In which I tell you what I’m trying to do … so you can tell me what it is … so I can figure out how to do it…
In Mark Twain’s “The Diary of Adam and Eve” was where I learned that Eve’s job was to name the animals.
So she’d name something like a giraffe. And Adam would say, “Why did you name it ‘giraffe’” and she’d say “Because it looks like a giraffe.”
Naming things is at the heart of figuring out what I’m trying to do a lot of the time. And emotionally I value it because it was the first job of a woman – according to the Bible – according to Mark Twain – according to my memory of that story.
But I’m not good at it. I mean – I’m great at it – but my names are often useless because they describe my own personal experience but don’t help me communicate with other people.
For example, when I was learning Steve Vai’s music, I would call a section of the music by what it sounded like to me, so in rehearsals if he said,
“OK, let’s go to the first verse”
I’d be, “Is that ‘Horse Screaming Section’ or the ‘Guitar Thumps’”?
He’d look at me blankly and the rest of the band would drop their heads and shake them sadly.
I’m often missing the first step, the “what exactly are we trying to do here,” the “what is this thing called,” the “where are we”?
It happened again this morning.
I’m trying to buy a device that will turn my new Vixia video-camera into a fancy-schmancy webcam. That’s my description.
When I explained it to video guru Steve Garfield, host-and-creator of the Boston Media Makers breakfast and author of “Get Seen” he suggested a company I should look at, I got to the website and had no idea where to look.
There was nothing that said, “Turn your video-camera into a fancy-schmancy Webcam with this little box!!”
It said: Edit. Encode. Stream. Convert.
And I thought “I have no idea what I’m trying to do.”
I often think that.
So I tweeted @SteveGarfield:
He generously and immediately responded:
But I still have no idea what I’m trying to do. In fact, now I’m even more confused. And I don’t want to bother Steve again. Also, I don’t know how to reduce my confusion to 144 characters.
Where is my Eve??????
So I’m writing this blog in the hopes someone can tell me in Eve-type terms (often described as “Tell me as if I’m an eight-year-old”) what animal am I looking for?
I’ve been told where to find units that will do it – “it,” the thing I want to do – My question is: what’s the name of that “It” that I want to do?
What’s the simple technical name for what I’m trying to do so I can figure out what to buy in order to do it …
I’m looking for terms that will show up on websites like these that Steve recommended.
If you’re wondering WHY I’m trying to do this, read on. If you already know how to help me – or just want to commiserate, I’d love your comments below.
LONG STORY LONG – WHY I WANT TO DO THIS:
Like I said, I’m trying to turn my new Vixia camera into a fancy-schmancy webcam. Here’s why:
Before cameras improved I was able to do this easily, going direct from my old Sony videocams into my Mac via firewire port, and capture video directly in real time into iMovie or Final Cut Pro. I used that function every day as a fast way to videotape my rehearsals and get quick feedback on my work.
I’d hook up my camera to my computer, videotape a song directly onto the computer (with the ability to zoom mid-song using my remote if I wanted to) – and be able to monitor what I was doing from my computer screen. I could even put the computer/monitor someplace I could see easily it – regardless of where the camera was – because I had a long firewire cable connecting the camera to the computer.
When I’d played through a piece, I’d step over to my computer, push a button, watch what I just did, take notes, work out how to improve it — and do it again. It was a seamless shift from performing to watching and critiquing my own work.
It worked GREAT!!!!
‘Til my new computer and new camera ‘improved.’
Now …. oy …. I have to record to my camera (monitoring it on the tiny camera screen which is attached to the camera), then pull out the card, put it in the computer, convert it (because the camera files won’t store files as is on my computer) or import it (which means it takes up space in places it doesn’t need to be), then open it, remove the card, put it back in my computer. Etc.
A formerly immediate one-step fairly idiot-proof process now takes 6 or 7 steps, far more time, and far more options I’ll do one or mores steps wrong.
RANT: This is crazy!!!! Things should be improving and getting easier as they upgrade, not losing functionality!!!! END OF RANT.
So, it turns out there is a way to use my new-and-improved camera to do what I used to do, using the HDMI “out” from the camera and coming “in” via the Thunderbolt port on my computer. In this way I could capture direct to the computer from the camera …
In other words, the camera can become a fancy-schmancy webcam with all the abilities I use do have.
This is one of the units that could do it:
My question is what is the “IT” that I’m trying to do … in simple technical terms that will appear on a website like these:
The devices Steve told you about are part of the solution. There are two problems to solve: how to be able to capture what the Vixia sees into the computer “live” and how to broadcast it back out live. The most mis-leading term in the conversation is probably “streaming” because streaming is used to describe media that can be played in real-time without having to download it first but is also often used to describe broadcasting live, in real-time, online.
The devices Steve mentioned are for getting the video and audio from the Vixia’s HDMI output into the camera in real-time for capturing the output and being able to save and edit it. The same output can also be broadcast live, in real-time, online but I think you’ll need some extra software for that part.
And to make life extra fun, you need to find out if the hardware you use for HDMI capture works with the software you use for live streaming.
The names of things that are in play here:
Live streaming – sending streaming video from your computer to the internet in real-time.
HDMI capture, HDMI conversion – how to get the output of a video device like your Vixia camcorder that doesn’t output video to USB or Firewire in real-time.
Streaming service – Livestream, UStream or similar service that enables broadcasting your live streaming to your audience. On a smaller scale you could also do this through Google Hangouts, Facetime, iChat, Skype, etc.
Streaming server – Quicktime / Darwin server, Adobe Live Streaming Server, etc. which is a server you either run yourself or use as a service from a streaming service provider to put your stream “on the air”.
The formula for success with all these terms is like quicksand. Just when you think you’ve found a good solution, the market changes. If we constrain your question to how to live stream from your Vixia through your Macbook, the answer is to look at the Blackmagic or Matrox device that is compatible with your Mac (does your Mac have Thunderbolt ports or only USB or Firewire?) and use it with a streaming service / server that it is compatible with.
If we expand the constraint outside the Vixia there are two other things to consider:
Some newer camcorders are coming on the market with the ability to live stream through UStream or other services directly from the camera over wi-fi. This might be a great multi-use camcorder / high end webcam for your needs.
Some decent wireless or wired “IP Webcams” cost the same or less than the Blackmagic or Matrox solutions and give you a good webcam you can position independently of your Macbook and that will live stream their feed directly or through your Macbook. Might save some money and still solve the problem. For that matter, a good USB webcam with a reasonably long USB cable might be a good solution. The most important reason you might consider a webcam option is that if you plan to live stream a lot, you will wear out the sensor in the Vixia camera and it costs more to replace the Vixia than it does to replace a decent USB or IP Webcam.
The upside of the Blackmagic or Matrox solutions is that they also allow you to stream other devices that have HDMI outputs (assuming you have the rights to broadcast the content). That could be a DVD player, VHS tape player, another computer, etc. I don’t know that you have that need right now but it does give you future options. The downside is that it adds technical complexity which means things can go wrong and are harder to troubleshoot and that it puts more of a load on your computer than the other solutions.
You might find some of these links educational:
Livestream’s Live Video Tools overview: http://new.livestream.com/live-video-tools
UStream’s how-to video on using Blackmagic’s Intensity capture device with UStream’s Producer Pro: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/26215738
(this is informative for how this stuff works in general, not just with UStream)
Hokey Smokes, Scott!!! This is great! Thank you! I’m not thinking about Livestreaming right now – I mean, that’s not the problem I was trying to solve, but it’s really interesting to look at both (incoming video and outgoing stream) and get a better overview. And … of course … now I will start thinking more about livestreaming.
The main reason I’m interested in the Vixia versus a webcam is to have real zoom capabilities. With some of the teaching videos I’ve started making, I love being able to zoom in on the strings to show things up-close, and the computer-side zooming just didn’t work for me.
Thank you so much for this educational piece! – DHC
Scott, you’re a great teacher! Hope that’s what you do (or are paid to do) in the real world, because the real world *always* needs more teachers.
DHC, don’t feel badly about getting a hitch in your gitalong when you have to change technologies. I used to work in the hi tech industry, and whenever a software upgrade hit the engineering department, I’d hear mutters from the cubbies around me: “Save me from the Improvements! [then louder] Who has figured out how to do the swimpleswitch on this new wazzletot?” Following which, a group would congregate around the cubby of the guy who claimed he knew… I was the tech writer for the group, and I’d be the first one over to the cubby of that geek who was the first responder to this particular disaster. BTW — the company that had thrust this “improvement” upon us always advertised it as “intuitive” to use! Sigh! 🙁