I got my start as a blogger through citizen journalism during Hurricane Katrina. As a result, I have a great interest in ways to create media on the go. Whether it’s audio, video, or the curation of social media, the advent of tablet computers has provided a wealth of new tools for the content creator on the run.
Today, I’m going to take a look at some of my favorite tools for the iPad — apps that allow everything from on-the-spot video editing to live broadcasting. This list is geared toward the beginner, so I am going to look at the basics. The apps I’ll be describing are either free or in the five-dollar range at the most.
Google Chrome (Free) | iTunes Store
A good browser is always useful. For instance, if you get a chance to do an interview you weren’t expecting to do and aren’t ready for, you can Google the subject so that you can ask the right questions. While the built-in Safari browser in iOS is great, it does have limitations. With Chrome, you can get an experience much more in line with the desktop than with mobile.
Photoshop Express (Free) | iTunes Store
This cropped version of Photoshop is more than sufficient for doing quick image editing on the go. Captions, cropping, control of basic characteristics like brightness and saturation, and filters all allow you to give your image that extra bit of fine-tuning before uploading it to Flickr or Google Images.
Aviary (Free) | iTunes Store
Another terrific image editor in this vein is the open-source-based Aviary. A long-time workhorse of the Internet world, it has a super simple interface and is extremely useful when speed is required. It boasts one simple toolbar across the bottom of the screen for rapid edits, and it saves the output as a new image automatically, allowing you to retain your source picture.
Flickr Studio ($4.99) | Website | iTunes Store
If you use Flickr for your image-sharing, like I do, it just doesn’t get any better than this. Flickr Studio is the most powerful and efficient app I’ve tried. For a citizen journalist, the most important feature is the upload function: you can tag an image, add it to sets or to public groups, etc. It gives you almost all the functionality of the desktop website, but with a user experience in line with the Apple esthetic. The ease of use and versatility make it a must for the media creator on the fly.
iMovie ($4.99) | iTunes Store
Planning on generating content for YouTube? This is a great place to start. The cropped version of iMovie still packs a serious punch. You can shoot video directly into the program, allowing you to add several video segments as they are recorded, and edit them when you have time. I’ve always been intimidated by video editing, but the touchscreen interface of the iPad makes it much more intuitive and simple to use. It even has built-in effects that allow you to add captioning.
If you want to produce professional-looking video content, this is the place to start.
SoundCloud (Free) | iTunes Store
I got my start recording audio on the Web. During Katrina, I was using AudioBlogger, a long-outmoded service that allowed you to call in audio from any phone line and have it automatically post to your blog. Technology has evolved extensively since those days. The leader of the pack, based on sheer functionality, if nothing else, it the U.K.-based SoundCloud.
Not only does it have an extensive array of sharing capabilities, essential for this sort of work, but it also allows you to add comments directly to a particular point in the recording. This allows people to add their thoughts to the pertinent part of the interview. Even better, the SoundCloud comments show up everywhere the file has been embedded. Add this to the thriving international community it has built, and you’ve got one of the most useful audio applications around.
HootSuite (Free) | iTunes Store
If you’re trying to do real-time coverage, HootSuite is indispensable. It is a dashboard program that allows to monitor, respond, and schedule posts on a wide variety of social networks including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook (both profiles and pages). Word on the net is that Google + integration is coming soon as well.
Creating media is a lot of fun, but if you don’t get in front of people, it doesn’t make a difference. With HootSuite, you can share your offerings as they are produced as well as solicit questions and comments from those following you online.
Google+ (Free) | iTunes Store
The Google+ iPad app has a lot to offer. Not only can you use it to interact in the ways I noted while describing HootSuite, but you can also initiate or join Hangouts through it. (Hangouts are Google’s new video chat system.)
At the moment, you cannot do a Hangout On Air, the broadcasted and archived Hangout that shows the platform’s true versatility. Of course, if you have a confederate with a desktop computer, they could start a Hangout On Air from your page and then invite you to join. That way you can still run the Hangout for your band, but be able to interact with it from the personal account on your iPad.
Pinterest (Free) | iTunes Store
Okay, so you’re working with images, right? Pinterest should be part of your workflow. My usual style of syndication is to shoot the pics, edit if needed, and then upload to Flickr. Once they are there, I pin them in Pinterest and share the link to the photo on Flickr through my other channels (Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc.). While I do have reservations about the copyright liability issues associated with the company user agreement, one of those would apply to a case where you are pinning something you hold the copyright to.
WordPress (Free) | iTunes Store
Indispensable! WordPress on the iPad supports multiple accounts. As a matter of fact, this entire post has been created using that ability. This is fantastic if you contribute to multiple WordPress-based blogs like I do.
Its only option is the code view, but you can preview your edits easily with one touch of the screen. All your usual basic tools are there, although you won’t be able to access options for plug-ins. These are not really bad stumbling blocks, but it’s good to be aware of them. All in all, it has a great interface and gives you everything you would need onsite. The biggest problem with it is Apple’s annoyingly overzealous autocorrect.
This is where you will centralize you media and combine it into blog posts. Think of it as the hub of your reporting. You create the audio, video, etc., and then it all comes together at the blog level.
If you go out and play with this in the field, I advise a shock- and water-resistant hard case for your device. Just in case.
Let us know how you put these tips to use, leave us some links in the comments when you do!
George "Loki" Williams is the community and brand manager for award wining game company Savage Mojo, Ltd. and the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content and online communications. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters, Kobold Press, and Kaiser Permanente. His work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, The Gambit Weekly, and NOLA.com, among others.