The iPhone Traveler Pt. 10: Shoot and edit vacation video with an iPhone

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I use Apple’s own camera app, simply called Camera, for shooting video with my iPhone. It does everything I want and is easily accessible from the iPhone’s lock screen (via iOS 5.x). Here’s what I love about shooting video with Camera.

First, it shoots HD video (720p on the iPhone 4, 1080p on the iPhone 4S and 5). Image stabilization goes a long way towards reducing the shakiness of hand-held shots and cropping lets me to perform minor edits before sharing with iMovie on my Mac or iPhone. To shoot some video with the Camera app, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Camera to launch it.
  2. Move the slider in the lower right-hand corner to select video (slide it to the right).
  3. The “shutter button” in the center acquires a red status indicator light. Frame your shot and tap the shutter button to begin recording video.
  4. The red button blinks during recording and a time stamp appears in the upper right-hand corner.
  5. When you’re finished, tap the shutter button again. The red light stops blinking and the video file “jumps” into the camera roll.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind while shooting video with your iPhone. First, It’s almost always better to shoot in landscape orientation (iPhone on its side) than portrait. The main reason is the aspect ratio will look much better on your TV, as you’ll be able to avoid large “black bars” on either side of your video.

You can record video with either the forward-facing camera or the rear-facing camera. You cannot switch while you’re shooting, so make your choice before you begin. Also, there’s no way to zoom in or out while recording, so frame the shot you want first.

Apple has added a nice feature by letting you use the volume up button as the shutter button. Hold your camera on the landscape orientation so that the volume buttons are on top. Tap the volume up button to begin recording (it resembles a “+”) and again to stop. This is feels much more natural than reaching for the software shutter button on your iPhone’s screen. Lastly, you can view your video quickly by simply swiping to the right. The Camera app will slide away and you’ll go right to the camera roll. That’s much easier than exiting Camera and tapping Photos.

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Back to the Mac thoughts [Updated]

Now that today’s press event is over, I want to comment on a few things. First, the changes to iLife.

iPhoto 11

It’s tempting to dismiss the consumer-pleasing features of iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand as fodder for soccer moms and grandparents. Before you do, remember that this type of user represents a huge number of Apple’s customers. Also, I’m as geeky as they come and can’t wait to try some of these new features.

I like that iPhoto 11 lets you email a photo(s) from within the app. No more being pushed out to Mail, which was potentially time consuming depending on how much incoming mail you’d have to download before distributing your shots.

The improved Facebook integration will be nice for those who use it (comments posted on Facebook to photos shared via iPhoto will show up in iPhoto). Also, picture book creation is greatly improved. Navigating the new carousel view closely resembles swiping in iOS, especially while in full screen mode.

iMovie 11

The fact that I can score video of my son’s T-Ball game with music provided by the London Symphony Orchestra makes me giddy. Some will lament that Apple is giving production tools to amateurs who lack a filmmaker’s eye or aesthetic sense. That’s missing the point.

Today’s iMovie demo had me just as enthused as I was when the software was first introduced 2001. Designing professional-style trailers with dramatic soundtracks and so on will be tremendously fun for me and those who receive projects as gifts. On the technical side, the face detection is extremely impressive. I can’t wait to use this software.

GarageBand 11

The story here is groove track (“spell checker for bad rhythm”). The idea is that you let one track determine the tempo for the others. In the demo, a rock-solid drum track was chosen, and the guitar and bass tracks were synced up, time-wise, through what I suspect is a miracle. I’m eager to see how this works in real life, as I’m skeptical.

I was also impressed with the visual feedback offered while sight reading. I only wish it was available for drummers. I’d love for my Mac to listen while I played on my practice pad and offer the same feedback regarding my successful playing and my mistakes. It would also be nice to compare/contrast performance across repeated attempts at playing the same piece of music.

Full-screen mode

Adding full screen mode to these apps is a huge plus. When you run an app on an iOS device, it essentially becomes whatever that app does. There are no partially-obscured windows, bouncing dock items, etc. to compete for your attention. When I launch Twitterrific, my iPad becomes a Twitter client. Open Outside on my iPhone and it becomes a weather station.

Now, your Mac becomes a photo editor. A book designer. A video editor. This will encourage focus and, I predict, become a part of more and more apps.

FaceTime

I thought iChat would get re-branded as “FaceTime for Mac,” but Apple went with a standalone app (for the beta at least). Unfortunately, I’m unable to get it working on my Mac, but I can see how it could catch on. While FaceTime is a marquee feature of the iPhone 4 and soon the Mac OS, I don’t know anyone who has used the service more than 2 or 3 times. Perhaps adding a few million Macs to the pool of potential participants will change that.

Mac OS X Lion

As Steve noted, Apple has issued 7 major Mac OS releases in the past 10 years. That’s an extremely impressive statistic. I can say that today’s brief glimpse of Lion has me more eager than I was for Leopard.

The important thing to note is that Apple slowly, carefully and purposefully updates its products. It’s clear that Apple’s designers and engineers learn from their experiences and then apply those lessons in meaningful and effective ways.

The features of Lion that resemble their iOS counterparts aren’t there because the iOS is “hot” now or because Apple wishes to glom the popularity of one platform onto another. They exist because they improve the product. That type of attentiveness and growth is exactly why I admire this company so deeply.

The MacBook Air

I can’t say much about these machines until I use one, but I believe the 11.6-inch model could be the machine for me. I write for a living, and that means I don’t need huge amounts of storage. Nor do I run pro apps like Final Cut Studio. The vast majority of files and such that I work with live “in the cloud.”

This machine is small, light and features a full-sized keyboard. It’s much less expensive than I thought it would be. It also lacks an optical drive. The truth is, the optical drive in my MacBook Pro died years ago. I never replaced it and never missed it.

Steve said that the new Air represents the “future of the notebook.” Until flash memory prices come down it will stay exist far in the future (64GB on  storage won’t cut it for many people). Still, Steve has a knack for looking ahead and seeing what’s there.

I believe he’s done it again.