DELIVER



News Reporter Apps

Modern smartphones provide a new opportunity for news operations to generate broadcast content.

Due to the growth in Internet access and mobile coverage, the increase in technical capabilities and the availability of numerous apps, the mobile phone has firmly found its place as a key newsgathering tool.  Modern smartphone camera sensors and the codecs used for compression, combined with the availability of external equipment (e.g. stick-on lenses and microphones), provide a new opportunity for news operations to generate broadcast content.

The aim of mobile content production is not to replace traditional methods of newsgathering, but rather to offer a flexible, fast and cost-effective tool in hand. In the case of breaking news, mobile apps can provide vital, immediate coverage until a higher quality production resource (e.g. a satellite newsgathering vehicle) becomes available. During this period when events are unfolding, the mobile all-in-one solution for radio and online coverage helps to bridge the gap.

The makers of streaming backpacks (e.g. LiveU, QuickLink, Aviwest) have long offered applications, which provide both live and File Transfer modes for the delivery of material from mobile phones. Almost all apps in this segment encode in H.264 format and stream in p (Progressive)- and i (Interlace)-resolutions up to 1920x1080. The apps are available on iOS and Android and can easily integrate into an existing news infrastructure, which is set up to receive content from streaming backpacks.

It’s possible, with the right mobile connection and coverage, to live stream from these apps at data rates of around 5-7 Mbit/s and beyond. Some newer mobiles will allow you to put 2 SIM cards in your phone and aggregate the bandwidth to send the video back faster, or in higher quality.

By using specialised News reporter apps, the video and audio signals are managed and delivered securely. Jitter, packet loss and propagation delays can be compensated for on the server side by a built in minimum latency (1-2s). For live delivery, it’s possible to provide a talkback or monitoring return channel, delivered directly to the mobile phone.

Additional accessories can be used to improve the mobile video quality, including a gimbal with automatic stabilisation such as Avivest or a Smart Grip with integrated Mobile Hotspot (MiFi) by LiveU.

In Germany, the broadcaster ARD has been using the "ARD reporter app". Based on the VizRT Reporter App, it provides journalists with the ability to quickly and easily transfer video footage of events back to base. After it has connected, three buttons (Live, upload and compose) will appear in the news app. In LIVE mode, different resolutions (480x320, 640x480 or 1280x720) can be streamed in real-time to the receiving server and recorded as an MPEG-TS.

The app can also be used to deliver video recorded natively on the smartphone, in the highest possible resolution, in a store-and-forward configuration. The files are sent to a receiving server at the broadcaster, and are presented in a closed/private video portal, combined with a minimum set of metadata from the sender. Journalists can then download the materials for editing or further processing (e.g. transcoding) to then deliver to different outputs.

ARD launched the MuPro app to journalists in 2015 and continues to develop and update the service. Built on Luci Live, the application runs on iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. In addition to basic audio features such as bi-directional live broadcasts via SIP and Audio over IP, file uploads (Audio File Transfer AFT) and editing capabilities, the app also provides image and video uploading. External microphones can be connected for better sound acquisition. For compression of audio signals, the audio codecs use AAC, although other formats are available.

Advanced VPN and network bonding technologies, including the Viprinet products, enable the secure bonding of networks and file transfer over several transmission paths.

It’s important to remember to avoid unexpected interruptions during live broadcasts by putting the mobile phone in Call-forwarding mode; otherwise the transmission may be interrupted by a phone call.

Mobile Reporter Apps exist to augment the traditional tools of e-mail, FTP servers, cloud storage services and Webapps, by providing reporters with specially tailored tools to make the newsgathering technical process easier.