Vizrt Software Turns Mobile Phones Into Mini News Cameras

Broadcast graphics software vendor Vizrt said its new Viz|Reporter product can turn a video-enabled mobile phone into a pocket news camera that can let stations expand the reach of their video-news gathering without sacrificing quality.

Norwegian news organization Adresseavisen, which operates both newspapers and TV stations, worked with Vizrt to develop the product, which was announced in early January and has about 60 photojournalists using it.

Other television stations are evaluating the product and will probably start making it part of their daily operations in the next few months, said Vizrt chief technology officer Petter Ole Jakobsen, adding that he is frustrated that they're being so conservative. “This is a no-brainer,” he said. “As soon as someone starts using it, the rest will follow.”

Viz|Reporter takes advantage of the video capabilities of today's phones (particularly high-end models like the Nokia N95), which are capable of capturing a much better image than they are typically able to transmit over the mobile carrier's networks, Jakobsen said.

The default mobile-phone video-transmission method sacrifices quality for file compression and limits the size of the files that can be sent. Viz|Reporter compensates by providing software to be loaded onto the phone that preserves image quality and transmits the video as several smaller files. The Viz|Reporter server reassembles the video feed from these smaller chunks.

The product can be deployed on a stand-alone basis, but the advantage for existing Virtz customers is that the mobile-phone feeds can be piped directly into the vendor's digital-asset-management system, making them immediately available for editing.

While the software could conceivably be shared with volunteer citizen journalists, Jakobsen said, it is mostly aimed at professional reporters.

“If broadcasters would just hand out a phone with a decent camera to all of the journalists, they would presumably have much more video coverage than they do today,” he said. While a professional cameraman with a professional camera will always produce better results, stations have a limited number of cameras and cameramen who can't be everywhere at once, he added. But a reporter on the scene of breaking news could use his or her mobile phone to transmit a report before the camera crew arrives.