While I was in Iraqi Kurdistan in January, my scheduled return flight from Diyarbakir to Istanbul was cancelled forcing me to cut my trip short and cross the border back into Turkey. The upshot was I had a day spare to explore Diyarbakir, meet some Kurdish friends and pick up two kilims waiting for me near the big mosque. But, as it turned out, I also found a good topic for a short radio feature and to use my iPhone as a mobile audio recorder.
Shortly before lunch time on January 23 I spotted people gathering for a demonstration in the square opposite the Veni Vedi Hospital. My hotel was close by, and rather than lugging my large Sony Z1 video camera out on a rainy day, I decided to go mobile and take just a couple of lightweight gadgets just in case anything interesting sparked up at the demo.
So I grabbed a short Sennheiser ME-64 microphone and external mic cable to use with my iPhone 3GS and a small backup power pack. As usual, I also had my a Canon G10 compact camera in a hip pouch.
The demonstration was a good opportunity to talk to some Kurdish human rights activists I had previously made contact with and I asked them about the case of Muharrem Erbey - a prominent human rights lawyer who was arrested in December last year. They offered to take me to the offices of the local Human Rights Association and speak with Erbey's defence lawyer. It sounded like a good opportunity to find out more.
Thinking that I might be able to produce a short radio package, I launched the FiRe audio recording app on my iPhone, plugged in the external mic and got to work gathering audio materials as well as taking photos.
FiRe has a relatively easy interface to navigate through settings and can record in a variety of audio flavours. So far I've only used FiRe's most basic recording and playback functions but there are enough technical settings to tinker with to satisfy most audiophiles. For USD$10.00 it's not a bad app to think about if you're looking at the iPhone for a portable audio recorder.
As for the external mic, I find the Sennheiser ME-64 a little "hot" on sound levels with the iPhone and that took a little care to monitor in a loud crowd of chanting people with megaphones. It was also a windy day so I placed a Koala Fluffy MiniMax on the mic to prevent any wind distortion.
Later, recording interviews in the HRA office was no problem. And, despite making long interviews because I needed to capture translations "on tape", I still had plenty of power left in the iPhone.
The FiRe app offers the option to transfer or upload audio files via wifi to the FTP server of your choice or via SoundCloud. Both of those options are fantastic, particularly to FTP audio direct to a broadcaster. Another option is to use the app's browser access function via wifi. You can either transfer audio from the iPhone to your notebook over a local wifi network or create a 'computer to computer' network. I used the latter method with my MacBook Pro and iPhone in Airplane mode and downloaded the files via the Safari browser and Bonjour.Back in Bonn, and wondering why I bought two kilims, I managed to file this piece for Inside Europe just a couple of hours before escaping to Japan and Australia for a break. In fact I was in such a hurry that I didn't bother to search for a printer but dashed to the studio and read the script direct from the iPhone. Overall it was another good test for using a mobile phone as a reporting tool. Together with apps such as Audioboo and FiRe, I'd certainly use my iPhone to gather audio material for broadcast in the future.