Watch on YouTube: ThePadcaster Open Box
The Padcaster could be a game changer for iPad video production and news gathering.
It is an iPad video stabilizer and tripod mount with a lens adaptor. The kit which retails for $149.00 includes: Padcaster, Lenscaster, instructions, 72mm-58mm step-down ring, two 1/4-20 screws, two 3/8-16 screws, one custom camera mount screw & one cold shoe adapter.
The device has apparently caught the attention of some broadcasters. We’re told by “sources” that Fox owned stations around the country are field testing the Padcaster for news gathering and other production needs.
The unit is certainly study enough. It features a metal frame and a hard rubberized housing that allows the iPad to be securely mounted to a tripod.
Our goal was to do an audio test, which is where things got a bit more tricky. We have a VeriCorder four-pin to XLR mic/headphone adaptor that we use to record audio with iPhones. The same cable works with the iPad, and is needed to capture microphone sound. The issue with the Padcaster is that the holes on the side of the metal frame are almost too small to quickly and easily plug in the audio cable. Once the cable was was plugged in, the Padcaster worked like a charm.
For this review, we used the built in camera only since we didn’t have a lens. We had three professional mics: an EV 635a which is a standard field production dynamic mic; a Sony ECM-44b which is a condenser lavaliere microphone, and finally, the Shure SM7b which can be found in many radio stations across the United States.
Watch on YouTube: The Padcaster and Pro Microphones
The video quality was impressive. The only lights used were the incandescent lights in the ceiling fan, and the shoe mounted LED light which was daytime balanced. In addition, there was a window in the back of the studio which added to the mixed light situation, providing a nice back light. The iPad image is warm and the 720p video looks pretty good when you consider that its primary function is mobile computing and not video production. In the video above, you may have noticed the colors changing slightly. This is probably a result of the iPad trying to auto white balance to correct the mixed light situation.
As far as the audio, the quality was superb with each microphone. Although the Padcaster folks recommend a different audio set up to get quality sound, using the 4-pin audio adaptor with an XLR cable and mic worked great. None of the mics had any kind of buzz or hum in the audio. Some minimal audio sweetening was completed in post–which only involved adjusting the audio levels.
The Padcaster for iPad Video Production and News
As far as an ENG solution, we’re not %100 sold on The Padcaster. It certainly works, and helps with image stabilization of the iPad, but the set up was not as easy as we would have liked. A hard flat surface is needed to slide the iPad into the housing, and a bit of elbow grease is needed to massage it inside. It is also is a bit heavy. A professional tripod should certainly be used with this device. Connecting the audio cable into the mic/headphone jack also appears to be problematic. It seems that the company is aware of the design issues because they responded with the following when provided our honest feedback:
The headphone pass-thru hole will be opened to .41 inches on future models. Also, the rubber will be removed from internal rim to make access to 30-pin connection, power button and volume buttons easier – this will also make it easier to get the iPad into the Padcaster.
We are currently reaching out to various news stations to see how they like The Padcaster. It is apparently being used in various ways. One News Director told me that they have actually produced news packages on it using the Pinnacle app. As far as the issues with the design, they modified the metal case so that the audio cables can be connected more easily. Another station has tried to use it to take live weather and in studio bumps during the newscast using the Stream Box app. To use Stream Box, a strong internet connection is needed and a four second delay was reported.
One of the iPad models at a station that I visited had issues with rolling shutter. This would be problematic for anyone that is shooting pans or tilts. For static shots with no movement, it should be fine. It must be noted that the rolling shutter issue is possibly limited to certain iPad models.
Though skeptical that the iPad could be an effective video production and news gathering tool, we were informed by a news manager that an iPad (without the Padcaster) works great for undercover stories because it is inconspicuous, and the video quality is great.
There are a few examples of how news organizations can use technology to experiment and enhance their news gathering practices. When coupled with mobile applications, news operations could find ways to share high quality video faster and cheaper. The cost of a mobile device, a few apps, and accessories pales in comparison to the cost of professional gear that is needed to shoot, edit, and feed video. However, we are in no way suggesting that an iPad or any mobile device will make pro gear obsolete.
As far as other options, there is another iPad production case called the Makayama. We haven’t tested it, but it could be a suitable solution as well.
Have you used an iPad for video production? What were your results?
*Web Video Chefs was sent a demo model of the Padcaster for this review. We were not compensated, and all opinions expressed are our own.