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Sound Advice

Live Webcasting From The Streets To The Corporate World: Part 2 by Brad Marshall

Last issue, Brad discussed the basics of webcasting, as well as how to check your available bandwidth and get things started.

You have to figure out how many cameras you’re going to need, as well as the lighting and audio systems to support the webcast. If you are webcasting one person, for example, a two-camera shoot may suffice, with a simple audio system supporting one mic. Simple three-point lighting will also suffice: fill, direct, and back lighting. There are many sources to explain lighting for webcasting. Two sources I suggest are: Hands-On Guide to Webcasting by Steve Mack and Dan Rayburn, and The Streaming Media Bible by Steve Mack. If you are not using LED lighting, count on having at least two 15-amp circuits dedicated for it. If you are dealing with more than one subject, you may need to look at more lighting, more cameras, more complex audio, etc.
You have got your gear together – now how do you capture that audio and video? Well, if you are using a laptop or desktop PC there are many video capture cards on the market. If you are just dealing with a single voice, the sound card on most computers is more then adequate, but if you are doing something musical, you may want to look into an external audio card or USB device.
There are many USB, FireWire (IEEE 1394), and slot cards available to capture both audio and video. If you are doing a single camera shoot just go directly into your computer via FireWire. Do not go out and buy a USB “webcam” unless that’s the quality you are looking for … we are talking bad quality YouTube video here. Warning!!
Get devices that can be recognized by either Windows Media Encoder or Real Studio Basic or Flash encoding portals. Trust me, this can be problem! Some devices only show up with proprietary software that has to be loaded onto your computer. If you can afford it, make sure the laptop or PC you are using to broadcast is only doing the broadcast and nothing else. E-mail, surfing the web, downloading, or uploading data are not recommended during a broadcast. This may sound fundamental, but many people try to do these things while broadcasting, resulting in disaster.
For Mac users, Real Studio Basic and Flash Encoding Portals work fine – but not Windows Media Encoder. The simplest and quickest way to get up and running is to use a camera as your audio and video capture device and pass those signals through your camera, and into your PC using FireWire.

Brad Marshall is the Owner of Popular Minority Production, which brings live events to the Internet (www.popularminority.com). He is currently writing a 10-week course on Live Webcasting to the Internet for Conestoga College in Kitchener, ON. He can be reached at anytime at: brad@popularminority.com.

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