Mobile Media Gathering

Your work with digital media will present numerous new options available for advanced photo, video and audio recording on your iPhone and iPad. We will start with the bundled apps but we will go beyond and find creative and powerful ways to capture media, edit the media, and then integrate into your course or research. This post is but a start, by following the tag mobilemedia.

Along with the 3rd party apps we will look at additional audio and video hardware that can enhance your media production and take your device to a new level.

Remember, “the best camera is the one you have with you.”
Chase Jarvis (Possibly attributed to Henri Cartier-Bresson)

“Personal Media”

A mobile device gives us a readily available and inexpensive means of media production. At the same time web publishing provides us reach to enormous audiences, often for free. This seismic shift in traditional media production processes and consumption mandates new thoughts and concerns on the role and importance of self-created media for teaching, learning and research.

Personal media in the past was seen as a consumption activity, started when the first cassette Walkman and it’s flimsy headphones hit the scene in the 1980’s. Unlike transistor radios in the 1960’s, for the first time the individual could control the media, usually music, that they took with them and engaged with throughout the day. This engagement could happen without regard for place or top-down broadcast industry driven content such as was the case with the radio.

Over time recording abilities began to be introduced to these portable devices. Those relatively inexpensive devices (compared to their predecessors like the Nagra field recorder) began to be a critical tool to the field researcher interested in gathering audio. Personal media devices were evolving toward capture and production rather than be only consumption tools. A chat with recently retired UIUC Ethnomusicologist Tom Turino found him talking about his trustworthy Sony Walkman Pro cassette recorder. That recorder was the backbone of his music field work for many years.

Picture of the Sony Walkman Pro. A black portable cassette recorder.

Enter Digital

The move to digital storage of audio and visual content (as 1’s and 0’s rather than disturbed magnetic particles on a tape) has caused the real disruption in how we gather media. Most of us have in our pocket or bag a more powerful and extremely convenient media gathering tool than most researchers have had in the past. Expanding on Jarvis’ quote above, the best audio, video and still image gathering tool is the one we have with us. Most of us always have our mobiles.

The generation and sharing of “Personal Media” now can become part of our day’s activities as creators, presenters and consumers of digital sounds and images. What we can easily create now becomes part of us and our work. Our personal media becomes a new way of writing, representing, storytelling and communicating. Just as a composed work of text can range between the culmination of years of research or simply a quick note from an instructor their class regarding the day’s discussion, digital audio, video or images can be employed across the same variety of applications.

My guiding definition of Personal Media:

The personal creation of a message or representation of our thoughts delivered with or without our physical presence. This creation process places all facets of production and distribution in the individual’s hands.

Building the Personal Media Ecosystem

Your mobile device doesn’t offer much value if the content it captures and creates ends ups stuck on the device. You must consider pathways that allow the media to get out to:

  • Compass
  • Campus “YouTube” style media hosting
  • Webpages/Blogs
  • Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Standard Desktop Presentation Applications (Powerpoint, Word, etc.)
  • Mobile Device Presentation (Why bring your laptop to class anymore???)
  • Physical Media
    • DVD’s
    • Postagram-style services
    • Local Photo Developing
    • Etc.

While Apple’s iOS provides a conduit off of the mobile device through iTunes and Android devices usually have a tool provided by the phone carrier or manufacturer other options exist that play into a more open and flexible strategy of moving your media around. However, the University is a public institution with legal concerns of privacy and intellectual property. Solutions need to used in many cases that protect the content being uploaded. The goal is to find one or two strategies that fit the way you use your device, the type of content you are working with, and where you want your content to end up.

The Apple Flow

For video and photos the “Photos” app is often a conduit that is the default storage choice for many other apps. Once in “Photos” the content automatically replicates itself on all your Apple devices and computer through a feature called “Photostream”. You photos and videos end up on all of your devices and even on devices of people you decide to share with.

…that may or may not be a good thing.


When evaluating an app make sure the resulting media can be exported to the destinations you need based on the way you teach and share information.

When thinking about apps don’t talk “features” talk about your “needs.” You can come up with needs easily if you consider what bugs you about a particular application of technology. This helps when evaluating apps and other tools.

“Open In” – Keeping it on your device

Apps that have similarities or logical connections have an “Open In” command. “Open In,” if available will usually be found with a click of this is icon:

Icon that is a box with a swept arrow.

When clicking “Open In” you will have the opportunity to move a picture, sound or movie to a different app to do further editing. For example you may take a picture but later you may want to open it in an editor to add a border, resize or crop it.

The other method, especially common with photos, is the ability to access a photo from the “Photos” app library while in another app. For example, while in your photo editing app you can load a photo from the “Photos” library. When you do this you usually create a copy of the photo that is then kept in the app’s own storage. When finished editing you can most likely export the newly amended photo back to the “Photos” app. The end result back in the “Photos” library is now two photos – the original and the edited that has made a round trip to and from the photo editor.

Direct Tablet Presentations

The images and video created on your mobile device usually end up in the “Photos” app either directly or as an export from an editing/capture app. Media straight from the “Photos” app on iPads and other tablets can be shown to your class by connecting to standard projection equipment in classrooms and lecture halls. This connection can be a wired connection or increasingly a wireless video connection.

There are VGA connectors to older projectors, a newer HDMI and DVI connector to connect to flat panel TVs and more current projectors, and the latest is the use of AppleTV units that provide wireless screen delivery via HDMI enabled projector TV over the WiFi network.

Two, white connectors for iPad to projectors or TVs.


Our learning management system (Illinois Compass 2g login page) currently supports basic embedding of media clips and will see significant improvements in ease of use and deeper functionality in the near future with a service called Kaltura. This opens up the increased possibilities of audio, video and still images in course content either provided by the instructor or the student.


Publish.Illinois is a WordPress blog service running on campus. You’re likely reading this post from Publish.Illinois. It is a full featured blog system that supports embedding of media within blog entries. For mobile users, the WordPress iPad app let’s you grab photos and video right from the iPad and place the media in your blog. Publish.Illinois will also have direct connection to the Kaltura system in the near future.

Social Media

Many media creation apps let you directly post to the leading social networks. This process is often referred to “Sharing” and will allow you to log in directly to post accordingly to the timeline, the feed, the stream, etc. Twitter and Facebook are the usual suspects here but don’t forget Tumblr and other blogs. Getting Your Media to Other Devices and Computers

The University of Illinois has joined other Internet2 schools and implemented file storage and sharing. With you can backup/store, share and integrate your media with other digital tools in your toolbox. Details to learn more and get started are in a separate post.

Transfer to Desktop Software Tools

Mobile devices are great media gathering tools but you may want greater power or existing familiar tools from your desktop or laptop such as PowerPoint to integrate media into presentations and documents. Your or similar cloud storage solution will be the fastest way to sync your mobile media with your “regular” computer. More on later in this document.

Making instructional media successful