Videolicious: One way reporters can make and file decent videos from their iPhones

There were few specifics in the Chicago Sun-Times' announcement that it had laid off its photographers and tasked its reporters with capturing photos and video via iPhone. For instance: How in the heck will reporters capture quality video if they have little or no video experience?

One possible answer may be found at The Washington Post, which has deputized some of its reporters to create videos using an iOS app called Videolicious. Post deputy editor of video Jonathan Forsythe stresses that while the paper does "not have any plans for Videolicious to ever replace our high-quality video stories shot and reported by our video department," some of its journalists have made popular Web-ready videos since it began training staff to use the tool late last year.

Videolicious lets reporters quickly put together videos incorporating interview footage, B-roll, audio and stills they've taken with their phones. Then they can file the video quickly. The app's enterprise platform "literally breaks videos into as many as 100 pieces" as they're transmitted, Videolicious CEO Matt Singer told Poynter in a phone interview.

"The advantage of the app to me is the transmission," Forsythe said by phone. "Allowing people to shoot and do a short quick edit in a matter of minutes really is a hugely powerful tool for reporters."

Forsythe said if he doesn't have the resources to send a video crew to accompany a reporter on a story, "What I’ll say a lot is, 'Hey, are you free to use this app? I’d love to teach you.'"

Singer commissioned this demonstration video for me:

Besides transmission speed, the video shows how quickly one can assemble a video using Videolicious. As any reporter who's ever been on the receiving end of a management imperative to do more video -- I am one -- can attest, it can take a lot of time to make decent moving pictures, time in which many journalists are also expected to blog, tweet and promote their stories on Facebook as they chase other stories and try to beat competitors.

Forsythe said about 30 Post reporters are using Videolicious now and training anyone who volunteers takes about a half-hour. Sports reporters especially, he said, have been receptive to adding short videos to their stories.

Near the time of the Super Bowl this past February, sports reporter Rick Maese quickly put together a video that showed Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III discussing the rehabilitation of his knee. Forsythe couldn't send a crew, but Maese "sent back the video, edited, in a matter of 30 or 45 minutes" after the event, he said. "We had it before anybody, and it did very well for us, traffic-wise, as you might imagine."

Another early win: a report on a malfunctioning Jumbotron at President Obama's second inauguration.

AJ Chavar, a full-time videojournalist at the Post, said in a phone interview that he used Videolicious extensively during the CES show in Las Vegas this past January. Here's a piece he shot about a robotic spider.

"That’s the type of event where really what people are interested in seeing are new gadgets, and they want quick little hits," Chavar said of CES. He can shoot, edit and upload a Videolicious piece in about 15 minutes. A video using his regular rig -- a Nikon D800 with a zoom lens, some microphones and headphones -- would take far longer, he said.

For a pro, Chavar said, Videolicious works in "those types of situations where the speed trumps the quality, not necessarily quality in terms of storytelling."

Videolicious CEO Singer says Videolicious shoots HD video at 720x1280 pixels, plenty big for a TV screen. Stills would work on the Web, Singer said, though they probably wouldn't look fantastic in print. His company is "definitely working with some of the largest newspapers in the country," he said, though he declined to name customers other than the Post.

Forsythe said one real help to the Post taking on Videolicious was Singer's willingness to come to the newsroom and train; the other was its price, which he said was very reasonable. "We think it’s pretty affordable," Singer said, adding that the company would work with smaller publishers on cost as well. The company recently added Mike Lennon, formerly of Wired, as a "video evangelist." (He appears in the video above.)

"A lot of our team comes from the print media world," Singer said.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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