What’s new to say about a product that’s been reviewed virtually everywhere on the web? For us, it comes down to a few simple questions: What will the iPhone do to help a wedding and event videographer? How can we make money with it? How will it serve us differently, better, or worse than a regular vanilla iPod or a normal cellphone? Like all video-capable iPods and some other mobile media devices, the iPhone is a portable, easy-to-use tool that makes showing and marketing your work fun and interesting. But for our industry, the iPhone can be much more.
The iPhone breaks new ground with its style, intuitive design, user-focused software, and multimedia savvy. That said, when I bought my iPhone, I didn’t really need a new cell phone. I was already using a fairly new Palm Treo 650. For a small business owner, the Treo is great. The ability to sync contacts with your address book is a great feature, and mobile email was generally a positive, though its functionality was limited. (It was not a true plug-and-play proposition, nor was I able to have my mobile email match my office machines with an IMAP mail server.) However, the web browser was slow and very expensive to use (it uses a Verizon Wireless plan). Photos were just OK, and video playback was available via a third party, but it was jerky and not worth the effort.
With my new iPhone, on the other hand, I am saving about $40 a month, and have unlimited data (all AT&T iPhone plans come with unlmited data), and can use my 802.11 Wi-Fi network when I’m at my office or at home. The Safari browser is exactly the same as the one I use on my desktop. This is the real internet.
An iPod Built-in
I’ll begin by comparing the areas most videographers will look at first: video capability, quality, and quantity. As for quantity, the iPhone comes in 4GB and 8GB versions, and the newly released iPod classics come in 80GB and 160GB. As a comparison, the Treo’s storage capacity is limited only by the size of SD cards (2GB at the largest) and how many you can keep in your pocket without losing them.
The widescreen iPhone is simply better for viewing video than either my Treo or Pod (now called iPod classic). The screen looks unusually sharp and bright. The new iPod touch is a worthy alternative for those who do not need a phone, but the seamless integration and Bluetooth and EDGE network support continue to set the iPhone apart.
But how does the capacity difference affect us? How many weddings can you fit on an iPhone? As a predominately short-form editor, I can fit many more "complete" weddings on any portable device than someone who delivers two-hour long movie-length features. With short-form weddings, I can probably fit 100-plus complete videos on the iPod. On my 8GB iPhone right now I have about 10 weddings, four Mitzvah concept videos, three Love Stories, two promotional clips, and one music video (not to mention a large number of iTunes music downloads). That amount of video is certainly enough to get someone interested in my work. You are not really going to watch hours of clips with a prospect, but it is nice to have a few different stylistic options. If you really need to have every wedding you've completed in the last few years at your fingertips, the new iPod touch ($249/80GB, $349/160GB) will do the trick--but it doesn't have the iPhone's web connectivity or phone features.
From where I stand, the iPhone pretty much hammers the phone competition. For a blow-by-blow comparison of the iPhone, the iPod classic, and the Treo, see Table 1, below. The iPhone is lighter, skinnier, and in my view more hip-looking. With only one button, you don’t even need to read the manual! The iPhone does video, audio, and photos the way we need for viewing and sharing. The iPod touch is equally adept at meeting our multimedia needs. One current shortcoming of both the iPod and iPhone is: search capability. The Treo offers system-wide search for names or numbers, and hopefully that issue will be addressed in the iPhone’s near future.
|iPhone||iPod classic||Treo 650|
|weight||4.8 oz.||5.5 oz.||6.4 oz.|
|capacity||8GB||80GB/160GB||128MB-2GB SD cards|
|talk time/standby||8 hrs||N/A||5 hrs|
|standby/playback time||250 hrs||20 hrs||300 hrs|
(Cingular voice + unlimited data)
In the Real World
Enough with the numbers—how does the iPhone work in the real world? The iPhone changed my mobile business routine almost immediately. It eliminated the need for carrying two mobile devices—one for communicating and one for sharing/marketing. But more importantly, I no longer need to have two or more people share the small earbuds to listen to my iPod (which, like the new iPod touch, has no built-in speakers). Several people can watch and listen simultaneously, thanks to the iPhone’s built-in side-firing speaker. The Treo family does feature speakers, but the screen is relatively small, and video playback is nowhere near as smooth or colorful as on the iPod or iPhone.
The 2 MP camera in the iPhone is gorgeous, although it has no zoom, and is not great at shooting objects in motion because the shutter seems to be set at 1/40 second or slower. Needless to say, the 0.3 MP Treo camera can’t even begin to compare.
The iPhone also makes it easy to organize your content, thanks to iTunes, where you’ll sync all of your information, whether it be contacts, calendars, or media. Here’s how I have it broken down: Weddings, Love Stories, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Concepts, Corporate, Music Videos, Promo/Demo Pieces, and Other.
Portable and Profitable
As I am sure you’ve heard before, portable video has definitely become an imporant marketing tool for videographers. When I bought my iPod last year, it paid for itself in one day. I had a typical meeting at a party planner’s office to show her a new demo DVD I made for them of an event we both worked on. The planners played it back several times in their boutique area, and they were happy. On the way out, she told me that next time I had any "wow" shots or clips to bring them by. "But I have them right here in my pocket!" I said. I pulled out my iPod, gave her the earbuds, and hit Play, and within 30 seconds she was laughing and enjoying a Mitzvah parody video I had recently done. It just so happened that she was in the early stages of planning an elaborate and expensive Bat Mitzvah party and thought that my creativity and style were perfect for her client. An appointment was set, and a few days later I showed up at the client’s office and showed the same video I showed the party planner and explained how we could adapt the concept to the specific celebration. The client was hooked. They called the party planner as soon as I left and told them I was their guy, and I earned more than $10,000 for their event. And they have another child who will be celebrating a Mitzvah next year. Not bad for a $500 (now $399) investment!
I know my iPhone will be always be there when it counts for communication or marketing, and will pay for itself just as quickly, while serving other aspects of my business that the iPod can’t help with. Off the top of my head, here’s a quick list of situations in which the iPhone could prove invaluable to a videographer, offering a combination of features that no other single mobile device can provide:
• Emergency phone: You never know who you need to call.
• Emergency contacts: For shooters or equipment in case of no-shows or sickness.
• Calendar: Check open dates and schedule appointments. No more double-booking or missed appointments.
• Web access: Search for the closest Radio Shack or Best Buy for emergency back-up equipment or tapes.
• Web access: Find the closest ATM, restaurant, or gas station.
• Directions: Locate last-minute venue or shoot changes, and get help with wrong directions.
• Mobile email: Respond quickly to prospects.
• Camera: Grab unique wedding designs, ideas, or stills for your blog.
• Alarm: To let you know you need to leave for the church when shooting off-site bridal preparations.
• iPod: Store podcasts about running a business.
With the recent price drop, the iPhone costs just $399. So head down to your local brick-and-mortar store and check one out, but be careful—you’ll probably walk out with an iPhone in your pocket, alongside a couple other mobile devices that you’ll no longer need.
Marc Smiler (marc at thevideoartist.com) is an award-winning videographer specializing in cinematic widescreen productions. A regular speaker at WEVA Expo, Marc has offices in Philadelphia and Manhattan.