The online video lectures I’ve seen have been very helpful to me, and I’ve wondered why conferences don’t record all their sessions and put them online. It turned out that the Cognitive Science conference hadn’t ever recorded any of its sessions, so I decided to try and share what I learned. …Well, after having recorded everything, I can tell you that’s the easy part; one can just upload some MP4s and that’s not too hard, but synched slides are so much more useful (to me), yet laborious to create. But first things, first.
Recording equipment. I don’t own a videocamera or mic, and the conference was in a distant country where I didn’t speak the language (Japan), so I opted to rent locally and bring it all on the plane. The Canon HFS21, a very basic camera, worked well from about 3 meters from the podium, and has enough internal memory for an eight-hour event. (The audio 3.5mm input is under the lens.)
Venue. Where can you place your camera and tripod in order to get a good frontal view of the podium? Does the venue have an electrical outlet nearby? Can you get a long enough power cable from the camera rental place, and position it at the venue to minimize the chance someone will trip on it?
Will the venue provide a public address (PA) system? If the room is large, you’ll want them to, but then you don’t want your speakers to use both the PA mic and your camera’s mic. Ask the venue if they can provide an output cable and plug. Check with the camera rental place to see if the plug is compatible with the camera. If you won’t be using a PA system, you’ll want to get a wireless mic from the camera rental place.
Camera man. If you’re one of the speakers, or even just the emcee, you won’t be able to operate the camera yourself. Speakers might step out of frame, or the audio might shut off unexpectedly. Persuade a good friend to sit near the camera to occasionally check the video in the eyepiece, and keep headphones on monitoring the audio. Buy them a great meal afterwards. (Thanks, Brian!)
Slide synching. Software program iPresent Presio advertises that it can make synching easy, if all speakers will use the same laptop and there is a data cable connection to the camera, because the program watches for when slides are advanced and annotates its copy of the video capture to match. My plan was to get all slides in advance so I could test them on my laptop at the venue the day before the workshop, but this plan turned out not to be workable. By the end of the workshop, I did get slides from most of my speakers, and video of all of them, but synching has been quite difficult. Presio is also supposed to support post-event synching, but I couldn’t get it to work after months of talking with their tech support and even after reinstalling Windows 7. Other companies offer tools, but they don’t allow exporting, and I didn’t want my content to vanish if they went out of business. The option I’m currently trying is:
- Convert all videos from the camera’s MTS format to MP4/H.264 format using WinFF
- Convert all slides from Powerpoint format to a sequence of PNG images (using Powerpoint)
- Upload all MP4s and PNGs to folders (named after the speakers) on my personal site
- Viewing the MP4s in videoplayer VLC and noting the minutes:seconds when a slide transition appears to happen into a TXT file. Then convert minutes:seconds to pure seconds. Append the url from my personal site to each slide image; for example, the first row is “0,[url to slide1]”.
- Signup for a free presentz.org account, and use its Maker tool to upload the video url and the TXT file for each speaker. Tech support for presentz says that the paired content can be exported,
The presentation (as it’s understood by presentz.js) is available adding .json to the url of your presentation, like so
You can then follow the instructions to set up presentz on your own website
but I haven’t succeeded at this yet. An unexported version of my talk (in which the positions of the video and slides ought to be switched) can be seen at the presentz site. The audio distortion appeared when I converted from MTS to MP4, as I remember.