Playing back recorded video of energetic string picking or frantic fretboard gymnastics in super slow motion can be of great help when trying to nail minor technique problems, but mounting a weighty camcorder to a guitar is not really very practical. Even a minicam can be a somewhat awkward affair. Happily, advances in smartphone technology have come to the rescue of the study guitarist, but that still leaves the problem of mounting. This is a problem for which the Magnet was developed.
A while back, the team behind the Cracking the Code documentary series, which looks at virtuoso guitar picking, developed a 640 x 480, 120 fps videocam called the ShredCam. But it proved way to big to be practical, taking up nearly half the fretboard and adding significant weight to the guitar it was attached to. Something smaller and lighter was needed. Enter the now very powerful and almost ubiquitous smartphone.
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Providing your pocket-sized pocket computer, camera and digital assistant has hardware that's up to the task, videos at up to 240 fps can be captured, audio can accompany the moving pictures and the playing area can also be illuminated. The smartphone is always at hand, allows instant playback for immediate analysis, easy online sharing and upload to a computer for editing.
High frame rate footage can then be slowed down during playback to put playing technique under the microscope for self-identification of niggling flaws or to aid a teacher in the diagnosis of weak areas. Video recordings are also an excellent way to store and demonstrate song ideas, or just add some up close and personal shred action to a band video.
Unless you have a patient friend with a steady hand though, making sure all the important picking or fretting action is in frame can be a problem. So the team set about designing a smartphone mount for the guitar, which has now gone from computer modeled concept to 3D-printed rapid prototyping followed by a series of design refinements to become the Magnet.
Designed to fit almost any six- or seven-string electric or acoustic guitar, and even good for a five string bass (as shown below), the jaws of the mount expand in one direction to grip the top and bottom of the guitar neck without the need for tools. If you don't want to lose too much of the playing area then the Magnet can be positioned at the top five or six frets, where the neck meets the body.
Meanwhile the cradle expands to accommodate the width of a smartphone, where a video recording app can be launched to capture the subsequent speed picking. The smartphone camera lens can be directed at the picking hand or up the neck, or both ways using the optional GoPro mount. You could even ditch the smartphone altogether in favor of two GoPro mounts.
To bring the Magnet to production, the developers have launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. Early bird levels for a single Magnet mount are still available for a pledge of US$30, but you'll need to stump up another $20 for the Magnet and a GoPro mount. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in August 2015.
Have a look at the Magnet in action in the pitch video below.