I was delighted with the results of my continued experiments with webcasting this morning, this time using a Nady Wireless lapel microphone for the first time. Use of this microphone yielded by far the highest-quality audio recordings I’ve been able to achieve using Ustream.tv to date. The image below shows the equipment I’m using for webcasting, with labeled items detailed in the legend below the photograph:

Webcasting Equipment

A – A Digital Video (DV) camcorder (in this case, my VERY old Sony Digital 8 camera)
B- A long firewire cable (purchased from CompUSA in Hawaii in Dec07, incidentally, before the chain went out of business)
C- M-Audio Mobile Pre (Converts analog, unbalanced audio from a 1/4″ male to male plug, connected to the wireless mic receiver)
D- Nady UHF-3 “true diversity” (two-antenna) wireless receiver and lapel microphone, powered with two AAA batteries
E- USB cable connecting the laptop to the Mobile Pre
F- Tripod (Radio Shack model, very cheap!)
G- 20′ 3 prong extension cord
H- A 5 plug power strip, a VERY important thing to remember!
I- MacBook Pro Laptop

All of this equipment IS pretty cumbersome to lug around, but the improvement in quality in both audio and video is significant over what I’ve been able to achieve simply using a cell phone and the Ustream mobile application. I think of webcasting with Ustream mobile as more “webcasting guerrilla style,” with a minimum of equipment and overhead. When I’ve webcasted with my cell phone, in contrast to the equipment above all I’ve needed is:

A- My cell phone with Ustream mobile
B- A GPS unit car windshield holder (to hold the cell phone in place- basically it functions as a tripod but holds the irregularly shaped cell phone which does NOT have a tripod mounting hole)
C- A laptop to use as a backdrop for the suction cup on the GPS unit (in this case cell phone) holder

I’ve found a cell phone charging cable also comes in handy, when webcasting repeatedly all day. Whether I’ve webcasted “guerrilla style” or with all the equipment outlined above, a fast WiFi connection is a must. My cell phone doesn’t presently work over 3G, but if I had a Ustream Mobile compatible 3G cell phone it would be possible to use the cell network rather than WiFi. I’ve gotten around this in the past by connecting my laptop to the Internet with my 3G data card, and then sharing that 3G connection as a shared, ad-hoc WiFi network to my cell phone. Fast wifi provided at the location where the webcast is being recorded is the faster and more reliable option, however. Blocked ports can be an issue on many networks with Ustream, so it’s important to test it in advance and make sure everything works fine.

In addition to the MUCH higher audio quality which was possible today using the Nady wireless mic, it’s also great to use a camcorder with a 10X optical zoom. This lets me zoom in to the speaker much closer, and create what I think is a much higher quality webcast.

J Kraus over Ustream

My webcasting efforts still look pretty amateurish, I’d guess, but the quality is improving. I heard about the Nady UHF-3 wireless microphone several months ago from a Radio Shack employee, who I was questioning about inexpensive, wireless microphone options. He said it is ESSENTIAL to get a “true diversity” wireless mic, since it has two antennas and is MUCH less likely to drop the RF radio signal than a single antenna model. I purchased this one online for about $150. I’ve had the M-Audio Mobile Pre for several years now, having purchased it originally for workshops I did about musicmaking using GarageBand software and needing to connect higher quality XLR vocal microphones to my Mac laptop. I’d like to purchase a new, smaller mini-DV camcorder to use with this setup, and did see one on clearance at WalMart recently for $150. One of the biggest headaches with DV camcorders, I’ve found, is that you have to have a tape in the camera AND be recording for the video camera to remain on. I’ve searched the menus on my unit for a “don’t shut off automatically, stay on all the time” feature, and haven’t found one. I’m hopeful if I purchase a new DV camcorder it will have that option. When I’m webcasting for an extended period of time (like several sessions at a conference) it’s a pain to have to use tapes. It is advantageous to have a backup copy of the presentation on DV tape, but as long as the WiFi connection is good the web-recorded version should be fine without a backup. I guess your need for a tape backup depends on how valuable the actual event recording is to you. In some cases, it could be very important to have.

Today I experimented for the first time with Ustream’s feature to put LIVE, SCROLLING TEXT as an overlay on top of your video. This was pretty cool, as I was able to add the name of the speaker, the topic, and the location where the webcast was originating.

Far and away, the most amazing thing about webcasting with Ustream is the ability to IMMEDIATELY record and web-archive an event. I’ve written about this before, and experienced it repeatedly to date, but it still never ceases to amaze me. When I worked at a university in 2001-2006, we literally spent tens of thousands of dollars to have this capability, but we could only archive videoconferences which either originated in one of our designated H.323 videoconferencing rooms or utilized a portable videoconferencing equipment setup that cost around $10,000 by itself. Immediately webcasting AND recording / archiving the event was VERY expensive, and could be fairly complicated to accomplish.

In contrast, the sum total expense of the webcasting setup I used today was (not including the Mac laptop, of course):
– $230: M-Audio Mobile Pre
– $150: Nady Wireless Mic
– $150: Digital camcorder
– $20: Firewire cable
– $20: Extension cord and power strip
– $15: Tripod
TOTAL: $585.00 (U.S.)

This may seem expensive, but given the comparative cost of webcasting solutions I’ve worked with in the past, this is VERY cheap. It’s amazing that it’s now possible to literally bring in your own bag of equipment, as I did today, and by using an available WiFi connection (or 3G cell network connection) webcast and digitally record/archive an event for a global audience. This is a phenomenal capability. It’s also amazing to think that this camcorder, when I purchased it new around 8 years ago, cost $1200. Now a MUCH higher quality and smaller digital camcorder can be purchased for just $150. Amazing.

I’m hoping to rope several other folks in with me to lead a session at EduBloggerCon on “Webcasting, Live Blogging & Backchannels.” I really enjoy learning more about “low budget webcasting” and think this offers great potential for individuals as well as organizations wanting to amplify, archive and share their story as well as the presentations of different speakers who they may host in person at different venues.

Today, my hat is off to the makers of the Nady UHF-3 Wireless lapel microphone system. I love your product, and am thrilled with the quality of the webcast I was able to record today with it! 🙂

To learn more about webcasting, check out the links and archived video from a session I’ve presented in the past titled, “Webcasting on a Shoestring.” If you’re looking for a cell phone to buy which supports webcasting, consider the Nokia N96. Hat tip to Joe Corbett for this recommendation. We’ll be using a Nokia N96 (among other tools) at NECC2009 to webcast on ISTEconnects.

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2 Responses to Lessons learned webcasting over Ustream with a Nady wireless microphone

  1. Ryan Collins says:

    The Sony digital 8 should stay on in camera mode if you don’t have a tape in it. If you have a tape in it it will shut off. I’ll try to remember to check at our HS to see if there is another setting that I’m missing. I use our old Sony D8 camcorders connected to a VHS deck when a teacher needs an unedited video of their teaching.

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    Thanks for that tip, Ryan– I will give that a try. Silly I hadn’t thought to try it without a tape!

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