Variation on Narrated Slides

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The Center for Instruction & Research Technology (CIRT) recently held its Open House for UNF faculty. One of the popular stops on the tour was the video studio. With the help from one of the CIRT Techs, Veronica, we talked to faculty about what a studio with a green screen (wall, actually) can do. I’ve talked about green screen production before, but how you think about something changes with the context. That context is now online courses at UNF.

One of the requests we get is to create Narrated PowerPoint (slide) presentations, especially for online courses. That typically consists of getting a faculty member some space to record – either their office, or another space – where they can record with a USB headset that they borrow from us. Then they have at it with the standard record narration feature of PowerPoint.

A step up from those presentations is using a screencasting program such as Camtasia (PC and Mac) or ScreenFlow (Mac only, but my favorite). With these programs, recording is similar to the standard narration feature, but you have the ability to directly publish to a site like YouTube. You can then embed the YouTube videos on web pages or in your LMS software.

Now there are several options for publishing narrated PowerPoint slides, and there are many screencasting options (besides Camtasia and ScreenFlow). However, the purpose of this post is to simply show you the setup and result of a relatively dynamic version of a narrated slide presentation. I use the word “slide” because the program I use is Keynote on the Mac, so I’m speaking of the generic term slides. You can use Keynote, PowerPoint, or Google Slides if you’d like.

The following video was created in the green screen studio using ScreenFlow to record the screen AND video. I then use the Chromakey feature to transparently layer myself onto the presented slides.

This serves as a quick example of a how-to for creating narrated slides with video overlay. The setup to record the slides and video is relatively simple. Stand in front of the green screen in the studio. Use ScreenFlow for recording the computer screen and use a Logitech USB webcam for the video recording. The USB webcam is used because it’s easily integrated into the recording process within ScreenFlow. Then the green is “keyed” out to produce the resulting video with myself in front of the slides.

The audio setup is a bit more complex, but that’s just because I want good quality audio, and not the audio from the webcam, which is only so-so and gives that hollow room sound. It is fairly easy to accomplish with a USB interface like a PreSonus AudioBox, or in my case a Zoom H4 using the built-in USB interface feature. We use the Sennheiser MKE600 shotgun microphone connected to the Zoom on a boom stand.

So what does the setup look like? Well the webcam can be mounted on a tripod, the laptop with ScreenFlow can be placed on a stand or table next to the webcam, as well as the recorder. ScreenFlow’s recording setup screen allows you to choose the video and audio inputs. In the picture below is the webcam on the tripod on the left, the laptop in the middle, and the recorder on the (lower) right.

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More detailed photos of the setup:

Let the experimentation continue.

 

YouTube Thumbnails for Featured Images

dmc screenshot thumbnails

In my new job, I am getting deep into the inner workings of WordPress again. More about that in a future post (promises, promises). However, I will say that WordPress continues to progress towards a wonderful environment of beauty and extensibility. I know, that sounds like a Deepak Chopra quote. In other words, because WordPress has been “open” for so many years (I started working with it in 2004-05), it is increasingly easy to make a website look good and function well.

Because of the great WordPress community, there are many great themes to work with, and with just a short investment of time you can build a brand new site, or revitalize one, in no time at all. The one that I am working on right now is the Digital Media Cookbook site. I started this exactly 7 years and one day ago. It is again in need of revitalizing. The concept, I think, is a strong one. Present “recipes” for digital media tasks in a format that appeals to those who like to watch video demonstrations of how to do something, but also provide step-by-step text instructions. I know that I have often searched the web for how to do something and preferred the greater context that a video can provide, while at other times I just needed that one step in the process to refresh my memory on how to do something. In one recipe, you hopefully get both.

So for those of you thinking about the title of this post, when will I get to the point? Well, the new theme I am using for the site, called Gazette, has, like many modern WordPress themes out there, something called featured images. Depending on the theme (and that is the beauty of WordPress is it’s flexibility), featured images get presented as thumbnail images in different ways on a site. For example, the Gazette theme not only uses them as “preview” images for the posts on the main page, but it uses them as a nice header image for the post itself. It will also use the thumbnails for a featured post header on the site (as I write this I have not specified “featured posts” yet). In my opinion the implementation of thumbnails look great, and are perfect for a site that features different categories of posts.

So what image would I want to use for the featured image of a recipe? Well, I could get cute, break out Photoshop, and dream up some fantastical image that suits the subject matter, but in this context, and to simplify things, I just want a static thumbnail of the YouTube (or Vimeo) screencast video that accompanies the recipe post. How to get them efficiently is the question. The concept is plain if you’ve ever uploaded video to YouTube. You even have a choice of what thumbnail you can use when you publish your video, but is there an easy way to grab that image to use as the featured image in WordPress? Well, you can right click on the small thumbnails on the YouTube site in the “Info and Settings” tab, but they’re tiny. How can I make available bigger versions?

As is so often the answer, Google “thumbnail generator youtube” and get your answer – Vidthumb. Now I’ll confess I wanted to have YouTube thumbnails as well as Vimeo ones, and I started by using the Boing, Boing YouTube thumbnail grabber, and the Get the Vimeo-Thumbnail! sites respectively. Any of them will give you a suitable version to use as the featured image, the sizes and formats will vary.

The next step is to determine the image that you want to use and right-click on it in the browser and choose “Save Image As…”, save it to your hard drive and then upload it to your WordPress site as the Featured Image. The process of uploading all those images is repetitive, but the process of grabbing the thumbnail is certainly simple.

Simple? You might think that’s the end of the story. No, no, and no my friend, for the quest for automation never ceases. What I really wanted, and I should have Googled this from the start is “thumbnail generator youtube wordpress featured image plugin“. What you get is the Automatic Featured Images from Videos plugin, which basically searches your post for a Youtube or Vimeo link in the first 1000 characters and automatically grabs the thumbnail and saves it as the Featured Image. Jiminy! It couldn’t be easier. It doesn’t seem to work retroactively, so you’ll have to go back in and edit posts with YouTube or Vimeo links and hit the update button. It also doesn’t seem to find the video in the old embed code that you might have used. However, you should be using oEmbed anyway – the process by which WordPress takes the URL for the given media (like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, etc.) and automatically embeds it for proper display/playback in the post. The plugin hasn’t been updated in a while, but their support forum is currently active so hopefully we’re good for the near future. WordPress extensibility continues to amaze, and I think I know what recipe I’ll be writing next.

 

 

Thanks, Tom Woodward

the majestic Tom Woodward

Photo by Serena Epstein

Thanks to Tom Woodward, I am doing some Thanksgiving WordPress blogging. He wrote this awesome, simple, WP plugin that makes an “Easy Button” for writing posts. It get’s placed in your Dashboard and beckons you to click the shiny button and BLOG! Just be sure to change the bit of code to reflect your website or else you’ll find yourself trying to blog at Tom’s Site.

Here’s the link to the GitHub site for the plugin.

Here’s a picture of MY button, available in my experimental “Testing” blog.

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A Joyful Reunion

Gardner Campbell UNFIS

Photo by Mike Boyles

Hey, Gardner Campbell, I’d like to introduce you to my new friends.

Back on August 13th, I accepted a job to come to the University of North Florida to work at the Center for Instruction & Research Technology (CIRT). Exactly a month later, I posted my goodbye to UMW and Fredericksburg on Facebook (of all places). Among the well-wishes I received from that post was one from Gardner. He finished by saying, “Oh, and p.s.: see you in November!” I didn’t know at first what this meant, but I soon realized that he was referring to CIRT’s annual Innovation Symposium, UNFIS 2015. Gardner would be keynoting the symposium, and it would be my maiden voyage into helping host a conference at my new place of work.

Well, the conference has come and gone. I am now in video editing mode and will soon be posting all of the conference videos. It reminds me very much of the UMW Faculty Academies we did so long ago, including several with Gardner. True Fact: One of the first times I videotaped Gardner was a Faculty Academy in the Jepson Science Center doing a demo of Sound Forge on the PC. I believe that was in 1999 or 2000, well before anything known as DTLT or even Gardner being director of the talented “dream team”. We go back a ways.

Fast forward to 2015.

I do my best to actually pay attention to what people are saying during their presentations that I am taping, and not just adjusting knobs and dials and trying to get the recording perfect. I DID like what I was hearing from the UNF Faculty participants, and I was getting excited about working with them. Overall it was an impressive conference and well attended (the highest attendance so far). It started two years ago, when another upstart, Jim Groom gave a keynote talking about this crazy idea of a “Domain of One’s Own”.

Years earlier (at Open Ed 2009) there was a talk by Gardner that we will forever refer to as the Bags of Gold talk. Within the first 5 minutes of the video, Gardner expresses the frustration he has with some colleagues of living in what Clay Shirky calls “the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race”. Here, watch:

“It’s a bag of gold, what part of that do you not understand.”

Now we have Dr. Campbell in 2015, thankfully seeing the fruition of his talks about “Personal Cyberinfrastructures” in the many “domains” projects at several universities, with Mr. Groom (succesful businessman), along with his partner, my friend and colleague Tim Owens, spearheading the Reclaim project. Paying attention 😉 to Gardner’s talk was one of the better experiences I have had recently as far as Edtech conferences go. It was a rush of emotion bringing the work that I and others have done over the many years and introducing it to a new, fertile campus.

So without further ado, here is Gardner’s UNFIS Keynote, complete with post-lunch opening statement, Jerome Bruner references, and a beautiful message at the end about how we can bond with our students. When he utters the line “I am SO not kidding”, a chill goes down my spine. Enjoy!

A Happy Ending/Beginning

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This brief story started on September 7, 2015 when the good (did I say good, I mean great!) folks at the University of Mary Washington gave me a going away party at one of DTLT’s favorite hangouts – Hard Times Cafe (I always have the Alamo Chicken – highly recommended). The present that they gave me was enough money on gift cards to get the new Apple TV when it came out. Well, today was finally that day when that gift was obtained.

One cool thing is that Jacksonville has its own Apple Store. It’s about 4 miles from the University of North Florida where I work.

JAX Apple Store

So my lunch hour was a quick trip to the store to pick up the new Apple TV 4th Generation that I ordered online in the morning. As it turns out it was the quickest method to get it, as opposed to pre-ordering online and having it delivered.

There were several people who, like me, ordered online to pick up at the store. As you might know, the Apple Store is a bit different from other stores in that you are greeted at the door for triage. I’m not sure the system is any better, but it is different. I gave them my name and eventually they came back with an all black box (with another all black box inside it). I signed the iPhone device that the gentleman handed me to verify my pick-up and that was it. Tonight, I will bring to home and begin to play with it.

So it’s kind of bittersweet because the Apple TV will remind of the great people at my former workplace, whom I miss, but now I get to talk to my remote and have my TV do my bidding – “Siri, show me all of the films directed by Stanley Kubrick.”

So thank you to all those who made this day possible – Jim, Tim, Martha, Jerry, Shannon, Jeff, Mark, Steve, Leah, Debra, Cartland, Jess, John, and Betsy (and Lisa and Mary who couldn’t be there). Thank you all of UMW!

Why

I lost count how many times I saw this thumbnail in my Twitter stream yesterday:

sleeper thumb

I and other folks in DTLT have been following the work of Michael Wesch for years now. I have written a few posts about him as well. He is particularly inspiring to me because he is not only a professor of Anthropology, but a filmmaker.

He came to UMW in 2011 for our Faculty Academy and talked about students becoming “Knowledge-Able”

Part 1:

Part 2:

So what were folks tweeting about yesterday? It was Wesch’s new video “The Sleeper“, a brilliant little short that reminds us what students bring to class. It reminds us what the idea of education is – student centered. However, it also reminds faculty to think about who is out there in the vastness of the college (or high school, middle school, elementary school classrooms) lecture halls. It is the next generation of people that we are teaching. Those people have lives outside of class and they all have unique stories – and problems – and obstacles. They are the Why. If we allow students to bring their stories into their schooling, we might will make better connections.

So after briefly bemoaning that he wasn’t making a difference, or not a good teacher because this one student was sleeping or barely paying attention in class, Dr. Wesch did something simple. He asked the student to lunch. He had a conversation with his student. He found out more about someone in the sea of students in his class. I’ll let the video explain the rest, but there’s a particular part in the video, which Wesch animates himself, that reminds me of another great talk that Wesch gave at UC Irvine titled “Why We Need a Why?” . In it he gets up on the desk and “shakes his tailfeather”, in service of demonstrating an anthropological concept, of course.

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Here’s “The Sleeper”

Thank you, again, Dr. Wesch!

Wistia Presentation Syncing

 


Summertime is play time! One of the things I’ve been playing with lately is a new video hosting service called Wistia. For a relatively low monthly cost, we can store lots of videos at a site with more privacy controls than YouTube. It also has some pretty nice features regarding user engagement and analytics.

The folks at Wistia have some really good (if somewhat goofy) videos on some production basics as well as a ton of other resources in their library. Like all good companies, you also need a space to experiment, and that’s where Wistia Labs comes in.

The above example is an example of their Presentation Sync feature from the labs. There are two components. First, it takes advantage of a service called Speaker Deck and uses their API. You upload your slides in PDF format and they convert them to an embeddable slide presentation. The other component is a video you have already uploaded to Wistia. Then Wistia’s presentation sync takes care of matching the two together. It’s pretty easy to do, and then the whole synchronized presentation can be embedded in a WordPress post (like this one). This isn’t a new idea, but their code builder makes it pretty seemless.

Two last points unrelated to the Presentation Sync – Remember to check the equipment bag to see that all of the parts are there – and no, I don’t always wear the same shirt when I do my videos.

A Follow-up

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. At the moment, I’m taking some needed days off, but I’m happy to say that “Andyland” is back online and the above video is submitted as proof. It seems like I blinked an eye and this CRAZY semester ended. Now it’s summertime and the livin’ . . . well, it’s not easy because there’s a ton of work to do. DTLT is also losing a couple of key players in Ryan and Jim, so part of the summer scramble will include search committees.

I have a bunch of summer projects to put the polish on some of the ITCC facilities, and I’m going to try to blog about them. However, my vacation days are ending and I’m missing my production space. So I’m posting a video to remind me.

A Setback

“I’ve lost all my work!” That was the first thought in my head as I found out that the Media Editing Suite, affectionately called “Andy Land”, had been flooded with water from the ceiling due to a … well, I still don’t know the cause really. I’ve listened to words come out of people’s mouths, but I can’t make sense of it. Frozen and thawed pipes. HVAC units failing. Antifreeze. The cause is immaterial. The incident has caused countless people headaches and almost criminal wastes of time.

So while waiting for a backup to occur on the Mac Pro that was in the room – it was still running when the Building Manager, Cartland opened the door and then kicked of the power – I created a therapeutic video. Nothing special, just some footage that I was able to recover from the Blackmagic 4K camera that I used just six days before. Yeah, you heard right. I was able to backup the hard drive on the Mac Pro, which I turned on today and got connected to some of the other equipment that I was able to get running.

My work, for the moment, is safe. I wasted a good amount of time the last couple of days. We had visitors from Michigan State that I would have liked to spend more time with. Other UMW personnel have lost some of their work time as well. If it wasn’t for Cartland coming in on his day off, the flood may have been discovered a lot later. DTLT folks have been displaced from their ITCC work spaces – only 7 months old – obviously the building isn’t able to walk by itself yet.

It’s been bittersweet this new building of ours. Student love the space. It’s a roaring success in terms of filling a need. I continue to hope that it remains worthy of the talented students we have at UMW. But Tuesday, February 17, 2015 was a setback for that hope. Next we’ll talk about who’s fault it was and who pays for the damage and what’s “covered”.

As I said on Twitter, “it’s just stuff”. But it’s also a representation of work, and not just mine. The people who helped order and receive the stuff. The people who delivered and even set up the stuff. We do our work to get paid, mostly. Some of us are lucky enough to work at things we’re passionate about. Sometimes we have to work on things we shouldn’t have to.

Our work is beyond the machines. Sometimes it’s inside of them, and we work to keep them working so that they can help us create more of our work. If the machines stop working, we can lose our work. Bits and bytes dried up and blown away. Or flooded and washed away with corrosive water. Something is keeping those bits of my work alive, and I’m grateful to whatever (and whoever) it is.

Now, can we please get back to work?

gotcha

Vexing problems are sometimes set aside to deal with at another time.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Since moving into the ITCC I have had the pleasure of using some 4K monitors (these Sharps – yes, Plural!) on the new Mac Pro in my video editing room. And yes, I am completely spoiled now. However, you may not understand how a 4K monitor fits into a desktop setup. I have another post brewing about 4K in general, but with 4K resolution brings a new term coined by Apple – Retina Displays.

So how does a Retina display figure into this post? Well, one of the problems (believe me the benefits outweigh the problems) is that some programs don’t know how to handle Retina, or HiDPI mode. HiDPI mode is essentially taking a high resolution and squeezing it into a smaller resolution. In this case squeezing 4K of resolution (3840×2160 or 2160p) down to a 1080p screen.

One example of a program that doesn’t handle HiDPI correctly is MPEG Streamclip, one of our favorite free programs we use to manipulate video. I wanted to do a screencast on the Mac Pro about MPEG Streamclip and it wasn’t behaving properly in HiDPI mode. The playbar was split and a small slice, including the “play” button, was off to the right, like this:

MPEG Streamclip split

I then had two choices. I could do the screencast at 4K resolution, which isn’t a good choice at this point in time (just trust me), or I could record it on another machine that isn’t using a Retina display. I wound up using a 21″ iMac that has a native resolution of 1080p (1920×1080). The resulting screencast is on YouTube.

The MPEG Streamclip/HiDPI problem was put on the back burner, but I eventually wanted to research if/how I could do screencasts with these problematic programs on my new Mac Pro (actually UMW’s new Mac Pro).

Today I was doing some clean-up on a website that is being resurrected – the Digital Media Cookbook site (yet another post is brewing about that). I was using a program called Image2icon. I wanted to create a new “favicon” for the site and knew that the “Pro” version (It’s $4.00 if you’re interested) of this program would do it. However, it wasn’t working. On their support page, an FAQ entry talked about an issue the program had on Yosemite, the latest Mac OS. It talks about enabling the program to “open in low resolution” mode. After that, Image2icon created my favicon without a hitch.

This got me thinking, is there a “Open in Low Resolution” checkbox for MPEG Streamclip? Take a look below to see the answer:

MPEG Streamclip Get Info

You right click on the program in the Applications folder and choose Get Info, then click the checkbox for “Open in Low Resolution”.

Two problems solved in one day! And now I don’t have to use another machine for screencasting. I can use HiDPI mode on any machine, including my home machine which coincidentally has a Dell 4K monitor (I got it as a Christmas present) that allows me to use HiDPI mode as well!

Gotcha squashed!

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by Chad Horwedel

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