Sharing an event with people who cannot attend and making that experience as rich as possible can often involve risk. I took a few risks yesterday and ventured into uncharted waters in trying to bring the Digital Education Revolution Symposium’s Adelaide leg to a remote audience and have since slapped my forehead over things I could have done.

If you don’t have a nuts and bolts interest in this sort of thing – you may want to mosey over to my work blog to read the executive summary.

Apologies I can’t provide a direct link, I’m writing this post first and if I go back to re-edit, it will stream twice.

If you’re still reading, you want nuts and bolts. Put on your not so hard hat and dive in…

My original brief was to oversee the audio recording of the day in the main room. This would allow us to share parts of the event after the fact.

As a blogger, Twitterer and Flickr fanatic, I also thought I could add value by doing some live text and photo blogging if we could wangle an internet connection. We could and we did.

A few days before the conference, Carole McCulloch, one of my co-volunteer facilitators of the 2008 Networks Community Forum, had mentioned a new live blogging tool from a site called coveritlive.com

I checked it out, saw that news outlets (risk-averse enterprises that they are) used this tool to cover sports and political rallies, and had a play. I liked the interface and the structure of sending short bursts of consciousness (like Twitter) rather than having to construct a polished blog post in a break between sessions.

I’d also had a play with streaming video live via my mobile phone using qik.com and as a Twitter follower of people who regularly use the tool, I thought I’d throw that into the mix as well.

So – the weekend before, I researched and put together my kit. I did a “hardware hack” on a case for my Nokia N95 so that I could mount it on a tripod. I bought extenders for the Nokia so that I could use an external mic with it in the event my colleagues wanted to conduct interviews.

The night before, I gathered together the new, the practical and even some “old school” elements. I set up and tested the code for the coveritlive tool and went through the site tutorials. I cleared out all the SD Ram cards for my phone and field recorder, charged my batteries, gathered cables together and grabbed my little four-wheeled foldable grocery cart.

My final kit consisted of:

  • My Nokia N95 with charger, USB cable, extra battery, 2 GB SD mini ram in, 1 GB SD mini ram and adapter to spare, outer shell with modifications for tripod mount.
  • Table top tripod with max height of 64 cm (taller than a seated adult when put on a table)
  • Video camera (sadly, a last minute addition with only 40 minutes of blank tape)
  • Still camera with 2 GB SD ram and spare batteries
  • Laptop – primed to work with mobile phone as a modem in event internet connection unavailable or went down
  • 4-plug power board in case AV staff had none to spare
  • Extra, extra long network cable
  • Edirol field recorder with cables to take feed from the sound desk
  • 6 GB worth of USB flash drives for back up

My order of importance was:

Audio. It’s what I was there for. Everything else could and might go wrong – the audio would be most helpful to people who couldn’t attend.

Live blogging. I’d try the new tool out – but if it seemed clunky and didn’t work, I’d revert to more traditional blogging.

Flickr photos. Flickr is quick and easy. Photos add another layer of richness to a live blog. Provided it didn’t distract from what I had to do, it was easy to add this into the mix.

Video streaming via qik. I had no idea how this would work. This was a bonus, not a do or die because I didn’t want to rely on something that had too many factors that were out of my control.

Traditional video. I knew Mark Pesce http://blog.futurestreetconsulting.com/ had the best position for his camera and was planning to edit his together with his slides. I wanted some from another angle to use in later mashing up.

How it all went

Live video streaming via mobile using qik.com went south early and often. A combination of elements such as the 3 connection flicking in and out and the camera going on standby mode were the initial culprits. I rebooted the phone and then it seemed to be a case of the stream being too slow to keep up — the video backed up until the phone memory couldn’t handle streaming it out. I’ve seen qik.com work with longer streams so I don’t blame the service. It could also have been a software or hardware conflict issue.

Still, we made the effort and it’s early days with this tool. It’s only going to get better. For now, it’s a nice to have and I’d use it for 3 minute live interviews, not long-form presentation streaming.

We had a lot of interest and did manage a couple of good sized chunks:

A note for other Symbian S60 phone http://www.symbian.com/phones/index.html users – I noticed that you cannot switch directly from qik.com to using the Flickr tool to upload stills. The phone needed a re-boot for the Flickr application to work.

Audio. Sounds good so far – I’ll be editing it today, adding introductions and end caps and getting it online. However, I’m now kicking myself that we didn’t think to stream it into a live conference software tool like a Live Classroom session in edna’s Sandpit Groups http://sandpit.edna.edu.au/ area or a Skype call http://skype.com

Krystal, our sound tech, recorded to DVD and to VHS tape as a back up. I also took a feed out from the board to an Edirol R-9 field recorder (now superseded with a newer model) . I had brought cables but Krystal thoughtfully set one up (we’d called in advance to arrange this).

I never got around to using the mic and connectors with my phone to capture audio or to conduct interviews – but it was nice to know I could have.

I wish I’d remembered to buy a double-ended male mini cable to feed out from the Edirol to our iRiver MP3 player/recorder. That would have allowed me to bleed off audio throughout the day and to do some down and dirty editing in the lunch break.

Live blogging. Coveritlive.com worked really well and was much more flexible than using a blog on its own. As a former journalist, I’m good at picking up concepts quickly, summarising and I have a reasonably fast typing speed (although spellos did creep in).

Therefore, I knew I didn’t have to transcribe verbatim and once I got the hang of the tool and saw the widget displayed well – I could go out and find links to the resources being mentioned in presentations and add those links into my stream.

I also got fancy and took photos with my phone, uploaded them live to Flickr, then grabbed medium sized copies and whacked them into the blog stream via the upload feature. I had some online participants commenting in the afternoon and Carole McCulloch accepted my invitation to be a panellist and also contributed. In future, I’ll ask for all the presentations before the event and have things pre-loaded as much as possible.

I loved the fact that anyone could participate — all they had to do is go to my blog (or wherever I copied and pasted the code for the widget). No log-ins required. I also like the fact it saves an archive on the blog.

A wireless connection should be built into all conference budgets – a growing number of people like the feeling of contributing via live blogging.

We didn’t have this option, but education.au’s communications officer De Bullen was savvy enough to tap some noted live bloggers and Twitterati and make connections available to them.

Video. In future I’ll make a video camera, a decent mic and a tripod part of the mix but only if

  • I can get the presentations in order to cut in the slides (talking heads are b-o-r-i-n-g)
  • Interviews at the break are a possibility
  • Activities or events where visuals are key (miming, dance routines, momentous presentations, fire baton juggling, etc) are part of the day.

I eventually want a video camera with the option to expand the memory and acknowledge that tape is now annoying and limiting. Mark Pesce is a great guy and will make his video available to us, but you can’t always rely on your tech-savvy keynote delivering the goods.

2 Comments

  1. scottlo Scorbal

    Thanks for the follow-up report on your day in the field. This was a fascinating read.

    Live video streaming from a cell-phone is so mind-boggling to imagine. Sure there were a few glitches, that’s the way it has to be.

    I’m very concerned to learn that there is a new Edirol hand held recorder. Thanks for the tip and link. Thanks for giving me one more device to long for.

    As for video cameras. I’ve been using a Sanyo Xacti HD1A for more than a year (though not in such demanding circumstances). It’s expandable SD memory card system and audio input jack make it an attractive option. Newer models have since come out – though they tend to be pricey in Tokyo.

  2. Really appreciate the feedback Scott, thanks for that! I am shopping around for a video camera for work at the moment– the one I’m using is my personal video camera. As I think there is going to be a lot more call for video at education.au in future — it would be nice to have more flexibility.

    That new Edirol does look rather sexy, doesn’t it? My biggest gripe with the current model is that you can’t audit the true audio being laid down – you are only listening to what’s going in.

    Really need to catch up for a chat about podcasting. I’ve got to find ways to be more efficient with the time I’ve got.

    Cheers

    KerryJ

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