience to set up and use. When you’re ready to go for the gusto an upgrade to Vmix is a great next step.

You can see my suggested workflow in the wrapup video. Also see all of my production videos here.

What I Recommend for Non-Profits Looking to Live Stream

I don’t do much consulting work these days but every once and awhile I help an organization (usually a non-profit) livestream an event or meeting. My approach is to train people in the use of the software and equipment so they can be empowered to go live whenever they need to without the need for additional staffing or expensive consultants.

I’ve found that most organizations don’t need to do something for mass consumption but rather for small to medium sized groups of members, congregants, etc. In those instances Zoom really can’t be beat for that purpose.

Zoom automates a lot of the stuff that can add to complexities on other platforms (especially when it comes to video encoding and audio levels), and it’s very forgiving when there’s a technical hiccup that happens locally or over the Internet. Zoom also has a webinar package that prevents unmuted participants from disrupting meetings. The biggest issues I’ve encountered with it usually involve scheduling meetings and getting the right Zoom links out to participants.

One of the things I recommend for volunteer organizations is that they have one person in charge of the video switching and another in charge of the Zoom (I call them a Zoom operator). The reason is that if they’re not opting for the more expensive Zoom webinar package they need to police the participants and be ready with the mute button! It’s also helpful for that person to monitor the chat for AV issues but also questions coming from the audience.

As far as hardware is concerned I like the following:

The ATEM Mini

ATEM Mini Pro

I love the ATEM Minis. They are super affordable and amazingly full featured. They come in three flavors with the lowest cost option starting at around $295. They allow for live switching of HDMI video sources along with titling, green screen, overlays, and all sorts of neat stuff. The best part is that once it’s configured it boots up and works the same way every time – all a volunteer needs to do is push buttons.

The ATEM interfaces with a PC via its USB port and the video output shows up as a webcam on the host computer. It plugs right into Zoom and works reliably every time. Can’t beat it.

I’ve done a full series on the ATEM Mini line here.

Cameras

As for cameras there are many options – pretty much anything with an HDMI output will work so often I recommend people start with what they already have. You can also run computers through the ATEM’s HDMI ports to get its output on screen.

For those with a little more money PTZ (pan, tilt zoom) cameras are a great choice. I like cameras from Birddog and PTZ Optics – both offer cameras that can be controlled remotely and support video output via HDMI along with NDI for more advanced video production switchers.

Audio & Microphones

Microphones can be a bit trickier. The ATEM has analog audio inputs so you can plug mics directly into it if your cameras don’t have external mic support.

Sennheiser’s AVX System

If you have deep pockets I love the Sennheiser AVX system which is a wireless system that has both handheld and lavalier microphones available. See my full review here. It’s truly a bulletproof system. I’ve used this system for about six years now and have never, ever had a problem with it – even in busy places like CES and other large events.

More recently I looked at the DJI Mic system from the popular drone maker. It’s a wireless microphone system that integrates the mics along with a recorder and wireless transmitter. It’s super simple to use and a low cost alternative to the AVX system.

Going Beyond

I always recommend groups start with the “minimally viable product” and slowly build up their capacity based on need. All too often I see groups budgeting for huge equipment buys that go underutilized. Many groups don’t need a broadcast level production but rather need something that just works to get the word out to their staff, membership, congregants, etc.

When you are ready to take the next step I recommend going with Vmix. It’s a software video production tool that delivers performance on par with super expensive Tricasters at a fraction of the cost. It runs great on gaming laptops for portable productions.

In the photo at the top of this post we were running Vmix on a Lenovo Y740 laptop for a high school graduation stream. We used NDI to bring in three camera feeds into the laptop so we didn’t need to use any capture cards! I detail the whole production here:

No Right or Wrong Way..

The bottom line is there is no right or wrong way to stream something. If it works and your audience gets the information they need you’re good! Starting off in the simplest way possible will grow your confidence, give you some ideas as to how to improve the next stream, and help build your skillset as you progress.

New Extra’s Video: DJI Mic & External Mics

One of the reasons I set up the Extra’s Channel is to have a place for doing supplementary content that won’t overload subscribers with too much Lon.TV stuff all at once. This weekend I uploaded a snippet from a recent live stream I did on the DJI Mic to demonstrate how external microphones sound through the transmitter.

I left that out of the initial review as the sound quality of the external mic will vary based on the mic being used! While it’s easy to demonstrate the built-in mics as every user will experience the same thing, it’s much harder to give a clear example when there are so many different types of mics that can be plugged in.

But I had a ton of questions about it and many more “thumbs ups” on those questions. Thankfully I had a great livestream the other day where we tested the feature and I was able to pull the video from that.

If YouTube would allow us mere mortals to replace an already posted video I would have totally done that here. But hopefully those looking for a demo will be able to find it on the Extra’s channel.

New Video : DJI Mic Review

DJI is known for their great drones and camera systems but they are venturing into a new area of content creation: audio. This very simple new wireless microphone system has two transmitters with built in mics. It instantly provides dual or single channel audio for interviews to smartphones, cameras, and PCs. Just make sure you don’t lose all of the little parts it comes with.

The system works similar to a pair of Airpods in that the included case also charges the components. The system can operate for about 5 hours on a charge. Unfortunately the batteries are built-in and not swappable or replaceable but USB-C ports on the receiver and transmitters allow for external power or batteries.

The receiver connects to cameras with a 3.5mm line out and to smartphones with included USB-C and lightning adapters. Those are the tiny pieces you don’t want to lose.

The transmitters each have internal storage that can hold about 15 hours of audio. This is a good safety net should something go wrong in the field so you can fix audio issues in post production. There’s also an option to record a -6db safety track to prevent clipping for your louder guests. The units connect to a PC via their USB-C ports and the storage will pop up like a USB thumb drive. But it stores the audio in 30 minute increments. The recordings are seamless but a two hour production will result in four 30 minute files that you’ll have to stitch together.

Audio quality is decent out of the built in Mics but they are omnidirectional and as such will pick up a lot of ambient noise. They also sounded bassier and a little muffled as compared to my more expensive Sennheiser lavalier mics. The DJI microphones will not work well in noisy environments like busy streets, convention floors, etc. The transmitters work over the very busy 2.4ghz radio spectrum and will be prone to interference in busier environments like urban offices, etc.

Each transmitter has a 3.5mm audio input for attaching an external microphone. I was able to get my Sennheiser lavalier to connect through the DJI system without issues.

For a first generation product this feels incredible polished. So much so that I am going to hang onto these for when I need something simple for a field production involving my smartphones.

New Video: Blackmagic Cloud Pod Review

Blackmagic makes great production gear that works well in low budget operations like mine but also at the professional broadcast level. I use a lot of their stuff for my day-to-day operations.

One of their newest products is this oddity called the “Cloud Pod” (compensated affiliate link) and is the subject of my latest video.

The Cloud Pod is a very simple network attached storage device (NAS) that allows for two USB-C portable SSDs to be connected and turned into network accessible drives.

It uses a 10 gig network connection (see my multigigabit coverage here) but it also appears to step down to slower speeds including 2.5 gig connections. It’s hindered by the slower USB Gen 1 speeds that max out at 5 gigabits per second. Most portable SSDs these days use faster Gen 2 connections that can achieve 10 gigabits per second. The result is that your drive on the Cloud Pod will perform at half the speed it does when directly connected to a computer. That said the USB ports don’t share a bus so each can deliver its full performance simultaneously (about 400 megabytes per second each).

The Cloud Pod has no security – no usernames, no passwords, nada. So devices on the same network that have SMB support (like everything) can access the Cloud Pod and read and write data from it. You can limit the device to read-only but it applies that rule to both drives.

It has a really cool status screen that it outputs through an HDMI output on the back to a display. Oddly there is no web control panel to monitor the device – you’ll only see status if you plug a monitor into it. The HDMI is an output only for the status screen – it doesn’t support ingest.

I was able to edit a 2 camera 4k 60 multicam project over a 10 gig connection with about the same performance I get when directly connected to the SSDs. But I was maxing out the connection with original media so a third camera angle would have created issues unless I switched to lower res proxy files. It supports syncing to Dropbox which might be useful for sending proxies to remote users. It says it supported Google Drive on the box but the software doesn’t yet support it.

The target market for this one is quite limited but I can see it being useful for a small production team. Just be super careful who has access to your local network because there is no way to restrict who can read, write, and change files on the drive.