LCA Video Team

I keep getting asked how we did the technical setup, so let me share it here.

With Video at LCA, this year, we did not want a repetition of the more experimental setups of previous years. We set out with only one goal: to publish good quality video during LCA to increase the number of talks that people will be able to look at and discuss. Our only aim is the Ogg Theora format since it is the only open video codec and what would a conference on FLOSS be if we didn’t stick to our ideals even with codecs!

One consequence of our narrow goal is that you will not find any live video streaming at LCA in 2007. The reasoning behind this is that we reach maybe a few hundred people with streaming, but that publishing reaches millions. Another reason is that previous years of video recordings at LCA have mostly had problems with one particular part in this picture: computers. So, we decided to take the computer out of the recording process and only use it in the transcoding, uploading and publishing part of the conference.

We are therefore recording from the DV cameras straight to DVD, which provides us with a physical backup as well as a quick way to get the data into the computer (in comparison to using DV tapes). Though this means that we use a non-free compression format in the middle of our process, it makes it a lot less error-prone. We’re waiting for the day when we can replace our camera – DVD recorder setup with Ogg Theora recording hard-disk cameras!

But the technical part of the video recordings is only one part of the picture. If you want good quality footage, you have to put people behind the cameras at all times. Speakers do weird things and a recording of slides with voice-over is not a very sensible video recording of conference talks. You really require a minimum of 2 people per lecture hall to cover the semi-professional setup that was required for the Mathews theatres: one looking after the audio and the other after the video, with a bit of slack time to give each other a break.

In parallel to the camera crews, we have a transcoding and upload team, which constantly receives the DVDs (and the DV tape backups) from the recording rooms. You also need stand-by people for relief. The upload process involves editing of the start and end points of videos, then a transcode to Ogg Theora and an upload to a local file server at the conference. This video gets mirrored to a Linux Australia Server and published into the conference Wiki through an automatic script.

We are very lucky to have a competent and reliable A/V team of volunteers at LCA 2007 who give up their opportunities to attend the conference for the greater good of all of us. Each team member covers all the days and it takes a lot of dedication to be up in the morning before everyone else (and possible after a hard night’s partying) and working a full day behind the camera or the computer. One of the team members even spent his birthday behind the camera!

I’d like to thank everyone on the A/V Team (in no particular order):

  • Timothy Terriberry,
  • James Courtier-Dutton,
  • Michael Dale,
  • Holger Levsen,
  • Nick Seow,
  • Sridhar Dhanapalan,
  • Chris Deigan,
  • Jeremy Apthorp,
  • Andrew Sinclair,
  • Andreas Fischer,
  • Adam Nelson,
  • Ryan Vernon, and
  • Ken Wilson.

In addition, the networking people have worked hard to make the uploading and publishing process as smooth as possible – I’d like to thank in particular John Ferlito and Matt Moor for their hard work.

It was a great experience to work with such a large team in such a professional setup where we managed to overcome many technical and human challenges and get the first video published even during LCA!