We all have mobile devices at our fingertips and it’s difficult to remember when we didn’t have one. The Padcaster is an ingenious tool that turns your iPad, iPad Air or your iPad Mini, into a portable broadcasting center. The Padcaster comes with everything you need to create a video. The next step, if you desire to share your completed video with others, is to upload the footage to YouTube. (To clarify, the Padcaster itself is the unit that holds your iPad.)
The first step in working with this tool is to determine what package you need: a Padcaster for the larger iPad Air or standard iPad, or the Padcaster Mini set-up for the 7-inch Mini with Retina Display. As I have the larger iPad Air, my kit contained the following: a Padcaster frame and urethane insert, a Lenscaster frame and Vivitar wideangle lens, an LED light, a Røde shotgun microphone, headphone jack and monopod.
The Padcaster in use
Using the packaged instructions or watching an online video is the best way to successfully assemble the Padcaster. The Padcaster frame and urethane insert are what house your iPad. You’ll need to align the iPad’s camera with the hole in the urethane. The T-65 Air Adapter clip locks the iPad within this enclosure. Once mounted, it fits securely. And as with any iPad, as you rotate the setup, the screen adjusts to the orientation.
The supplied lens screws into the mount and the unit, in turn, screws onto the bracket over the iPad’s camera to provide a wider field of view. The microphone attaches to a “cold shoe” adapter; when the microphone is on, the associated green imdicator flickers.
The supplied LED light may also be mounted anywhere on the frame. The kit comes with a monopod for hands-free support of the camera package, but obviously you won’t want to leave the package unattended. The last step is to plug your headphones into the unit’s adapter.
You’re probably familiar with the operation of your iPad, so once the Padcaster is ready to go, the rest is up to you to make movie magic.
Once I watched the video and followed the instructions provided there, it was easy to get my iPad Air into its housing. I should mention that it does connect and disconnect rather easily and that the iPad is held tightly within the Padcaster frame.
The supplied Vivitar lens screwed into its frame without a problem, but I did have difficulty getting more than two screws into the frame at one time to lock the lens and adapter in place. While the two top screws went in without excessive binding and held the lens in place, I couldn’t get the other two screws to stay in place.
Shooting a video with and without the optional wide-angle lens did make a difference. The wide-angle lens provides a much wider field of view and Vivitar is a great lens manufacturer. There was no difference in quality or sharpness with the added lens; just a wider field of view.
The Røde microphone supplied includes a built-in windscreen and has a shotgun pickup pattern. I shouldn’t have to point out that it’s obviously better than the inexpensive, automatic gain mic that’s part of the iPad. Attaching easily to the hotshoe mount, the mic adapter cable slides right into your iPad. (I recommend that you slide the cable through the Padcaster urethane before connecting it to your iPad, as you have no maneuvering room when the iPad is mounted.) Once the cable is fished through the opening, you can connect it to the iPad. I found audio level adjustment to be easy, and in my case I needed the highest setting for optimal sound. There’s an indicator to let you know that the unit is functioning properly and you can monitor the audio through headphones.
I should note that the iPad Mini is—in my opinion—a much more practical device for podcasts. I also found that the iPad Mini slipped right into the urethane without any additional brackets and the fit was snug.
The optional Lenscaster mounting bracket (which I recommend) is obviously smaller than the larger iPad bracket, but uses the same lens. Unlike the situation I experienced with larger iPad Air, the Lenscaster attached easily with four screws and provided a wider field of view.
Everything else in the larger Padcaster works with the Padcaster Mini including the microphone, LED light and monopod.
In comparing the Air and Mini Padcasters side by side, in my opinion, the Mini wins hands down. This is for the same reason I chose the iPad Mini in the first place—it’s smaller, lighter, easier to handle and store, and is less expensive. The images look just as good, so the smaller unit is fine in my book. I guess it comes down to what size iPad you have, but my choice is the Padcaster Mini.
The Padcaster is a fantastic platform to make your iPad Air, Original, or Mini more versatile for creating videos with cleaner sound and a wider field of view.
Chuck Gloman is an associate professor and chair of the TV/film department at DeSales University. He may be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.
Turning your iPad into a real broadcasting setup with better visuals and sound.
Durable handheld or monopod mounted case, extra lens, microphone, LED light and monopod.
Padcaster Air Kit (includes Padcaster, iPad Air Clip, and Lenscaster), $159; Padcaster Original (non Air), $149; Padcaster Mini, $99