A breath of fresh air for vodcasting
If you’ve ever made a video-podcast, you know how restricted you feel. You have to set your camera on a tripod, take careful note of the field of view, and make sure that while you’re recording, you stay within that area. That’s not difficult if you are just sitting in front of a webcam. It’s much more of an issue, however, if you are demonstrating a practical skill that requires you to move around, or if you like to pace back and forth while talking.
Swivl solves that issue.
I bought one of these cool gadgets a few weeks ago and have been delighted with it’s performance and ease of use.
Swivl is an iPhone mount, with a built-in IR receiver, that tracks and follows a remote transmitter, which you carry in your hand, or clip onto your lapel. This gives you the freedom to move around, without leaving the camera’s field of view, because the camera follows your movement. The Swivl will rotate horizontally through 360°, and also tilts up and down through a small range.
The hand-held transmitter, also contains a quality microphone, which transmits your voice to the iPhone. That means that the audio doesn’t suffer if you walk away from the camera. (I have embedded an example video below which demonstrates this).
Note: The remote microphone function, the remote record/stop function and vertical tracking are managed via the iPhone app. These features are therefore not available if using anything but an iPhone. There is no Swivl app available for Android. That said, basic horizontal tracking can be used with any camera-phone or pocket camera.
- Horizontal tracking is silky-smooth.
- Swivl can be mounted on a standard camera tripod or simply placed on a flat surface.
- Videos can be saved to the camera roll, or uploaded to YouTube from the Swivl app.
- Horizontal tracking works with any camera phone (not just iPhone), or even with a pocket video camera such as the flip. The Swivl comes with an adaptor that can be fitted to the screw mount on any video camera.
- The microphone quality is very good but as expected has a fairly high gain. I wouldn’t use it for making an audio podcast, but for a vodcast, it’s awesome!
- The build quality of the unit is quite good (except for the battery compartments – see below).
- The automatic vertical tracking works well, but is a little bit jerky sometimes. I have found that unless I really need vertical tracking, it is better to turn this feature off, which can be done in the Swivl.app settings on the iPhone. You can still force the unit to track vertically by pressing a button on the remote (it’s still jerky).
- The battery drawer on the main unit opens too easily. I found that if I transport the device anywhere, it will pop open. I now have it stuck closed with duct tape.
- The battery compartment in the remote transmitter/microphone is even worse! In fact to start with, I couldn’t even turn the remote on. I had to open it up and bend the terminals to make proper contact with the AAA batteries, and then duct-tape that closed as well.
Features I’d like to see
- You can buy an AC adaptor for the base unit, rather than using AA Batteries. But it’s disappointing that even with the AC adaptor, the unit won’t charge the iPhone.
- It would be awesome to have the option of video zooming as you walk away from the camera.
At the time of writing, I don’t believe there is an Australian distributor for Swivl. I had to order it from the USA, at www.swivl.com. The price was US$170 plus postage and handling.