This afternoon and evening my daughter and her 4th grade classmates presented a shortened version of “The Wizard of Oz.” I joined the throngs of parents video-recording the afternoon performance, but opted to use Ustream Producer software (free) and my AT&T 3G wireless card to webcast and record the 42 minute performance. Previously, I have used the browser-based Ustream broadcaster interface as well as the iPhone Ustream Broadcaster app to webcast. I positioned a wireless microphone near one of the speakers used during the performance, so I did pick up all the dialog as well as singing, but unfortunately I did not monitor my audio levels well and the recording peaked out making much of the audio distorted. I extracted this 1 minute, 14 second excerpt from the Ustream recording (using MPEG Streamclip) and posted this to YouTube with the title, “The Wicked Witch of the West (Sarah) confronts Dorothy and Glenda.” This was by far, in my own admittedly biased opinion, the highlight of the entire performance!
Overall I am very disappointed at the quality of this recording, because the audio is simply too distorted. I did receive feedback in the Ustream channel chat room during the performance (which I greatly appreciated) letting me know the audio levels needed to be adjusted. As a result, later in the performance the distortion is a LITTLE less.
There are a number of “lessons learned” from this webcasting experience.
First of all, I certainly need to do a better job monitoring audio levels. I used my M-Audio Mobile Pre along with my Nady wireless microphone to bring the audio into my computer, but wasn’t watching the audio levels on the Mobile Pre initially. It was “peaking out” (showing audio levels into the red/distorted range) early in the performance, but that wasn’t something I was watching or checking until it was brought to my attention by a viewer later. There is a LOT to manage when webcasting a performance like this, especially when you need to pan and zoom the camera to follow the action. In an ideal world, it would be best to work with someone else and have one person designated as the sound engineer as well as chat stream moderator. If I was doing this again, I definitely would try and reduce my audio levels on the mixer / Mobile Pre. The audio level within Ustream Producer always looked fine (never went into the orange / red zone) but the audio was already distorted when it came into Ustream.
The number one thing I was pleased about today was the fact that by using Ustream Producer software, instead of the browser-based interface, the entire recording was archived as a single, uninterrupted file. In the past when I’ve webcasted over the local 3G cellular network, my bandwidth has been intermittently reduced and that has sometimes resulted in multiple Ustream archive video files. This is irritating. I am not positive, but it appears the Ustream Producer application does a better job buffering video and insuring the online archive is complete / not divided into pieces.
I wish Ustream Producer created a local archive of the video, as well as recording the online version. Live Stream Procaster software, which works on the Livestream network (not Ustream) DOES create a local video file as well as the web-based one, I think. Perhaps that is a feature Ustream Broadcaster will add at some point.
I also appreciate the way Ustream Producer permits webcasters to stream the computer’s desktop, without using third party software like CamTwist. I did not use that functionality today, but certainly would if I used this for my “Technology 4 Teachers” lecturecasts.
I regret my initial use of Ustream Producer didn’t result in a higher quality recording, but it IS still remarkable that this type of webcasting and web-based video archiving is available at all FOR FREE. See my post, “Week 2 Lecturecasting with Ustream, Blip.tv and MPEGstreamclip” for more info about my lecturecasting procedures and equipment that I’m using this semester for T4T. I used the same equipment for today’s webcast of “The Wizard of Oz,” except I used Ustream Producer software instead of the browser-based option.
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