Thursday, April 10, 2014

Make it so!

  It seemed so simple during the planning sessions.  Teachers would shoot video in their classrooms, upload the video clips to the web and then our PLAEA consultants would review the video clips.  As long as the teachers have access to a smart phone or an iPad, it should be easy as pie.  Shoot, upload and view.

  That was our plan.  Now, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard used to say, "Make it so!"

  Then we started getting phone calls and emails from the teachers who were attempting this feat.  The videos they shot were taking forever to upload, sometimes several hours.  Sometimes, the website would "time out" and the entire process would come to a screeching halt.  What is the problem here?

  After some investigation, we discovered that the file sizes of those video clips were just too darned big.  For example, an iPad shoots video in high definition, so even a 20 minute video clip is nearly 3 gig in size.  That's right, 3 gigabytes for 20 minutes.  How can you shoot a 50 minute classroom presentation and then upload it to your Dropbox account that has a maximum capacity of 2 gig?

 My suggestion was to use video conversion software to convert the video clips to a more compressed format.  Using video conversion software also lets the user downsize the resolution from HD to SD.  Changing the format and downsizing the resolution will shrink the size of the video file, sometimes dramatically. That 3 gig video clip became a 725 meg clip after conversion and downsizing.  That's small enough to easily fit in your Dropbox or Google Drive account.

 Different cameras and computers require different software to achieve this file compression.  So I'm producing videos to address that.

  What if you are using a Flip camera and transferring that video to your Windows 7 computer?  I suggested our team use Any Video Converter.  That's freeware that is available from CNET.  Then I recommended the converted clip be uploaded to a Google Drive account.

 Here is the video I created to explain the process. 

 If you are using an iPad, then it's even easier because it can all be done with your iPad.  Two apps, GDrive and Video Slimmer, allow you to compress your video clip and then upload it to your Google Drive. 

 Again, I produced a video to demonstrate the process.

  That's not all of the camera and computer combinations out there.  But these two procedures and the accompanying instructional videos should help our classroom videographers to successfully shoot and upload their projects.  As additional instructors contact us, I'll search for solutions that apply to their specific hardware and computer operating systems.


  

 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sound Advice


Combo headphone-mic headset

  Video conferencing is amazing.  The idea that we can turn a meeting room into a makeshift television studio and broadcast to the world is astounding, even to a veteran media person like me.  In order to have a successful broadcast, we need to use the right tool for the job. 

  When we’re dealing with video conferencing, we are broadcasting two things: picture and sound.  And while everyone understands that the video camera needs to show what the viewer wants to see, it can be a challenge to have the microphone pick up what everyone wants to hear.  

  Audio rarely receives the attention it deserves, even though so much of the information conveyed during a video conference is actually heard rather than seen.

So, what tools do we use to gather sound?  The microphone that is built in to your laptop does a pretty good job if you are the only person on your end of the conference.  However, using the built in mic and speaker can often set up a feedback or echo effect, where your mic hears and rebroadcasts the output of your speaker.  You will avoid that problem by using a combo headphone-mic headset like the one pictured. 
Blue Snowball mic


  If you have a group of people gathered around a table, you need a different kind of microphone to hear everyone clearly.  The Blue Snowball microphone can be switched from a cardioid pattern to an omnidirectional pattern, which means it can be used by a single person or set in the middle of a table to pick up an entire group of people.  It connects via a USB cable to your computer and is compatible with Skype and other conferencing software.

  Another style of microphone that is well suited to gathering sound at a meeting is the PZM or boundary microphone.  It sits flat on the table and picks up reflected sound.  This is the style of mic used with a Polycom and AVer video conferencing system.  Some models, such as the MXL-404 (pictured) also connect to your computer via USB. 
MXL-404 PZM Mic

  My father always told me to use the right tool for the job.  So use the right microphone for your next video conference. Your audience will appreciate being able to hear you better, and that’s sound advice.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Links for Technology Friday attendees

Here are the links that are mentioned in my "Introduction to Video Editing" class.  They are seen in the PowerPoint as well, but it may be easier to find them in a separate post.


Any Video Converter: 
http://goo.gl/ABquz
     
Windows Movie Maker tutorial from Kent State: 
http://bit.ly/hKjwak
    
DVD Flick: 
http://goo.gl/9U6tJ
    
Sources for copyright-free music, clip art,
stock photos and more :
http://www.iowaaeaonline.org/
 Check with your Teacher/Librarian if you don’t know your user name and password

Videomaker Magazine
http://www.videomaker.com/downloads/


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tech Friday Presentation on Basic Editing

This Friday will be the first Tech Friday at Prairie Lakes AEA.  It's an opportunity for staffers to receive training on various types of technology available to them.  I will be talking about basic video shooting and editing using Windows Movie Maker.  While it is not my favorite editing package, it is available on all staff laptops here at the agency.  It's here, it's free...so let's use it.

I'm embedding the PowerPoint I will be using so it will be available to attendees and anyone else who may get some mileage out of it.  I'm sure you'll find better tutorials out there, but this is the one I'll use to begin our conversations about media production.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NEW FCC Rules on Closed Captioning for Web TV Content

An article seen on gigaom.com advises us that "Web TV needs to have captions starting next month, FCC rules".  This was established with the "Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010" and reaffirmed by an FCC ruling just a few days ago.

Does this apply to you?  Are you legally required to CC all content you upload to your YouTube or Eduvision website?

First off, a caveat:  I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV.  For legal advice, always consult your attorney.  All right, moving on.  From my reading,  it appears that this applies to programming that has been shown on television and does not apply to "web-only" content.  If you are producing content in your home studio or school media center, this law does not legally require you to add Closed Captioned content to your video projects that you upload and show online.  That's my take on it, anyway.

  However, this does not answer if you should provide CC or subtitles on your video projects.  Does it serve your audience to have this content available to the hearing impaired?  Is it a good idea even if it's not legally required?  That is something you need to consider with your current and future video projects.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

School announcements on video...No Money? No Problem!

Here is the PowerPoint presentation I gave at Buena Vista University in June that outlines ways to produce your school morning announcements on video without breaking the budget.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I only have one rule: DON'T do this to your data projector!

My supervisor brought her Proxima data projector to me today. The picture is very dim, she said, and could I take a look at it? So I took her projector to the test bench to see if I could discover the problem.


MELTED & SHATTERED GLASS


The first thing I did was open the little access panel on the projector and remove the bulb. What the heck was wrong with it? As you can see in the photo, the heat-absorbing glass in front of the bulb was melted and fractured. So then I looked at the lens cap and saw that it had begun to melt. So riddle me this....what would cause the glass panel on the front of the bulb as well as the lens cap to melt?

Right. Someone had powered up the projector and then placed the lens cap over the lens. All of that high intensity light was shooting out of the bulb, hitting the lens cap and reflecting back into the bulb housing. That creates a tremendous amount of heat; enough to melt a quarter inch thick piece of glass that is specially designed to absorb heat.


NORMAL GLASS


Normally, this would mean buying a $120 lamp to replace the one with the melted glass. However, I was fortunate enough to have a burned out lamp of exactly the same make and model. Removing the melted glass from one and replacing it with the intact glass from another allowed me to make the repair for nothing. Just dumb luck that I had not thrown away the bad bulb a week earlier.

As Barney Stinson says on TV, "I only have one rule." And my rule is this: NEVER, NEVER put the lens cap on a data projector while the bulb is lit. You will ruin your expensive bulb and also perhaps your expensive projector.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Storm Lake links


On January 4th, I'll be working with educators from the Storm Lake Community School District. We'll talk about simple ways to move video footage from a Flip Camera to a DVD, and I'm sure a hundred other questions and ideas will pop up during the day. I will also recommend some web sites and free software to use in their media production endeavors. Here are the links we talked about:

Any Video Converter is available here.

A tutorial on Windows Movie Maker, produced by Kent State University, is here.

DVD Flick, free DVD burning software, is available here.

Iowa AEA Online, a resource for Iowa educators, is here.

Videomaker Magazine has some wonderful free resources for video producers here.

Here is hoping we all have a great day at Storm Lake!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What's The Frequency, Kenneth?

The headline from the FCC says it all:

"OPERATION OF WIRELESS MICROPHONES IN THE 700 MHZ BAND IS PROHIBITED AFTER JUNE 12, 2010"

As part of the DTV switchover and re-allocation of frequencies, the frequencies between 698 and 806 Mhz (the 700 Mhz band) will no longer be allocated to television stations and will instead be used by broadband providers and public service entities. This change is effective June 12, 2010.

Here is the official statement from the Federal Communications Commission.

What does that mean to you, the Media Producer or Audio/Visual Person?

Wooo-boy!

It means that it will be illegal to use any wireless microphones on those frequencies after 6/12/10. Failure to comply with this FCC requirement may lead to civil and/or criminal penalties.

What do you do if you own wireless mics in that band? The FCC suggests you contact the manufacturer to see if the unit can be re-tuned to another frequency. The Feds have provided a website that lists the problematic equipment by manufacturer and model, and also tells if that unit can be modified or not.

And if said unit can't be re-tuned or modified; I guess it goes to the landfill.

While we don't care for this decision, we need to obey it. If our wireless signal interferes with a transmission from an ambulance or firefighter, then we've endangered the public and opened ourselves up to a whole lot of legal problems as well.

Wait until I tell my boss about this.