Smartphone photography and videography have come so far in the past few years that there seems to be few frontiers left for mobile imaging to conquer. Even elusive capabilities such as telephoto lenses and depth-of-field effects are becoming more practical with the addition of multiple-lens handsets.
But while photo and video sharing have driven tens of millions to Snapchat, hundreds of millions to Instagram and is a key feature for the billion plus Facebook users, smartphone image capture is in some ways a solitary endeavor. The front-facing camera contributed to the explosion of selfies but relatively little has succeeded in getting consumers to take advantage of those radios inside their cameras to create collaborative capture experiences. With its virtually unlimited capacity for photos and videos, Google Photos has been the best effort to date in terms of encouraging those who have, say, attended the same event to all contribute to a shared album, but hasn't caught on as a go-to service for such tasks.
This is particularly unfortunate when it comes to videos. While the ability to share photos can provide multiple perspectives and allow those who would otherwise be excluded from photos get their share of images in front of the lens, videos shot by a single person or from a single angle quickly become boring. Even apps from Apple and Microsoft intended to cut videos into easily consumable quick cuts can only do so much with footage shot from one camera at a time.
But this may be changing in the coming years. Developed by Sling Media, the company that pioneered place-shifting television with the Slingbox, the $999 SlingStudio targets video professionals. In doing so, it provides a glimpse of the future of group video experiences. With the exception of a glowing light strip across its top, the product's base unit resembles a Wi-Fi access point. In part, that's what it is. But its magic comes in its ability to view and switch among up to 10 different wired and HD Wi-Fi-delivered video streams.
in addition to supporting HDMI input, SlingStudio uses its own adapters to wirelessly receive the video of high-quality camcorders and DSLRs, but iPhones and select Android phones can join in the fun of its Wi-Fi with a simple app. Indeed, while the main SlingStudio video switching app is one of the best iPad showcase apps to come around in a long time, its use in conjunction with the smartphone video capture apps is one of the cleverest combinations of smartphones and tablets to ever appear.
The product can record video to a USB hard drive or SD card or be used for live webcasting (there's a bit of lag between live events and when they show up on the iPad). The SlingStudio base unit includes an Ethernet port to minimize contention with all the Wi-Fi activity and Sling Media makes a battery pack that pops onto the bottom of the unit for use in the field. All in all, it is a well-thought-out and reasonably complete toolset for more compelling video shoots.
But the same diversity of angles that make professional video more interesting would also have applications in the consumer market. By relying on smartphones instead of high-end cameras and camcorders, much of the complexity and extra gear that that SlingStudio requires could be simplified and the total cost of creating such video would come down. Adding a smart automatic editing "director" app to the mix could transform Facebook Live, YouTube Live and Periscope broadcasts into a new media experience.
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