Category Archives: videocast

Will You Survive The Coming Changes?

Get ready for a world where everything is on demand and à la carte. Traditional broadcasting is going to change whether it wants to or not. Marketing will be forced to change in profound ways. As a result, content-making will also go through a major metamorphosis.

Marketing and traditional broadcasting have long had an interesting relationship that has had a potentially detrimental effect on the quality and quantity of available content. Television in particular has long been known as “a vast wasteland.” If one thinks about how this lowest-common-denominator programming can exist, the realization emerges that anxious, aggressive television advertisers have often been willing to sponsor junk programming content to capture passive viewers. In the pre-Internet world of broadcast TV, people would surf channels in order to find what was often the least-boring programming. Also because of the hypnotic potential of this type of TV watching, many viewers were willing to sit in front of virtually any programming without really caring about what they were watching, using TV viewing itself as a sort of nightly drug. Marketing messages get programmed into viewer’s brains, but more importantly using this type of passive TV viewing as a drug has definite detrimental side effects to both the individual, the family unit, and society at large.

After a few months of agonizing, I recently cancelled my Dish Network account. I was already a Netflix customer and was watching more stuff from Netflix than I was from Dish Network, so it has been a remarkably easy transition.

There are differences. One of the differences is that I’m now forced to choose what I want to watch when I want to watch TV. Being forced to choose necessarily forces me to choose something I find personally interesting. The net effect is I’m making a conscious choice of my television influences. Of course, another difference is that streamed Netflix content has no ads.

Hulu.Com offers streaming content with ads, and recently started offering an inexpensive monthly premium streaming content option, which also has the added benefit of vastly expanding the list of devices they will stream to beyond the desktop/laptop computer to include media extenders and cell phones. Like Craig’s List cannibalized the local newspaper ad business, Hulu.Com and similar emerging streaming services are going to further cannibalize the now-breaking and broken broadcast TV model. I say this not to blame Hulu and other services as I believe this push for choice has been well underway for a long time and these emerging streaming services are simply accelerating it.

The ad-supported content will be forced to change because the programming must be appealing-enough to consumers to get them to choose the particular content. Non-ad supported content will continue to have a market but will be forced to appeal just the same to induce consumers to choose that content.

Choosing Influences

So now that I’ve cut the cord with Dish Network, I’ve started digging deeper into the instant streaming material available on Netflix. It seems that most of the programs I would have watched on Discovery, TLC or History – the three channels I watched 99% of the time — are available as season DVD sets streaming via Netflix.

There are also plenty of season DVD’s of television programs available for streaming that I don’t have any interest in. Now that I’ve cut my Dish Network subscription, I realize that I was paying dearly for their presence even though I had no interest in watching them.

The bottom line is that I can only watch one show at a time. Having 200 plus channels available simultaneously seemed exciting, but the reality is that at least 97% of whatever was on at any given point didn’t appeal to me in any way. It’s crap looking to influence whoever it can reach out and grab.

With audio podcast listening, it allows me to choose my own influences. The IPTV revolution brings that powerful ability to choose my influences to television.

This revelation shouldn’t surprise me, because I’ve been here before. Back in late 2004 when I discovered podcasting, it was exactly what I’d been looking for. I was suddenly able to pick and choose audio content and consume it on my own terms. I could listen to exactly what I wanted, when I wanted to listen to it. Suddenly, instead of being at the mercy of having to listen to what was mostly crap programming on radio stations I happened to be driving by, I was able to turn that huge amount of listening time I had while driving into a tremendous benefit.

Broadcast television has been traditionally viewed as mindless entertainment. Like audio programming, television programming can easily be used in the same beneficial ways. Now that I’m forced to choose what to watch, I realize that what I choose to spend time watching will be much more personally beneficial.

Broadcast television is potentially detrimental and there’s no question in my mind that much of it is hypnotic. If a TV screen is present and turned on most people can’t help but periodically stare at it, even if the sound is turned down.

It has only been a bit over 24 hours since I cancelled my Dish Network subscription, and I’m already over the emotional separation. Who needs all of those less-than-useless channels?

Pursuit Of The Ultimate Media Extender

Hacked Apple TVFor some time now I’ve been experimenting with different ways of getting Internet-based video to my widescreen LCD HD televisions.

Often people think, why not simply hook up a regular desktop computer up to the TV. A desktop computer can be set up to play back virtually any video file type. The problem is, desktop and laptop computers are optimized for use on a desktop, not from a living room chair.

Is the ultimate media extender a set top box of some sort? The trouble with most set top boxes is that they are either walled gardens, or they miss the boat in very important ways.

A media extender should be able to play files stored on a home network, as well as be able to easily stream from services such as Netflix, Hulu, etc. Once set up, everything should be accessible through a simple remote control. Also, for my purposes, I’m willing to pay up to $250 for a box for each television in my house. It should also be able to play ripped DVD collection files that have been ripped to a central home server or network attached storage device.

I’ve hit on an interesting combination that seems to do everything I want it to that involves hacking a standard Apple TV and adding Playon TV server software to another computer on my home network. Playon TV software sells for $39.99.

Recently I purchased a commercial Apple TV hack called ATV Flash, which sells for $49.95. You download either the Windows or Mac version and install it on your computer. When you run the program it will ask you to insert an empty USB memory stick that it will write the installation files to. Then you plug the USB memory stick into your Apple TV and power it up. It will upgrade the Apple TV to be able to play a much wider variety of files, as well as adding Boxee and XMBC playback. It also retains all of the standard Apple TV functionality.

Next, I added the Playon TV software to my HP Windows Home Server. It could have easily been any other computer on my home network that meets the software’s minimum performance requirements. Once Playon TV was installed, I added my credentials for my Netflix account, as well as my Hulu account.

Finally, on my hacked Apple TV I simply start the XBMC application and navigate to UpNP devices on my home network, where Playon TV shows up. I now have access to Hulu and Netflix right on my Apple TV.

The Apple TV itself does not have enough processor horsepower to play back Netflix or Hulu Flash streaming without stuttering and freezing. However, playing it through the Playon TV software causes much of the processing to take place on my Windows Home Server machine, which has plenty of horsepower. Playon TV works by converting the Hulu and Netflix Flash streams into UpNP streams that the hacked Apple TV running XMBC can easily play without stuttering.

So, with this setup I’ve got access to all of my regular iTunes material, including HD and SD video podcasts, as well as a wide variety of streaming material from popular services such as Netflix and Hulu. It would be easy for me to buy additional Apple TV units, apply the ATV Flash hack to them, and attach them to other HDTV’s in my house.

Camtasia for Mac

Techsmith released version 1.0 of the long awaited Camtasia for Mac last week. Camtasia is a program that allows you to capture screen videos on your computer. If you ever watched a software product demonstration video, you’ve most likely seen a screencast made by Camtasia if it was for a Windows product.

I’ve used Camtasia for Windows for years but haven’t made the switch to a screencast program for the Mac. There a few Mac programs that do screencast like ScreenFlow and iShowU, etc., but I never got around to trying them.

Over the weekend I decided to downloaded the 30 day trial version of Camtasia. My conclusion is that it’s a very good 1.0 program. There were a few glitches but overall I was able to create a demonstration screencast and add the special effects in post production.

If you have ever worked with video editing software you will be comfortable with Camtasia for Mac. The program doesn’t have all the bells and whistles as Camtasia for Windows, but it has enough to allow you to create a decent screencast video. It has transitions for movement between video clips and actions to allow you to focus in on specific areas of the screen. It uses a familiar timeline that allows you to place and rearrange your clips and even drag in other videos or images.

The one thing I noticed that was different from other screencast software I used is you record your entire screen and crop and position what you want your viewers to see (or not see) in post production. I thought it was a good feature but also a frustrating one when I tried to wrap my head around cropping portions of the screen and trying to fit the remaining image into my canvas size. (You need to set the canvas size before you start recording because that determines the output size.) If you enable the Mac’s internal (or an external camera), it captures that as well as your screen. You can then move and position (or hide) the camera video as needed in post production.

I did find a few problems with the program. First, some of the tool-tips were not correct. The tip for Fly In/Out transition said that it flies in from the left and out to the right, when it really flies in from the top. The text alignment (left, center, right, justify) didn’t seem to work at all.

The major problem was when I tried to split the camera video. In my test video I had myself speaking before showing the desktop with the firefox brower page. The default recording has the video camera in the lower right hand corner of the screen. For the first part of the video I wanted myself centered in the screen and bigger. I split the video where I wanted the transistion and move the clips around so the camera video was visible and the browser video wasn’t. I centered the camera video and enlarged it. When I played back the video, my camera video clip was showing a portion of the desktop instead of me. If I separated the video clip from the following desktop clip, everything worked correctly (except for a gap between clips). My work-around was inserting a static frame between the two clips. I’m sure this will be something they will fix in version 1.01.

Camtasia for Mac sells for $99 and will go up to $149 after the introduction period is over. My recommendation is to download a 30 day trial of Camtasia if you have a Mac, and try it for yourself. I would also recommend checking out the great tutorial videos on the website.

Check out my first Camtasia screencast where I go through a demo of the Blubrry website and show off some of the effects you can do in post production.

73’s, Tom

Final Planning for Consumer Electronics Show

Well my final gear purchase arrived today and I am happy to say that I will be 100% wireless both the digital audio recorder and the HD Camera have wireless receivers hooked to them and the Microphone has a wireless transmitter. I will carry a cable just in case but I am pretty happy with the rig.

I have the in room recording tested and packed in a hardened flight case and the really critical items will go with me in my carry on. I moved my flight up and I fly out now on Friday the 5th with a Saturday morning arrival which will give me a little extra time to get all set up.

Jeevan from RawVoice is flying out and will be my camera man plus we are getting info cards printed this year this will help those companies get some ideas on who the show is going to reach and where they will be able to find the finished product.

I have my video production perfected as it is going to get. I am sure a lot of the video we shoot will be released the week following CES but we are going to edit and push as much as we can during the show.

I will be producing a podcast each night that I am their as well so that should be a lot of fun. I’m going to start banking some sleep next week because I know their will be little sleep the week in Vegas.

I must have 50 party invites already and while I am not going to be able to attend them all, I am going to do my best to hit a number of the venues in the evening along with the scheduled dinners I have already committed to.

Should be fun and I am pretty excited about the event.

GNC-2006-12-02 Videocast #2

Second Videocast I talk about the process that I use here at Geek News Central to create my Podcast, I also talk about and overview the equipment I use. I also show the equipment I will be using at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES).

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Studio Recording Equipment
Rode NTK Microphone
Mackie 1202VLZ Pro
Solo 610 Microphone Amplifier
Marantz PMD-660
Aphex 204
DBX 266XL Compressor Gate
DBX 215 Graphic Equalizer
Aphex Compellor Model 320A
Aphex Dominator II Model 720
Telos Phone Bridge
Furman PL-8

Travel Recording Equipment
Marantz PMD-660
RE-50B Microphone
Sennheiser K6/ME66
Tapco Mixer

Portable Connectivity
Kyocera EV-DO Router
Sprint EV-DO

Software Utilized
Adobe Audition 1.5
Video Editing Final Cut Pro Express

Computers Audio and Video Production
Windows XP Pro PC with Audigy 4 Sound card
MacBook Pro for Video Editing
Travel Recording HP Pavilion ZD8000 with Stock Sound card

One item that I have on my wish list is one of the new microphones that have a digital recorder built into the mic. But until I can get a review unit I am not going to purchase one.


How do you Quickly Submit Videocasts to Multiple Sites?

As I have been ramping up production for the Videos Andy McCaskey and I will be creating at the Consumer Electronics Show I have been looking for a service that I cannot believe does not exist. With the proliferation of video sites out why is there not a service that will submit a video to multiple sites at once?

Seems like that would make a pretty good service. Submit your Video to one site and then have it pushed to other sites that you have accounts on. This would save you a lot of time and is a service I would pay a reasonable fee for.