Home > Uncategorized > Get Ready for WNG

Get Ready for WNG

-first posted at RJIonline.org on January 8, 2014

Television journalists who first cut their teeth with film cameras, processing runs, and moviola splicing tables welcomed the advent of ENG in our newsrooms as a great step forward. If you don’t know the term, which dates back nearly 40 years, “ENG” stands for “electronic news gathering.” It describes the tools used to move television news from film to video, including portable video cameras in the field (first called “minicams”), tape-to-tape editing equipment, and live broadcasting through microwave or satellite transmission. Much of this technology still exists, though cameras have gone digital, editing has gone non-linear, and live broadcasting has gone cellular.

Evident on the floor of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is the next wave of newsgathering gear, something I like to call “WNG” or “wearable news gathering.” Wearable technology is a big part of the show this year, from the health and fitness market to the gaming industry. But much of this technology we can now don has promise for journalists in the field—and not just those working in television.

Clearly the biggest entry in this market is the wearable HD video camera.

A vendor explains the latest GoPro camera at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada

It seems like a strange term to use for a company that has only been selling its popular line of “Hero” camera for four years, but GoPro is the venerable leader in the market, setting the standard for all others to follow. The tiny HD Hero cameras can be worn through standard head or chest mounts, and have become ubiquitous for action sports and adventure seekers. Most news use of the cameras has come with mounts on cars, bikes, and other moving vehicles. The cameras record on micro SD cards and, while they don’t provide live video in any easy-to-broadcast way, they can produce recorded HD video and quality audio quickly in breaking news events. Prices start around $200 for the cameras, putting them in reach for most journalists who want to strap one on and shoot. Already the market leader for this type of video capture technology in the HD market, GoPro is soon launching the Hero 4 model with full 4K video (four times the resolution of HD video) at a 30 frames per second recording rate. 4K won’t see much news use in the near future, but the pending release of the camera means GoPro will continue to lead the wearable camera market.

But having a strong leader in the market doesn’t mean other innovation won’t happen, and the CES floor shows evidence of several manufacturers looking to copy or improve on the successful GoPro Hero design. Electronics and music retailer Monoprice has aimed to undercut GoPro on price and developed the

Monoprice MHD Sport Wifi

MHS Sport Wifi camera that shoots 1080p/30fps video like GoPro, but does it starting about $25 less in price. And the MHD cameras come with another piece of wearable technology—a wristwatch-style remote control that connects by WiFi to the camera for operation. The camera has almost the same form factor as the Hero from GoPro, meaning it also wears best on forehead or chest.
Elmo’s QBiC hands-free camera looks to outdo GoPro by going wider, with a remarkable 185 degree view (for comparison, GoPro’s Hero cameras have a 170 degree view). The QBiC uses a fairly low-tech mounting system for wearing, a cloth elastic belt that can go around arms or other body parts. Similarly, the Muvi line of camera from Veho goes for wearability through an ultra-small SD camera that’s about the size of a large paperclip, as well as a more standard HD model with a somewhat sleeker form factor than the square-ish GoPro and its imitators.

Moving away from the strap-on design with some of its models, Liquid Image builds its cameras directly into ski and sport goggles, putting the lens right above and between the wearer’s eyes. The company also has an entry in the market of the small, square camera with its Ego line, which boasts similar wearing options as GoPro, and also delivers video via WiFi to allow remote control and viewing via smartphone or tablet as GoPro does with its WiFi capabilities.

With the prices on many of these cameras as low as $100 or less, just about any journalist can look at them as a tool—even for smaller blogs and projects that aren’t broadcast television. But that WiFi connectivity in some models may be an important specification to take the cameras from smaller scale recorded stories to real newsgathering tools for broadcasters.

Panasonic HX-A100

The Panasonic HX-A100, which features perhaps the best option for wearing a camera–an over-the-ear harness that puts the cigar-shaped camera right out alongside one eye for easiest pointing, offers what the company calls “live broadcasting” to the internet through its WiFi connectivity and the use of a third party host, in this case, Ustream. Since the connection for this and other cameras requires WiFi, there is no direct cellular connection as with many of the popular ENG backpack solutions like LiveU or Dejero. Live broadcasting the field away from WiFi would require tethering to a phone for that last link.

Will reporters for TV stations, newspapers, online sites, and other journalistic endeavors be wearing cameras to all stories? Probably not any time soon. Innovators like those behind Google Glass predict a world with wearable tech for everyone—not just journalists. That level of tech diffusion is probably inevitable. But the high prices of the tech—like Google Glass’ current hefty retail cost—mean it will be a while before everyone is wearing a wire of some sort. But the democratization of cheap, easy to use, and high quality video cameras any journalist can wear now means there is a revolution just around the corner. The WNG revolution won’t fully supplant the ENG generation as ENG itself once did to film technology in news. More likely the two will exist side by side, mating technology where possible to ease workflow. The connecting of WiFi from small wearable cameras to existing cellular live remote news gathering would be one way to do that. A WiFi connection, for instance, from a Panasonic HX-A100 to a TV station’s live celluar backpack rig could put the video back to go on the air live as part of the regular broadcast. The marriage of ENG and WNG should be a happy one—after some initial awkward moments of how to work with one another.

What’s the next step after WNG? Clearly the evolution of hold-able technology led to wearable technology. So wearable tech should evolve to implanted tech a journalist never needs to take off, charge, or remove—call it “ING” or “implanted news gathering.” An implant camera in one eye, with headphones built into your tympanic nerves, perhaps? If that tech is here, it’s still a secret. But soon, we may all have to start looking more closely at the eyes and ears of the reporters we meet.

avatar_646Stacey Woelfel is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. He serves as the news director of KOMU-TV, the NBC affiliate at the University of Missouri. In addition, Woelfel has previously held the position of national chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA).

Woelfel’s project is intended to add a richer experience to traditional linear television news consumption by developing and exploring second screen engagement opportunities. Second screen viewing means audience members are using a mobile device to view content while watching news broadcasts.

– See more at: http://www.rjionline.org/ces2014/rji-ces-2014-get-ready-wng#sthash.oB1f4O6i.dpuf


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