A recent Wall Street Journal article, "The New Workplace Rules: No Video-Watching" written by Bobby White highlights the fact that many people are watching videos at work. It's even more interesting that the heaviest consumption of those videos takes place during the lunch hours.
I worry about this for a couple of reasons. First, if the corporate IT departments block all incoming video streams I'll be cut off from you. No more screencasts. No interesting videos. Possibly no webcast replays.
But I worry most because we have pretty grandiose plans. Everyone on my team has a HD camera. Some of us are just figuring out how to use them. We aren't experts like Ben Waggoner so it's taken longer than planned to actually create some content.
As a creator of content I'm genuinely enthused about the tools and technologies. What's not to love? Laptops and desktops are powerful. HD video cameras are almost affordable. Software is now powerful and relatively easy to use. I look at this as a tool for my job, information delivery.
What to create?
I recently developed a test video. The Windows Server 2008 Overview video is a high definition 720p video I created from scratch. This is a dress rehearsal for the tools and techniques I'm learning and honing. This particular video uses several media elements and is just over 60 minutes in length. The beginning is an introduction shot here at my home office using the Sony HD camera I have. It also incorporates Powerpoint and demonstration captures using Camtasia 5.
My Criticisms of My Video
I'm pretty critical of my work, so let me highlight some of the stuff I dislike about the video, then I'll highlight the stuff I like. Lastly, I want to ask you a few questions that will help me in the direction I am headed. Pay no attention to the outlaw at right.
In the introduction, you'll notice I start off smiling nicely enough but the tone gets all too serious. I need to drop 20 pounds. Don't we all? I'm obviously over concentrating which becomes apparent with the smirk at the end of the intro. Have you ever tried to shoot video of yourself and deliver a salient set of remarks. It isn't easy so as I practice, I'll get better.
I'm very used to walking around on stage with 30-1000 people in the audience. Trust me, talking to 1000 people is easier than looking into a camera or recording audio. Imperfections are highlighted when recorded. The lighting in the video is a little dark. It was late in the day and the sun was already almost gone. I'm thinking of shooting my future intros poolside. It'll be more fun than the office look. You'll be especially jealous if you see a perfect top shelf margarita sitting next to me.
This is the first screencast style video where I used Powerpoint. The main reason I did it was because I wanted to see what recording widescreen 1280x720 slides would look like. If you look closely on the beginning and ending slides (video bumpers), some of the graphics are slightly stretched but the Powerpoint deck looks killer. I'll fix graphics issues better in future versions of my work.
My delivery of the material is ok, not stellar. I considered recording it again but have decided that I probably won't. I have way too many subjects to cover. So I fumble my words here and there on a few of the slides. This is also true in the demonstrations. This is primarily because I just snatched the slides and went to work pretty quickly on the test and demos. I just wanted to slam something out there that would demonstrate the possibilities. See some of my motivations in the next section.
So basically you have a 60 minute video overview. The intro video is pretty good for a rookie that is learning. The slides and demos look amazing. When you are watching the video, be sure to set Windows Media Player to fit the player on resizes. Try the video full screen or at other sizes that suite you. Be sure to try the video at 100% zoom which is 1280x720. If you are using a large square 4:3 ratio monitor, you'll see black bars on the top and bottom because this is a widescreen video. Matt Hester didn't like that much.
Feedback I would like from you
I would like to learn a lot from this test, but I need your help. My intention was to create a 60 minute high definition video that I could use to test the tools, techniques, our platform(s), your ISP connection and thoughts.
When you are watching video on a subject, what is your pain threshold? Is 60 minutes too much? Many of our webcasts are 90 minutes. Do you prefer shorter bursts of say 10-20 minutes? I've been doing 5-10 minute screencast demos but when you add powerpoint, it doubles the time easily.
Do you like or dislike Powerpoint mixed with the demos? Powerpoint is a great tool for providing references, animations and other information. Would you prefer the information via a conversational video or in text via a blog post like this? How did the slides look to you?
The demos are typical of what I've been doing the past couple of years with a couple of key differences. They were shot at 1280x720 resolution instead of 1024x768. They were shot at 30 frames per second instead of 15. The bit rate for the video is much higher than any of the work I've created in the past. This is the reason the demos and slides look killer. What do you think?
How is the streaming? I've been experimenting with the various delivery platforms and I'm nowhere near done yet. I have at least two more content delivery platforms to test. This particular test is pure streaming. I've also been testing Silverlight progressive download playback and it's promising as well. This video should stream pretty well for most of you here in the US that have a 3meg or better ISP connection. It's a variable bit rate stream with a peak of 3meg. My FIOS 15/2 connection plays the video smooth as glass.
What tools do I use?
I used a variety of tools. Camtasia 5, Expression Encoder v2 Beta, Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Edition, and Windows Media Encoder were all actually used at various points to create the final video result. On the hardware side, my Sony HDR-HC7 video camera, and a Dell XPS 420 was used for the final encoding. I'll get into the details of capturing, editing and final production in a future blog post.
Call To Action
Be critical. Tell me what you dislike. Tell me what you like. Tell me how you learn. Tell me what subjects we aren't covering effectively.
[UPDATE] Here's the Silverlight version of the video. This Silverlight player is going to playback the exact stream from the link above. You have two viewing options with this player. The small version that is embedded below, and full screen. You can go full screen two ways. Either double click the player, or click the button on the far left of the player controls.