Make No (Livestream) Mistake About It

A Cautionary Tale for the Livestreamer

There once was a communications technologist named Mayumi. Mayumi really liked her job producing video events at a major university. One day, a high-profile guest came to campus, and the high-profile department sponsoring the high-profile guest decided to livestream a video event, to both the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous. Mayumi had done simultaneous live streams before, so she got to work, building and testing stream pages like she’d always done. A few days before the big event was going to happen, Mayumi tested the connections to both the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous. All went well, as Mayumi expected it to, and everyone involved went on merrily.

The day of the event arrived, and Mayumi got ready to start streaming to both the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous. But when she pressed the big Start button on her magical encoder…the Tube of Yous didn’t start! All of the settings were right, and the Book of Faces was going strong. But the Tube was not reacting as it should have done!

Mayumi recalled the Golden Rule of Technology: When in doubt, restart. So, she restarted her magical encoder machine. She started her connections again, using the same information as before. But wait! Now, neither the Book of Faces nor the Tube of Yous was starting properly! Oh noes!

There was only one thing left to do. Mayumi rebooted again, and rebuilt from scratch BOTH the connections for the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous, discarding the event credentials from before. She pressed the Start button on the magical encoder, and…they worked! Mayumi monitored both working connections through the end of the event, and they stayed live and sending, with no more troubles. But what had happened to those other connections?

Here’s what Mayumi learned:

  • A Book of Faces stream event can be created up to seven days in advance. You can test-stream to this event without going live as many times as you want. Once you go live, though, that stream’s unique identity cannot be duplicated. Which means, if you stop the stream (like with a machine reboot), you need to create a completely new event, with completely new credentials.
  • A Tube of Yous stream event can be created a long time in advance. But if you test-stream to that particular event page, the Tube of Yous will expect you to go live shortly thereafter (within a couple of hours); it will look for the EXACT SAME data stream for the live event, that you used for your test event. The error may not apply if you ARE using the exact same data stream, from the exact same output hardware, but just in case, test your Tube of Yous live stream event with a separate test event, especially if you’re testing a few days out.

Now that you’ve read Mayumi’s story, you won’t have to panic when you run into either of these issues. You’ll know what to do! And, as the famous saying goes, knowing is half the battle.

 

The Other Man [and another "Finding Mister Wright" Free-Write: "Romance in the Dark"]

My main writing project at the moment has a fair amount of deep-and-dark in it, and when I fear I’m becoming a bit too mired in that sort of thing, I need to take a step back with something a bit more light and flighty. Lately, that’s been the cast of misfit characters from “Finding Mister Wright,” my short story/novella from this past winter holiday break.

I usually write for Marshall’s life when I take up these characters again, but, this time, it was Rob who commandeered my brain. What’s funny is that the original story idea I had for these characters centered around Rob, Paige, and Daniel. In my earliest notes, Marshall barely played a role beyond counterpoint to Daniel. Of course, that changed when I finally started putting voices together in my head, and I found Marshall had a (rather significant) story all his own. The relationship story between Rob and his own family took a backseat to that of the Wright brothers, and Marshall and his loves in particular. But, Rob’s story has remained important, at least to me. He’s just as complicated as Marshall proved to be, but in a way that’s somehow more relaxed.

After my husband read “FMW,” he made the comment that he thought all the characters worked for their own reasons, but Rob was his favorite. “At first,” he told me, “you think he’s just one thing. Then, you learn a little more, and he becomes more than that. And then, there’s [a conversation], and you realize, oh, this guy really has three dimensions to him.” While it might have offered me a greater ego boost to hear my main protagonist was my husband’s favorite character, a part of me was really happy that Rob’s original story shone through in his few scenes, to the point where he made an impression on a reader.

A moment of weakness led to this six-pager (it clocks in at around 2,900 words), which I wrote over three commuter train rides and a lunch hour. It’s rough and a bit scattered, but that’s one of the reasons I find free writing so…well, free. No worries over themes, scope, flow, or any of the important parts of a mature work. It’s just my fingers translating for my brain.

Romance-in-the-Dark” (PDF, 314KB)
I hate to have to offer a warning about this, but be aware: the principal romantic relationship depicted in this particular free-write is about two men. There’s nothing explicit herein, but if you’re uncomfortable with the idea, just skip it and watch the lovely lady in the video below, instead.

The whole thing – Rob’s story, the original idea for “Finding Mister Wright,” as well as this free-write – is heavily inspired by the lovely and awesomely talented Catherine Russell’s rendition of Lil Greene’s jazz standard, “Romance in the Dark,” which you can listen to and watch below. It’s a mainstay in my FMW writing playlist, and I usually hit repeat at least once when it comes up in rotation.

Before we get to Ms. Russell, here’s my question for this week: Have you ever had a minor character hijack a story for his or her own? If so, how did the story turn out?


Dissecting video

A few weeks ago, the fine folks over at Limebird Writers celebrated their first anniversary. To commemorate, they had a contest with a bunch of fantabulous prizes that would make any aspiring writer’s quill quiver with eager excitement, mine included. My video didn’t win, but the process was such fun – and so easy – I thought I’d share a few of my production steps.

1. Text.

Every story starts with text. (Well, every story starts with an idea, but you need to put the idea on paper if you want to be able to share it.) I wrote a (very loose and very silly) poem, which you can read below:

“Happy birthday, Limebirds!”

Just one short year ago today
The Web was graced with an idea so bright
A place for writers to tell their stories
To craft and let their words take flight

Safe harbor from the fright’ning storm
Of jealous trolls and arbalests
Where artists could be free and nurtured
‘Til they’re ready to leave their nests.

The word rang out to authors round
And the name came to be known.
Storytellers settled in
And so the family’s grown.

No matter what your pen may favor –
Poetry, horror, SF, YA –
You’ll always have a friend with
The Limebirds UK.

Yes, I know the meter is inconsistent, and the sentiment is a bit heavy-handed…but I wanted to do something fun, especially since it was going to be sung.

2. Audio.

Despite it being called a “video,” audio is perhaps the most important part of any video project. You can cover up crappy video, but you can’t cover up crappy audio. I recorded my audio using Audacity, a great piece of cross-platform shareware  available from Sourceforge. I recommend Audacity mostly because it’s easy to use and free to download, and exports to MP3 with very little issue.

audacity

An example Audacity window.

(As for the tune, B came up with that herself. I was trying to find some music to go with the cadence, but she just ran with it, so that’s what I kept.)

3. Video/Images.

This isn’t really a video, per se, since it’s just static images sewn together with Final Cut Pro.

limebirds final cut

My Limebirds anniversary project, in process

I use FCP because it’s what I’m used to, but Adobe’s Premiere product is very good, too. (For those of you who are students or work at a college or university, make sure to ask for the educator’s discount!) If you’re not interested in shelling out lots of money for either of these programs, Apple’s iMovie and Windows Movie Maker are adequate – if not very powerful – substitutes.

I sized and cropped each of the images for video (720×480) in Adobe Photoshop (again, because that’s what I’m used to). If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on Photoshop, though, check out a nice little freeware program called GIMP, which is, frankly, a great alternative. (GIMP does not have quite as many bells and whistles as Adobe’s products, but it is a powerful little program.)

I did make sure to use public domain images so I wouldn’t infringe on anyone’s creative art. Wikimedia Commons is a great place to get royalty-free, open-access imagery. Just make sure to pay attention to the usage rights attached to each image, as these are specified by the original artist, and we don’t want to exploit anyone else’s work. 🙂

The Wikimedia Commons front page. All you need for royalty-free.

So! Here’s the full video. At 01:19, it’s a bit long for what it is, but it’s difficult to tell a kid to hurry it up. 😉

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6IGm6GucXs?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

Have you ever experimented with video? What kind of video did you make…or would you like to make? Let me know! Oh, and do make sure to stop by the Limebird Writers. They’ve always got great things to say!

Storytelling without Words

Perhaps that title is a bit misleading….

I recently started preliminary planning for a documentary project, and, as I did, I got to thinking about why I like to do what I like to do when it comes to video production. I’ve spent a good portion of my professional (job) life working with video, and much of that has to do with production. But, while I once fancied myself an actor, I’ve come to enjoy being behind the scenes more than being in front of a camera. Video production involves many steps, and many skills, but the one which I favor most doesn’t happen in production, at all. It happens in post-production: editing.

This is kind of my life.

I’ve edited lots of projects in my time: some small, some not. What I think I love most about that process, though, is that I get to be the one telling the story.

If you think about it, the editor has final input into how the story – especially one in video – plays out. We control the angles, the cuts, the music – all of the details, conscious and subliminal. And that controls how the audience views the characters, the conflict, and the outcome. A simple focus frame on a character’s face (whether they’re speaking or not) can give completely different meaning to a scene. That guy doing the intro for “The Outer Limits” was not kidding; we (editors, that is) control everything.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CtjhWhw2I8?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

It’s the same in writing, too, I think. The editor – whether that’s you doing your first edit or your professional editor doing the final one – controls what the reader sees, how they view the story. The editor doesn’t actively write any of the words of the story, though. Not in my experience, anyway. They help tell the story without writing the words, guiding the writer’s hand and vision with cuts, suggestions, and insight.

We video editors do the same thing. We’re given rough footage, where plot, point, characterization can go one of any number of ways. And, when we’re finished, assuming we’ve done our job right and well, the audience gets a story. Hopefully a good one. But marked by our hands, no matter that.

I’m excited to work with an editor for my first real novel. I’m scared, too; I’ve never put such a huge work – such a gigantic chunk of myself – out there for someone else to tear down. But I want to build a better story than I could do alone. I just hope I get an editor who’s as careful and conscientious as I try to be.

Have you worked with a professional editor before? Was it a good fit, or a not-so-good one? What did you learn from that process?

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