Lighting Rig

My office has a very simple and square design.  When working out details on how to light it I always came back to one problem… where to mount the lights?

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In the end I decided another construction project was needed.  This time it was to design the perfect lighting rig, connected to my Broadcasting Screens 4-point mounting system so I didn’t have to put any more holes in my office walls.

The rig had to hold the 8 lights I needed for the 2 broadcasting stations as well as the wiring and dimmers.  At the same time I wanted to upgrade the lighting to LED’s.

Heat emission had a lot to do with the decision to go to all LED.  Previously I was using CFL’s in all my lighting fixtures but even that was causing too much heat to accumulate in a closed room, fans on low and the afternoon sun freshly set after heating two walls of this office ALL DAY!!!

Construction for this rig was simple after the design work was done.  I’m using the same type of 2” boards I used previously for the broadcasting screens and at $1 each it fit the budget (had to leave lots of money for the dimmable LED bulbs).

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Cut 4 of them down to size and the painting began.  Two coats and 3 days later I was able to assemble the entire rig and mount using steal cables…

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The mounting system was easy… I used eye bolts and wing nuts to assemble the rig.  Using the bungee cords from my broadcasting screens I was able to hang the rig while I bolted the cables to the appropriate length.

This rig will let me leave all of the lights in place between shows.  It is mounted high in the room and with the room being so tall, no one runs into the rig or lights.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below…

If you’d like to see all of the lighting rig photos, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielheth/sets/72157629651701266/

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Broadcasting Screens

During the setup of my broadcasting studio, I found the need to hide the backgrounds behind the two people on the show.  I wanted to provide a way to have multiple screens of different colors, including chroma-key Green.  Then mount those screens so they are kept stretched and smooth for the broadcast.  What I came up with was a four point mounting and an innovative Indie screen system.

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Using cheap hardware from Lowe’s, building these screens was a breeze!

Required Parts (for 4-point mounting):

  (4) Eye hooks
  (1) Drill with properly sized bit
  (1) Stud finder

First locate where you plan to mount your screens, and use the stud finder to help you find the perfect spot.  Drill your holes and screw in the Eye hooks.

Required Parts (for one screen):

  (4) bungee cords of appropriate length which depends on where your wall mounting points are.
  (4) Eye hooks
  (1) Bed Sheet, Twin bed size was perfect for my needs
  (2) 2”x1”x96” boards
  (6) Carpet tack strips (for mounting the bed sheet)

Spread the sheet out and position the 2” boards on either side.  Roll the sheet around the 2” boards for one or two turns and use the carpet tacks to hold everything in place.  Lastly, drill pilot holes into both ends of both 2” boards and screw in the eye hooks.

Roll the rest of the sheet around one of the 2” boards and wrap with Velcro straps for storage. 

Mounting this is very easy and done within minutes by one person.

IMG_0861Clip one of the 2” boards across the top to the bungees attached to the upper two mounting points.

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Then unwrap the Velcro and unfurl the screen slowly… don’t let it drop since you may damage the carpet tacks.

Lastly attach the lower bungees so the screen is nice and stretched.

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Once your all stretched it should look like the image at the top of this article.

I built multiple screens of various colors.  They store very easily in my closet and I pull out the appropriate one depending on topics of our show.

TIP:  Spray Downy wrinkle eliminator onto the screens when they are stretched before your show.  It puts a pleasant smell in the air and smooth’s your screen out very nicely.

If you have any questions or suggestions on other broadcasting equipment, please comment below.

And to see all of my Screen pictures, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielheth/sets/72157629653027764/

How to Produce a Webcast… part 5

Video Mixer

In part 4 of my how-to series, I spoke about mixing various audio sources together.  In this one I will describe how to mix your various video signals together with the mixed audio to produce a final product.

Once again, due to intensive research, I discovered a wonderful product which does exactly what I’m after.  According to their website:  “VidBlaster is a state-of-the-art live video production tool” and I would totally agree.  This single tool replaces tens of thousands of dollars worth of physical video mixing equipment into one very easy to use piece of software.  When used on an appropriately fast computer, you can produce Full-HD LIVE broadcasts. 

During the first episode of Week In Review, we had spent too much money on needed audio and video equipment that we were broke.  But by our second episode we had enough capital to purchase the Home version of VidBlaster.

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As you can see from the image on the right, our home version limits us to 7 modules.  Based on the hardware we have, here are the seven modules we chose and why:

  1. Preview allows us to monitor the signal output.  This is similar to the “headphones” connector on our audio mixer.  Since we want to produce a 720p broadcast, our preview window is sized appropriately.
  2. Audio is a module which we designate the audio source that will be feed into the broadcast.  I have chosen the rear Line In blue plug on my sound card since that is where I have the Main output of the mixer going.  We can monitor the sound level with this module and modify it as needed on the fly.
  3. Streamer is used to link our broadcast to our uStream LIVE broadcast channel.  It only has Start/Stop buttons with additional options under the right click menu.  These include our username/password and our chosen LIVE broadcaster (uStream in our case).
  4. Recorder, this module is used to capture our broadcast to a video file for later post-production within Windows Live Movie Maker (covered in part 8 of this series).  This module also includes some basic controls for starting/stopping and saving our broadcast.  It also has an option for uploading the video, but I want to add starting and ending credits which I do in post production because of the Home Edition of VidBlaster I own.  Once we have enough to purchase the Professional Edition we can add our starting and ending credits within the live broadcast itself.
  5. Camera 1 which I have configured to pull from the Microsoft Cinema camera pointed at David’s location.
  6. Camera 2 is configured to pull from my other Microsoft Cinema camera which is pointed at my location.
  7. Camera 3 is configured for Screen Capture mode.  Since we have the 7 module limitation this module changes based on how our broadcast is planned.  Currently our co-host Eric doesn’t have a computer and we are using our Skype to call his cell phone.  This configuration allows me to display YouTube videos, websites, or anything else I can call up on it on a LIVE broadcast.

Our upgrade plan is pretty easy to guess.  The Professional Edition of VidBlaster increases the module limit to 25 and with these additional modules we will be changing the configuration and adding new modules.

  1. Camera 3 will be configured to screen capture mode and has our Skype caller displayed full screen.  They are displayed on my 3rd desktop screen which points towards David so he can see our guest directly.
  2. Camera 4 will be pointed at my 2nd desktop screen also in screen capture mode.  This 2nd screen will be used for browsing webpages and such LIVE.
  3. Player 1 will have our opening credits video which was post-produced a few weeks ago.
  4. Player 2 will be used for our closing credits.  Likely these are produced for each episode since we don’t know who to thank for various content and our guests.
  5. Player XX, these additional players will be used for various videos used during the broadcast.  If we want to display a YouTube video, we will use a utility to download that video and have it on my hard drive and preloaded into a Player module.  The reason for this is it will put less of a strain on my internet connection which every bit of is needed for a good quality upload to uStream.
  6. Video Overlay 1 will be used to hold our customized title graphic for David.  It basically contains his name and job description for display at random times during the broadcast.
  7. Video Overlay 2 will be used for my customized title graphic.
  8. Video Overlay 3 is destined to hold the customized title graphic for our Skype guest/co-host.
  9. Video Effect 1 I will use to combine both Camera 1 and Camera 2 in a side-by-side or Picture-in-Picture format.  This module has nearly a dozen different formats which I may setup additional Video Effect modules for.
  10. Video Effect 2 is used to combine Camera 2 and Camera 3.
  11. Video Effect 3 is for Camera 1 and Camera 3.

As you can see, our limitations force us to find creative ways to produce our broadcast.  If you’d like to help us overcome these limitations, please donate to the Week In Review show.  All donations will go to improving the quality of the show and keeping us online and broadcasting.

Cost Sheet

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At this point you have all the tools to produce videos and broadcast them LIVE for less than $700 + tax.  From this point forward we will focus in on hosting services (parts 6, 7 and 10), as well as post production (part 8 and 9) and lastly publicizing your new show online using social networking tools (part 11).