Pecha Kucha Vancouver: Kris Krüg

Kris Krüg kicks off Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver volume #5 with his take on where open media, open culture and open software standards are taking us. His themes are particularly close to our hearts here at Singular Productions. Favorite quotes: "If you don't stick it on the internet, it didn't actually happen," and, "Our biggest danger isn't piracy or having our work stolen, it's actually obscurity and being irrelevant."


The Levelator chosen as Friday Favorite

The Unofficial Apple Weblog has chosen The Levelator as their Friday Favorite. This app is the "friend to podcasters everywhere" that my company, Singular Software, developed in partnership with the Conversations Network. It levels out the audio in spoken word recordings by performing "a small miracle". For free! Thanks TUAW, for encouraging podcasters to make the lives of everyone's ears a little better.


Social Media Mores for the Modern Couple

How does your online life affect the relationship with your significant other in real life? Maybe you communicate to your wife in a blog post because it's easier than in person? Do you have an agreement with your SO about what is or is not within bounds?

Two couples who have been online for years talk about how they manage it in this funny and thoughtful session from Northern Voice 2009. Putting it all out there for us are Kate Trgovac and Rosemary Rowe, and Airdrie and Derek K. Miller.

Update: Can't believe I didn't mention the very capable moderation by and contributions from Julie Szabo. (Sorry Julie!)

[Note: The audio is a bit rough at the beginning but it gets better a few minutes in.]


Behind the Scenes with "Sock Puppets, Spammers and Trolls"

The recording and editing of this session followed the procedure discussed here. Very straightforward. It is nice to get such acceptable results from such a simple setup.

Behind the Scenes with "Where Do I Live Online?"

This session was pretty simple: a single camera with an on-camera mic and an Olympus WS210S tossed on a table in front of the presenters. I cleaned up the Olympus audio in the "usual" way. It was good enough that I completely replaced the camera audio with it after synchronizing.

Sock Puppets, Spammers and Trolls

How should you handle angry comments on your blog? How can you recognize the various types of undesirable commenters named in the title? This panel discussion from Northern Voice 2009 has the answers. There are some new insights into the mind of the commenter and suggestions on how to respond (or not respond) from people who have been there. Rebecca Bollwitt and David Eaves lead the way.

Listen to the audio here. (Right-click to download)

[Update: Some technical info on the recording/editing process is here.]


Where Do I Live Online?

Sure, you've heard of blogging and twittering, but there are many other places where people have a presence online. How do they choose to appear: anonymously, pseudonymously or as themselves? From Facebook to knitting communities to fan fiction, this very interactive session covers it all. The panelists are Lauren Wood, Kim Adamson-Sharpe, Hilary Genders, and Tim Bray. From Northern Voice 2009.

Listen to the audio. (Right-click to download.)

[Update: Some technical notes on the recording/editing process are here.]

Behind the Scenes with "Bring Your Blog to Life"

When you show people recordings of themselves, they are inevitably appalled and overly critical of their performance. I am no exception. When it came time to edit my presentation from Northern Voice, I was not happy with the number of um's and ah's. I vowed to edit them all out. The ostensible reason is that it would make the presentation more pleasant to listen to, but it was probably mostly just vanity.

But there was some technical interest too. How to edit um's out of video was asked during my presentation and after some fumbling, we came up with the answer: paste some room tone over the um's. Although I have done tons of this kind of editing for audio, video is different: you can't just cut it out or the video will have a visual discontinuity that would be jarring.

So I took my own advice, looked for a quiet passage in the audio and saved it out to a separate file. Whenever I encountered an um, I would copy a section of the appropriate length from this file and pasted it over the um. By doing a little crossfade at the edges of the paste, the edit was audibly undetectable. And since your mouth doesn't move much when you um, you don't really notice that the sound is missing.

The concept is straightforward but the procedure quickly becomes very tedious. I used Adobe Audition for the edits and wrote a script to automate the process. Audition's scripting capabilities were too limited for the job so I used an absolutely stunningly wonderful scripting program called AutoHotkey. The end result was very nice. You select the region of audio containing the um, press a button and the rest happens automatically. It even leaves the cursor in position to play some preroll so you can hear how the edit sounds in context.

The script proved so easy to use that I also cleaned up breathing sounds and other intrusive mouth noises. I will post the script to our website eventually, but if you're in a hurry drop me a note and I'll send it to you.

Most of the rest of the time on the audio was spent cleaning up the interference on the wireless mics. Ugh. And I brought the audience Q&A sound up so you could hear it better. One test viewer said it was still too hard to hear, so I put brief summaries of what the audience was saying in text in the lower third.


Behind the Scenes with "Coping Digitally"

Coping Digitally was one of the most straightforward videos from Northern Voice so far: a single camera with on-camera audio. The audio came from a camera-mounted shotgun mic. The voices sound distant, but they are intelligible.

I couldn't resist fiddling with the sound and it made a big improvement. This was all done in Adobe Audition, but I am getting better with Soundtrack Pro and may do the next project with that.

Here are the steps:
  1. Noise reduction: Fortunately there was a quiet passage to use for the noise profile. That was a bit lucky though. Note to videographers: always record more than you think you need and make sure you get some "room tone" (background sound when no one is speaking). Noise reduction can be tricky but in this case it worked out well without a lot of fiddling.
  2. EQ: The voices sounded very thin and distant. I boosted a region around 200Hz by about 6dB to fatten them up a bit.
  3. Limiting: There were lots of door slams, microphone bumps, etc. The Levelator (see step 5) can cope with this, but some of the spikes were pretty extreme so I helped it out by doing a limiting step. I find that if I use the "gather statistics" option in Audition to limit no more than .05% of the samples, I can boost the gain a fair amount and it is inaudible.
  4. Bandpass filter: A technique I picked up from working with the Conversations Network is to routinely bandpass filter spoken word content between 80Hz-10KHz. There's no useful information outside that band and it just cleans things up a bit for downstream processing.
  5. Levelator: Last step was to apply The Levelator. It did a good job of evening out the quite varied levels of the presenters and making the audience Q&A audible.
The end result is pretty listenable, IMHO, especially given the simple setup.


Coping Digitally

Mental illness is increasingly acknowledged openly and publicly. This panel talks about how social media is playing a new role in the discussion. Airdrie Miller, Isabella Mori and Tod Maffin tell their stories in this session from Northern Voice 2009.

Listen to the audio. (Right-click to download.)


Bring Your Blog to Life (complete)

How do you get started creating audio and video for the web? Here is my talk from Northern Voice 2009 where I answer that question. Aimed at the beginner, it covers the end-to-end process of choosing equipment, recording, editing and publishing. I made very specific recommendations for each step so that someone who wants to try their hand at new media would have a good starting point. The audience knew lots of things that I didn't and made some great contributions.

Sorry about the noise in the audio. The wireless mics were acting up.

Also available: slides from the presentation and a list of links to everything mentioned.

Note: This talk is an hour long. I will split it up into shorter pieces and make those available "soon".

iPod-compatible video. (Right-click to download.)

Listen to the audio. (Right-click to download.)

[Update: Some technical notes on the not-so-straightforward recording/editing process are here.]


Launch Party Vancouver 6

More startup action in Vancouver. Six companies showed their stuff at Launch Party 6 and there was a lively crowd at Steamworks in Gastown to mix it up and party. Here's a two minute video to give you the flavor of the event. Be sure to watch for the action-figure trophy prizes near the end.

Listen to the audio. (Right click to download.)


Twit This, Timbuktu

The world is coming to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics. What role can social media play to best put forward the face of the city? And what should that face be exactly? Who else has done this well? Michael Klassen gets lots of ideas from the audience in this session from Northern Voice 2009.

Listen to the audio. (Right-click to download.)

Behind the Scenes with "Death of Advertising"

This recording had two audio sources: a clip-on wireless mic and a standalone Zoom H2 recorder using its built-in microphones. As was too often the case in this venue, there was a lot of interference on the wireless mic. After synchronizing I opted to go solely with the Zoom recording. It got started late, so there is the somewhat weird transition at about 30 seconds from one mic to the other.

The Zoom recording sounds pretty distant but it's intelligible. It also did a pretty good job of picking up the audience discussion. The Levelator did its thing to balance the levels.

Lessons Learned

1. It's always good to have a backup recording.
2. Build a Faraday cage around the room to kill electrical interference?
3. Well, more practically, use a clip-on mic into a portable audio recorder that the presenter can stick into his/her pocket. We will illustrate this technique in future recordings.
4. Or, have the wireless receiver really close the presenter and record into a portable recorder like the Zoom instead of directly into the camera.


Death of Advertising

Is advertising dead? Chris Heuer thinks it should die, so that it can be reborn. Chris leads a discussion on what is killing advertising and what's coming next. From Northern Voice 2009.

Behind the Scenes with "Letters from Russia"

This was a very simple one-camera setup with audio being recorded directly onto the camera from a mic clipped onto the presenter. It was all great except for a wee bit of clipping when the presenter was too loud for the mic settings. I improved it a little by using the Clip Restoration feature in Adobe Audition, but that rarely helps much and it didn't do a lot in this case. Other than that and normalizing the audio to -18dB RMS, little else was needed.

Letters from Russia

Dave Olson talks about the sources of inspiration, the creative process and publishing your work in this lively mixed-media presentation. Watch this and you'll understand why Dave has been dubbed a "local cultural artifact". From Northern Voice 2009. Note: Contains adult language.

Listen to the audio. (Right click to download.)


Behind the Scenes with "Streaming Media..."

Here's the technical background on the second video from Northern Voice 2009. This one was straightforward: a single HD camera with audio from the on-camera mic. That made it simple, but the audio is pretty rough. It had a nasty whine at 2950Hz (where the heck did that come from?) which I removed with a notch filter using the increasingly loved Adobe Audition. Other than that I did a mostly ineffective attempt at noise reduction, normalized the RMS levels and sent it on its way back into Final Cut Pro for rendering.

The goal here was to get it out quickly rather than spend a lot of time optimizing the quality.

Streaming Media Hits the Big Time

Did you know you can stream video live from your phone over the internet? Roland Tanglao leads a discussion that reveals all about how to do it, what works and what doesn't (yet). From Northern Voice 2009.

Listen to the audio here. (Right click to download.)