As you may know if you’re following me on twitter, I’ve tried to help when possible with the recording or streaming of PowerShell & DevOps events. From a couple of hours recording for a user group, to several days of PowerShell conference recording and streaming, I’ve went through a fair share of experiments (a.k.a. failures). I am by no mean an expert in the subject, and not a professional in this field either. I’m an amateur, who’s spent a bit of money and time trying to help, mainly because I’ve been on the event organiser side, and I know the effort required to deliver recordings, in terms of budget, time and effort.
If you’re attending events, or not, and wondering why it is so hard or expensive to get decent recordings published, I hope this detailed explanation will help you understand why. The investment needed, even for amateur recordings or streaming, is substantial and it may feel unfair for attendees to bear the cost and share the benefits. This, however would be worth another post, so it’s out of scope.
If you just want to know what I recommend, jump to the conclusion. Otherwise, I’ll take a tour of my experience and what I learnt.
Table of content of the series:
- Standing on the shoulders of giants
- Screen Capture
- Filming the Talent
- Recording & Streaming Software
- Conclusion and Suggested Kits
Standing on the shoulders of giants
I started at PSConfEU in 2016 (I think), trying to assist Amanda Debler and Tobias Weltner with the recordings. Amanda kindly (and patiently) trained me with the setup prepared for the conference, and gave me the instructions on how to set up and wire the devices. I think some of the ideas also came from the PS Summit folks who’ve had already experimented a few things.
If I remember correctly, the setup was roughly the following, for each room:
- AverMedia Live Gamer Portable II (LGP2) – an HDMI USB capture device
- Bluetooth microphone with dongle
- A consumer camcorder to record from the back (We had only one)
- We must have had someone’s laptop to plug the HDMI capture device (LGP2) to, and some external hard drive
I think we were only capturing the content from the screen, and I don’t remember the details of the results, but it was probably not a resounding success. It could be that some video were corrupted or not recorded in the entirety because of the external hard drive. Issues with the process, because you need someone to be there end to end to make sure it works. And if the plan was to get the recordings back together in post processing (Syncing the video with the audio, and adding the camera input), that would have been a huge undertaking. In the end, the most useful video recorded was what came from the Camcorder. A readily available mix of Audio and Video capturing the subject (the speaker), the content (the projected screen), and the sound in the room’s through the (directional) camera microphone. It still had to be improved in post processing: I imagine Amanda had to trim, maybe fiddle with the audio and compress in a format such as MP4 or similar before uploading to YouTube.
The quality is not great. You can imagine how hard it is to record both subject and screen (different light requirements with a consumer camera), the microphone is quite far from the speaker, thus picking up noise. Nevertheless, that was a tremendous learning experience for all of us involved.
The main learning points I’ve drawn from this:
– Avoid post-processing as much as possible
– Avoid recording projected screen on camera
– Audio from a camera is bad
– HDMI Capture works, but it can be fiddly
Best to record a pre-mixed AV signal with a direct capture of the speakers’ HDMI output, using a dedicated camera to see the speaker, and taking the speaker’s voice through a microphone consistently close to the speaker’s mouth, even when he moves.
The choice of HDMI capture itself is challenging: recording at 1080p when the projectors are 4/3, recording on external HDD can be unreliable, laptop/PC can be unreliable, USB/drivers can be unreliable, Mac/HDCP is a pain… In short, test your hardware, and it will still surprise you…
I think Tobias invested in dedicated laptops the following year, running the Open Broadcaster Software (OBS, a free & OSS tool for recording and streaming content), and connected to the HDMI Capture device and a webcam on tripod.
He also had written down a detailed list of steps for setup and operations of the “recording stations”, and had dedicated operators assigned per room.
The result is much better (see video below from 2017), and although professional services might do better (at a price), it’s enjoyable to watch, and the foundation of most of the recordings I’ve been involved with since then.
The problems I’ve found with this setup are:
– Recording this faultlessly requires process, dedication (of the operator), and a bit of luck
– OBS tends to lose the feed from the camera or the capture card (or both), and needs a reset
– Capturing Mac outputs does not work because of HDCP
– The LGP2 (2 years old devices at least) are a bit temperamental
– sometime lacks flexibility depending of the environment/venue/speakers
Here’s the setup we’ve used at PSConfAsia, and some other events. That’s the default, cheapest, easiest approach when the environment is just right, that is:
- there’s only 1 speaker for a session
- it’s in a small room without need of a PA system
- We get a good angle for WebCam, presenter, screen & decent lighting
- The presenter does not own a Mac (see my point on HDCP in the content capture section further down this article)
The presenter’s laptop is connected via HDMI to the HDMI Capture device (LGP2), and the HDMI pass through on the LGP2 goes to the projector.
The LGP2 is connected to a USB3 port on the recording computer, also providing power to the device.
The Fifine K031B receiver is plugged in via USB to the computer. The transmitter is on the speaker using the lavalier microphone & transmitter.
A webcam (typically the Logitech c920), is connected to the laptop, aiming at the speaker with an angle that should let the speaker move a bit while still capturing him.
Let’s look in detail what makes a good recording, streaming and the equipment involved.