WestreamU production featured at VidBlaster’s front page

Screen dump of VidBlaster.comWe are extremealy proud to recognize that one of WestreamU’s productions is featured on VidBlaster’s new front page, as a part of that fantastic live production software’s upgrade to a new version.

Yesterday VidBlaster, the production tool we mainly use for our live productions, launched a new release version. The release of VidBlaster v3 is a major upgrade from v2, offering many new features as well as a number of innovations for efficiency improvements.

The launch also encompasses a lot of new VidBlaster forum topics, a host of revisions in the VidBlaster documentation wiki, and a revised VidBlaster home page and store.

In an earlier blogpost we described Behind the scene at PTS’s very accessible livecast. That video, which is the one featured at VidBlaster.com, documented a production with the old VidBlaster v2.

We are now looking forward to start our migration to v3. This task will take at least a month, as we want to make sure that all our implementations and hardware works flawelessly with the update. As our productions demonstrate, we make the most out of VidBlaster using a complex and somewhat delicate setup.

Our dance partner can do some brave new steps, but it takes two to tango…

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Behind the scene at PTS’s very accessible livecast

Last week WestreamU did a live streamed video production that besides the normal video included versions with captions, audio descriptions and sign interpretation. One of the speakers was Eva Hamilton (Managing Director at Swedish Television). The producer mixing her was Alexandra Sandberg (a 14 year old high school student).

The customer in this case was PTS, The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority. Viewers could select which stream they wanted to follow at one of the live video players at pts.solidtango.com. Here is a video from behind the scenes:

Everything was mixed and recorded live using VidBlaster, capblaster and the technologies we have developed for live signing and audio descriptions (the latter not documented yet). Live streaming services were provided by Solidtango AB. Writing interpeters were Maria Westin (Svensk Meditetext AB) and Terese Åkerberg (Tolk & Text Stockholm). The sign interpreters and audio describer were provided remotely by Örebro interpretation centre. The team from Westreamu were Henrik Gatarski and Saga Glauser (camera), Alexandra Sandberg (camera and mixers), and Richard Gatarski (mixers and executive producer).

Afterwards we did some minor post production in order to publish all recordings for on demand viewing. This included simply cutting off leading and ending material, and converting and re-syncing the recorded captions. It was also decided to redo the audio descriptions, since there was too few quiet moments during the live event.

All sessions are now available on PTS’s YouTube-channel as three separate playlists: normal, sign interpretation, audio descriptions. The two former have closed captions.

We are very proud of the honor to produce video from such an important event. And would like to thank all of those who helped us to create the fantastic result.

Of course there is still room for improvements. And we welcome all suggestions and comments.

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Highlight from SIME 2012

We were very priviliged and honored to be asked by the organizers of SIME Stockholm to livecast this years amazing event. As our main focus is to produce at ”small and medium sized events”, this task was kind of exceptional. Not only in the sense that it turned out to be our premiere for a high quality HD production, but also because we got the assignment on a very short notice (two days before ;). Soon we will share how we did it, and our experiences, in a dedicatet customer case page.

Meanwhile, enjoy the first Highlight from SIME 2012. The video below (also available on SIME’s YouTube channel) is the unedited local recording from our live production. In other words, what you see is basically what was livecasted via Solidtango. Please note that the in house AV was managed by Informationsteknik, who provided us with camera and ppt feeds.


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The tech behind our cool wireless camera

For quite a while I have searched for a low cost and effective solution to go wireless, without sacrifying video quality. After many trials, errors, and costly experimentation I finally ended up with a working solution.

See for yourself in the video clip DIY wireless ‘n steady cam I produced yesterday evening. I recorded to wmv, the livestreamed version is archived at Bambuser.

Later I might publish a longer blog post describing everything in detail. Until then, here are the main parts:

  • VidBlaster 2.21, set to 1920×1080 @25 fps
  • Streaming to Bambuser, 1280×720, h.264 @ 1184 kpbs
  • Asus P9X79 Workstation motherboard
  • Intel i7 3960X
  • Asus GTX560
  • Canon Legria HF M406, 1080i, HDMI wireless to BM Intensity Pro
  • JVC GH30, 720p, HDMI cable to BM Intensity Pro
  • Noname GBS-331-02 HD Wireless HDMI
  • Makita power tool 7.2V battery
  • Recom R-78B5.0-1.5 Switched regulator (convert from 7.2 V)
  • Makita battery charger (converted to a holder and voltage regulator)

A few notes:

Most of the tearing (occiasional horizontal ”cuts”) is likely caused by the cameras’ different video resolutions/interlacing, and not the wireless part.

In the video I said that the stream could be seen live on an iPhone. Unfortunately I forgot to check that, so finding that out is a another story. Although the archived version can indeed be watched on iOS, it is in reduced resolution.

But it is really true that we have used the gear in question at earlier occasions. Most recently at an outdoor seminar in Almedalen for Ratio and at a mingling event at H+K Strategies Stockholm office.

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How SymbioCity in Japanese became livecasted

Screen dump from livecast showing Minister for Trade Ewa BjörlingHow on earth can the Swedish Minister of Trade on visit in Tokyo be seen and heard all over the world, with simultaneous translation into Japanese? Of course there is a lot of complex technology being used. But also some smart planning and cheap tricks. Here is part of the story behind an interesting case.

The Tokyo branch of INVEST SWEDEN assist Japanese companies who are considering a new establishment or an expansion of its business in Sweden, or in the Northern Europe Market with Sweden as a base. Invest Sweden organize many interesting seminars, of which some take place at the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo.

In September 2011 Johan Ronnestam visited Japan, including the Swedish Embassy (as evident on for example Flickr). There he met Martin Koos (@mkoos), who wanted to improve the way he was livestreaming different seminars. So, via e-mail Johan on the spot introduced me to Martin.

Least to say Martin Koos is on a very limited budget for this kind of activites. Early in the fall of 2011 we discussed different possibilities over e-mail and Skype. It’s kind of cool to have a breakfast table video conference at home with the Swedish embassy in Tokyo :). More recently, as January 2012 was coming to its end, Martin contacted me again for some last minute questions. He had purchased a new powerful laptop, a camera, and some other gear. The question now was how to put all this together, with a decent aestethical appeal and powerpoint integration.

Invest Sweden wanted to premiere their new livestreaming style today, during the SymbioCity Seminar at Swedish Embassy. Among the speakers were Sweden’s Minister for Trade Ewa Björling who visits Japan to showcase Swedish solutions for sustainable cities, along with Swedish food and music.

I recommended Martin which version of VidBlaster to use, and to purchase some additional devices and cables that would allow him to integrate the screen projections into the live stream. As the seminar was being translated into Japanese, he was simply going to connect one of the wireless translation receivers to his production laptop. I warned Martin that because such receivers are typically mono channel devices, he might be sending audio in only one of the channels. A mono to stereo adapter could fix that.

Hand drawing of interconnected audio Last Friday, while commuting to work early in the morning, I got an e-mail from Martin which started: ”Good morning, I am in Akihabara and have found everything except the audio adapter. Please advice…”. We connected over Skype and I tried to describe how he instead could connect a few common cables. But it was hard to explain orally. While entering the store of Lindqvist Radio TV (where I was purchasing some cards for another customer of Westreamu), I borrowed pen and paper to make a drawing. When done I grabbed my mobile, took a picture, and e-mailed it to Martin. That did the trick! But a little bit later I realised that the Edirol M-10MX mixer would be better solution. And of course Martin immediately found one at Akihabara.

Today was the big day, and it all went very well, as you can see here in the embedded version of the archived livecast from the SymbioCity seminar.

All in all I am deeply impressed by how Martin Koos managed to put all this together. If you have ever been close to putting up a multiple camera live production with graphics and web integration, you know how complicated it is. As far as I can tell everything went the way it was supposed to go.

I am as I am, so I had to find something to improve. And I did, although not much (while realizing I have done the same mistakes myself ;)

Here are two pieces of general advice, stemming from Martin’s inspiring work in Tokyo:

  1. Specify the time zone. When you livestream you potentially reach a global audience. Tokyo is 8 hours ahead of Stockholm. Therefore, announcements and information about times (e.g. an overlay stating ”Seminar will continue at 16.00″) needs a longitudinal reference (e.g. ”… at 16.00 JST”). For more info about local times, see for example Timeanddate.com.
  2. Alwas consider the post live linking. Martin chose to set up a live page at http://www.investsweden.se/live. A good choice (for a discussion about that, and alternatives, see Samla er webbtv på en sida (in Swedish). Their live page is mainly in Japanese, with the schedule spelled out in English too. I wanted to link to that schedule, as it also specifies speaker names and the contents of the presentations. Unfortunately that url (http://www.investsweden.se/live#english) will most likely lead to something else next time Invest Sweden goes live. Therefore, always prepare for some kind of documentation page, with a unique url.

Screen dump from English text schedule a live page

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At the Swedish Government Offices

Today we were honored to produce the live web video cast when a new strategy for supporting people with disabilities was launched by Handisam (Swedish Agency for Disability Policy Coordination) and The Swedish Government Offices. The speakers included Maria Larsson (Minister for Children and the Elderly) and Hillevi Engström (Minister for Employment). Archived versions of the livecasts are avialable (in Swedish) via http://handisam.se/webbtv.

During the production I filmed a short ”behind the scenes” video clip with my mobile (Samsung Galaxy S II). The clip features (ignore a couple of Swedish words in the beginning) the scene, our main production PC running VidBlaster and my Asus Eee Pad Transformer on which I checked that all the channels were up and running. Warning! don’t try this at work, you might mess things up (we missed moving a camera and I forgot to remove a lower third).

To summarize, in addition to produce a ”normal” livecast (three cameras, powerpoints, and some graphics), we also produced live captioning (using remote capblaster), sign interpreters (two channels, local with ZignPlayer and remote chroma keying), and live audio descriptions. It all rocked!

[Update 2011-08-25]: I forgot to mention that everything was streamed using the excellent services from Bambuser.



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