Entries in Video Capture (3)

iPad 2 HD video capture, is it good enough?

Today we took time out to gather some iPad 2 video samples. We felt it was important to see what the iPad 2 is capable of given plenty of bright sunlight and a steady hand. We used our 10 top tips for shooting iPad 2 video to get the very best from the iPad's tiny camera module.

Just as we had imagined, taking steady footage is considerably easier with the iPad 2 than when using an iPhone or iPod touch. The extra bulk practically eliminates small camera shake, and with some careful foot placement even a basic pan is possible without too much wobble.

We are generally pleased with this daylight footage, it's sharp, colourful and shows only a small amount of compression noise. Could it be better? Most certainly. Very dark areas tend to be crushed into solid black, and the massive depth of field, though handy given the iPad 2's lack of auto-focus, creates quite a flat looking image. We are mostly concerned by an area of soft focus in the lower right hand corner. Is this common to all iPad 2 units? Perhaps a kind reader could examine their own iPad 2 footage and let us know in a comment below.

Note to Apple: The iPad 2 camera app needs a serious rethink! We have plenty of suggestions which we will mention in due course, but the placement of the shutter button is a problem and needs addressing immediately. Where it is, sat right in the middle of the screen, is utterly ridiculous given the size and weight of the iPad.

Is the iPad 2 HD video capture good enough? That depends on what you plan to use the footage for. With careful use, giving consideration to the limitations of such a small camera/lens unit, the iPad 2 will capture footage that is equal in quality to a basic dedicated MP4 video camera and better then many smartphones. Footage looks particularly pleasing when viewed on the iPad's own IPS display and we imagine that this is how most footage will be presented.

Note: We edited the footage above using iMovie on the Mac, we then edited the same footage into a similar cut using iMovie for iPad to see how the experience differed. We'll publish our thoughts is a further post, but for now here is the iPad edited version.

10 top tips for shooting iPad 2 video

The amount of content created on the iPad is about to go through the roof. The inclusion of a 720p HD video camera has us drooling. We have spent the last few hours looking at example videos (some of which we have included here) to see what we can expect from the iPad 2 when it makes its way to the UK on the 24th.

It would seem that the iPad 2's HD camera is broadly similar in specification and quality to the latest iPod touch camera. If you intend to use your new iPad 2 to capture some decent video you'll do well to consider the following 10 tips.

1) The camera unit is not capable of auto-focus. It does have a rather large focal range, but be careful when shooting close-up shots. It appears that 25 to 35cm is the distance at which things start to get blurry.

2) It may not have touch focus controls, but it does have touch exposure controls, use these wisely. Making sure that you have captured a full dynamic range should be quite straightforward when shooting video with a monitor that large and touch exposure controls.

3) Like many rolling shutter based video cameras the iPad 2 suffers from considerable motion distortion. Try to keep iPad movement to a minimum and when panning remember to pan slowly. It's also worth noting that iMovie for the Mac has a powerful filter for reducing motion distortion. We would love to see this feature in the iOS version of iMovie. How about it Apple?

4) If you have to capture video content in a low light situation look for ways to bring some extra light to the scene. Unlike the iPhone 4, the iPad 2 has no LED video light. Expect a big increase of image noise and motion trails as the available light is reduced.

5) Use the bulk of the iPad to your advantage. Hold the iPad with both hands and push your elbows into your abdomen for extra stability when shooting video. Your iPad 2 footage should be considerable less shaky than anything shot on the iPhone, or any other smartphone for that matter.

6) The iPad 2 camera takes quite a while to adjust to a new scene with different light levels. Give the iPad time to readjust before you begin your shot. Don't move from one lighting situation to another in one continuous shot unless you have no other option.

7) Be mindful of the position of the microphone. We have already watched quite a few iPad 2 clips with poor sound quality precisely because the microphone is being covered by the owners hand.

8) Shoot and edit on the fly. With that capacious battery life, large screen and iMovie app, why not shoot and edit in near realtime? That way you'll get a feel for how your production is flowing whilst still having time to shoot extra footage as required.

9) Make use of the front facing camera. Though clearly not as good as the HD rear facing camera, the front camera is nicely colour balanced and is certainly good enough for the occasional commentary or reaction shot.

10) Mix and match. Both the iPhone 4, iPod touch and now iPad 2 produce very similar video footage, meaning that you can easily combined footage from all three devices without the viewer noticing. If you like the quality of the iPad footage but find it too big as a general purpose video camera why not consider an iPod touch as a companion device.

We can't wait to start playing with video capture on the iPad 2, as we have already mentioned we can think of plenty of uses for a fully combined HD video capture and editing device like the iPad 2. If you have some video capture tips, please feel free to leave let us know in a comment below.

This is why I admire Apple

I admire them because they make the joy of creating art available to everyone.

With each recent iteration of the iPhone Apple has increased the quality of the camera and added meaningful functionality. The 3GS introduced video capture with basic editing and now with the iPhone 4 Apple have taken a huge leap forward allowing the iPhone to overstep all other smartphone manufacturers, and even a few camera manufacturers, in terms of video quality and video editing ability.

Just 12 months ago the iPhone had no video capture now it has 720p HD at 30 frames per second. That's quite an advance and should leave no one in doubt that Apple intend to make the iPhone the premier mobile content creation platform. The video above was all shot and edited using only the iPhone 4 and iMovie for iPhone.

James Burland