Screen cast sync FAIL

Last night I tried my hand at screen casting. Apart from it being an unmitigated disaster, or maybe because it was a complete waste of time, I learned a few things. And now I am on the hunt for a better set of screencasting tools.

I started with gtk-recordmydesktop. Thirty second trial clips recorded nicely, but the full 5 minute tutorial I was working on refused to do its bit at the end where the audio and video get smooshed together. Not an obvious fail, no actual complaints, just hung software that had to be command line kill -9ed. Popey suggested reducing my screen resolution to 1024x768. Yay! This allowed me to get through the process of creating an OGG video. But the sound was blurpy and syllables were missing and basically it got more and more unsynced as the video progressed. Thinking it would magically right itself at some point, I pressed on looking for somewhere to upload the file so that I could show people.

ShowMeDo was my first stop. This tutorial hosting service came up at the screen casting BoF at DrupalCon Szeged (I've copied my rough notes from TomBoy to the end of the session description). I created an account, and filled in all the information and confirmed my email address. ShowMeDo allowed me to upload the OGG file directly. Awesome! I thought I was done. And then there was a little icon saying that the tutorial was waiting for approval. ugh. (This is a good thing, which I'll get to in a minute.) I'm not exactly good at waiting, so I went looking for another place to upload the video. Repeat the process for Vimeo and YouTube and Google Video. None accept OGG files. Ugh. I also tried archive.org, but I got irritated and gave up. I'm sure I have an account there, but I can't remember what email address I used.

So obviously I needed to convert my OGG file into something else. I found this really great (video) tutorial on how to convert OGG files to MP4 files. Done! Here's the blurpy version for you to see.

At a few points in the tutorial there was mention of Cinelerra, a video editing suite. The thing that really caught my eye was the ability to zoom in to specific parts of the screen (check out the how to convert OGG to MP4 video to see what I mean). Other people have done this zoom in/out using Compiz at the time of recording, which means getting the zoom perfect while talking. Not my idea of a fun time. Adding effects afterwards, however, is more interesting. Other tutorials showed that you can add still images to the video using this tool (for intro and outro slides) and yet another person does their screen casting using Cinelerra (this turns out to be not so good because the pointer isn't recorded). It's starting to sound even better!

After figuring out how to install Cinelerra (it's not in the Ubuntu repository) I cranked it open and was immediately overwhelmed. I followed the video tutorial for screencasting with Cinelerra and got closer, but had no audio. An hour later I had audio and a half-filed bug report against ALSA (switching to OSS both in Cinelerra and the System/Preferences/Sound solved the problem). I got a Linux QuickTime Movie screen cast spit out of Cinelerra. Awesome! But (and this will make you cry) the Exact. Same. Sound Blurping. Existed. The audio and sound were not synced and further more the pointer wasn't recorded. Fail.

Admitting defeat of finding an all-in-one recording tool I recorded a new voice track in Audacity for the tutorial that I could sync to the video in Cinelerra. It was getting late by this time and my enthusiasm was starting to wane. In my search for tutorials on how to sync audio and video I found another little gem, Adding audio to your screencast. I could have just used this and be done with the whole thing, but I wanted the zoom in/out effects that I'd learned about a few short hours ago. Life cannot go on without zooming screen casts. Full stop. So I went to bed, determined to make things work the next day (today).

Sometime during the night Popey had sent me another email with the following recommendation (I don't have permission to quote, and he may never speak to me again, but here it is):

I've been thinking about your screencasting issue in my sleep :S

Tony has done a wodge of screencasts using recordmydesktop and he had it running at a ridiculously high resolution. Knowing him I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a massively powered PC but I do recall him saying that he uses the realtime/low-latency kernel and "jack" that you get with Ubuntu studio. You might want to try this because apparently it might help with the sync issues.

Just install the package "linux-image-rt" to get the current version of the low latency kernel and reboot to it. To get jack and the jack control tool get "jackd" and "qjackctl".

This is the screencast where he mentions what he uses http://ubuntuscreencasts.blip.tv/file/1131957/

Hope this helps.

Kernels are never "just" installed. Ever. You may add a red blinking light and a marquee scroll to this line if you'd like.

So now I've got my whole system (hopefully) properly backed up using JungleDisk (it's never a real backup until you've restored from it) and I'm in the process of downloading Intrepid. ... If you're going to mess up your kernel you might as well mess up everything else in the process too.

Remember how I said it was a good thing that ShowMeDo had my video in a moderation queue? Well it turns out that's also the icon for "processing." Today I got an email from Kyran, one of the co-founders of ShowMeDo, telling me that their conversion tools had done a not-so-great job with my OGG, and could I please convert it at my end to something else and upload it again. !!! This is AMAZING. He was lovely and charming and ok, I'll admit it, he used the ol' get more bees with honey flattery trick before asking me to convert the file locally ("liked the screencast - particularly as a beneficiary of bazaar/launchpad..[insert ask for new video format here]..Sorry for the hassle but your video is exactly right for showmedo and we are getting a nice little ubuntu collection so it should be seen"). So shouts out to the ShowMeDo team for caring about the quality of their product. If you have screen casts about things that are open source, please also consider uploading them to ShowMeDo.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. ... Bob from the FOSSology project and I were talking about photos and videos and editing tools and I asked him if he knew about Cinelerra (I'd never heard of it, so I was pretty sure I needed to enlighten the rest of the world as well). He immediately emailed me back a link to the FSF.org Video Editing Software, High Priority Software Projects. Not only was Cinelerra listed but there were others that I'd never heard of as well... here's the full list:

That noise you just heard? That's my brain exploding at the thought of having to figure out which of these tools is going to meet my needs. I just wanted to make a couple of little tutorials! Sometimes the freedom to choose is not really all that freeing at all.

I'd like your opinion on what software/toolchain might best meet my needs. This is what I want to do (in no particular order):

  • create screen casts on Ubuntu that I can upload to teh intarwebs (this is obviously the most important thing);
  • convert screen casts to other (video) formats (this will probably be done with some kind of tool after the video is finished);
  • record the screen and voice at the same time (I realize this might be a pipe dream if I also want the other features);
  • add still images for intro/outro slides and/or diagrams;
  • zoom in/out (as described above in the Cinelerra sample vid);
  • other? did I miss a feature that I don't even know about?

I tend to work from a written script, so I don't really need to have a separate track for audio for transcribing (I can just upload the written script); however, it would be nice to be able to silence major eff-ups in the audio track where I accidentally cuss at my computer.

I look forward to your suggestions!

Shepherding Passionate Communities

In April I hosted a rural technology conference called HICK Tech. The keynote presentation was delivered by Flickr's Director of Community, Heather Champ. Her presentation, Shepherding Passionate Communities, was absolutely amazing and inspiring. It is, of course, also filled with beautiful photographs. Thanks again to Heather for making the trek up to Owen Sound and delivering this presentation (at 6AM local time no less). I really think this presentation is a must-see for everyone involved in online communities.

(Whoops embedded video isn't working on the syndicated version of this post...go straight to Shepherding Passionate Communities instead.)

If you're on dial-up, or would like to have a copy of this presentation (and the audio recordings from all other conference sessions) on DVD, you can buy a copy from the HICK Tech Web site. 

PS Heather will be delivering this presentation at the Do It With Drupal conference. You should go. 

OLF and FSOSS: Full of Awesome

I finally met Jorge Castro. Awesome.

Jorge and Emma

We were both speaking at the Ontario Linux Fest today. I headed back home to Owen Sound but Jorge stayed to make sure the party had the right amount of awesome. All. Night. Long. Thanks, Jorge! Huge shouts out to conference organizers Richard and John and all the volunteers. You did a great an awesome job! The conference was great last year, but even more awesome this year.

My talk on Bazaar was really well received. I gave a really quick whirlwind tour of the basics (slides are uploaded here) and then opened the floor up for people to talk about their unique situations and how Bazaar might be implemented in each case. It was a really great discussion that was so much better than anything I could have presented on my own. It also proved a really great point: identify the features you need to use. If all systems are approximately equal, choose the system with the best community. (I have consistently received outstanding support in #bzr and enjoy referring others to the software because I know their experience will be a positive one as well.) Presenters take note: using the wisdom of the crowds can result in really awesome knowledge sharing way beyond what you can deliver as an individual. I took my cue for this format from an awesome presentation that Lenz Grimmer delivered in Szeged about Bazaar generally, and also MySQL's experience with it.

I also presented at FSOSS yesterday, and that presentation was also really well received. I was talking about the Drupal business network I've created for some of my micro-enterprise clients (read the slides for Subverting Proprietary Economics). This was a variation of the talk I gave in Szeged. In this variation of the original presentation I talked about setting your own definition of success; and that when you are in business you are serving someone. Your definition of success needs to identify who your business serves (even if it's your boss or your shareholders, be realistic about who you need to serve to achieve personal and professional success). Dru's notes from the talk are available on her blog.

A longer report of both conferences (with even more awesome highlights) will be appearing in Linux Pro Magazine.

Git for Teams

Git For Teams

Best selling title from O'Reilly media. Covers essential skills needed to use Git in a team environment.

Available from O'Reilly media, and better bookstores worldwide.

Collaborating with Git

Collaborating with Git

Practical how-to videos to get you, and your team, up and running with Git. A complementary video series for the book, Git for Teams.

Available from O'Reilly media.

Drupal User's Guide

Drupal User's Guide

Site building for Drupal 7. Includes in-depth information on Drupal's most popular site building modules, SEO and accessibility. Two complete case studies are included in the book along with the tools you'll need to build (almost) any Web site with Drupal.

Available from Amazon.com.

Front End Drupal

Front End Drupal

The industry go-to for learning theming in Drupal 6. A great companion to Lullabot's book, Using Drupal.

Available from Amazon.com.