The coolest thing about the iOS app ecosystem is that it lets developers experiment with radical ideas, then release them into the wild to see if they fly. Roland’s new 4xCamera for iOS (both iPhone and iPad) is a perfect example of this phenomenon. While its features are extremely straightforward, the underlying potential is impressive.
Here’s the premise: Take the classic audio 4-track recording paradigm of the ‘80s and ‘90s and apply it to video, with independent tracks that can be synchronized, trimmed and juxtaposed via an array of basic split-screens to create video performances that can then be uploaded to your streaming platform of choice. Although this video technique has been popular for a some time, when compared to previous production tools, 4xCamera is absolutely painless. The process is so simple that—if the app catches fire in the maketplace—it could be the beginning of a new way to showcase both bands and multi-instrumentalists.
Video can either be imported or captured using the iOS device’s camera in real time, with the option of using a guide track from your existing music library. For example, you can take your favorite pop song and play along with it on your instrument of choice, then use that as the starting point for adding video overdubs such as vocals, percussion, or other instrumentation.
The free version of the app only allows for two-track recording (and a Roland logo watermark on the exported video), but for the $3.99 in-app purchase price, you can record up to four tracks, and the watermark becomes optional.
Once you’ve got four tracks recorded, you can trim times and crop or reposition the videos to focus on faces, instruments, or whatever is on screen. Audio-wise, there are four simple volume controls for basic blending tasks, but that’s it. The focus here is squarely on making cool video content for social media.
Collaboration is possible via cloud-based services, as well. For example, you could have your old college roommate in Nebraska start with acoustic guitar, then overdub a video of you comping on keys, and send those results to your vocalist friend across town to sing lead and a harmony. Once you’ve got something that works and your levels are set, you can visually arrange the videos using one of ten split-screen templates that cover different track counts and, finally, export the results.
As with vintage cassette recorders, you can also render your video, bounce it to a new track, and then overdub three more video tracks. With a bit of advance planning, you can trim, crop, and configure the videos to re-create the 3x3 grid intro to the Brady Bunch, which at this point seems inevitable—but of course, with a cat instead of Alice.
The fact that 4xCamera is unencumbered by endless production features makes it a blank slate for new creative approaches. Sure, impromptu “I Ship It” videos are the current selling point, but it’s also ripe with potential for composite video postcards of your tour (the basic audio mixing tools come into play here) or educational material by positioning your software video or instrument in one screen, then later recording the commentary video for another. Split-screen interview parodies are another obvious use, as well. It’s really what you’re bringing to the table with this app.
Whether 4xCamera is the beginning of a new phenomena or just an adventurous approach to iOS remains to be seen, but I heartily applaud Roland for taking a few chances with an innovative approach that dovetails nicely with the way people currently use social media.