Editing broadcast video in a mobile app – ridiculous notion or the next big thing?

A trend appears to be developing in broadcast technology development – the more ridiculous an idea initially seems, the better the chances are that it will turn the whole industry on its head. Ten years ago editing over an internet connection was a pipe-dream, and the suggestion that broadcast equipment might be replaced with standard IT was considered preposterous as recently as five years ago. Yet working in the cloud, on standard IT equipment has revolutionised post-production and enabled workflows we never thought possible.

Remote post-production is one of these new workflows. Allowing people to get out of the edit suite and collaborate on video sequences from a laptop on their desk, in their living room or in a hotel in the middle of nowhere has had a massive impact on how we post-produce video and what kind of programmes we make and watch.

But video people are a fickle bunch and we move quickly from being astounded by new tech to criticizing it. Working remotely on a laptop has drawbacks –you need a desk or at least a flat surface to work effectively, battery power is limited and laptops are relatively cumbersome. The next logical step to providing a video editing solution suited to any environment may therefore be to follow the lead of so many other software providers and create a mobile app.

There are already plenty of video editing apps available, but Googling “professional video editing apps” returns a list of consumer applications. These range from apps like that create an edited sequence with little-to-no input from the user, to products with more advanced features that imitate professional software but fall short of delivering full functionality. Searching instead for mobile app versions of the leading NLE software produces a mixed-bag of results;

  • Avid’s iPad app -Avid Studio – was aimed at the prosumer market and has been sold and incorporated into Pinnacle Studio. Avid’s Media Composer doesn’t have a mobile app offering.
  • Final Cut Pro relies on supporting accessories and the acquisition of controlling apps to use the software on tablets. Apple’s iMovie app is not related to FCP and doesn’t integrate with the professional tool.
  • Adobe Premier Clip is an app that lets you edit content stored on your phone or tablet and share edits on social media – but you need to sync sequences to Adobe Creative Cloud to “take them further in Premiere Pro CC.”

If none of editing’s “big boys” are doing it, does it mean that it’s not possible to provide full professional video editing functionality in a mobile app?

If the only barrier was processing power then the iPad Pro – billed as a potential laptop replacement, on par with Apple’s entry-level MacBook computers – would solve that problem nicely. But what about storing and accessing your media? While the 128GB capacity of the high-end iPad Pro is impressive, it’s unlikely that all the media you need to edit for a professional project is going to originate on your device. Another important factor is automatic updating – the transition between working on one project across different devices needs to be seamless. Finally, as with any remote workflow, collaboration is key. Successful remote editing relies on being able to share work in progress with team members in different locations, if the only way to share your video is to publish it from your device then you’re going backwards.

Clearly this is not an easy task, but we think we’ve cracked it.

Forscene is the only truly cloud-based professional video editing software available, so we had a range of distinct advantages when we developed the Forscene app to run on iPad and Android tablets. Because Forscene users work on proxy versions of their media – which doesn’t demand huge bandwidth or processing power – we can provide full Forscene functionality on just about any computer or device. With all media and projects stored in the cloud, local space isn’t an issue and the project is always up to date, no matter how you access it. And new users can be working on a project within seconds of being added to the Forscene account.

There have been challenges. Accommodating smaller screen sizes while considering that buttons need to be big enough for “fat fingers” is tricky and we’re still working on a solution to make even more space available for on-screen keyboard display. Luckily these issues are resolved by the size of the iPad Pro screen, the Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil. It’s a match made in heaven really.

Of course, as tablets are completely touch screen driven, there are a couple of differences in how you control this video editing app: zoom buttons are replaced by a two fingered pinch and right click is replaced by press and hold. Apart from that, the tablet version of Forscene allows you to view and review, log, sync pull (stringouts for our US clients) and edit in exactly the same way as the desktop version. You can even export clips using the same publishing settings you have set up for your project.

We asked respected industry veteran, Paul Jones Head of Post at Princess Productions (Part of the Endemol shine Group), to review the Forscene app and he had this to say “Coming into this I was concerned that the iPad version was going to be a bit of a gimmick, a platform box ticker, but thankfully it’s much more. This is a real workflow tool. Looking to production the app is great for viewing media wherever they are. Give them a 4G iPad and looking at yesterday’s rushes on location is a dream. A sync pull in the bar after a hard days shoot is quick and simple. I like it. A lot.” The full review is available at http://www.forscene.com/blog/video-editing-app-forscene-ipad-review/

Recent Localytics research indicates that 57% of us are likely to use apps even more in the future, mostly because we believe apps will help us manage and connect all the digital elements in our lives. The Forscene app certainly meets those criteria, and editing broadcast video on a mobile app is a crazy enough idea that it may just turn the industry on its head.

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Jason Cowan

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