20x2 Chicago: timers, multiple video sources, editing.

Here's a compilation of all sorts of fun stuff that we went through during the production of the most recent 20x2 Chicago show.

First off, we had one person who had a NES Classic that he wanted to plug into the works. The trouble was that we usually only get one VGA input cable from the venue's sound man to plug our video into. I ended up purchasing an inexpensive HDMI switch so that we were able to plug in multiple video sources. We also had to have a little mixer for audio inputs (from our display Macbook and also the NES), and needed to plug our output into a long HDMI cable that was ultimately plugged into the overhead projector we used.

Okay, so THAT was quite a bit of work before the show. The other major piece of tech on display at the show was a large LED timer that I cobbled together from various parts. The digits were purchased from Sparkfun, and they were controlled by a little Arduino-compatible board.

The one bad design decision I made was having a wired remote control for the timer. That limited the distance that a person could be close to the timer, and also proved to be a point of failure for the remote cable. Though the timer did fail only once (unfortunately during the longest-running presentation, when we could have used it the most), I am looking into wireless connection solutions for the next version of the timer for October.

Okay, that was the tech on display during the show. Now for a quick overview of the video editing challenges!

Figure 1: the layers

I'm using Vegas Pro to edit our videos, and I ended up with quite a few audio & video layers for this particular project. In addition to the A/V from the camera, we had an extra audio track from the sound board (to make the vocals sound better), a pair of A/V tracks for the videos that were created for the show, and overlay layers for beginning/ending titles, the watermark for the video, and slides from the talks (the projection was really washed out on the resulting video).

The only tricky thing that was a problem during the video editing was that the sound board audio was a LITTLE quicker than the camera audio, which meant that I had to continually adjust the audio tracks to keep them in sync. This was bearable for just the one project, but if we continue to do this I might want to invest in an automatic audio-syncing tool like PluralEyes.

The whole show was edited as a single file, instead of individual files for each video. This made it much easier to render the final videos, as Vegas has a library of scripts that can do basic tasks, such as export all regions of an open product. The basic script doesn't have much in the way of error checking or time-saving features (like skipping over existing files), so I'm going to revise the existing script for my own needs.

Apart from that, there were no other major tricky bits. It was just a lot of manual labor, done during evenings and weekends in order to get the videos finished. And now I can just dump the whole folder full of media onto my backup system, and relax for a couple of months before we have to do this all over again.

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