Any individual, academic institution or department interested in improving workflow and production quality for video podcasts should consider purchasing a video mixer. Similar in principle to an audio mixing board, a video mixer allows the integration and manipulation of multiple video inputs at the same time. “Mixing” the feeds from multiple video cameras in real time means less organizing and editing of videos in post-production (e.g. after the shoot, in a video editing application like iMovie, Final Cut or Primiere).
CEREV recently hosted a round table on “Palestinian Canadian Life Stories” here at the exhibition lab. Directed by Dr. Sharon Gubbay Helfer, one of CEREV’s first batch of Curatorial Fellows, this research project chronicles the lives and identities of five Palestinian Canadians. A description of the research project, Co-creating a safe space for being present to difficult knowledge: exhibiting material from the Palestinian Canadian life stories project, can be found here.
The project included the development of an online digital environment (in WordPress) that documents each individual’s story. Dr. Gubbay Helfer wanted to video the participants’ impressions and reflections on the website itself. The group met at the CEREV Lab, where I had set up a broadcast quality mobile studio with our Roland VR-5 video mixer. The set up included three video cameras, a shotgun condenser mic, a live feed from the laptop/video projector that displayed the website, and a mobile cart that housed a 42inch LCD, and Mac-Mini that was recording the event. I was able to mix the feeds of the discussion from three video cameras (set up on tripods) while integrating a live video of the various areas of the website as they were discussed. In essence, we are able to mimick the process used in most live broadcasts we see on TV, whether a concert, the news, or a talk show. A video mixer allows for multiple cameras or video inputs to be selected live, “on the fly”. In this case, as opposed to a live broadcast, I was recording all my “mixing” onto the Mac mini that I had set up on the mobile AV cart.
What are the advantages of using video mixers for podcasts? First, they speed up the production process. As mentioned, video mixers save time that otherwise would be necessary to organize and edit videos in post-production. Second, they result in for podcasts that are pretty much ready to be published at the end of the shoot. For round-tables, lectures, seminars, and the like, a mobile video mixer studio set up can save a lot time and provide professional, broadcast quality podcasts quickly.
Here a list of the equipment and the set up we used for this shoot:
1. AV cart with 42in LCD.
2. Rode NTG-2 condenser directional “shot-gun” mic. (This was for recording the group discussion. It is a very sensitive, powered directional mic that was connected to the video mixer – it picks up sound very clearly).
3. Three video cameras – 2 canon Vixia HF20 with wide angle lenses and 1 Canon XF- 105 (These were all connected to the video mixer via an RCA connector and AV video out on each camera)
4. One Mac-Mini for recording playback. (A laptop could be easily be substituted for the AV cart and Mac-Mini).
5. The Roland VR-5 video mixer.
I recommend this kind of video mixer set up for individuals or institutions interested in building a library of high quality podcasts. Here is a useful link describing the Roland VR-5 that we use here at CEREV.
Note: consumer video mixers are becoming more affordable, and there are many new products available, but many of them (such as the Roland VR-5) only provide Standard Definition output and not HD. Make sure to assess what your needs are for your studio productions and research the best product for your specific needs.
After a recent (and fun) workshop with a group of undergraduate history students here at Concordia, I thought it might be useful to post a piece on the value of content management systems (CMS) for academics. Web-based CMS’s have many useful functions for users and have changed the nature of the Internet from static websites (exclusive to programmers or website administrators) to dynamic databases that are browser-based and allow any user to add or delete content as they wish.
Some potential and very useful applications of content management systems are:
- Digital Libraries
- Academic Portfolios
- Dynamic Web Sites
- Cloud Computing
- Image/Media Library
- Collaborative Communication/Content Tool
- Digital Journalism
The CMS we were looking at for the workshop was WordPress. WordPress is a highly flexible open source blog/CMS that can be a useful tool for allowing users to store and organize digital content into categories or content taxonomies for blogs, academic portfolios, digital libraries or social collaborative environments. It is relatively easy to configure and can be customized through its extensive list of plug-ins and themes. This workshop covered the WordPress basics – participants learned how to navigate the WordPress environment, how to add pages, posts, categories, images and multi-media resources.
Something I was not able to cover in entirety because of time limitations was third-party server hosting. WordPress requires you have access to a third-party server to host your site and a FTP (file transfer protocol) application to upload the WordPress folder/environment to your server. Although there are online services that will host or provide WordPress installations, I recommend most people purchase a third-party server hosting account to host their online sites. The autonomy this allows is very useful for blooming academics, graduate students or postdocs who plan to transition between academic institutions; no matter where you go, you will have access to your research, professional portfolio or collaborative research projects. Nowadays, the catch phrase is “Cloud Computing,” which is really just a fancy way of referring to a third-party hosting service. One important note: WordPress like many open source CMS’s runs on a LINUX server platform. If you do decide to host with a third-party server and wish to run WordPress (or other common CMS/LMS platforms like Drupal, Joomla or Moodle), you should consider purchasing a LINUX based hosting account. You will also have to purchase a domain name that will be linked to your server hosing account.
While the hosting options offered by Concordia University’s IT department are excellent, for students or transitional staff who do not yet know where their academic paths may lead, it is worth considering a third-party hosting service – you have complete control over your content and online environments wherever you are.
Although it takes a bit of time to learn how to set up a third-party server, link a domain name to it, and set up databases for environments such as WordPress, it is well worth it. Considering all the time students and faculty spend developing their specific knowledge domains, setting up a third-party server is really not that hard and ultimately teaches the underpinnings of how the Internet works as a whole. Using a CMS like WordPress (or others such as Drupal or Joomla) provides a useful tool for communicating research ideas, organizing important content/research or creating comprehensive professional portfolios. Many of the undergraduate students I met during this workshop are beginning their academic journey, for some this journey will result in careers – if anything else, WordPress provides a potential portfolio for students reflect on their learning and the body of work they create as they pursue their education.
Web Hosting Service (Wikipedia) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_hosting_service
Web Hosting Companies/Comparison
Common Open Source Content Management Platforms:
http://moodle.org/ (learning/course management system)
Here some links to resources and software that I have been exploring in my first weeks at CEREV. In between inventorying equipment, setting up the internet, and configuring computers for the CEREV facilities, I have been researching and testing software for three specific environmental functions:
1. A WordPress/BuddyPress online collaborative class environment for Dr. Lehrer’s Curating Difficult Knowledge class and related SSHRC Image, Sound, Text & Technology grant project.
2. Software/hardware options for networking multiple video projectors/screens for curatorial experiments in the Workshop.
3. Collaborative software platforms for developing and sharing collective work and brainstorming. Read the rest of this entry »
This is the first of what I am hoping to be a continuing blog presence presenting an overview of my thought processes, discoveries and technical challenges in designing, implementing, and facilitating a digital exhibition workshop for CEREV. I feel lucky to be involved with Concordia’s innovative facilities, and would like to thank Dr. Erica Lehrer, whose vision of employing interactive media to expand the opportunities for engaging with human narrative and experience has made this all possible.
In my initial interview with Dr. Lehrer and tour of the CEREV facilities, I realized that given the scope of the project, the design process would be iterative. In order to maximize the potential of the project itself careful research, planning and testing of software/ hardware solutions had to be done. Like anything in life, each solution opens many new questions and these questions eventually provide the framework for how to move forward.
So with this first blog post, let me share some of my initial questions as I embark as the media facilitator for the CEREV project. Read the rest of this entry »