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Spicy Ideas: G.I. Phone: The Real All-in-One Hero

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Twenty years ago, I made my first film. I use the word "film" loosely, and only to signify that the "film" had a beginning, an end, and some shreds of a plot in the middle. Our family had inherited a Canon Hi8 camcorder (remember that format?) from someone who had money but no foresight into the format wars. My career as an amateur filmmaker, frustrated cameraman, and gadget freak launched that day.

I would spend hours doing stop-motion animation of G.I. Joe climbing up the bookshelf or stories of not-so-evil villains and damsels in distress. I was hooked on video storytelling. But the best part about that experience was the lack of equipment. With no editing software, I was forced to learn how to shoot and edit a production all with one device. I dreamt that one day a device would exist that would allow me to shoot video, edit it right away, and ignore Facebook invites all from the same sleek piece of hardware. My vivid and almost psychic dreams would soon be answered.

The iPhone 4 was touted as a device that will shoot, edit, and publish HD video all from one "revolutionary" and "magical" device. The horrors of rewinding a tape too far and recording over that perfect scene are about to be history. So is this phone the answer to my dreams from 20 years ago? Well ... yes and no.

The Dream
The video on the iPhone 4 looks great. It shoots HD 720p at 30 fps with tap to focus, LED flash for low-light shooting, and great audio from the built-in microphone. The enhanced 960x640 Retina display makes watching those videos you just shot a lot more enjoyable. You can also shoot video using the VGA camera located on the front of the camera, which makes life easier for all those, "Hey look at me I'm in a cool place that you're not" folks on YouTube. (Yes, I sense the hypocrisy in that statement.) But most other smartphones and video recording devices shine just as well or better in the recording functionality department. Where the iPhone 4 really shines is in the editing and sharing areas.

I love iMovie. There, I said it. I have tried Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas, etc., but they all pale in comparison to the simple but powerful tools baked into iMovie. It works exactly as you think it would on the iPhone 4. Most of the more advanced features have been stripped out, but the ability to select a theme, crop and select transitions, add music (with autoducking enabled), and export are all well-polished.

The Nightmare
It's not all rainbows and unicorns, though. The iPhone 4 does have a few issues that need to be considered. There are some stabilization problems that come with any small device. Get a minitripod or case with a handle; you will thank me later. Also, you have to connect the iPhone 4 to a computer in order to share the full-resolution videos online, or use a third-party app like Pixelpipe to port them directly from the phone. The simplicity of the iMovie app means that some of the features I use the most on my laptop are missing from the final product. Simple audio leveling, mute, and solo are the ones currently bothering me the most. But with one update already here, I'm sure Apple will continue to tweak the iMovie app into infinity.

The Reality
I can honestly say this is the best marriage of quality video, functional editing, and instant sharing I have seen on a mobile device. Now, let's see if I can find that box of G.I. Joes up in the attic ... I have an idea for the perfect sequel.

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