New Media Interchange #021

ABC Tests VR News,
The New Apple TV,
& Why Everyone Should Think Like A Producer
Sep 22, 2015 · 12 min read

This is New Media Interchange where we talk about the media world beyond mainstream television and radio, including podcasting, YouTube, live streaming, gaming and more.

NMI is Hosted by Douglas E. Welch, pioneer podcaster, blogger and writer.

In today’ show…

  • Why Everyone Should Start Thinking More as a Producer


ABC News in a partnership with Jaunt VR, previously mentioned here on New Media Interchange, have developed a new virtual reality hub focused on news content. Their first production focuses on attempts to protect important antiquities from the fighting in Damascus, Syria and takes viewers on tour of the city, documenting some of the endangered treasures.

While 360 degree video certainly has its place in news coverage, for myself I fear a bit the intense intimacy that VR news stories could bring to news. In many cases, even the 2D television news footage of today can feel far too intimate — and far too disturbing — and VR news has the potential to traumatize viewers deeply if not used in a responsible manner. Being much more immersive, VR news footage bring an entirely new dimension to news coverage. It is one thing to see bullets being fired and people running in fear. It is quite another to be immersed in that experience as a participant.

“The clip was produced with the help of Jaunt VR, an immersive content studio specializing in creating 360-degree virtual video experiences. Jaunt has previously partnered with advertisers to create the first wave of streamable 360-degree video ads for YouTube. The company has also been selected to serve as Google’s preferred partner for all future VR and immersive content.”

ABC and Jaunt deliver their VR content via the ABC News web site and via Jaunt VR’s iOS and Android smartphone apps using Google Cardboard as an immersive viewer.

Even if you don’t yet have a Google Cardboard VR device for your phone, you can still view the 360 experience your computer and laptop and using your mouse to look around the scene as it is presented. It isn’t perfect, but can give you an idea of what ABC and JauntVR are trying to accomplish.

You can get your own Google Cardboard VR device from and links on the Google site. In fact, I just ordered one of my own so I can increase my own experience with VR as it grows. See the show notes for direct links to purchase your own, links to the ABC News content and additional information.

In more VR News, TechRepublic has a great, in-depth article on 20 years of virtual reality work at NASA that has helped train astronauts for the unique challenges of working in space.

“For NASA, VR started out the same way it did for a lot of other folks in the 1990s: “Hey, here’s this thing, is there anything we can actually do with it?”

“However, that legitimate use they’d been looking for materialized in the form of a repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Soon after the Hubble launched in 1990, excitement gave way to disappointment. The $2.5 billion telescope was blurry. The fix would be STS-61, a 1993 mission to correct a problem with the mirror and scrub the proverbial egg off the face of the telescope.”

This is an amazingly detailed article by author Erin Carson and delves deeply not only into the technology but also the people involved in applying virtual reality to real-world — or perhaps I should say, real space — problems.

I highly recommend this article as a Real World Example on how virtual reality can be developed and applied in creative and important ways.

One of the benefits of using a smartphone to shoot video is that the built-in gyroscopes and accelerometers can be used with add-on software to smooth and stabilize footage. One software example is Instagram’s Hyperlapse software which combines stabilization features with time lapse to produce amazing ethereal motion-based timelapse video.

In an effort to bring post-processed stabilization to more traditional cameras, a crowdsourced device is being introduced, the SteadXP. This hardware add-on attaches to any camera and records the motion of that camera in real-time. That data can then be used in later processing to provide some excellent stabilization, based on the demo video on the site.

I will be watching this project closely to see how the crowdfunding of SteadXP proceeds. It is a quite interesting project and seems an obvious way off adding stabilization to any camera. That said, I wonder if we won’t see stabilization systems like this integrated directly in future cameras. It seems like an obvious improvement, seeing how useful smartphone stabilization features already are along with the further miniaturization and enhanced capabilities of motion sensors available today. I think most cameras could include similar technology without increasing their size or cost in any dramatic fashion.

Apple TV

This week saw another big announcement event from Apple, including the new iPad Pro, iPhone 6s and most importantly for new media creators, a new version of the Apple TV which hopes to better compete with the top 2 media players, Roku and Google’s Chromecast.

Along with speed and video quality improvements, Apple TV is adding several new features to the player. The biggest change is that the new Apple TV now runs TV OS, as derivative of the iOS that powers Apple’s iPhones and iPads. This means that developers for that platform can easily upgrade their apps to run on Apple TV and easily provide app-like features or bring app-based content to our larger screens. Helping to drive that app development will be the Apple Remote that brings several features from the iOS world to the Apple TV. First is the new motion control features of the remote which allow it greater functionality as a remote and also doubles as a Wii-like motion game controller for iOS games that will be ported to the Apple TV. Along with those motion controls are a touchpad surface that allow for the use of iOS-like gestures like swiping, clicking and tapping to navigate media and play games.

One large improvement is that new Apple TV remote now uses Bluetooth to communication with the Apple TV instead the line-of-sight-based infrared. I can’t believe infrared remote are still so ubiquitous in electronic devices when many people are placing their devices in media centers or even media closets, far outside the reach of a normal remote. Bluetooth will provide a much more reliable remote control experience and also provides the extra bandwidth necessary for touch and game control.

Finally, the new Apple TV includes Siri controlled voice commands for the first time. This allows for voice controlled searching of content, information retrieval like weather, sports scores, news, accessing settings and more. There is even an interested “What did he just say?” feature that will rewind, turn on captions and replay a moment from a video. I would expect that these Siri features will continue to expand as apps start arriving for Apple TV once it is released.

There have recently been rumors that Apple was trying to create deals with various broadcast and cable channels to provide ala carte, streaming shows via the Apple TV. While this hasn’t come to fruition yet, it seems that Apple might be using apps to go around licensing restrictions with some content providers. Major League Baseball demoed its Apple TV app during the presentation and it seemed to me that it clearly presented a way to bring their content, directly to the Apple TV, via an app without additional licensing or deals required for broadcast or cable content. Using content already available via iOS apps would seem to be a much easier method of gaining traditional television content for the Apple TV than trying to navigate the complicated — and somewhat treacherous — negotiations with mainstream networks.

The new Apple TV will be available this October for a price of $149 directly from Apple and other retailers

A few days after the Apple TV announcement, Twitter’s Periscope mobile live streaming service announced that it will be creating an Apple TV app to bring Periscope content directly to the big screen in your home.

I think this is a great idea. Over my years of podcasting and other content creation I have often advised people to “get on TV.” Now, of course, I wasn’t recommending they try to get traditional deals with mainstream broadcasters, but rather get their content on the box that is already in everyone’s home.

Bringing Periscope to the Apple TV is a great way of doing just that. It brings potentially great, live content directly into the traditional home viewing environment and, I think, greatly expands its potential as a news and entertainment resource.

I also found it greatly interesting that soon after this announcement, Periscope also announced better support for landscape video in their app. As you might have heard in a previous episode, I think the current, mobile-driven, trend towards vertical videos would eventually revert back to landscape once viewers started watching on larger and more capable devices. I see this announcement as a sign that even Periscope realizes that watching vertical video on a big screen TV is a horrible experience and it is seeing a need to support both vertical mobile, experiences as well as landscape living room watching of their user’s content.

Finally, in more new media hardware news, it is rumored that Google will be releasing version 2 of its extremely popular Chromecast media player near the end of September 2015.

I have loved my Chromecast over the last year or so and it quickly became my media player of choice for everything except podcasts, which were more accessible on my Apple TV and movie rentals, which I tended to buy through Amazon Instant Video.

Rumors indicate better WiFi support, easier connection to the Chromecast, enhanced support for Backdrop, which allows for the passive presentation of photos and information when the television is idle and a separate Chromecast Audio device which could be used to easily stream music throughout your home or office.

I’ll certainly be watching the release of this new Chromecast and can see myself upgrading almost immediately based on these features alone.

Hardware Hotlist

In this week’s Hardware Hotlist is a great article from Marco Armant at entitled Podcasting Microphones Mega-Review. In this article, Marco takes on a expansive overview of the microphones commonly used and available for podcasters and how they measure up both alone and in comparison.

There was obviously a huge amount of work put into developing this article and I am sure that many podcasters and YouTubers will greatly appreciate it. There are many audio samples from the different microphones, using both his and his wife’s voice, short reviews of each microphones, a discussion about USB vs. XLR connected microphones, preamps, microphone booms, shock mounts and much more.

Some of the microphones reviewed include the Rode Podcaster, the Blue Yeti, the Heil PR40 and cover a range of both dynamic and condenser microphones as well as USB and XLR connected microphones.

If you are looking to buy a microphone for podcasting, live streaming or YouTube video recording, this would be a great place to start your research.

In The Classroom

In the classroom this week I have an article on one way to prove lighting in your videos and a way to use the Instagram Hyperlapse app to capture amazingly smooth footage, even if you don’t need a timelapse.

First up is an article by Noam Kroll from Premium Beat — Add Beautiful Light to Your Scenes With a China Ball. Even if you aren’t familiar with film lighting you have probably seen one of these paper lanterns at your local Ikea or lighting store. A circular white paper lampshade is lit with one bulb inside and produces a wonderful soft and diffuse light for overall general lighting in your videos. It is a much cheaper alternative — and bit more flexible — than standard video lighting soft boxes.

“The china ball is one of my favorite tools to work with on set. The quality of light from a china ball can be absolutely beautiful; it’s very soft, forgiving, and can really wrap around your talent’s face.”

Kroll includes 3 great examples on how to use the china ball light, along with representative photos and also links to a video from Film Riot on how to build your own china ball rig and use it in your own work.

Using Hyperlapse app to capture smooth video on your smartphone

You can file this next article under “Why didn’t I think of that?” In article on The Verge, writer Ross Miller shares this tip on how to create some great, motion-stabilized video footage from your phone using Instagram’s Hyperlapse app.

If you’re not familiar with Hyperlapse, it is an application that uses the motion sensors in your phone to create ultra-smooth timelapse videos that don’t require you stay in one place or lock down your camera to one position. I have shot some test videos with it as we drive down the freeway and hiked in the mountains.

Miller reminds us all, though, that Hyperlapse isn’t limited to just shooting timelapse video. You can use its stabilization features to record real-time video and audio for inclusion in your projects. All it takes is using the Hyperlapse app as normal to create your video, but when — at the end — it asks you to set the speed to display the video, simply select 1x or the raw, standard video recorded by the phone. This gives you some really great, smooth video, without the timelapse effect.

I know I am going to try out Hyperlapse when I create the next episode of my series, A Minute in the Garden. While my handheld footage is usually pretty stable, I think using Hyperlapse will take it to the next level.

You can download the Hyperlapse app directly from the iTunes App Store. I’ll include links to that as well as to Miller’s article and some further information on the technology behind Hyperlapse in the show notes.

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