The Tiziano Project recently launched our new platform for collaborative storytelling, StoriesFrom. We debuted the platform at the Dokufest International Film Festival in Kosovo, where we simultaneously led a two-week filmmaking workshop taught entirely on the iPad.

While The Tiziano Project has been completing field training programs since 2007, this was first program we have completed using the iPad.

During the program, our students produced five short films that were actually screened at the festival and can be viewed here on StoriesFrom.

Here are a few lessons learned from the process.

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Victoria Fine (left), The Tiziano Project program director, helps student Aulona Hoxha (right), conduct an iPad interview with the executive director of the Dokufest International Film Festival. (Photo: Jon Vidar/The Tiziano Project)

A Weight Off Our Shoulders … Literally

First off, the iPad solves many of the technological problems we face in the field. Our recent program in Afghanistan is a typical example, where 10-year-old computers required us to find an obsolete version of Adobe Premiere just to be able to use the equipment. And even then, we could only get a trial version — attempting to get a three-generation-old software donation directly from Adobe fails miserably we found.

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As computers are expensive and cumbersome, we almost always rely on local partners with computer facilities for our trainings. The situations we encounter, however, generally tend to be on par with what we faced in Afghanistan. We often have to find hacks and workarounds to bring old machines to life.

In terms of cameras, we find ourselves weighed down by bags full of point-and-shoots, flips, and a handful of pro-end HD equipment.

The iPad solves all of these problems, as it has — without trying to sound like an Apple commercial — an HD camera, an editing device, and a publishing tool all rolled into one.

Easy on the Pocket Book

For less than $700, you can get a full HD video kit that can be easily used to produce and edit quality video from the field. Here is a rough guide to what our mobile iPad classroom kit includes:

Hardware:

  • The new iPad ($599) – 32GB, WiFi model. Don’t even think about going cheap and getting the iPad 2 to save money. The camera is useless.
  • Audio-Technica Lavalier Mic ($21.92) – For recording quality audio, but beware of the iPad and iPhone’s auto gain adjustment. Check sound levels frequently.
  • Sescom Microphone Adaptor for iPad ($25.95) – Required for connecting the lavalier mic and separate headphones. But, just as an fyi, the headphones won’t work as an audio monitor in any of the existing video recording tools — they are only usable for playback.
  • AmazonBasics 60-inch Tripod ($20.75) – A must for capturing quality video.
  • Fat Gecko iPad 2 Mount for Tripod ($19.99)

Software:

  • Pinnacle Studio from Corel (formerly Avid for iPad) (Free for a limited time, then likely $4.99) – Despite being PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice for video editing software for iPad, Avid seems to have abandoned this product and passed it onto Corel. It’s still the same great tool, though and should continue to allow you to export entire projects for backup and future editing on Pinnacle Studio for Windows. This ability to export the entire project is not available in iMovie — and the reason why I opt for this software.
  • FiLMiC Pro ($3.99) – A better video app than the system default. This software lets you easily select and lock focus, exposure, and white balance.
  • Timelapse ($1.99) – Easily create time-lapse videos that can be exported and edited with Pinnacle Studio

A Better Learning Tool

The unexpected benefit we came across while teaching with the iPad was just how effective it was in communicating key concepts. Things like framing and composition, which are difficult to grasp when looking at a 3-inch screen, came naturally to all of our students. Looking at a 10-inch screen while capturing content is basically the equivalent of having a monitor right next to you where you can review the shot in real time.

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