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Deconstructing The Deconstruction

The Deconstruction

This past weekend, I was involved in a pretty cool project call The Deconstruction, the brainchild of creative collaborist Jason Naumoff.

What is the Deconstruction?  It is a game about re-thinking the world as we know it, taking it apart, making a few adjustments, then putting it back together a little awesomer-er.  It’s a light-hearted competition, but it’s really more of a large-scale collaboration between friends, participants, and the public. The concept is to make the world a slightly better, more fun, and more interesting place over 48 hours.

Yes, that’s an aspirational tall order, but we pulled it off with the help of over 60 participating teams spread across six continents. The winners have yet to be officially announced, though one lucky team will walk away with a Full Spectrum laser cutter.

My role in the Deconstruction was to put together the live stream infrastructure and production. Similar to the Red Bull Creation project that I helped Jason with last year, this was to be a distributed happening. Each participating team was encouraged to live stream the builds of their creations and update their team page on the official Deconstruction site.

We setup a home base at the studios of Synergize Live here in San Francisco. Alan, who runs the space, already had much of the streaming infrastructure in place. A multi-camera studio set with a green screen, live video switchers, encoders, monitors and plenty of decent bandwidth.

The plan was to have our hosts here on set communicate often with various team members from around the globe throughout the 48 hour challenge. To do this, we needed to make a variety of technologies work well together. In the mix, on the video side, were Skype, Facetime, Google+ Hangouts, Justin.tv, Ustream, Livestream, Black Magic, Wirecast and Resolume Avenue.

Deconstruction 2013

We brought in several Mac Minis that would serve as media hubs for communicating directly with remote teams over Skype and Facetime. Based on our experiences with Red Bull Creation, we knew what we needed to do to make this work. We took the HDMI output of the Mac Mins and fed them into a live video switcher (a tower PC with several Black Magic video capture cards running Resolume Avenue) and did a little mix-minus magic on the incoming and outgoing audio feeds. This allowed our producers to make “calls” to remote team members and then bring them in live so the local hosts could communicate with them on the virtual set. It’s similar to what you might see on a newscast when anchors communicate with remote reporters in the field, though without expensive satellite trucks.

Remote teams could use whatever live stream platform they wanted, though we encouraged them to use Justin.tv if they didn’t already have an account somewhere. We made this choice because it’s easy for users to setup and stream for free. While free does mean Justin.tv inserts annoying pre-roll and mid-roll ads (as does Ustream) we were able to avoid seeing them by paying $10 for a Justin.tv Pro account. Ustream also allows for paid removal of ads, but from the broadcaster side at much greater expense. This gave us a way to inexpensively host team feeds and let us cut to them without having to worry about ads popping up mid broadcast.

We used Livestream’s “new Livestream” product for the main produced live stream which we embedded on the front page of the Deconstruction site. This worked reasonably well, though we weren’t happy with their text based chat system. While the new Livestream text chat looks good and is attached to the player, there is no way to embed it without the additional event page chrome. Also, their text chat requires a user to create a Livestream account and it censors links automatically, which sucks.

We did have the intention of making use of Google+ Hangouts and Hangouts on Air as our primary way to communicate with remote teams, but we ran into several roadblocks.  The primary problem being that Hangouts wouldn’t recognize our capture card in the live encoder. Hangouts is really meant to work with webcams and doesn’t give you much control over input options. A second big issue is that if you push a Hangout to a Hangouts on Air, which is essentially a live YouTube feed, there is no persistent URL. Also, Hangouts are limited to 4 hours. We worked with our friends at Google to try and make this work for us, but the product just isn’t ready for the type of event we wanted to pull off. We’ll revisit Google+ Hangouts next time.

All told, we pulled off a successful global decentralized, multi-participant fun live event using an assortment of disperate technologies. Have a look at some of the final videos of what people built over those 48 hours.

 

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DEFCON Documentary Overview

Venture Beat ran this nice piece on the DEFCON 20 Documentary that I helped shoot for Jason Scott back in July of this year. He’s editing it like a madman now with an expected release date before Christmas. I’ve seen some of the rough clips, I know it’s going to be quite the visual feast with tons of in-depth interviews. If you’re into hacking culture in the slightest, this will be a must see. Here’s the teaser trailer.

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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.

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Interviewed for the Sound Design Live Podcast

I was interviewed recently by Nathan Lively for the Sound Design Live podcast. We cover the state of live streaming, what it takes to get started, remote wireless live streaming and how to communicate with potential clients about streaming. Detailed show notes are over on Nathan’s post. Here’s a link to the SF Bay Area Webcasters and Live Video Streamers Meetup group I mention.

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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!

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Ustream update – 10 months out

Well that was a fun ride. After 10 months of heading up Production Services at Ustream, I’m now back to contractor status. I’m still doing some work for Ustream, now as a consulting producer for specific events. The good news is no more project management, sales calls and contract herding. The bad news, no more free delicious daily organic lunches or stock options. I know, first world problems. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had over the last year and really enjoyed producing high profile live events for Ustream, some of which are listed below. The future is bright, though I’ve lost my cheap shades. If you’re looking for some help with streaming an event, feel free to drop me a line.

Here’s some of the notable live broadcasts I’ve produced or consulted on for Ustream:

Snoop gets ready to blow
Zynga Mafia Wars armored truck explosion with Snoop Dogg (2 million views)

Cloudy w/a shocking chance of Katy Perry
Katy Perry album cover art unveiling

Adriana Lima - Ustream
Russell James photo shoot with Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2010 week
Chad Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch
Taylor Swift 13 hour fan meet and greet in Nashville
PacSun Beach Ballyhoo festival in Santa Monica
SXSW Music 2010 showcases & Ustream party w/Gym Class Heroes
TechCrunch Disrupt conference
2K Games unveiling of Duke Nukem Forever at Penny Arcade eXpo 2010
Emmy Awards 2010 backstage live event
Deftones LIVE from Dallas album webcast
Damian Marley webchat at Ustream’s SF office

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Viral Videos in the Redwoods

Last weekend, I hosted a viral video night with meme master Jamie Wilkinson at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur. I’ve long wanted to do an event at this magical, redwood enclosed, roadside oasis. The Library is a destination I’ve often visited since moving to the west coast 13 years ago. In recent years, their small outdoor stage has been host to some high profile performers, including Neil Young, Animal Collective, The xx, Laurie Anderson, Henry Rollins & Jello Biafra to name a few. I felt it quite an honor when Magnus Toren, long time friend and director of the Library, invited me to put together an “Internet video night.”

Over the course of 3 hours, Jamie and I took the audience on a show and tell tour of some popular Internet videos that have become memes. I presented first and focused on 4 videos which each have spawned a whole slew of remixes, mashups, animations, reinterpretations and songs. Jamie then presented a series of videos of kids doing embarrassing things on the Internet followed by what happens when kids feed the trolls. The evening was well received and I know we’ll do more of these in the future. Here’s the 4 original videos I focused on with links to each of the remix/mashup/song videos that I followed with.

Double Rainbow Guy

01 Oh My God! song
02 Auto-Tune song
03 2001: A Space Odyssey remix
04 Ft. Boyard remix
05 Taco Bell/KFC inspired
06 Hungry Bear’s Cagefight
07 Hungry Bear’s Wild Turkeys

Insane Clown Posse – Miracles

01 Saturday Night Live parody
02 Juggalo News
03 Magnetism Explained
04 Glad Plugin mashup
05 Fuckin’ magnets, fuckin’ rainbows

Epic Beard Man

01 Critical commentary
02 Animated reinterpretation
03 Epic Beard Man in Mortal Kombat
04 Epic Beard Man’s Punchout for Nintendo
05 Epic Beard Man Tased at A’s Game

Amber Lamps

01 Hey There, Amber Lamps
02 Amber Lamps Song Tribute
03 Animated, Techno Amber Lamps
04 Black Betty, Amber Lamps