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Mobile phone becomes a TV studio

When my colleague Jim Seida wielded his iPhone on a stick as if it was a TV camera, Portland TV reporter Mike Galamanis was amazed ... so amazed that he took out his own iPhone and snapped pictures of Jim's rig.

Galamanis brought a tripod and a bulky TV camera to cover today's gathering of electric-car enthusiasts at the Intel corporate campus in Hillsboro, Ore. ... a gathering at which a gaggle of Chevy Volts were the special guests. Galamanis' objective was to shoot video about the electric car's coming-out party. That was what Jim was doing as well, with a video system that weighed just a tiny fraction as much as Galamanis' gear.

This is a task no mobile phone was meant to take on, and yet Jim was doing it. He clipped his iPhone4 into a machined aluminum frame called an Owle bubo, which added a wide-angle lens to the phone's tiny camera. He plugged a pint-sized shotgun mike into the phone's standard-issue jack, and mounted the whole thing on a monopod for extra stability.

But wait ... that's not all. Jim shot video with a $1.99 iPhone app called Almost DSLR, edited it with iMovie and uploaded it to Dropbox with the free Pixelpipe app. The videos about our 800-mile road trip, as well as the still photos, were all shot on the iPhone and sent back to msnbc.com's newsroom in a Seattle suburb from a bucket seat in our bullet-gray Volt.

It's not all been as smooth as an Apple commercial. Here are some of the issues we're still wrestling with:

  • Jim's iPhone has this nasty habit of going into "Voice Control" mode and ruining the shot. Do any iPhone geeks know how to disable Voice Control?
  • The videos have to be shot as standalone clips, with minimal editing of tracks once they're sent to the newsroom. So if the results aren't as slick as your typical msnbc.com videos, please understand that we're doing the best we can from the back seat of a compact car.
  • I brought along two fully charged battery packs for my laptop, but both have been exhausted, and we still have more than two hours of driving to go before we can stop for the night in Medford, Ore. Right now I'm using Jim's MacBook Pro. I realize it's ironic that I'm having battery troubles in a Chevy Volt. Now if only they made a gasoline-powered laptop. ...