There's a bit of history surrounding "The Kit". It all started with a presidential initiative back in 2006. We worked with a company to provide live streaming of lectures, and “boxes” that included all of the hardware needed to accomplish it, such as the computer, audio mixing board, two PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) video cameras, and a wireless microphone. It all got lugged around in a large rolling case, like something you’d see a band use on their world tour, pushing it in and out of the semi-trailer. It was huge, but it contained everything that was needed – except maybe the tripod wouldn’t quite fit.
The computer was a Shuttle PC with a Video Toaster card inside. I wrote (briefly) about it almost 4 years ago – Time to Make Video Toast.
It was a pretty sweet system in its day. Interesting how four years can seem like a generation ago when it comes to technology. This was also at a time when there was the shiny allure of recording in High Definition video. It was an upgrade for the Toaster that didn’t exist, even though HD cameras were available. Nope it was all Standard Definition video, with a composite connection to the Toaster, so the video quality was pretty low. When the time came to stream the video, a lot of the detail was being lost. For the 2009 Faculty Academy we used the Toaster with Ustream.tv. With no built in streaming capabilities (nothing cheap like Ustream anyway), we used an intermediary program called WebcamMax to get the captured video output to Ustream. It worked, and we got good feedback on the live stream, as well as exposing more people to the magic of Faculty Academy.
For 2010, my old Macintosh DNA was re-surging. I had started using a MacBook Pro in 2008, but I was using it to run Windows Vista. Pretty quickly I might add. I began making the switch to OS X in 2009, and I was beginning to investigate video solutions that would replace the Toaster. I found that the Mac platform had an interesting set of developers. There was also this strange phenomenon of bundled software deals available for Macs. In early February there was one called MacHeist. This was the third edition of this “event” and one of the programs included in the bundle was called Boinx TV. If enough people bought the bundle for $49, Boinx TV would be “unlocked”. The software normally sold for $249. I would get Boinx TV and other cool programs like WireTap Studio, Acorn, and Kinemac all for $49.
For Faculty Academy 2010 it was all Mac and Boinx TV. However, we still had the issue of using an intermediary program for streaming. CamTwist, a free program, was used to take the video output from Boinx TV and route it to the Ustream broadcasting page. It works by taking an area of the screen and making your computer think it’s just a built-in webcam (WebcamMax did the same thing). It did pretty well, but it necessitates some window juggling that adds to the interface complexity. The whole system was a general success, though the size of the iMac used was still a bit difficult to lug around.
A month later I presented at the 2010 NMC Summer Conference. Using my laptop and Boinx TV, we were inching closer to the ideal. It was a very well received presentation as I did a live show – broadcasted to the live audience and streamed live to the world. It was titled “This Old New Media Center” and the idea was to show how DIY “sweat equity” could be applied to new technologies for someone moderately technology-able to create a live streamed presentation.
At the beginning of 2011, I began to think of creating the ideal streaming kit. It would have to be a laptop, and one with some horsepower as this live streaming/recording is quite CPU intensive. Everything else would have to be compact as well. It would all have to fit in a backpack, with the exception of a good solid tripod. At about the same time, I was asked to be involved in recording our president give a State of the University speech. While we wouldn’t have the kit ready in time for the speech, we were able to cobble together most of the pieces that would ultimately make up the kit. Much as we liked the Boinx TV software, a critical piece to streamlining the live broadcast and recording was using Telestream’s Wirecast software. It has built-in streaming to several different services such as Ustream, Livestream, and Justin.tv to name a few. It also has a relatively simple interface for doing simple shows. It can also be used for some more complex tasks like chroma-keying (green screen) to put different backgrounds virtually in a video. It certainly is the next step in simplified live streaming.
At the 2011 ACCS of Virginia Conference in March, I again did a live show to unveil “The Kit”. I was able to stream live using Ustream and also make a recording, in HD no less, to the hard drive for archival purposes. I was able to present using the Wirecast software to the local audience and also stream the identical program. My Keynote presentation integrated nicely as Wirecast supports playing Keynote QuickTime movies, so I can advance a slide at a time, or even a bullet point at a time complete with the animations and transitions. A resource page for “The Kit” has the recorded presentation as well as a list of the components.
I have since given two more presentations with the Kit, and it really is pretty simple to set up. Thanks to the great network of individuals found in the phenomenon known as DS106, we have already seen this employed for something known as DS106 TV. When the concept of DIY technology is unleashed on talented people, great things happen.Tweet
Myth #1 – You need an iPod to podcast
In theory you don’t really even need to own an MP3 player, let alone an iPod. Podcasting gets it’s name from the iPod (Start with the word Broadcasting, take out Broad and substitute Pod). The idea is that you are broadcasting to an iPod, but you are actually broadcasting to any MP3 player or even just a person’s computer through the web. It is also not LIVE broadcasting, it’s more like a magazine subscription.
Myth #2 – You need an iPod to listen to podcasts
As we said in Myth #1, you can listen to podcasts on any MP3 player, UNLESS, the podcast is ONLY available in AAC format (.m4a files) from iTunes. Even then there are a few portable players that support AAC (Microsoft’s Zune, Sony’s PSP, and the SanDisk Sansa).
Myth #3 – When I make my recording and save it as an MP3 file, that’s a podcast, right?
Well technically, no. Though many people say that they are recording a podcast, the podcast is actually the recording plus the backend mechanism that syndicates the recording. The ability to subscribe (using RSS) to this special type of broadcast is the reason we call them podcasts.
Myth #4 – Podcasting is complicated
It certainly CAN be, and to get very high quality and high production value podcasts takes lots of know-how. However, there are many ways to make it a very easy and enjoyable process (the satisfaction of broadcasting your production is VERY rewarding).
What you (and your subscribers) need:
- A web-hosting site (do a Google search for web hosting), or a specialized site such as Podbean.com (which hosts podcasts). Hey, if you are a UMW student or faculty member, how about UMW Blogs?
- iTunes – or other “podcatcher” – Here are instructions and a screencast on how to subscribe to a podcast using iTunes.
- Something to play the podcast – iPod or other MP3 player, or you can play them from a web page.
To make a recording for a podcast:
- Microphone/Recording device*
- Recording software* (like Audacity)
*Notes: You can use something like a USB Headset microphone. We recommend this very high quality Sennheiser USB Headset, or for a little less money the Logitech USB 350 or the Logitech USB Headset H530. If you’re using a Mac, GarageBand is a great program for creating a very professional sounding podcast. For recording hardware we have used and recommend the Marantz PMD660 or similar, and the Edirol R-09 or similar. You can even record using an iPhone!
Shopping for a camcorder has never been an easy experience, but there has been constant improvement in the quality of video that can be obtained. Before you buy a camera, know what your final destination for your video is. Is it YouTube? Then you won’t need the most expensive camera since most do some form of high definition (HD) video. However, YouTube does offer HD quality video on their site, so high quality web video is now an option. Will you be making a DVD? Again an inexpensive camera will suffice. Will you make a Blu-ray disc? Even the relatively inexpensive HD cameras will still do. Will you just re-watch it on your TV? Make sure you’ve got the right cables to make the connection. If you’ve got an HDTV, you’ll probably need an HDMI cable. If you’re ready to shop, you can start with Cnet’s camcorder reviews. Otherwise, here’s what to look for in a video camera (AKA camcorders):
- HD – Determine if you want to do HD video or not. Though it’s getting harder not to. The advantages are that you have the high resolution to output to an HDTV. The disadvantage is that HD is more time consuming to edit.
- Automation – Decide whether you want a camera that you just set on automatic and it does everything for you, or if you want to control exposure, focus, audio, etc. It is strongly recommended that you get a camera that at least gives you manual focus control. Auto-focus is nice, but there will be times when the camcorder won’t know what you are trying to focus on. You can fix bad exposure (somewhat) in a video editing program. You can’t fix focus after the fact.
- Media Types – The ways in which you can store video are constantly evolving. DV Tape, mini-DVD, hard disk, and SD memory cards are all used to store your recorded video. So which one should you choose? Whichever format you decide to go with, make sure you know what you need to transfer your video from the camera to the computer. The newer AVCHD format is gaining support for editing. However, you need a very fast (i.e new) machine to edit AVCHD in real-time. Here’s a video round-up of AVCHD editors.
- Audio – Most people don’t think about audio when they look for video cameras, but it is at least equally important. Imagine these two scenarios. Scenario one, you recorded a lecture, but you forgot to take off the lens cap and you only got the audio. Well, that’s a big problem, but you can at least post the audio somewhere and people can listen. Scenario two, you get great video images from your camcorder, but you were far enough away from the speaker that the audio is inaudible. Unless you were going for the silent movie effect, your video is pretty useless. That’s why good audio is so important to good video. Bad audio is very noticeable. Good audio isn’t noticed at all. Look for a camera that has an external microphone input, so you have the option to add a quality microphone. Also look for a camera that has a headphone jack so you can monitor the audio that is being recorded. There’s a good reason why you see professional videographers wearing a set of headphones. They don’t want the surprise of unwanted sounds being captured. A good directional (like a “shotgun” mic), lapel, or handheld microphone will do better than a camera’s on-board microphone almost every time.
- Image Quality – How important is video image quality to you? Cameras with multiple video sensors will give a better image (generally) than single sensor cameras, but they cost more.
- Photos – Do you want your camcorder to have the ability to take photos too? Keep in mind that you won’t get the resolution (generally) that you get from your digital still camera.
- Image stabilization – There are also cameras with image stabilizers that reduce the shakiness of handheld video, so you may want one with that feature. They’re handy if you are zooming way into the action and you need a steadier shot. They have a limit to how steady the video will appear. Tripods are better tools to use to get steady video.
- Firewire – While firewire connections generally only come on cameras that use the DV format, there is another advantage of having a camera with firewire. You can record live video directly to the hard drive of a computer, or use the camera as a high quality web cam by using the firewire connection. Look for this technology to fade into the sunset soon.
- HDMI – In the high definition (HD) video era this kind of connection is becoming ubiquitous. It will soon take the place of Firewire and with the proper hardware (usually the new Thunderbolt ports) can do live recording/streaming.
Photo By OndraSoukup