Recording & Streaming your event – suggested kit 7/7

This is the last article on the “Recording and Streaming your event”.
In this post, I conclude the series with a rant and two suggested setups.

Table of content of the series:


Conclusion and Suggested Kits

Almost done, finally! I knew I should have started blogging about this years ago.

In fact, seeing that this post is above 10k words already tells at least two things:

  • I could probably be more concise, sorry!
  • It’s a complicated subject that requires time, effort, and money. It’s a profession for some, I’m just an amateur!

Rant

So that’s my point, that’s why professional recording costs a lot of money: they have the equipment, experience, and logistic to cater for almost any type of venue. They also have equipment for bigger rooms, dedicated professional camera allowing them to take multiple angles they can mix, adjust to the lighting and so on. My setup and amateurism address a completely different budget and provide different results. Still, it has a non-negligible cost, especially for conferences organised by the community and not for-profit organisations. As a quick example, for PSDayUK 2017 (1 day event, ~80 ppl, 2 tracks, 16 sessions), the venue cost was ~£7.5k and recording was ~£2.5k, done by the venue. Quotes from pro amateurs were above £5k. The main reason is that the venue already had the equipment on-site, had the staff there too, and probably make sure the extra service is attractive so people just buy it.

When you add the skilled manpower required to setup and operate this for several days, without necessarily knowing the venue beforehand, and multiplied by the number of tracks and days, it’s a tough job.

When I do the streaming of an event I’m usually the first to arrive in the morning to get setup, and the last to leave. Some venues don’t even let you leave your equipment plugged-in and ready for the next day. And when the event is over, you need to start the post processing before publishing: correcting audio issues, adding watermarks, intro, outro, sponsors and so on before publishing. This can take easily a couple of hour per session in average, and that’s if your mix was good.

Obviously, I think it has huge value, such as bringing content to those less able to travel, and for speakers to catch up with content they couldn’t watch. But I’m tired of the expectation that “it should just be available, now, why don’t you just do the thing? x, y, z do it, how hard can it be?“.

Make sure you appreciate the implication of running such event, the workload, financial risks, and how ungrateful it can feel when you see public critics that may deteriorate the image you’ve build with sweat and tears for your event to ensure its sustainability. In the end, some pejorative comments can easily discredit an event, and discourage the volunteers behind it, just because a fraction of all the work you had to do was not great and a few people got frustrated.

Understand that video recordings or streaming is not what’s selling tickets so it does not help with the conference experience (attendee satisfaction), or only marginally (maybe attenuating the fear of missing out on another track or session, perhaps). It’s not what’s making people come back. It does help increase the reach, year round, when you build a brand for your event. But in the end, attendees are not buying ticket because you stream, or because your record and publish the videos, so it has little impact on cutting down the risk on the organisers, or making the event a success.

In the PowerShell community, we’re lucky to have worldwide contributors organising or speaking at user groups, conference, and workshops everywhere  on a volunteer basis. Help them by providing constructive feedback, volunteering to help, sharing your opinions (privately first, to understand their perspective). Don’t discredit their effort on whim, via social media, by criticising their choices, while you may not understand what made them take such decisions.

Respect and value their efforts, but do question their judgement if you feel it’s wrong, they may not have the situational awareness because they’re juggling with a thousand other problems, while doing their day job(s).

Now that I got that out of my chest, let’s look at some different kits I’d recommend based on usage, and the add-on you may want to consider.

Starter Kit for small venue with one presenter

If you have a small room (up to 50 pax), no need for PA and a single speaker, then I’d recommend this simple kit.

Streaming Simple Kit 1

Streaming Simple Kit 1

  • Laptop with OBS software
  • Fifine K031b lapel microphone with USB receiver (£45)
  • Logitech c920 webcam (£50)
  • USB extension (£6)
  • Elgato CamLink 4K HDMI to USB capture (£115)
  • HDMI 1 input 2 output splitter that strips HDCP (£25)
  • Mix of HDMI cables (I like the thin ones, of different sizes) (£30)
  • Powered USB 3 Hub (£25)
  • Headphones/headset for monitoring
  • Tripod for camera (£15)

That’s a total around £315 (I guess it’d be around $315 in the US) without the laptop, headset, batteries. I think this is great for the occasional event streaming/recording, such as a user group, or side tracks of full day events. You can also use this kit if you want to stream at home, maybe on the twitch platform.

 

Advanced Kit for big rooms and capturing venue’s provided audio

Assuming a larger room, with an existing PA system and mixing board in the room where you may (or may not) want to use the existing microphones, I recommend the following kit. Depending on the room and whether you just tap into the venue’s audio, this setup can scale for very large rooms. The problem will be whether they can provide an XLR balanced input for the audio & HDMI signal of the presenter’s laptop from where you need to be (6.35mm jack is fine too for short distance).
I’m still putting the Microphones in this kit, because that will give you flexibility to adapt to smaller rooms, and a backup if you need microphones.

Advanced Kit 2

Advanced Kit 2

With a total cost starting at £785 and up without the laptop, headset, batteries, this is a bit more advanced and is flexible for different type of venues. Some venues and their equipment will always be awkward to use for recording while using their PA system – they’re just not built for this. On top of this, you may need to also get a few adapters and cable.

 

Options and Add-ons

 

From the kits above, here’s what you could add (look at the other sections for details):

  • Dedicated computer: It’s always good to have battle tested device ready to roll.
  • Transport case like the Pelican 1535
  • Elgato Stream Deck: get your most used functions easy to access and visualise
  • Extra lapel microphone such as Fifine K037b to add to the K038 for more than 2 speakers (i.e. Panel session)
  • a field recorder such as the TASCAM DR60D-mk II to record the audio track independently (slides can be replayed in sync by the speaker if there’s an issue with video recording, but no audio means lost session)
  • Livestream Studio software, if you prefer the interface and features (have you seen web control for instance?)

I’d really like to make the Mevo working, as that would be the perfect companion camera for the advanced kit…

Hope that has been informative and thank you for reading. If you have further questions, feel free to let me know in the comments, reach out on twitter or grab me at one conference.

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