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Producing Live Streams for Red Bull Creation

Red Bull Creation was a fun project that I recently had the pleasure of coordinating the live stream production for. The project called for an extensive video live stream production that included 14 live feeds from around the country, over a 72-hour period, non-stop.

Here’s one description of the project:

Think of it as the world’s coolest science fair – Red Bull Creation asked makers, inventors, and hackers to participate in a 72-hour frenzy of innovation, madness and ingenuity as 12 teams from around the USA engineered mind-boggling creations centred around a single theme.

RBC Live Control Center

The theme was ‘a game of games.’ Each of the 12 teams had to design and build their own physical game that could be played and exhibited in a public space. The winning team got $10,000 and a trip to this year’s World Maker Faire in New York. Three other top teams also won slots at Maker Faire.

At the TechShop Annex in San Francisco, we setup a live studio set that would act as the “nerve center” for the RBC project. Over the course of the 72-hour challenge, hosts Mike Senese and Tyler Hanson would go live, talk show style, checking in with the 12 teams to see how their builds were coming along. To accomplish this, we used a combination of Skype and Facetime conversations with team members that we fed into and switched live using our Newtek Tricaster 850.

Here’s the technical rundown.

The 12 competing teams around the country were each sent a kit that contained a Logitech C920 webcam, a Blue Snowball microphone, a tripod and a getting started guide on getting it all set up. The 12 teams each had their own Livestream channel to broadcast their builds over the 72-hour period. We had a dashboard at the nerve center that allowed us to see all 12 streams at any given moment, giving us a bird’s eye view on all teams progress.

Red Bull Creation - 12 teams

The Tricaster 850 sat in the center of our production. It was our live video switcher, graphics source, lower thirds titler, DVR, Apple AirPlay host, encoder, streamer and recorder. All content we were producing locally and remotely ultimately flowed into it before we sent it back out live on the primary Red Bull Creation Livestream feed. Two studio cameras were set up sending us 720p HD video. A Mac Mini and a PC each fed HDMI out into an AJA HDMI to SDI mini-converter, giving us HD-SDI inputs into the Tricaster. Tyler was also able to VJ music videos using his iPad. He’d cue up a YouTube video and send it to the Tricaster as a network input via Apple AirPlay over the wifi network.

When Tyler and Mike were not on set checking in with the teams live, we would pipe in various team feeds and switch them live to the main feed. We did this using the same Mac Mini and PC we used for Skype and Facetime conversations during the live shows.

Here’s a thorough accounting of the technology we used:
– 1 NewTek Tricaster 850
– 2 Sony EX1 video cameras
– 1 TVU Networks TM8100 remote cellular broadcast pack (with 10 cellphone aircards across 4 networks)
– 3 Apple Mac Minis
– 2 modern home built PCs w/Intel i7 processors
– 1 Apple iPad
– 14 Livestream channels on 2 network accounts
– 20Mb/s bi-directional Internet connection by awesome local ISP MonkeyBrains.net
– 2 AJA HA5 HDMI to SDI Mini-Converters
– 8 various LCD and LED monitors
– 1 Mackie Onyx 1620i recording mixer
– 2 Sennheiser ew100 ENG G3 wireless lav mics and 1 handheld mic
– A variety of Kino Flo Diva-Lites and ARRI studio
lights
– 1 Gamelatron Robotic Orchestra
– 3 days of setup and testing

Glenn, mobile broadcaster

Some things we learned:

Livestream’s plugin for Tricaster is buggy. We experienced major audio sync issues when enabling this. Livestream’s premium support was immediately available but unfortunately didn’t have a fix, so we just went with the old fashioned way of using a single bitrate Flash Media Encoder profile. The plugin would have allowed us to offer multiple bitrates to viewers.
– AJA’s HA5 HDMI to SDI Mini-converter doesn’t work with the latest Mac Minis with Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 chipset. AJA’s support was very responsive, but this wasn’t a known issue until we brought it to them. Apparently this model of Mac Mini has an HDMI port that is actually a DVI connection, not true HDMI. This is fine when the port is used for monitors but sucks for applications that actually require true HDMI spec video such as these mini-converters. Apparently, the higher end Mac Minis with the AMD Radeon HD graphics chipset output true HDMI, thus work fine with the AJA HA5.
– We had some serious line noise coming from one of the Mac Minis that we couldn’t readily eliminate. We acquired an inline noise filter device and that pretty much did the trick.
– The TVU Pack is a great product and worked as advertised, though we should have spent a bit more time testing it before we went live with it. We had some issues with 16:9 aspect video being squeezed to 4:3 on the other end.
– Not every YouTube video plays nicely over Apple AirPlay for some reason.
– Skype and Facetime are great ways of patching in remote guests, though quality really varies among locations and networks. Still, it was better than our initial expectations.
– Sleep really is helpful sometimes.
– You won’t explode from drinking too much Red Bull. Really.

Here’s some nice press from Wired.

Dead Drop in Former NSA Spy Station

While in Berlin, I had met up with @tbx for a dead drop install. Documented in photos and this video.

Dead Drop Installed at Abandoned U.S. Spy Station in Berlin from ekai on Vimeo.

MakerBot TV Launches!

I’m proud to announce the birth of MakerBot.TV, a new online web video series that I co-produced covering all things awesome in the world of MakerBot.

I spent most of July and August working out of MakerBot’s Brooklyn Headquarters (the BotCave) to concept, staff and launch this new series. Working with long-time pal Bre Pettis, MakerBot’s cofounder, CEO and former video superstar himself, we set to work on coming up with a new 12 to 14 episode weekly series that would appeal to current MakerBot owners and non-owners alike.

The show has to be entertaining, informative, tell great stories and appeal to a wide audience. The first thing we did was set about finding the perfect person to bring in full-time as MakerBot’s Video Superstar. This was not an easy search as the role demanded not just a great on-screen presence, but someone who can think creatively, quickly, knows online video production, is a great editor and isn’t freaked out by deadlines. After almost a month of searching, we hired Annelise Jeske.

MakerBot.TV just launched, the new weekly online video series I co-produced about all things MakerBot.

Annelise is perfect for the role. She’s got a cool sense about things, is very creative, driven, and didn’t freak out when I threw Final Cut X at her and said “you’ll be using this.” Once Annelise was on board, she and I set to work to concept out the various segments, branding, music and story ideas.

MakerBot’s 3D printers aren’t just a product, they’re a lifestyle. While still arguably in the early adopter and hobbyist days, these robots are part of an ecosystem that is exploding with creative use and potential. To own a MakerBot Thing-o-Matic isn’t to just own a machine that makes replacement parts for your home. It’s about being part of something much bigger. It’s about being part of a fast growing segment of humans who are using shared ideas, designs, software and hardware to build upon the greatness of others. Call it the DIY movement, the maker movement, whatever. It’s about solving problems, learning, creating and ultimately sharing knowledge with others like you.

MakerBot has spawned a growing community of people who share their 3D designs on an open website called Thingiverse. If you design a bicycle mobile phone mount or coat hook, you can share those designs on Thingiverse and others will build upon them to improve or make variants of them. This is exciting stuff, because that means as a new MakerBot owner, you have access to thousands of products that you can print out at any time. There’s new models posted all the time, so we’re doing a regular segment called Thingiverse Roundup that focuses on cool stuff found here.

MakerBot TV launches!

Annelise has experience doing stop motion animation, so we quickly decided that the opening sequence and segment IDs should be animated using printed models and letters. We saw Tony Buser‘s Bob the Bobblehead robot appear in the office one day and knew we needed to incorporate him into the show.

As a result of Bre’s appearance on the Colbert Report, MakerBot has been scanning the heads of friendly hackers, thinkers, writers, artists and musicians with a high resolution 3D scanner. These scans can be printed out to render a perfect plastic bust thus giving us our Notables segment.

There’s so much more to come. I’m really happy with our debut episode, which features much head scanning when the organizers and artists from the AfroPunk Festival stopped by MakerBot’s workshop. Angelo Moore from the band Fishbone and Reggie Watts are two of the artists who are featured. An excellent model of Yoda and a multi-piece Sword of Omens are featured in the Thingiverse Roundup segments. Future episodes will focus on interesting creators, artists and events in the ever expanding universe of affordable 3D printing.

My role was primarily getting MakerBot TV off the ground. It’s in Annelise’s very capable hands now. The show has tremendous momentum, support from the whole MakerBot staff and a universe of stories that have yet to be told. I’m proud of what we’ve produced and very excited at what’s to come. Please tune in, subscribe and tell your friends. It’s going to be an awesome ride!

Hiring MakerBot Online Video Superstar

I’m spending the next 6 weeks in Brooklyn helping to launch a new video series for MakerBot Industries, makers of your friendly, low cost, desktop 3d printer. We’re looking to a hire a kick ass Online Video Superstar to be the face of this new series and to ultimately take over the daily production aspects of the show. If your passionate about robots, video production and DIY culture, this might just be your dream job. Please apply as we’re looking to hire for this position immediately.

Video Discovery Now More Fun

I’ve had the pleasure of beta testing a couple new video services that launched this week. Both make Internet video discovery, viewing, collecting and sharing a lot more fun.

Showyou: Watch videos from your friends

Today, Showyou hits the app store for iPhone and iPad. Showyou is an app that helps you discover videos that your friends and followers on social networks are sharing. That in itself isn’t anything new, the magic is the user experience. On an iPad, you can easily just kick back and glide across a matrix of nothing but videos from your social networks, currently Twitter, Facebook and Vodpod. When you’ve watched a video you like, you can share it with other Showyou users or comment on it within Showyou or on Twitter and Facebook where you may have first found it. There’s also a send “thanks” button, which is sort of similar to “liking” a video by notifying the originator that they’re awesome.

The creators of Showyou is Remixation, the same fine people behind Vodpod, the video collection & sharing service that up until now, was all web and widget based (see mine to the right of this post). One other really cool thing about Showyou is that if you have an Apple TV, you can send the videos that you find straight to your TV over AirPlay. This essentially turns your iPhone/iPad into a very pleasing remote control (who the hell needs 90 buttons anyway?)

On Monday, VHX launched their public beta. VHX is also a video discovery, viewing, collecting and sharing service but fundamentally different in a few ways from Showyou. VHX is all about the lean-back uninterrupted experience in your web browser (for now). As soon as you log into VHX, a video starts playing. So does the next one and the next one and so on. VHX creates a full-screen, TV like experience in your browser from videos shared by you and your friends. You can add videos to your VHX queue with bookmarklets. You see something you like while trolling the net, simply share it or save it for later viewing. Right now, only YouTube and Vimeo videos are supported, but expect that to change as VHX evolves through their beta. VHX comes from the creative minds of Jamie Wilkinson, formerly of Know Your Meme and Rocketboom and Casey Pugh, formerly of Vimeo and Boxee.

Bladerunner in Your Browser

The latest lob in the browser war happened yesterday with Mozilla releasing Firefox 4. It’s a big speed improvement, has a streamlined slick new interace and doesn’t seem nearly as bloated as previous versions. Best thing of all, it’s full of HTML5 goodness that makes it easy to develop rich, interactive sites.

The coolest demo I’ve seen in Firefox 4 by far is Flight of the Navigator, which quite literally looks like Bladerunner rendered in 3D in your browser in real-time. Yes, real hardware accelerated 3D rendering with simple HTML code. It’s like VRML but without the plugins and 1000x the processing power. Cool things to look out for in this demo are photos pulled in from Flickr, tweets pulled into scrolling text bars and YouTube videos mapped to virtual TV screens. Like I said, Bladerunner! It just needs more androids.

Flight Of The Navigator

Flight Of The Navigator

A Look Back at the Early Days of Twitter

Today’s the fifth birthday of Twitter, a service that has fundamentally changed the way humans communicate on this planet. The power of Twitter to help foment revolution, change regimes and amplify insane celebrity voices is well documented by now. Living in San Francisco, the epicenter of much Internet innovation, I’ve been lucky to witness and participate in the rise (and fall) of dozens of Internet-based services.

At the end of 2006, I was working for a web video company called PodTech, along with my Geek Entertainment TV cofounder, Irina Slutsky. One of the shows I was tasked to produce was called LunchMeet, a web series where we interview founders of tech startups and get them to do a product demo for us. For episode 11, we visited Twitter’s first San Francisco office on December 1st, 2006. Twitter was barely a 9 month old toddler at the time. Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams sat down with us for about 10 minutes to give us the history, vision and idea around Twitter. Jack then gave me an on camera demo (skip to 9:05) of what the product looked like back then. It’s pretty telling on a lot of levels. SMS and IM were very much an integral part of the platform, there were no rounded corners, the term ‘firehose’ didn’t exist and @Jack had a mere 90 followers at the time.

Enjoy the trip back in time and please excuse my amateur on-camera performance. I’ve always been more comfortable behind the camera. Happy birthday Twitter! –@ekai

The Atomic Level of Porn

At monochrom‘s Arse Elektronika conference last week in San Francisco, computer historian and agitator of Internet trolls everywhere, Jason Scott gave a brilliant in-depth look back on the early days of computer rendered pornography. From early line printers generating monochromatic pinups with X’s to blocky pixelated 80’s video games with box covers much more alluring than the game play, Jason runs the gamut. Here’s the video I shot of it with Jason’s slides inserted.

Littlefield Tank Tour + Oilpunk Boiler Bar on BBV

Two more fun videos I had the pleasure of shooting for Boing Boing Video went up recently. First is a tour of the amazing Littlefield tank museum. From BB:

In today’s edition of Boing Boing Video, guest-host Todd Lappin explores a massive collection of historical military vehicles tanks collected by an eccentric Silicon Valley multimillionaire. The recently-departed Jacques Littlefield amassed one of the world’s largest and most significant collections of this type, and his collection is now overseen by the nonprofit Military Vehicle Technology Foundation.

The second video is of Jon Sarriugarte’s sexy burlesque and oil and fire fueled Boiler Bar event. Includes a great interview and demonstration from old school blacksmith Shawn Lovell. The video really has it all: sexy burlesque dancers, fire, steam powered car, blacksmithing w/lots of fire, snail car w/fire and fireworks w/more fire.

Dance Dance Immolation on Boing Boing Video

Featured today on Boing Boing Video is this excellent piece I shot of pals at Interpretive Arson, creators of the fire-in-your-face DDR reimagined Dance Dance Immolation. Charis and Aaron, also pals, prove to be perfect hosts and fire dance guinea pigs.

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