Hands On: Padcaster
Have you ever seen someone at an event taking pictures with their iPad and wondered why they wouldn’t just use something like a phone or a smaller camera? I’m semi-ashamed to admit I did. Not that I’m some sort of tech snob but I had an issue with it. This was more of an issue when the first cameras on iPads had horrible quality akin to my Motorola Razor. Nowadays, with a 5MP sensor and 1080p video recording, one could argue that the iPad is a legitimate way to film. But still, holding up a big, unstable, clunky iPad with a fixed focal range can somewhat limit your creative capability. What if you want different lenses and what if you want the thing to be stable? What to do…
Enter the Padcaster –
You say you want to attach the iPad to a tripod? Check
You want to add your own camera lenses? Check
You want to attach lighting? Check
You want it to look nice? Check (IMHO)
The Padcaster (retailing at $129) changes the game. You move from “guy holding tablet for video” to “guy with mobile video shooting and editing station” – assuming you have all the right lenses and attachments. The Padcaster gets you most of the way there by giving you a base to build upon. Again, you can attach all the extra equipment you want or just use it as a tripod mount for your iPad. It’ll help with the jittery films you’ve been shooting thus far. In addition, you can pop out the urethane iPad holder and bolt in other types of cameras. It works as a nice equipment frame for your DSLR too! Shooting HD video on your Cannon? The Padcaster frame will be your friend as well.
In the basic Padcaster kit (see the link above), you receive “Padcaster, Lenscaster, Instructions, 72mm-58mm stepdown ring, ¼-20 screws, two 3/8-16 screws, one custom camera mount screw & one cold shoe adapter ($40 value).” I’m sure prices and included equipment are subject to change, so read up before you purchase. This is all you need for a basic start. Other equipment and lenses could be added separately as needed.
Using the device
In practice, my iPad popped in to urethane case pretty easily and felt snug and secure. I did have to exert some pressure to get it in properly but nothing that caused me any concern. I attached it to a tripod with ease and the Vivitar lens I tried out fit on the frame very easily. This is one area where you’ll need to pay close attention though. Depending on your lens manufacturer you may need an adapter in order for the lenses to fit properly.
The urethane case has holes where you can access all the important buttons and inputs/outputs on your iPad. In other words, you can easily access the 3.5 mm jack, the 30 pin dock, and the orientation/volume controls. You can also access the on/off lock switch but this is a little tougher to reach. My fingers are average sized and I had a little trouble getting to the switch.
Popping the iPad out of the urethane sleeve was easy… almost too easy as the first time I did it I was fortunate to be over a soft surface. The iPad popped out very easily and it caught me off guard. Once I knew how much pressure was required, it became a non-issue. The Padcaster is also shaped such that it’s easy to carry in my backpack and it’s not too heavy. I can then take it along on various media assignments for quick setup and breakdown. At around 2.25 lbs, it’s not the lightest thing in the world but the convenience is great and compared to other camera rigs – it’s not bad.
With this tool, and video apps like iMovie and Pinnacle Studio, your biggest issue will not be…. storage. A 16GB iPad will not support lengthy video shoots and editing/rendering so you’d really need one of the larger sized devices. The Padcaster, the available software, the processors on the new iPads sets you up nearly perfectly for video production but you’ll be constrained by memory on the iPads themselves. Shorter videos, commercials, etc could probably be pretty easily accommodated but feature length films would require off-iPad storage for editing and rendering if you were so inclined.
All in all though – iPad videographers should love this new tool. I’d love to have it with me at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con for capturing interviews and documenting the amazing experience. When I asked Gavin Allen, a freelance producer and project manager in LA and a good friend, if he’s had any experience with the Padcaster, he replied – “No, but now I want one. That’s really cool.” He was especially impressed with the amount of ancillary equipment that could be attached. I think that sums up first impressions really well.
Please leave some feedback on whether or not you’ve tried out the Padcaster or any similar product.