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The RTE MoJoCon Mobile TV Studio

Live from Mojocon 2017: How mobile powered RTÉ’s pop-up multi-camera TV studio in Galway, Ireland

Last week, I was working with the RTÉ team at MoJoCon in Galway, Ireland. For the event’s live-streamed interviews, RTÉ set up a multi-camera TV studio. But, being MoJoCon, there was one major twist…

MoJoCon brings together broadcasters, journalists, filmmakers and social media specialists from around the world. Now in its third year, the event explores how new technologies – from smartphones to 360-degree cameras – are revolutionising the way we tell stories on television and online.

Teradek Live Show studio at RTE MoJoCon 2017

Teradek Live Show studio at RTE MoJoCon 2017 (image: Live X)

As was appropriate for a show focusing on mobile tech and the media, the RTÉ pop-up TV studio from which we live-streamed our interviews was powered by mobile.

It’s an impressive setup: the five studio cameras were Apple iPhone 6s plus smartphones, each kitted with superb quality Zeiss ExoLens lenses mounted on a Helium Core iPhone Rig; the vision mixing and encoding was handled by Teradek Live:Air running on an Apple iPad Pro 12.9 tablet.

For day-long power and belts and braces connectivity, the devices were hard-wired to Ethernet, although a wireless setup is perfectly possible too. I would say the only non-mobile component of the studio was the sound: traditional XLR-connected lavalier mics supplied a standard mixing desk, the master output of which fed into one of the mobile devices from which the Teradek software took its audio feed.

Here’s a clip from the end of day two where my co-host, the lovely Róisín Ní Thomáin, and I embarked on a quick studio tour.

Over two days of the show, Róisín and I interviewed some inspiring broadcasters, journalists and innovators including BBC Sport’s Conor McNamara, Story-Up’s Sarah Hill and Video Journalist Michael Rosenblum. The topics we covered were as broad as How to be an App Store Millionnaire, to The Evolution of 360, VR and AR Storytelling.

Further technical stuff about mobile studio has just been posted on the Teradek website, and all of the interviews are available on demand from the RTÉ MoJoCon YouTube channel.

Facebook Live from The Photography Show

Each Spring The Photography Show lands at the Birmingham NEC and I’m thrilled to front its coverage of live streams and video. For four days each year I get hands-on with amazing cameras and kit, and interview some of the world’s most influential photographers. For four days I am in camera heaven.

Over the last couple of years I’ve spoken with the likes of David Bailey, Sebastiao Salgado, Clive Arrowsmith and – personal hero – Chris Packham:

The Photography Show also shines a light on new talent, those pushing boundaries of stills and video, sharing what it takes to be successful on the social media stage. Following his presentation at the Super Stage this year I spoke with filmmaker and Instagrammer Louis Cole about an exciting upcoming project:

This year, for the first time, The Photography Show also broadcast to Facebook Live, taking to the floor to bring the show to a new audience. Here’s an interview where I speak to the creators of Palette, an innovative modular tool for editors.

Tickets for The Photography Show 2018 go on sale from The Photography Show website, dates are 17-20th March.

The Metro

Metro Connect: HACKcess All Areas?

In today’s Metro I investigate whether the CIA really can ‘hackcess all areas’. Plus, I ask if wearable tech has fallen from fashion. Hold on tight, it’s time to Connect…
Is Your TV Spying On You?

Last week’s WikiLeaks document dump professes to reveal how the CIA has – with help from agencies including MI5 – been collecting and developing an arsenal of hacking tools, exploits and cyber skeleton keys to pick its way into the devices we use every day.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Covert surveillance is a tool widely used by intelligence agencies to maintain national security and counter terrorism.

But if the good guys can find a backdoor into our connected kit, surely the bad guys can too? Read on in the Metro e-edition…

Wearables Watch

The Apple Watch launched less than two years ago. I know this because on the day of the launch I confidently declared that ‘wearable tech is the next big thing’ on stage at the Gadget Show Live, enthusing about the upcoming Pebble Time smartwatch and the latest Jawbone and Fitbit gear.

How times change.

Wear NextLess than two years on and the wearables phenomenon has failed to catch on, leading analysts to rein in their optimism.

Back to the Apple Watch.

Many – myself included – saw the launch of Apple’s highly-anticipated wearable as a watershed moment. Indeed it was, but rather than sparking a wearables revolution it had the opposite effect. ‘Oh, is that it?’, was the consensus.

However, as Bill Gates once quipped, we tend to over-estimate the impact of a technology in its first two years but underestimate its impact in ten. It might be in the depths of the trough of disillusionment but I can’t see anything other than wearable tech to playing a huge part in our future.

Last week I was at the Wearable Technology Show in London to see how the latest wearable devices are looking to make an impact sooner rather than later…

The Metro

Fantastic Visual Effects and Where to Find Them

In today’s Metro I embark on a tour of Soho to see how London’s Oscar-winning visual effects firms are lighting up cinema screens around the world.

Visual Effects Feature in The Metro

Central London is home to many of the movie world’s most innovative visual effects firms. With the 89th Academy Awards this Sunday I wanted to understand more about what goes into making VFX-heavy Hollywood films.

In researching the feature I spoke to Foundry co-founder Simon Robinson. His company’s software titles Nuke, Mari and Katana are used by post-production houses the world over – in fact, every film nominated for a best VFX Oscar in the last six years has used its software.

I also spoke with Matt Fox, joint MD for film at Framestore; his team worked on year’s Best VFX Oscar nominee Doctor Strange as well as 2013’s six-time Oscar winner Gravity.

As well as talking technology I also learnt about the immense manpower required to turn around a typical movie, and ethics around the digital character resurrection that saw Peter Cushing and Paul Walker brought back to life for the big screen.

The 2017 Oscars take place this Sunday 26th February 2017, with five films nominated for Best Visual Effects: Doctor Strange, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Deepwater Horizon, The Jungle Book, and Kubo and the Two Strings.

Read the full story in the Metro e-edition here.

 

Alexa: How to secure my Amazon Echo?

My feature on how to secure your Amazon Echo was published in TechRadar last week. Here is my take on why securing these intelligent home hubs is of vital importance.

Muting your Amazon Echo

Hear no Evil? Muting your Amazon Echo (Credit: Flickr / Rob Albright / CC BY-NC 2.0)

Voice-activated intelligent virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are starting to play an important role as the hub of our connected homes.

Buttons are obsolete. Simply by conversing with my Alexa I can control my central heating and the lighting around my house and garden; I can buy products with my voice, check my personal calendar, set alarms or reminders, update my things to do list, read my favourite book or play any song, album or playlist on Spotify. With my voice.

Hear no Evil

The convenience this offers is staggering and, in a little over three months since I plugged it in and powered it on, my Amazon Echo has already changed many behaviours in our household. For the better? I think so. However…

With convenience comes compromise, especially when it comes to security. We should never be blinded by the utility of any new piece of technology.

I made one mistake in extolling the virtues of our Amazon Echo above. You see, all of these amazing things and more can be commanded not only with my voice, they can be asked by anybody’s voice.

Voice Recognition versus Speech Recognition

While Alexa has enviable speech recognition – the ability to understand and interpret natural language input by speech – she has yet to learn the skill of voice recognition. Often confused, voice recognition is the ability to uniquely distinguish between different people’s voices by analysing physical and behavioural characteristics.

With voice recognition Alexa would know whether it was me (ie authorised) ordering that Nintendo Switch console from Amazon Prime, or if it was my Mario Kart-loving daughter trying her luck (sorry, denied). Did I just ask Alexa for a 2am alarm call or was somebody outside my living room window attempting to play a prank?

Amazon has no plans to introduce voice recognition into the Amazon Echo just yet. Nevertheless, there are steps that Echo owners can take to make sure they enjoy the convenience of a virtual assistant without the worry of being woken up by a 2am prank alarm call.

Pop over to TechRadar to read my 8 top tips to lock down your Alexa.

First look: Nintendo Switch

It’s a familiar tale: any time I once made to play Metal Gear Solid, Pro Evolution Soccer or PaRappa the Rapper has long since been eroded by the glamours of parenthood and an erratic work schedule. Mario Kart Wii still gets spun up, as much of an occasional treat for me as it is for my kids.

I am the ‘lapsed gamer’.

On-the-go Gamer

But I do still play games. Armed with my smartphone or tablet, pocket puzzlers like the stunning Monument Valley, gory graphic novel epics such as The Walking Dead or riddlers including Mr Robot help ensure that train platform dead-time can still be game-time.

I’ve yet to tire of exploring new places with Pokémon Go, and I stand firm that the Swift Playgrounds lessons are every bit as satisfying as a good Sudoku puzzle – plus I get to learn a valuable skill.

I am the ‘on-the-go gamer’. Living the smartphone gaming dream I am part of the fastest area of revenue growth in the games industry.

So, when Nintendo formally announced its latest console last Friday I wondered if it was an attempt to appeal to gamers like me.

Nintendo Switch

Will gamers make the Nintendo Switch? (image: Nintendo)

Nintendo Switch is a hybrid tablet/TV games console, as comfortable in your hands as it is hooked up to your television. Accompanying the hardware is a strong first year line-up of titles including new the Zelda Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey adventures.

Switch Coverage

But the big question is whether Nintendo has given itself enough of a fighting chance with the Switch to emerge from the shadow of the debacle that was the Wii U, to overcome the console behemoths that are Microsoft and Sony, and to take on the smartphone gaming market.

That was the topic of the story I wrote this week for Mobile World Live: “Will Nintendo fanboys make the Switch?”.

After going hands on with the Nintendo Switch at the London launch event, including playing the new fun fighting game Arms, I headed over to BBC Broadcasting House to report back for two live spots with the BBC News Channel and BBC World News:

ITV Good Morning Britain

Good Morning Black Friday Britain

In the US Black Friday follows Thanksgiving Thursday and, along with so-called Cyber Monday, has become one of the biggest days in the online shopping calendar. Inevitably it has become a big deal in the UK now too.

On Friday’s ITV Good Morning Britain I was in the studio sharing some tips on how to bag the best online Black Friday bargains.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the Black Friday hype? Here’s how to get the best deals online without spending needlessly!

Posted by Good Morning Britain on Friday, 25 November 2016

Many Black Friday shopping tips apply equally to buying online around the rest of the year, but some peculiarities have emerged:

  • Keep checking throughout the day. A large element of surprise and secrecy exists around Black Friday that retailers are keen to persist. Prices change, new deals get added and stocks are limited: it’s all part of a clever strategy to keep us interested throughout the day and coming back to their online stores. But that does mean that a good price at 8am might be even better by midday, but sold out by six. That’s the risk you take.
  • Black Friday Pop-Up Portals: Comparison sites and aggregation tools are useful all year round, but on Black Friday dozens of pop-up sales portals appear on reputable websites. Which to choose? If you’re shopping for gadgets and technology (always a big deal over this weekend) then take a look at the website of popular gadget magazines or online titles – referrals and traffic mean Black Friday is great business for them too, and many have journalists locked in a room all day hunting down the best deals so you don’t have to.
  • Is it really a bargain? It’s worth pointing out that some retailers don’t play fair – research by Which? found many so-called Black Friday bargains were anything but, with prices cheaper both before and after the shopping bonanza weekend. Websites like camelcamelcamel.com (I’ve no idea…) keep track of prices over a period of time to let you see how the price you on offer today compares with the price over, say, the last twelve months.

It goes without saying to watch out for scams though phishing, smishing and malvertising, be aware of your rights and consider paying by credit card for the best consumer protection.

A final thought:

  • Don’t let Black Friday Frenzy take over. Remember this is essentially a bit of fun – the worst that can happen is that we pay full price for something or don’t buy it at all. Part of the fun of the whole experience is the thrill of chasing a bargain but your life absolutely does not depend on it. Keep it in perspective and if the fun stops then switch off your computer, switch on the kettle and make a cup of Black Friday tea.

BBC Watchdog: Jumping through Deliveroo security holes

On BBC Watchdog tonight I appear in an item highlighting gaping holes in home food delivery service Deliveroo’s security and fraud prevention systems.

David McClelland Watchdog Deliveroo

Victims of so-called ‘Deliveroo fraud’ report having their credit and debit cards emptied of many hundreds of pounds on food and drink orders they never placed, to addresses many hundreds of miles from where they live.

Deliveroo’s standard response to claims of a security breach has left those affected with a bitter taste in their mouths, suggesting victims look to their own security failings instead.

The first a victim knows of the fraud is when they receive an email from Deliveroo confirming an order has been placed.

Deliveroo insists that its own systems have not been the subject of a hack or data breach; instead the firm advises that customers should not reuse passwords and usernames across multiple online accounts.

Sound advice on its own, but a critical mass of Deliveroo victims all suffering the same fraud might suggest that Deliveroo should look again at its own security measures.

Regardless of how fraudsters are accessing Deliveroo customers’ accounts there are further security issues that should be addressed as a matter of urgency:
deliveroo

  • Smart fraud prevention mechanisms, if present at all, appear to be ineffectual here. Purchases that are so out of character – such as those highlighted in the show – should easily be picked up by automated systems and subjected to additional verification.
  • Similarly, a change of delivery address should also trigger additional verification – a PIN sent to the account holder’s smartphone, for example.
  • Deliveroo chooses not to authenticate customer card payments with a CVV2 code.
    The Card Verification Value is one of the names given for the additional security numbers printed on the signature strip or from of the card. Deliveroo is far from the only retailer to forego ‘card not present’ security – Amazon, with its 1-click purchase is another. However, this lack of verification allows fraudsters to place orders on credit cards that are not theirs with no challenge at all.

Deliveroo’s light touch on security can be put down to one thing: sales. Here’s how skimping on security benefits Deliveroo’s bottom line:

  • When we buy something, the more hoops we have to jump through to make that purchase, the more likely we’ll drop out and go somewhere else.
  • Understandably Deliveroo wants to make placing an order with them as simple a process as possible by cutting out as many hoops as it can.
  • However, some of those hoops are there for reasons of security; in removing those, Deliveroo is not only making it easier for its customers to place an order, it’s making it easier for them to be defrauded.

Watchdog airs on BBC1 tonight at 8pm.

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