iPad 2 as a portable video production studio

Granted, the idea of covering the launch of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook using Apple’s iPad 2 to shoot, edit, and publish the video has more than a touch of irony to it.

But we really didn’t set out to have the tablets clash in some sort of tech showdown at Future Shop – we were just interested in the iPad’s potential as a video production tool. When Steve Jobs unveiled the tablet March 2, he focused on its content creation capabilities.


Watch the video created on the iPad 2 on the next page.

Now that the tablet has two cameras, he showcased Photobooth for the iPad. With the release of Garageband for iOS 4.3, he demonstrated how a guitar could be recorded onto the tablet using Apogee’s Jam accessory. To make use of the video camera feature, iOS 4.3 would also support the new iMovie app.

Related Slideshow: 8 iPad productivity tools you need to have

So ITBusiness.ca is putting the iPad 2 to the test in our iPad Create series. Has this tablet broken free of being mainly a media consumption device? Or are the creation tools only good for having fun, and not for producing anything much substantial? First up – video production.

Shooting video with the iPad 2

I wasn’t confident the built-in mic on the tablet would pick up good quality audio. So I used Apple’s camera accessory kit to turn the iPad’s docking port into a USB input. Then I connected Blue Microphones’ Snowball mic.

Snowball provided good quality sound from our interview subjects and didn’t require an external power source to work with the iPad. Though Apple doesn’t officially support using USB mics with the iPad, many will work just fine. Some that require more power will need to be plugged into a powered USB hub, and the hub connected to the iPad (via the camera accessory kit).

Holding the iPad 2 in one hand and the Snowball in the other, I was able to conduct interviews and collect cover footage for my piece. The iPad’s HD camera performed decently well, but works best when you’re in a well lit area. Otherwise, the image can get grainy very quickly.

Having a 10-inch preview screen makes framing your shot easy. The iPad also has a tap-to-focus feature that allows you to touch the subject on the screen that you want to bring into focus.

At 1.3 lbs, the tablet is light enough to hold up while recording. But the lack of an anti-shake feature left our shots a bit too wobbly. Some sort of improvised tripod could improve a shoot done with the iPad 2, perhaps a music stand might work best.

Once a video is shot, it’s made available for a quick review in the Camera Roll.

Editing video with the iPad 2

Editing with iMovie is fun and intuitive. The touch interface is satisfyingly responsive and the app could be easily picked up by anyone familiar with other video editing programs quickly, and easily learned by those new to editing.

Once you begin a project, you are shown the videos in your Camera Roll in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. The bottom half of the screen is the timeline, where you put your finished video together. In the upper right-hand corner, a preview window.

Tapping videos in the camera roll gives you the option to drop them into the timeline. Or you can first adjust the in and out position of the clip so that only a portion of it is added.

Once on the timeline, you can pull the clip from either end to lengthen or shorten it. Clips can be split by tapping the clip, then swiping down through the red line in the centre of the timeline. Double tap a clip to be given the option to delete it from the timeline, or just drag it off the timeline.

iMovie has several pre-built themes that offer different styles of transitions and bottom-third graphics. We chose the “News” template and inserted a couple of titles for our interview subjects, which come complete with a slick animation. Simply split your clip where you want the animation to begin and end.

While iMovie allows multi-track audio editing so you can add several sound effects or music underneath your video, it doesn’t allow for multi-track video editing. This means we couldn’t overlay our interviews with footage of the PlayBook. That’s a must-have for video editing professionals.

Recording a voice-over on iMovie was a breeze. Tapping the microphone icon brings up a window that allows you to record while you watch your video. Once you’ve finished the recording, you can review it. If you’re not happy with the recording, you just tap “Retake” to try it again.

Publishing video with the iPad 2

Once completed editing, the project can be exported as an HD video to the iPad’s Camera Roll. There’s also options to upload it directly to many social media services including YouTube and Facebook.

We downloaded Brightcove’s iPhone app to publish the video to our Web site, and complete the whole process.


The final product as a result of our iPad 2 video production.

Overall, the iPad proves a decently able portable video production studio. Certainly, no other tablet offers as much video production capability as the iPad 2. If future versions of the iPad continue to improve upon video production capabilities – including an anti-shake feature for the camera, and some more advanced editing abilities in iMovie, tablets could really become have a large impact in the video production industry.

For now, home video makers will find all their needs met on the iPad. Or those who want to use the iPad to lay down a rough edit and then finish it up on a desktop video editor will also be happy.

Continue to follow our iPad create series as we test the media production limits of the tablet. Next up: Can we record, edit, and publish a song using only the iPad 2?

Brian Jackson is Associate Editor at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.

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