PodCampAZ 2010 Summary

PodCampAZ 2010 was a great event with many people wanting to share their learning & experiences.  Well worth the effort to travel to Phoenix from Albuquerque.  Even though there were less people this year, I renewed many friendships from last year and made many new ones as well.

This year I had the great opportunity to “bask in the awesomeness” of the following speakers:

  • Chris Hewitt – Forget the Experts…
  • Derek Neighbors – New Media is a Connection Point not a End Point
  • Video Genius Panel – Izzy, Clintus, Dave, & Jacqui
  • Jeremy Vaught – Zero to Hero
  • Israel Hyman (Izzy) – How to make a living as a full time podcaster
  • WordPress SEO Genius Panel – Chuck, Charlene, & Sam
  • Kevin Kitteridge – Do It Live!

Some of the more important ideas that I walked away with were:

  • Digital interactions can not replace In Real Life interactions
  • A 3 product approach to developing a viable information product based business
  • A couple new WordPress/SEO plugins to take a look at

I also had the opportunity to jump in, on the last day, and present what I wanted to share with regard to Media & Time Shifted Learning in a Corporation.  The presentation went well, very informal as usual with a couple tangents based on questions.  I have re-recorded the content, I posted it in video format in case you happen to have missed the session or did not attend the conference.  Just a reminder, these are my opinions and are not opinions of my employer.

Media & Time Shifted Learning in a Corporation

Here is the link to the downloadable MP4 video file, it’s 22 minutes long and about 34 MB in size and can be played with the Apple QuickTime Player.

In summary, a great weekend, looking forward to what next year will bring.

– Dom

PodCampAZ 2010

Just a quick plug about PodCampAZ 2010 coming up here on November 20 & 21, a event I will be attending.

I attended PodCampAZ 2009 last year, really by chance.  I had a weekend free and we were already visiting family in the Phoenix area for the Thanksgiving holidays.

Based on reading the website before the event, I figured I’d get a chance to see what the world of new media and social networking looked like since most of my career was spent in data-center technologies.

The event was free, so there was very little to loose other than time, energy, and being away from my kids for a couple days.

The 2 day un-confernece (this is explained on the website) was really amazing, the power of like-minded people coming together to share information and experiences was eye-opening.  I attended presentations on WordPress, Videocasting, Podcasting, and Social Media software.  I also met so many people who were experts in their respective areas.

There is value in the overall socialness of this event and its ability to bring people who want to share, PodCampAZ is a great place to experience & learn from the talent in the Phoenix area first hand.

– Dom

700 MHz Wireless Microphones

The FCC recently reminded people (on 5/28) in the United States that there has been a change in spectrum allocation to avoid interference.  On June 12, 2010, wireless microphones and monitors will no longer be able to be used in the 700 MHz band (specifically698 to 806 MHz).  Here is the PDF on the FCC website.

What this means, is those individuals/groups who use wireless microphones for audio capture for video, screencapture, or podcasting, in the above bandwidth will start to receive noise and non-ideal audio as new 4G consumer devices are deployed in proximity to the wireless microphone.

The solution for the vodcasters/screencasters/podcasters is to either replace the wireless microphone or work with the equipment manufacturer to get the wireless radio inside the transmitter & receiver changed out to operate on a frequency outside the 700 MHz band.  Some manufacturers have a trade-in or rebate programs to help people with this change.

Here is another helpful link on the FCC website which lists known wireless microphones in the 700 MHz band.

Now, if by chance you live on a Indian reservation away from any mobile or cellular phone service, your wireless microphone should work just fine after June 12, 2010.  🙂

– Dom

Mobile podcasting hardware for less than $39.99

The SanDisk Sansa Clip Plus MP3 player has been very useful to me for capturing mobile audio and I’ve decided to write about it so others know about this useful little device.

I use the voice recording function of this MP3 player to capture presentation audio by placing (actually cliping) the device on the shirt of the person doing the presenting. By doing this I get the built in (omnidirectional) microphone very close to the audio source (person’s mouth) which greatly improves audio quality. This is the same microphone placement that makes professional wireless lapel microphones sound so good. The microphone is on the clip side of the device at the top, and since there are no wires the person is free to move around while talking. This device does employ a Automatic Gain Control (AGC) function, so it’s helpful if the presenter simply says something like 1 … 2 … 3 before really starting into their content. The AGC function is also helpful in capturing distant questions in the room.

All the audio is recorded to solid state storage inside the device (there are 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB models), the battery is self-contained (not removable) and can run up to 15 hours in playback mode. Record mode would be a bit less since the device is actively writing to storage, I have easily recorded up to 3 hours of audio at one time (I’m really curious to know how long it would record). Recorded audio consumes almost 3MB per 1 minute of audio, this means an hour of recording would take up about 180MB of space on the device, so even the 2GB model has plenty of space to do hours of recordings.

The Sansa Clip Plus records audio in WAV format (tech details are: 24kHz, 16bit, Mono = 384kbps, good enough for speech, not really good for music). I really like this particular file format because it allows for post-processing/editing. Recording devices that record directly to MP3 do not easily allow for this option without further loss of audio quality.

Here are the post processing steps I go through to get the best possible audio from this device.

1. I pull the files off the Sansa Clip Plus using the USB cable provided and copy the files to my computer (it just looks like another drive).

2. I use the Levelator software to enhance the WAV file before editing the audio (this software is free from the Conversations Network). The Levelator performs audio re-leveling on the entire file at a detail that is too manually intensive to do yourself. Here are some waveform examples captured from Audacity. If you want more detail on how this is done, please checkout the Levelator website.

This audio waveform is before running the WAV file through the Levelator:

This is the audio waveform after running the WAV file through the Levelator:

As you can see, some of the louder parts are reduced, and softer parts are enhanced. This is the magic of what the Levelator can do for your audio recordings.

3. I use the audio editing software Audacity (also free) to remove any unwanted audio parts (just highlight and delete). Once I have the audio in final form, I can then produce a MP3 file (there are steps to set this up on the Audacity website). I typically produce the MP3 file at 64kbps to keep file size down and still maintain a good quality sound.

Here are some samples of audio I recorded in the house (not the best since walls reflect sound).

Sample audio before using the Levelator at 64kbps (24 seconds):

Sample audio after using the Levelator at 64kbps (24 seconds):

Now I know the difference is subtle in these examples, and you might pickup the difference more if you use headphones. But the really nice thing about the Levelator software is the ability to amplify audio from sources that are distant to the microphone. If you want another example of this take a listen to the audio from my post “Engineering talk at SIPI”.

The title of this post is “Mobile podcasting hardware for less than $39.99” which means you can likely find the 2GB version of the device through a online retailer for less than the suggested retail price.

I hope this information was useful, I really like the SanDisk Sansa Clip Plus for mobile audio capturing and recording speeches/presentations. Just remember to re-charge the device before any long event recording.

Enjoy!

– Dom