During the process of preparing for our second Domains conference the question came up as to whether we would do any recordings. This was not something we tackled in 2017 the first time around and honestly, there can often be so many moving parts that it diminishes the experience for both the presenter and the audience not to mention the labor of getting things recorded. However the selfish part of me knew that I would be running around during the conference so much that having something to go back and watch would be awesome, not to mention the inevitable wish of an attendee to be in multiple sessions scheduled at the same time. So I set out to find if there were a relatively low cost and low overhead way of archiving presentations.
It turns out there is a guy named Kevin Thull that has been doing this for the Drupal community for awhile now and not only has blogged his setup in detail but even started a community initiative for recording Drupal events. The setup is documented in detail on Github at https://github.com/kthull/session-recording and essentially consists of a few items that allow you to capture both the audio of the presenter and room as well as anything projected on screen. What you don't get is video of the presenter themselves, but I think that's often unnecessary and adds a layer of self-consciousness to recording a presentation not to mention the additional cost and complexity of manning a camera. The basic materials needed for each room were:
- HD PVR Rocket http://www.hauppauge.com/pages/products/data_hdpvr-rocket.html
- Zoom H2N Audio Recorder https://www.zoom-na.com/products/field-video-recording/field-recording/zoom-h2n-handy-recorder
- 16GB Flash Drive
- 16GB SD Card
- HDMI Cable
The way the setup works is that the PVR Rocket takes input from the laptop at the podium and feeds it to the projector while giving you a big red push button to start and stop a recording which ends up as a clean MP4 file on the attached flash drive. Audio is recorded from the microphone to an SD card for backup but also sent line out to the PVR Rocket to be integrated with the video. The end result is that you have an easy way for the presenter to start and stop a recording and archive the presentation easily, and I'm happy to say it works well! Without needing to be in every room (or sometimes any of the rooms) we succesfully archived all 28 presentations which you can find in this YouTube playlist:
The few shortcomings of this setup were that if a laptop went to sleep the archive stopped which caused one or two sessions to have multiple recordings I had to post-edit. Additionally the SD backup of audio proved very useful for a few recordings that inexplicably had no audio, easy enough to edit back in but a bit tricky to line up properly. Looking back on it I'm so glad we were able to do this, but I'd be sorely tempted to hire Kevin for our next event rather than do this myself. The rates which all fund travel, use of the kits, and further the mission of the collective are super reasonable and had I known that was an option it would have been a good one. But it was a fun experiment that worked well for what we needed and now we have the hardware should we need to do this again in the future.
Featured Photo cropped from Tom Woodward's Flickr stream that includes other great photos from the event licensed CC-BY-SA