2018 was the year of Unsane. The first movie shot on a smartphone that really caught people’s attention. Websites, magazines and newspapers all looked at it with amazement. How did director Steven Soderbergh do this with a phone? They probably didn’t realize it was not the first movie shot with an iPhone at all. Multiple pioneers have done what Soderbergh did, most notable Sean Baker in 2015 with Tangerine. But the famous Soderbergh did bring it to a broader audience in Hollywood and around the world. Shooting your story with a phone finally became widely accepted in 2018. And not just in film.
A few weeks ago David McClelland posted a link on the Mojocon facebook group about the Indian news Broadcaster NDTV. They decided to switch to a full mojo setup using just Samsung phones. And not just for reporting, but also for their studio setup. They followed in the footsteps of several other local TV stations around the world that switched their big professional cameras for iPhones in recent years.
It is just another example of how quickly the use of mobile phones for professional video (and audio!) is growing. When you were in the field as a reporter a couple of years ago, working with your mobile phone would make you stand out. Now, it is becoming very common. And you no longer have to convince people that the quality is good enough. They know, because they have used it themselves! Another testimony of that growth is the fact that the MoJoFest Facebook group has hit 5000 members in 2018.
Ahh. MoJoFest, the place where it all started. Or was it Mojocon? The event and group may have changed their names, but there is one thing that has been the same from the start. And that is the spirit of it: It is the ultimate sharing conference. People don’t come to brag about their work, or sell their product, app or book (well, maybe a little), but they come to learn from each other and share their experiences. That was the case in 2014 on the first Mojocon event in Dublin, and 2018 was no different. It is now called MojoFest and it was held in Galway, but the spirit was still the same.
It is the place to meet your MoJo heroes like Philip Bromwell (RTE, one of the pioneers), Nick Garnett (BBC, radio-on-iPhone legend), Leonor Suarez (Shot a documentary on her phone) and Mike Castellucci (won multiple Emmy awards for a TV show shot on iPhone), but also talk to the developers of the go-to apps like FimicPro and LumaFusion. And they are all willing to talk to you and listen to what you want from their app or think about their work.
It is this spirit of Mojocom/ Mojocon/ Mojofest that really makes the MoJo movement something special. The man who brought that all together is Glen Mulcahy. He organised the conferences and the Facebook group and launched many people on their MoJo-careers. He is one of the best MoJo trainers in the world and no overview of a MoJo year could do without a special mention of him.
Having mentioned one of the best I can’t skip mentioning that not all MoJo trainers out there are as good. Not just the number of people using their phones to tell stories are growing, but the number of people telling you that they can teach you how, is also growing. Be aware of the people who teach, but have never used it. They will not offer you value for money.
Apps: Rush to judgement?
2018 was not just the year of a growing number of MoJo’s. It is also the year of some interesting new Apps that came on the market. The first worth mentioning is Alight Motion. The Android app made its debut on MoJoFest and offers something we have not seen in any app before. It is an app that gives you a lot of creative options for animation, motion graphics and visual effects. And it does so in a lot of different framerates so it works for TV and online.
Another app that really tried to offer something different is an app that is actually called MoJo. It is a storytelling app that gives you formats for stories on Instagram and Facebook. Vertical of course. Because that is what these platforms ask for. Instagram even launched a vertical competitor for Youtube in 2018: InstagramTV or IGTV. It was a very big hype for about two weeks. All the big publishers tried their luck on IGTV but quickly abandoned it again when the public did not seem follow them to the new platform.
Still, 2018 seems to be the year we could no longer ignore Vertical Video. Stories on Instagram and Facebook are rapidly growing and it is consumed on phones, so Vertical seems to work best. For a mobile journalist this means we have to produce our stories in landscape for TV and Website, but also be able to produce that same story in Vertical format for Instagram and Facebook. And this is where one of the biggest app launches of the year comes in handy: Adobe Rush CC.
Adobe is one of the biggest players on the market of Video Editing. When you are a professional working on laptop or desktop you will probably be editing on Final Cut, AVID or Premiere Pro. The latter is made by Adobe and it part of the so called Creative Cloud. As a paying member of the cloud you get to use Premiere, but also things like After Effects and Photoshop.
And Adobe has been offering a mobile video app as well. It is called Adobe Clip and is available on both Android and iOS. But it just wasn’t quite up to the pro standards you might expect from a company like Adobe. Enter Adobe Rush…
Adobe Rush offers you a professional filming experience that looks a lot like FilmicPro. It is not as complete as FilmicPro is, but is quite enough for most journalists and PR people shooting on their phones. And the biggest benefit is that you can edit in that same app. It is a multilayer video editing app, that is not as good as LumaFusion, but quite good nonetheless. When you are done editing your project you can switch it to square or vertical video with the click of one button.
So is Adobe Rush CC the multitasking app the Mobile Filming world has been looking for? It might be. But not for everyone. First of all because it comes at a price. If you are not a member of the creative cloud already, you will have to pay 10 dollars each month to use Adobe Rush (although the first three projects are free). And if you are on Android you will have to wait a couple of months, because so far it is iOS (and desktop) only. But Android is expected somewhere in the first six months of 2019.
And although Adobe Rush is a very exiting new app, there are still better apps around if you are looking for a more cinematic experience. FilmicPro offers you more control over what you can get out of your Android and iOS phone. They even improved on that experience by adding a huge improvement in the LOG mode of the app. Meaning you can get more detail and image information from the same phone sensor. If you are a LumaFusion user, you can import the LUT-pack they made into the editing app and you are good to go.
A new kid on the block in filming on the phone is the Moment App. It was released in the second half of this year and was especially useful if you have one of their lenses. For example their very nice Anamorphic lens or the excellent new tele lens. It offers you a lot of control over your settings and can film in multiple frame rates. Not quite as good as FilmicPro or Rush, but a welcome addition nonetheless.
With all the new apps coming out, the field of Mobile Journalism has got a lot more competitive. More competition usually means the quality overall will improve. 2018 has proven that and I think 2019 might get even more interesting in the field of professional apps. This is where the biggest improvements will be. But I am also hoping the hardware will bring a bigger revolution then 2018 has been. Because in that department it was a bit dissapointing.
Like always, the hype for the new iPhones was big. And the believers were not disappointed. Three new iPhones came out in 2018: the Xs, the XsMax and the Xr. And if you watched the release show you got the idea that these were the best smartphones ever made, with the best cameras ever to be found on a smartphone. Problem is, they say that every year.
In the past a new iPhone was indeed a bit of a revolution. The last couple of years however the changes are marginal. Not that those that bought the phones are unhappy, but if you already had a recent iPhone (8 or up) the changes weren’t worth the huge pricetag. If you are going to spend over a thousand euro’s on a new phone you want it to be spectacular.
Spectacular was also what the buyers of the RED Hydrogen One were hoping for. What they got is what Mashable described as the worst piece of technology that came out in 2018. RED is known for it great cameras that have been used to shoot some of the biggest TV and Movie productions in the last couple of years. So when they anounced that they were going to make a smartphone, people were excited.
Then came the delays. And even more delays. And even more delays. But that was not regarded as a big problem. RED cameras are usually delayed, so why not this one. But when it finaly did come out at the end of 2018 the people who got it were massively underwhelmed. The phone was slow, the screen bad and the UI even worse. And the biggest problem was the cameras. It was nowhere near as good as people expected. It is not the worst in the field, but most certainly not the best.
The best cameras on smartphones this year were to be found on the new Samsung phones (Note9 and S9) and the Huawei phones (P20 pro and the Mate20). Again, nothing really revolutionary, but better then the rest. But there is room for improvement. And personally I am hoping that improvement will come from Nokia.
There have been rumours about the new Nokia 9 for a while now. It will be a phone that has not two, not three, not four, but five cameras on the back. And Nokia is partnering with Zeiss for this one which is promising. Latest rumours say it will be released in january of 2019. But for now, we only have rumours.
Is it still MoJo?
2018 was also the year a couple of interesting concepts were presented. For example the 400mm lens by Canon that clips onto an iPhone through lightning. And the Android camera with micro 4/3 that is being build by a Chinese company. But these are products that are yet to be released (if ever). And the question is of course if it still counts as being shot on a phone if you use them. Same goes for the latest product by DJI: The Osmo Pocket. A tiny gimbal with a camera on top that you can attach to your smartphone. As the name already suggest it is really tiny, but apparently the results aren’t bad.
DJI also released a second version of their very popular stabilizer for smarthphones: The DJI Osmo Mobile 2. A cheaper, but even better version of the first one. But there was also some very competitive new contenders in the gimbal field. For example the FreeFlySystems MoviCinema Robot. A stabilizer that looks a bit different and works best when holding it with both hands. Biggest plus is that it doesn’t block any of the ports so you can attach an external microphone. And it has a few tricks up it sleave that the competitors don’t.
Another Gimbal with interesting benefits is the Zhiyun Smooth 4. The manufacturer worked closely with the FilmicPro team to fully integrate the Gimball controls into the app. You no longer have to touch the screen, but can just use the buttons on the gimbal.
2019: Revolution? Or more of the same?
Looking back at 2018 there might not have been a big revolution in MoJo. But you can see that it has grown. Not just in numbers but also in professionally. The hardware and software have become more professional and the way we use them has become more professional. 2018 has been a year of evolution, not revolution. Some interesting things have come out in 2018 and some interesting things have been promissed for 2019. It is hard to predict the future, but it is safe to say that we will continue to see growth.
But with using a tool with great power (the smartphone) comes great responsibility (As Spiderman always points out). We need to make sure that there is still a difference between the professional and the amateur. If you are going to use MoJo, make sure you use in the correct way.
Aim for stable images and crisp sound. Use the professional apps, if you want professional results. Don’t just point and press record. I know it is easy and I know there are some ‘trainers’ out there that will tell you it is OK to shoot wobbly pictures. But really it is not. The audience knows the difference between a pro video and one that is made by amateurs. Think about composition, settings and story. Go for the best quality and not the quickest result. Go for good stories instead of the highest number of clicks. This will be the biggest challenge of 2019. Not just for Mobile Journalists, but for all journalists.
This overview of the MoJo year was written for the Thomson Foundation. Join the JournalismNow e-learning platform and learn more about Mobile Journalism and content creation from leading experts like Glen Mulcahy, Sumaiya Omar and Sue Llewellyn.