Catch these video apps while they're around

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Seems video, like all publishing tech, is a moving target. A year ago Robb Montgomery and the developer of one of his favourite apps, Tim Novikoff, would have been at one that Apple's iPhone was the only way to go for smartphone MOJO.

But money changes everything, and as I sit in on Montgomery's 'crash course' video workshop ahead of Digital Media Asia in Hong Kong, there's still a moment to consider to what extent that's true.

Less than a fortnight before, Google acquired Fly Apps, developer of a cluster of software including the Clips Video Editor, ostensibly to use as part of its Google Photos (although it already has Snapseed for that). Either way, they're going from Apple's App Store, so if you want them - and you probably do - time's running out.

The Verge - on which I caught up with the detail - quotes Novikoff from iDigitalTimes saying Android versions weren't on the horizon because "iPhone users appreciate great design more than Android users do." But then that was a year ago, and whatever Google paid for Fly Apps may conceivably have changed things.

Clips, with Legend Text and Hyperlapse by Instagram, is one of Montgomery's favourite apps for stitching together usable video on the fly, and with a minimum of time and fuss. But that too, may change, as there's a tendency for manufacturers and developers to make sure he's up to speed with their hot tech, one example being a new lav microphone which IK Multimedia had just sent him.

The apps are also answer to a GXpress prayer really, and although I was there to observe rather than participate, it was impossible not to get excited about the potential. A long way from the unwieldy excellence of Final Cut Pro, these tools are real world solutions which answer the needs of publishers who need to get up to speed on video.

As is Montgomery himself. An American now based in Berlin, he has been teaching mobile journalism through courses, workshops and in tailored sessions for publishers for the past three years.

In Hong Kong, there's a couple of dozen in the room, some of whom come from places like Myanmar and Kathmandu - the Nepalese city, not the outdoor store - and some from non-publishing backgrounds.

By the end of lunch - and after an hour of training and content-gathering in Kowloon Park, which is just over the road - there's a mini-festival of awesome work from video novices whose creativity seems to have been unleashed by Montgomery's simplification of the process.

We learn what Dutch Tilt is (shooting at 45°); that apps mostly built for the North American power standard of 60 cycles a second will need to be converted to 25 frames a second if they are not to flicker; how to use slow motion - Montgomery reckons it will be "the new still" - and much more.

That you can rotate a vertical video in iMovie, and that a beanie can be a good addition if you're shooting a selfie as you walk along the edge of a cliff (for those of us thinning on top, at least).

We try - and learn from - microphone options while recording a voice-over into Clips' audio mix function: the one on the Apple's earphone cable is an improvement on talking straight into the smartphone; the $50 lav from IK is better, and a $200 Sennheiser is better still.

And we don't stop there: The 'Film School 101' session is followed by a live introduction to live streaming with Periscope - we discover we're by no means along in broadcasting our demo from the hotel Edward Snowden made famous... and get an audience reaction from the next room - and continue to the semi-video presentation of selected stills with a spoken commentary. Again with an understanding of tools and skills (the structure of scriptwriting, the importance of getting "pornographically close" and the nuts and bolts of doing the Photoshopping on a $1.99 app called Camera Plus).

Throughout, there's a recurring theme: The need to choose and shoot wow footage (or stills) with the structure of the story in mind (with a centre, a beginning and an end) and then write to the pictures.

And a realization that yes, you can do it, learning the new apps (and there will be others) by getting stuck in and doing just that... and that you'd like to learn additional skills. I'd be pretty sure that many of Robb Montgomery's pupils will be going back for more. Find him at www.smartfilmschool.com and, if we can persuade him he has the time, on GXpress.net

Peter Coleman

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