“Live Broadcast appears to be Samsung’s play against popular live streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat. The feature is built directly into the native camera app, and it allows you to schedule schedule streams or push them live immediately.” –theverge.com
• Watch out Periscope, Samsung’s new phones stream video to YouTube
• Samsung’s new phones offer new Periscope-like service using YouTube Live
• YouTube Live isn’t just on the Galaxy Note 5
Above: I Periscoped severe weather Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Back when I made my living as a breaking news photographer, I streamlined my workflow to the point where I could transition from parking my car to taking pictures in just a few seconds.
But while new streaming mobile video apps such as Periscope make so much possible today, it can feel like an excruciating amount of time passing between when the action breaks until you manage to launch the app, find the broadcast function, dream up and type a useful title and wait for viewers to arrive.
Just this week, I tried to Periscope a couple of violent but brief rain squalls here in Philadelphia, to have only a sprinkle persisting by the time most of the viewers arrived.
Meanwhile, we now have the Witness app, which defines itself as “the panic button for the smartphone age.” After opening the app, you can begin streaming in a few seconds — and with just one touch.
Witness is intended to “keep you safe in an emergency” and promises to:
– Call and text your emergency contacts
– Broadcast live and audio to your emergency contacts, and…
– Broadcast your location to your emergency contacts
But with a few tweaks and a little extra effort, Witness makes a great breaking news app too.
Here’s my hack:
Here are the steps:
1. Set up an IFTTT and Gmail accounts if you don’t have them already.
2. Install the Witness app, open the settings and make your Gmail address one of your emergency contacts.
3. Create a “recipe” using IFTTT.com, wherein:
4. IF: You receive a Gmail message FROM email@example.com
5. THEN: Follow the menu options to post a Tweet or a Facebook message.
6. Name and save the formula.
Then, when you launch a stream, the Witness app will send a message to your followers, looking something like this:
When followers click on the link, they can view your live video, hear your audio and see your location on a map.
If they tune in later, they can view an archived version. I am not sure how long they are maintained on the site, but I have confirmed a few days at least.
(Note: You will need to create separate IFTTT recipes to send alerts to both Twitter and Facebook — and any other platforms you would like to add — by changing the “THAT” function while repeating the same “IF” instructions. If you haven;t used IFTTT, their processes are wonderfully simple and intuitive.)
There are a few shortcomings when comparing Witness to some other live-streaming mobile video apps. It’s not easy for the Witness viewer or the broadcaster to save a copy of the video and there is no embedding enabled.
But I capture copies from my laptop screen using Quicktime’s “New Screen Recording” function, although I prefer the additional controls available when using Snapz Pro X, although the latter option is not inexpensive.
Is breaking news reporting a legitimate use of the Witness app? I would say it depends on what you’re streaming.
I have never been on the same page with newsrooms that report a court verdict or press conference as “breaking news,” but sharing an unplanned emergency with my social media communities could help them make decisions about safety or re-share the links to others for the same reason.
Here’s a final tip — albeit obvious: Keep the Witness app on your home screen!
And let me know how it works for you?
Above: A competitor pedals a shark toward the finish line Saturday at the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby.
I could try to explain the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, or you could just watch the video below. I have posted a two-minute edit, taken from the three live streams which I shared Saturday on Periscope, totaling 19 minutes.
Basically, artists parade on decorated bikes and other vehicles and then speed down a crowded chute before trying to avoid crashing in a mud pit.
But I learned that it can be difficult to cover so much down time. While the pace was perfect for those in attendance, there was just not much to see or say between riders.
Also, as I started to discover while covering the recent Broad Street Run, sunlight can make viewing your screen nearly impossible. I wish I had taken the shady side of the street.
I was probably also zooming too frequently, and I wondered if that was why a lot of viewers seemed to check out quickly. Shaky shots are just no fun to watch for very long.
Meanwhile, steady zooming seems to do little harm to the image quality, probably because resolution is so low to begin with. But I think we might look back in a few years and wonder how anyone tolerated these highly-pixelated images, which is how I often feel these days when viewing old YouTube videos.
Also as I have discovered in the past, I picked up new viewers by stopping and restarting streams and by changing titles, but I ran into initialization delays again, reinforcing my suspicion that crowded events place a burden on broadband service make it safer to start connected once you begin streaming.
Above: I spotted one couple out on Philadelphia’s new Indego shared bikes at left, but I also watched as other cyclists were forced into traffic by cars parked in bike lanes.
Shortly after launching this site, I shared the impediments I discovered while “Pedaling while Periscoping,” after mounting my iPhone on my handlebars and taking a spin around Philadelphia on my bicycle.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I went out again to try to do some actual reporting, using Periscope to show the number of cars I found parked in bike lanes in Center City.
A lot of us fancy Philadelphia as a bike-friendly city, where one study showed rush-hour cycling up 260% between 2005 and 2013, we have 435 miles of bike lanes, we just got cool new bike sharing program and the city even paved over some old trolley tracks recently to make some intersections safer.
But if you like cycling on Sundays, you might find many bike lanes blocked near houses of worship, where congregants are permitted to park with the city’s permission, based on a program which long precedes the like lanes.
The problem is that the parked cars force cyclists and passing traffic into narrowed lanes, creating an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous squeeze for blocks at a time.
To share this experience live on Periscope, I pedaled back and forth on Spruce and Pine Street in Center City, covering about 40 blocks of bike lanes.
I counted more than 160 cars parked in bike lane spaces which would be otherwise illegal — if not for the provisions made for worshippers.
Now, I don’t expect the city to change the parking program after all these years, but I think it would be safer for everyone if we could simply close the bike lanes to through traffic during the same periods. What do you think?
Here’s a time-lapse look at my trip, below. The right lane is supposedly reserved for bicyclists.
Paul Lewis, Washington correspondent for The Guardian, further developed the emerging process of live-streaming mobile video journalism as he used Periscope to tell stories from the riots in Baltimore Monday night.
First, Lewis streamed coverage of the gathering crowd as fire destroyed a senior housing development which was under construction; seen in the images above.
Then he interviewed a woman named Cynthia, who runs a local shelter and says that we need to “just let the truth come out.”
According to the followers below, Periscope is making that possible.