6 Tools to Build Your Own iPad Mobile Journalism Rig

Mobile journalism gear with iPad

Forgo the big cameras and fancy studio setups, because nowadays even our iPads can be just as effective at making you a journalist as any ornate production equipment can. Thanks to advancements in mobile technology, people are now opting for ease of mobility, leaving behind the satellite trucks and big camera equipment of old. In fact, even big broadcasters like BBC and CNN are redesigning their teams to embrace this new form of journalism. With just a few pieces of equipment, you could embark on your own digital media adventure. Here’s a list of things you’ll need:

  1. iPad Case

Special iPad cases made for mobile journalism

If you’ve ever tried recording video on an iPad, you might have noticed that our hands are not very good at keeping an iPad still. Whether you’re on-the-go or stationary, successful journalism demands video quality as high as possible, and that means having a stable image whatever you’re filming.

Mount adapters are the bare bones of iPad cases. They hold the iPad in place so the iPad can be fitted onto a tripod. There are an assortment of them on B&H and Amazon like this one by Ipow.

The cases used by mobile journalists are built for stability and include an assortment of mechanisms that make your rig more customizable. This iOgrapher iPad case includes 3 cold shoes top, one ¼ 20” mounting point on each handle and one mounting point below for tripods for just $59.95. These cases were made with handle grips on each side to help keep the picture stable during movement. The Padcaster iPad case comes with over ten ¼ 20” mounting screws and eight ⅜ 16” mountain screws all around the shell, camera cage and cold shoe adapter. These cases were built for both mobility and still images, able to be moved or placed on tripods.

  1. Microphone

Rode's Videomic is an excellent microphone for mobile journalism

Hearing is believing. People will listen to radio which has no visuals, but won’t watch TV that has no sound. In the world of journalism, sound quality is equally as important as visual quality.

No journalist goes into the field without a high-quality microphone, and there are a couple of types to look out for:

Shotgun Mic: unidirectional microphones that produce high quality sound from where it’s pointed and reduce sounds afrom the sides. Rode’s VideoMic is an excellent shotgun microphone we recommend. It sports an 80Hz filter that drowns out background noises like traffic and air conditioning.

Reporter Mic: multi-directional and good for all-around sound. More prone to picking up background noise than shotgun mics. Padcaster’s YT-1300 is an excellent reporter mic and ranges from -10dB to 10dB for loud and soft sounds, and eliminates background noise with its filtration system.

Lavalier Mic: small microphones attached on shirt collars or in-ear, these microphones are typically used just for convenience.

  1. On-Camera Lighting

Camera lights improve picture quality for better shots, especially on iPads

You never know what kind of lighting you’ll get at a location, so make sure to have sufficient self-lighting to get clear images. Companies produce miniature production lights that are attached to the top of devices. You could go for one of the many generic brands available on Amazon, or opt for the professional brands like this Padcaster one for $69.99 or this Manfrotto one for $169.99.

  1. Streaming Software

Live:Air helps mobile journalists manage streams and add graphics

Having all this gear is great, but in order to reach the masses you’ll need a social media platform to stream to. Apps like Facebook and Ustream have native streaming applications that provide rudimentary broadcasting capabilities and are quite useful to stream on their own platforms. If you want better production value to create a show rather than just a stream, try out Teradek’s Live:Air app which allows your iPad to stream to any platform of your choice (Facebook Live, Livestream, Youtube, etc.) as well as adding overlays like lower thirds and color adjustments. The app is $49.99. If you want to try a free app, Live:Air Solo is the simplified edition.

  1. Tripod

iPads keep filming stable to capture that perfect shot

Tripods are integral in filming stable, clean shots that every professional journalist needs. Luckily there are a million different tripods to choose from, but some are better than others. If you want just a rudimentary tripod to keep the iPad stable, Amazon sells a tripod made by Grifiti that meets every user’s basic needs. For a more high-grade entry-level tripod, we suggest you try out this Manfrotto tripod - built to be mobile but also remain still if needed. Manfrotto has a large collection of tripods here.

Monopods are a good alternative to tripods for journalists who want compactibility and mobility but still want stability in filming. They are much smaller than tripods are and used on-the-go. Amazon has a list of low-cost monopods, or go professional with this Manfrotto monopod.

  1. Additional Accessories
Accessories such as battery packs are essential for ipad mobile journalists

Now that the main components are taken care of, we can move on to the supplemental equipment. These additional tools aren’t entirely necessary, but can only benefit you as a journalist to have.

Portable chargers extend the battery of your device and depending on the mAH (milliamp hour) of the charger can either give your device a full boost or significant boost. For iPads, the be sure to find portable chargers with a 2.4A output as the device will charge faster. We recommend this RAVpower charger for starters, or this NEXGADGET charger for extra juice.

Mini teleprompters are useful for reading scripts and in-depth commentating. Parrot makes an exceptional mini teleprompter that uses either an iPhone or iPad to project words on the small screen to be read. Alternatively, you can browse through an assortment of other brands on Amazon.

Green screens give your broadcast that professional touch viewers all like. They are used as blank backgrounds so that other backgrounds can be superimposed on there in post. There are mini green screens designed to be collapsible and easy to haul. Padcaster creates a nice 5’x7’ green screen that folds easily.

Note that green screens require software to do the compositing. Live:Air has excellent functionality for this.

iPad keyboards make typing articles much easier and reduces the need to carry around a laptop. Because every journalist writes to an extent, make your experience easier by getting a keyboard to attach to your iPad. Amazon has an assortment of generic brands, or go fancy with Apple’s own keyboard.


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