Thursday, October 7, 2010

Recording events for posting on-line

I recently volunteered to help organize recording some of the sessions from the Open Source Software (OSS) Barcamp event in UCD. I am not very experienced in this type of thing so I thought I would document my experiences for the benefit of anyone else who would like to do something similar.

The first thing I tried was USTREAM. This was really simple to use, within 2 minutes I had created a free account and created a channel for OSSBarCamp. In addition I found that there are  Ustream Viewer and a Ustream Broadcast applications available for my Android phone. I tried out the viewer by watching the Linux Outlaws live stream and the quality was almost better than when I watch it on my PC. I also tried out the Broadcast application and found it alarmingly easy to upload videos - within minutes I had a few videos uploaded of the cables behind my PC (I still haven't figured out how to delete them - if anyone knows how to do this I would love to know).

A colleague also recommended the QIK application for my phone. However, this required more memory than I had free space on my phone so I wasn't able to evaluate it.

Luckily I received an offer of help from some colleagues in DERI in Galway who had professional video recording equipment. Pierre Ludwick and Laura Dragan even volunteered to bring the equipment up from Galway and operate it.

I am always nervous that something would go wrong, so even though Pierre was recording the initial keynote talk by Stefano Zacchiroli, I also recorded it on my phone using the Ustream Broadcast application. I think you will agree that the results shown below are reasonably good. Most of the problems with the video were due to the fact that my hand was getting tired from constantly holding the phone up so if I had a tripod rigged up it would have been even better. (sorry about the advertisements - I would have to upgrade to a professional account to get rid of those).

My hand was sore from holding my mobile phone aloft so I decided to relax and trust the professionals for the rest of the sessions. They did a great job and at the end of the BarCamp they transferred all of the files onto my laptop. Each recorded session was contained in a .mts file which was about 1.5 to 2BGytes. These files are clearly too big to be uploaded to a video sharing site so I had to convert them to some more efficient storage format before I uploaded them.

I played around with the various tools that come with Ubuntu before deciding that Kino was the tool that I should be using. The first step was to import the files into Kino which creates a .dv file which was ironically bigger than the original - typically about 8-9 GBytes per 40 minute talk. The import process could take the best part of an hour. My first few attempts at importing files failed becuase I was using an external drive for storage which had been formated with the FAT file system (the FAT file system has a limit of 4 GBytes as the maximum size of a single file). After importing the file, then I had to export it to .mpeg format. By taking all of the defaults I ended up with a file of about 300-400 MBytes  per session, I could have tweaked the parameters to get a smaller file size, but I didn't feel confident in adjusting to many parameters since I didn't know what parameters would affect video quality in a noticeable way. The export process could take about 2-3 hours on my poor old home PC which meant the overall process was quite time consuming.

I looked at the various video sharing sites and quickly settled on Vimeo as the best for my needs. They offer a free account which has a limit of 500 MBytes uploaded per week. I could have used this and uploaded the materials gradually, but I was keen to get the job done quickly and so I paid out for a professional account which also eliminated advertisements from my videos and gave a few more benefits. You can view all of the recorded videos on a special channel I created

Here you can see the same Keynote presentation that I recorded with my phone. Although the quality is better, I am not sure the difference affects the usability.

Overall I am happy I volunteered. It was a great learning experience for me and now there is a permanent record of the event available for anyone who wants to see it. I can see from the Vimeo statistics that some of the more popular session have already been viewed by more people online than attended the BarCamp in person.

1 comment:

  1. Tripods for the win. Also, maybe consider Flip video or other small video camera if you see yourself doing these more often... Thanks for sharing! =)