I’m worried for VeriCorder

I’m worried about VeriCorder’s ability to effectively capture the large media market with their products.

Our week of testing PodioPro and Showcase went very well and I found much of my skepticism about working on the iPhone assuaged. Now, though, I’m looking at VeriCorder’s future with this system and I’m again skeptical. The problem at this point is the issue of getting good visuals. VeriCorder hasn’t yet released it’s video program, and having seen their audio editing program, I’m optimistic that—as an editing tool—it will work. My skepticism is in a telephoto lens solution for the VeriCorder/Bubo system.

I talked with Graham McBain, a co-founder of the Owle company, which makes the Bubo device VeriCorder is using. I asked McBain about the decision to go with the super wide-angle lens. His answer made sense: at the time, one of their main target audiences was extreme sports athletes, such as snowboarders, and skateboarders. That audience makes sense for this lens because it’s very nice for capturing lovely scenics and in these situations the operator is likely to be very close to his/her subject, which is a must if you want your subject to have any size in the frame. The problem is that for many journalistic situations, the iPhone’s wide-angle lens and the Bubo super wide-angle lens are too limited. We generally aren’t allowed close to news situations like fires, accidents and crime scenes —exactly the sort of situations we’re likely to want to transmit from quickly.

So what is Owle doing about this?

Not much right now. McBain says that they are not currently a lens manufacturer. They don’t make the lens that comes with the current Bubo, nor do they want to develop a telephoto lens for it. Yet. They did consciously develop the Bubo with a standard “37mm threaded lens mount (which) enables the user to fit a wide variety of commonly available wide-angle, telephoto and fish-eye lenses and filters.” That’s from their Web site. Their current focus is on capturing the prosumer market with a less expensive, plastic version of the Bubo. Now here’s where things get a little thick for me. McBain mentioned Jag35 and something called a depth of field adapter as an option for the Bubo. A what? A perfect example of learning as I go, or finding out what I need to know, as I need to know it.

The DOF adapter is the middle element in a system that includes a SLR lens (left) and the macro lens of your camcorder (right).

According to Wikipedia, this is a device used mostly in the video field. In this application, a DOF adapter allows you to do “selective focus control” by allowing you to use SLR camera lenses on your video camera to better control what is (or isn’t) in focus. In the video/film field, it’s largely a creative tool.

Trying to find out more, I found this discouraging description and informative video:  “35mm lens adapters cost thousands to buy, hundreds to build, degrade the objective technical quality of your video and make your camcorder an entire magnitude more difficult to use.”

The DOF adapter is a bridge between the SLR lens and the camcorder. The SLR lens captures the image and projects it onto a piece of ground glass in the adapter. The camcorder (or iPhone) uses its macro lens to focus on and record the image on the ground glass. Everyone one of these steps decreases the quality of the image. The overall worrisome factor for me is this: if I need at adapter for the iPhone to allow me to use my SLR lenses, why not just use my DSLR camera? Why not use my Flip video camera? What does this system really offer the visual journalist?

So what is the answer for a telephoto lens in a kit designed to be compact and mobile? McBain did say that he sees Owle as being “one of many players in the mobile journalism revolution,” so maybe they will have a solution that is affordable and meets at least Internet-quality standards. In the meantime, I think VeriCorder needs to be concerned about the larger scale success of the visual aspects of their products.

I’ll be following developments by VeriCorder and Owle.

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