Just 13 years ago, Steve Jobs introduced a radical new tech device to the world, one that was an iPod for music, a “revolutionary” mobile phone and a “breakthrough internet communications device.”
And now, a new kind of TV camera too!
Well, he didn’t say that about the original iPhone. But have you looked at TV this week?
Conan O’Brien shot his late-night comedy show with an iPhone. And he wasn’t alone. Al Roker reported the weather for the “Today Show” on an iPhone, as well. Similarly, Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee and Jimmy Kimmel opted for an iPad to film their late night shows.
The TV industry didn’t turn to the mobile devices out of choice. There are better cameras with higher resolution out there. But due to the coronavirus sending us all to work at home, the industry has two choices: reruns forever, or innovate to create new programming.
Rich DeMuro, whose tech segments air on KTLA in Los Angeles and 40 stations nationally, set up the iPhone at home on a tripod, housed within a small ring light he picked up from Amazon for $100.
He is able to broadcast live by connecting the iPhone to TVU, professional software sold to broadcasters. Roker and the Today Show uses TVU, as well.
“You only need a smartphone, software and a microphone now,” says DeMuro. “You can go live from anywhere in the world now with your iPhone and one of these apps, which to me is just so amazing. We used to need a huge rig, satellite truck and microwave transmission. Now you can do it all the phone.”
Not everyone is using an iPhone for remote broadcasts. Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum is broadcasting from her apartment, but with a professional Sony ENG camera, the same kind Fox photographers use in the field to report stories, she says.
Her neighbor also works for Fox, set it up and runs the camera during her broadcasts. “I really lucked out,” she says. “We both like having work to do, and this gives us both focus.”
For his part, CNN’s Chris Cuomo, who announced that he’s positive with COVID-19, is anchoring his show from his basement. CNN says a camera was installed for him, he has no staffer helping him operate it, and it’s not an iPhone. It wouldn’t specify what type of camera it is.
The late night shows, meanwhile, are recorded and edited before they’re broadcast. Thus, the hosts tape their bits into their devices and send them to producers, who add graphics and edits that get assembled into the show.
For the guests portion of the late night shows, they move onto other devices, most notably the same two-way video chat software many of us have turned to since COVID-19 first struck earlier this year. Namely, Skype, Zoom and FaceTime.
The mobile devices have great cameras, but as great as they are … come on, there’s a huge quality difference them and professional cameras.
So if you were watching “Live with Jimmy Kimmel” this week and wondered, wait a minute, that looks too good for an iPad, you’re right.
He’s switched to professional presentation gear from Cisco, which costs tens of thousands of dollars and can be operated remotely from his home.
If you too want to start making professional TV shows on your iPhone, a few tips to consider:
Can you go live with TVU software? Probably not, unless you have a broadcast division behind you. Sorry folks.
But you can always broadcast live video to free tools like Facebook Live, YouTube Live and BeLive.TV.
For best quality, use the dedicated camera on the phone, and not an app like TikTok or Facebook to record on, because they downgrade video quality for faster uploads. Always shoot at the highest resolution. Most smartphones let you record in 4K, make use of it.
Play with different frame rates. Both iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones let you choose from 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps. Advantages: 24 fps for a more cinematic look, 30 fps for better dynamic range in the highlights, and 60 fps for capturing fast motion and looking cool when you slow it down later for slow motion.
You can also record two-way video on new iPhone models with an app called FILMiC Pro, which lets you record on both the front and back cameras at the same time.
Or you could do something which is way easier. Set up a meeting with one other person on the Zoom video conference service and click record. You get the option to save the recording to your computer. If you want to touch it up in an editing program you can easily do that as well.
So, let’s say we’re going to produce “Tonight with Jefferson Graham.”
I open the show with an monologue, which I record directly into my iPhone. Like DeMuro, I have it mounted on a tripod (we really don’t want to see camera shake, right?) and have lighting to make the image look better. (That, or sit by a window, to get natural light from the window.)
Before I click record, I make sure to tidy up my background, get all the junk off the desk, comb the hair and make everything look as good as possible.
Once the recording is done, I save the file and move onto the second segment – the interview.
I set up my Zoom meeting with my editor Josh (he’s editing this – so who else am I going to invite?)
We begin the Zoom meeting, I record it, and get a cool split-screen interview that hopefully everyone will find fascinating.
Then, we either bring on another guest (a second Zoom interview) or return to the iPhone, for closing remarks and an invite to come back tomorrow.
In editing software, we put the three pieces together, add some theme music, save the file and upload it to YouTube or wherever it may land.
So be sure to tune in tomorrow folks. But first, a word from our sponsor …
In other tech news this week
Speaking of Zoom, the popular video conference service said this week that usage has skyrocketed, from 10 million users monthly in December to 200 million in March. It apologized for security breaches that have come with the new scrutiny and said it has taken several steps to tighten them.
Facebook looked to renew interest in its Messenger video chat program by releasing a new Windows and Mac desktop application. The advantage: most folks you know are already on Facebook, and thus you won’t have to invite them in, just click their name.
T-Mobile and Sprint are now one, after two years of waiting for the merger to close. For now, both T-Mobile and Sprint are operating independently, and still offering their respective service plans. Sprint rates are still cheaper than T-Mobile. But for how much longer?
Microsoft renamed Office 365 to Microsoft 365 as it looked to give the subscription service for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive and other programs more of a consumer focus.
This week’s Talking Tech podcasts
Tuesday was World Backup Day. Did you take a moment to backup your stuff?
Keep the tripod police away with the Platypod. Larry Tiefenbrunn,, a New Jersey pediatrician who is known as “Dr. T” explains his unique tripod alternative.
Dashing around Chicago: Nick Tribidad a “dasher” for DoorDash, explains how the company uses “contactless” delivery to get food to us.
Can Facebook Messenger catch up to Zoom? USA TODAY’s Jennifer Jolly joins me to discuss.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter