Nokia N95 as a reporting/PR tool at T in the Park

I was up at T in the Park last month, helping out the Scottish Sun lads cover a few of the acts and I thought that it might give me a chance to properly evaluate Nokia’s N95 (the original, not the 8GB) as a tool for covering events.

I know Reuters had a fantastic kit for their N95 trials but I wanted to try it a little more basic, ie – the phone on a full charge and nothing else.

So how did it do? Let’s break this down into five areas: text, video, audio, pictures, phone in general.

As well as filing for The Sun, I wanted to be able to capture moments over the weekend and found Tweeting to be perfect for that. I used Twibble and it did the job – 95% of the time – perfectly. There was the odd Tweet dropped, but I don’t know if that was because of the network 3G connection or the software.
But sending Tweets worked as a great way of posting and maintaining the live feel of the event instead of writing after the event. It also gave me a great aide memoir when it came to writing the larger copy (indeed, the sub editors could have just copy and pasted from my Tweets if time had been a factor) as well as seeing what others, like Shaun Milne, were doing at T in the Park.

On the Sunday, time did become a factor in filing, but the N95s notes worked perfectly. I was able to write the review for Primal Scream as it was happening and file by email (sending notes as an attachment) instead of watching band and then heading back to the media area to file. It may have only saved 20minutes or so, but being able to hit ‘send’ the second the band went off-stage at 10.50pm made life a little easier for the subs back in Glasgow.

So for text – and none of your predicative texting for me – and writing tweets/copy, it was a definite winner. But I would consider a folding keyboard next time, which would save me a laptop at all.

Given the nature of the event, you aren’t going to get a large tripod onto a N95, so I’ll let people judge the video for themselves. At various points on these videos, I’ve zoomed in and out to/from the maximum to give you an idea of the phone’s capabilities.

What’s quite apparent is that you couldn’t use it on an IMAX screen but for rough and ready footage on handhelds/laptops, it would do. It’s also convenient for the reporter/VJ as they aren’t carrying around anything bulky.

The sound was the surprising thing for me. I’ve certainly had worse bootlegs than what the N95 managed to record.

A BBC lad trying to film…

The Bacardi Breeze Dance Tent

Amy Winehouse plus crowd shots

Amy Winehouse with gradual zoom in/out

Primal Scream – in a tent

Two tests for the N95 in this area – as a dictaphone and as accompaniment for the video. On the latter, as I said above, it certainly did the job decently enough and as a dictaphone, it also did the job. I can’t provide a sample for a ridiculous reason but suffice to say that it was as good as anything else I’ve used in the field (T or any other) in the last 15 years.

Here’s an example of the sound quality from a recent (indoor) bash:

Joan Burnie at the 2008 Scottish Press Awards – m4a format
Joan Burnie at the 2008 Scottish Press Awards – wavformat

(Thanks to Lynn Hunter, formerly of Macdonald Hotels for the invite to that event)

I’m rubbish at pictures, so I’ll let others judge these. What I would say is that at times the N95 felt slow to get the picture that I was going for and other times I had no idea it was taking pictures (but we can put that down to user error)

12072008121Punter at T in the Park

(more pictures here.)

My feeling was that you could perhaps use it to capture general pictures but it wouldn’t be any use for catching a quick moment – someone jumping off stage, punching someone, that sort of thing – but again, you wouldn’t be asking the snapper to go out with it.

I wanted something that would do the job, saving me having to carry a notepad, pen, pencil, recorder and various other gadgets (still carried a notepad and pen/pencils though – always need the backup!) and it worked really well. I was able to stand during acts and fire off notes or Tweets, that could be used later as part of the larger write-ups.

The battery life was fantastic. It was charged up on the Friday and that lasted until the Monday morning (4am) and that was with video and audio recording, 3G hammering, phone calls, Tweets, the lot. In fact my biggest worry, and still is, is how much Orange is going to thump me for using the 3G. I’m on their £35 a month tariff and it certainly doesn’t compare to the iPhone O2 tariff.

I’ve used the N95 at a bundle of events now and it’s just a fantasticly rugged device. Every journalist/PR should have one.

N95 v iPhone
In case anyone was wondering: would the iPhone have been better for the event? In all honesty – and this is speaking as someone who wants an iPhone – not a chance. While the keyboard, screen and UI may have made life a lot easier, there would have been no audio recording (this was pre-App Store), definitely no video and I would guess – but that’s all it is – that the pictures wouldn’t have been as sharp.

And then there’s the battery issue. It would never have lasted. And yes, there may have been charging points at the media village and back at the hotel, but in journalism/PR it’s not outwith the realms of possibility to be on the go for a long period of time. Given that T in the Park started on the Friday night and there were incidents over the weekend, it’s entirely possible that a reporter/PR operative may not have got back to a place to charge. A spare battery is one solution – but not for the iPhone.

There’s also the issue of sturdyness. I dropped the N95 a few times and was never worried. If I had dropped an iPhone I would have been calling the cops to get it back safe.

The N95 is a far from perfect phone, but for people who like the option of catching a lot of data – mobile journalists, web 2.0 PRs and so on – it can do a lot without you needing to carry a lot of gear. And when I pick up an iPhone, I’ll be keeping the N95 as my mediaworkhorse.