Three Nice Microphones

A couple of people have recently mentioned they like the quality of the sound in my videos, and have asked what microphones I use for videos and screencasts. Here’s what I’m using right now:

Audio-Technica ATR3350 lavalier

I usually plug this lavalier mic into my Sanyo Xacti videocamera. It’s cheap, it sounds fine, and it allows me to improve the sound of my videos. Did I mention it’s cheap (like $20 or so)? And for my Xacti anyway, it’s very easy to use – I just plug it into the viceocamera’s external mic input and forget about it – nothing else to mess with.

Samson C01U USB Studio Condenser and the Blue Snowball

When I’m making a screencast, I usually plug one of these two mics into my laptop via a USB cable. I like the Samson better – it sounds better to my ears. Also, the Blue Snowball had an issue with Windows Vista (as in it didn’t work for me), so it hasn’t gotten as much use at work (my work laptop has Windows Vista loaded). I have used it without a hitch on my Mac laptop – it sounds great, and has a couple of different mic signal patterns that you’d use for different micing situations.

RØDE VideoMic

We have a semi-pro videocamera at work (the Canon GL 2). It has an ok mic built into it, but the RØDE mic is a fine shotgun mic. Plug it in, aim it at someone, and they’ll sound like they’re talking into the mic, even if you’re 10 feet away from them.

Tips on using these mics:

  • If you plan to plug the mic into your computer, buy a USB powered mic. Otherwise, you will also need to buy some type of soundboard or analog/digital signal converter to boost the audio signal up loud enough to play with. You might like doing that – if so, great! You’re sorta like me. But even though I happen to have some of that type of recording equipment, for a quick Jing screencast, nothing beats plugging the Samson USB mic into my laptop. One step and I’m done.
  • Batteries (the lavalier mic I use needs them) – buy two at a time. Because you WILL sit down, all ready to record, and find out that the battery’s dead … because you didn’t turn the mic off last time you used it. Been there, done that.
  • While we’re talking about on/off switches – if the mic has one (the lavalier and the RØDE Videomic do, doublecheck that you flipped it “on” before recording. I had to do some fancy editing on a video because part way through recording, I realized the mic was off (one of my more watched videos, too).
  • The really long cable (20′) on the lavalier mic will get frustrating. It gets tangled easily. But then, it only costs $20, so I can put up with that. I guess.

How I Made my Screencast

I’ve been asked by quite a few people, so … here’s how I made my Facebook Pages screencast:

  1. I used Jing Pro to record the screencast. There’s a free version – I whipped out $14.95 (have to pay it every year) for the pro version. Why? The pro version comes with that cool “webcam in screen” effect I used at the beginning and end of the screencast. It also records in MPEG-4 format, so I could easily edit it. It only records up to 5 minutes at a time, which is no problem – just record separate clips, then dump each clip into a video editing program (more on that in a sec).
  2. I plugged in a Samson CO1U USB Condenser Mic to get good quality sound on the speaking parts. It came out a little quiet – will need to play with that some more!
  3. Once the parts and pieces were recorded in Jing, I dumped each screencast clip into Apple’s iMovie, which is an easy-to-use video editor. I didn’t do much there – added a fade in and out to the beginning/ending of the screencast, spliced the clips together, added a bit of text … and removed all my goof-ups, extraneous pauses and “uhms” where I could. My goal was to get the screencast under 10 minutes so I could dump it to YouTube (and I was successful!).

And that’s about all! The combo of Jing Pro and iMovie worked great, the mic was easy to use … any questions? Anyone else used Jing Pro?

Facebook Pages basics – a Screencast

Want to see a larger version? Go here. YouTube version is here. Downloadable version is here. MP3 only version is here.

This screencast is for BIGWIG’s 3rd annual Social Software Showcase, being held Monday at the American Library Association’s annual conference.

How can you participate? Two ways:

  1. Watch the screencast and make a comment – what do you think? What are you doing with Facebook Pages?
  2. Show up at my table Monday, July 13, 10:30am. Instead of a formal presentation, show up having watched my screencast … and we’ll have a discussion about Facebook Pages!

So … this screencast is all about Facebook Pages. Here’s what I cover:

  • The basics of a Facebook Page – I describe what can be done with the Wall, the Info page, friending, status updates, events, discussion boards, and boxes.
  • Who uses your Facebook Page? I talk about the stats that come with a Facebook Page.
  • Facebook Apps – I briefly talk about the two apps my library has built
  • Connecting with customers – I talk about the ways a library can connect with customers using their Facebook Page.
  • And I mention my library’s Facebook Page quite a bit…. check it out!

So –  chime in in the comment box and at my table on Monday! I plan to also live stream the discussion – we’ll see how that goes.

Tracking SXSW with Netvibes

SXSW is this week! For those of you not familiar with SXSW, it’s a very cool “content” conference. It used to be pretty much just focused on music, but in recent years it’s also included film and “interactive” tracks. The Interactive track is the cool one – it’s all about techie web 2.0 stuff. Here’s a description from SXSW’s Interactive page – “Attracting digital creatives as well as visionary technology entrepreneurs, the SXSW Interactive Festival enables you to connect, discover and inspire your link to the cutting edge.” Translation = all the cool geeks will be there.

I can’t go to SXSW2007 this year (though I DID send my library’s web manager) – but I can certainly follow along via blogs, flickr, and videos! I didn’t want to add a bunch of tag searches to my normal feed reader, so to follow the conference, I’m using Netvibes and tags to track the conference – this screencast explains how I set up Netvibes to do this.

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Library Catalog Usability and a Test of CamStudio

I am playing with CamStudio, and needed to create a short screencast, so…

At the same time, I was looking at Sirsi/Dynix Horizon sites, and found something slightly amusing (to me, anyway) and thought I’d share.

Click the image to the right to watch the video (here’s the .mov version too, if the m4v version doesn’t work for you).

Does anyone else find this amusing? Disconcerting? Can’t we work on making those “nothing found” messages in our ILS/OPAC/Library Catalog systems a bit better? Hmm?

I certainly HOPE so!

And in other news… CamStudio works great! It’s very easy to use. The only thing I had to change right off the bat was to change the audio recording format from an mp3 file to a PCM file (whatever that is). I wanted to edit the screencast with Quicktime Pro – and I was getting silence when playing the video with mp3 audio in Quicktime. Switching to PCM (which I think is an uncompressed audio format) fixed that little problem for me.

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