Category Archives: videos

Soothing Musings: A new way of communicating

Soothing Musings with Sarah is a new way of communicating for me. Using a blend of beauty, information, and story-telling, my goal is to share a sense of calm in a few short minutes. This post describes where the idea came from and introduces the latest musing, called The Humble Mushroom. I hope you enjoy the post and the musing.

It all started from a realisation that walking in the Australian bush is, for me, a very soothing experience. I see the creatures carrying on their lives, short though those lives may be, as if there’s no need to worry about tomorrow. Birds and reptiles and animals, wild and beautiful, go about their business around me, accepting me as part of their world.

Every little sound is an indication of life. It’s a possum nibbling a leaf, or a parrot gnawing at a seed pod, or a branch rubbing against a tree trunk. Swamp wallabies bound-pound away then turn to examine me, ears and paws raised. An echidna hides its nose under a bush, convinced I can’t see the rest of its body, then peers out when I’ve been quiet for a couple of minutes and bumbles over to investigate my feet. A lace monitor lizard, longer than I am tall, waddles across my path then climbs a tree, tasting the air with flickering tongue.

In the early morning, all the creatures are out and about. In the middle of the hot day, the bush is quiet while everyone rests. When rain threatens, the cockatoos scold the universe with glee. Day turns to night, ushering in the Tawny Frogmouths and the shy bandicoots.

Life goes on. For me, it’s the comfort of the inevitable.

I wanted to find a way to capture and share the feeling of calm that I get as soon as I walk onto a bush path. One day, someone asked me to put together a lightning talk. on a topic of my choice. I thought, perhaps I could do a talk that was short on words and high in atmosphere. A soupçon of information, some beautiful images, and a ton of calm.

And thus Soothing Musings with Sarah was born. By design, each musing is just a few minutes long.

The humble mushroom, with music by Philip Horwitz

Now, I’m delighted to share the latest musing, The humble mushroom. This musing includes a gorgeous musical interlude by Philip Horwitz.

Over the course of a few months recently, I wandered through the forests and woodlands near my home, eyes on the undergrowth, looking for fungus. I was amazed at how many different kinds of mushrooms I found and how beautiful they are. All the photos in The humble mushroom are from a tiny area of Australia.

Click the image below, sit back, listen to some stories about mushrooms, then relax into the musical interlude.

For those who want to experiment

Would you like to put something similar together? This communication style may even be useful for some types of technical documentation. I recently wrote some guidelines on how to record yourself in a webcam view and show a presentation at the same time.

Live streaming with StreamYard to record presentation and webcam view

I’ve recently started a YouTube channel called Soothing Musings with Sarah. I’ll tell you a bit about the channel itself later. First, though, I want to share what I learned about how to record a presentation alongside a webcam view of myself. After quite a bit of investigation, I found that the best combination of services for my needs is StreamYard, Google Slides, and YouTube.

For my video format, I wanted to include a mini window showing myself talking. I therefore needed an app that would record a webcam view. Alongside the talking me, I wanted a main window showing pictures of the thing I was talking about. For the main window, I decided a slide deck would be best, so that I could include text as well as photos. So, I needed an app that would record a slide presentation, as well as the mini window of me as presenter.

Here’s the end result:

I already had a Gmail account, which gives me access to Google Slides for presentations, and YouTube for sharing videos.

Getting started with Google Slides and YouTube

You can get help from the Google documentation on how to set up an account. You can use the same account for Gmail, Google Slides, and YouTube. There’s also information on how to create presentations with Google Slides.

Setting up a named YouTube channel

When you set up a YouTube account, you automatically get a YouTube channel that has the same name as your account. For my videos, I wanted a channel with a specific name: Soothing Musings with Sarah. YouTube calls a named channel a brand account (or sometimes just an account). A brand account doesn’t need to be a business account.

The YouTube docs describe how to set up a named channel. One thing to note is that there may be a 24-hour delay before your new named channel is available. I found there was no delay for my default YouTube channel, but the delay did occur for the named channel (brand account) which I created.

StreamYard for recording of presentation and webcam view

StreamYard gives you a browser-based streaming studio. I’m using Chrome as my browser. StreamYard works by streaming your recorded video directly to YouTube. All you need to do is set up your screen layout and other options in StreamYard, then record the session. As soon as you finish the session, you can watch your video on your YouTube channel. StreamYard gives you a link to the video on YouTube, which you can find on the StreamYard dashboard.

After you finish recording your video on StreamYard, YouTube still needs to complete some post-processing, which can take a few hours. When that’s done, your video becomes visible in the list of videos in your YouTube channel. That’s also when you can set the video thumbnail and download the video. Note that you can view the video on YouTube immediately after finishing the session on StreamYard, even before YouTube’s post-processing is finished.

Connecting StreamYard to YouTube

Here’s how to connect StreamYard to your YouTube channel:

  1. Sign up for a StreamYard account. StreamYard offers free and paid plans.
  2. In StreamYard, go to the destinations page. As you can see in this screenshot, I currently have two destinations set up in Streamyard: one for my default YouTube account, and one for my brand account. Your destinations page is probably empty at this point:
  3. Click Add a Destination.
  4. On the next page, click YouTube Channel:
  5. Follow the prompts to sign in to Google and to choose your account or brand account. Make sure you use the email address that you used to set up your YouTube channel.

When that’s all done, you’re ready to create your first recording, which StreamYard calls a broadcast.

Recording your session on StreamYard

The following steps include some tips that I gleaned while experimenting with StreamYard. They may not all apply to you, but they’ll at least help you get started.

  1. Get ready to be filmed. 🙂 Brush your hair, arrange your collar, do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel comfortable. Of course, you can choose not to include a webcam view in the recording. In that case, as you were.
  2. Go to the StreamYard broadcasts page and click Create a Broadcast:
  3. If StreamYard prompts you with a dialog window named Broadcast to, choose the YouTube channel that you want as the destination for your video recording.
  4. Set the title, description, and privacy for your video. I like to set the video to private at first, so that I can review it before the general public can see it:
  5. Click Create Broadcast.
  6. Check the view from your camera and the sound from your mic, as prompted by StreamYard.
  7. Set a display name. This is the text that appears on the bottom left of the webcam view. Looking at the video at the top of this post, you can see that my display name is Sarah Maddox, and it shows up as white text on an indigo background.
  8. This is when you enter the StreamYard studio. It looks like this:
  9. Take some time to examine the options, in particular the various settings available in the strip on the right-hand side of the studio. In the above screenshot, I’ve selected the Brand option, which is where you can set your brand colour etc. Some of the options are available in the paid plans only. For my brand colour, I chose indigo, which is why my display name has an indigo background. You can find some good colours on the material design website.
  10. If you want a recording of yourself to be part of the video, click the box with the webcam view near the bottom left of the studio page. That’s the box that shows a moving picture of you. By clicking the box, you add the webcam view to the video.
  11. Check the angle of your video camera, and make sure the webcam shows just what you want it to show.
  12. Now it’s time to set up the layout of your video. Click one of the layouts that appear in a row like this:

    I like the layout that shows 2 people on the left plus the presentation on the right. That’s the one highlighted in the above screenshot. Even though I’m showing only one person (that is, one webcam view) I like the sizing ratios in this layout.
  13. Move over to your Google Slides deck, and click Present then Presenter view, so that you can use the presenter view window to drive the presentation:

  14. You’ll see a presenter view window that looks something like this:
  15. In StreamYard, click the Share Screen, option, which appears at the bottom of the StreamYard studio:

  16. Choose the option to share the Chrome tab and select the presenter view for your presentation:

  17. Bring the presenter view window for your presentation to the fore, and drag the presenter view window to a convenient position, so that it doesn’t cover any bits of the StreamYard screen that you want to see while presenting. In particular, make sure you can see the “Go Live” button. The “End Broadcast” button will appear in the same place when you’re actually broadcasting, and you’ll want to find that easily.
  18. Now it’s time to start the recording. In StreamYard, click Go Live at the top right of the studio window:

  19. Click Go Live again to confirm that you’re ready. This starts the streaming to YouTube. (It’s OK! If you’ve set the privacy option to private, no-one but you can see the video while you’re streaming or even when you’ve finished.)
  20. Press Alt+Tab (or Cmd+Tab) to bring the presenter view to the fore again.
  21. Go for it! Have your say and show your slides.
  22. When you’re ready to stop recording, click End Broadcast at top right of the StreamYard studio:

  23. Click End Broadcast again to confirm. Wait a second or so until StreamYard lets you know that it’s closed the stream.
  24. Take a look at your video! In StreamYard, you can click Links at top right of the studio window, then click View on YouTube:

  25. Alternatively, you can click Return to Dashboard and see your list of recorded videos on the Past Broadcasts tab:
  26. Click the three dots next to each recording to see various options, including the option to view the video on YouTube.

You can also see the video directly from YouTube. In your channel, Click Your videos then select Live streams from the dropdown list:

  • After some hours, the video appears in the Uploads list too.
  • In YouTube Studio, the recording appears on the Live tab.
  • Note that the Download link for the video in YouTube Studio doesn’t work immediately — it’s greyed out. It took a few hours for me before the link became active.

Other hints:

  • While recording in StreamYard, you can remove the webcam window but retain audio: Click the layout option that shows just the full screen. You can then put the webcam back again by choosing your original layout option.
  • The StreamYard docs are excellent, including a good set of FAQ.

Other services that I tried

I tried a few other services to get the layout that I needed. When live streaming with YouTube Live, I couldn’t share my screen. ScreenCastify is very easy to use and produces nice results, but I couldn’t get the onscreen camera box (webcam view) to appear when in presenter mode with Google Slides. 

My channel: Soothing Musings with Sarah

My YouTube channel is a new type of communication for me. I’m attempting to use voice mixed with beautiful pictures of nature, plus a soupçon of information, to convey a sense of calm. Hence, Soothing Musings with Sarah. At this point, the channel has a couple of videos streamed via StreamYard. I’m experimenting as I go. There’ll probably be more to come.

If you’re investigating how to record a video with a camera view and a slide deck, I hope you find this post useful.

Storyboards for video design and review

I’ve just created two short instructional videos, introducing specific aspects of our APIs to developers. I used a storyboard as a way of outlining the video content, illustrating my ideas about the flow of the video, and requesting a review from my colleagues.

A colleague, Rachel, introduced me to the idea of storyboarding a while ago. This is the first time I’ve tried it.

What a storyboard looks like

This is what the storyboard looked like when I sent it out for initial review comments:

My first storyboard

My first storyboard

To get started, I looked at the examples Rachel had given me of her own storyboards, remembering her very useful comments about how she used them. Then I looked online to see what other people are doing. I found two examples that gave me more good ideas on how to represent my video design in a storyboard:

  • Storyboards, from the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design. I like the Hunting Sequence from the Jane Animation Project.
  • Storyboarding, from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The sketches at the bottom of the page are appealing, and show how different formats of storyboard are useful in different situations.

The design of my storyboard is a conglomeration of ideas generated by my colleagues examples and the two sources above. I shared my storyboard template with members of my team, and suggested they may like to use something similar when designing videos. They like the idea, and each person adapted the template to suit them. This approach works surprisingly well.

What a storyboard is good for

For me, the primary goal of a storyboard is to share an easily-absorbed way of representing the flow of the video.

This is what I wrote at the top of my first storyboard:

This storyboard is a precursor to a script. It’s an illustrative way of outlining the video before we start in-depth development of code and script. Note: All visuals are just mockups to give some idea of what’s happening, and are not intended to be the real thing.

Building out the storyboard

As time passed, I fleshed out the script on the storyboard, replacing the outlined content with the words I was planning to say during the presentation. So the storyboard evolved continually during the scripting of the video, the flow design, and the planning of the visual aspects such as screenshots, demonstrations and annotations.

A number of colleagues responded to my requests for review. After a few revisions, my script was ready to move to a separate document for final tweaking and practice runs. This is what the storyboard looked like at that point:

The storyboard ready to be transformed to a script

The storyboard ready to be transformed into a script

The resulting video

This is the very first instructional video that I’ve ever presented! (Apart from videos shot during conference presentations.) It’s short by design. The target audience is developers who are using the Google Maps Android API to include maps in their Android apps.

Producing the video

I could write an entire blog post about the process of filming the video. So for now, I’ll just show you a couple of photos of the video production studio.

The first photo shows me sitting in the hot seat, with the green screen behind me. In the foreground are the two video production screens, with ATEM Television Studio (the input stream switcher) on the right and Wirecast (which we used to define the video format and control the flow) on the left.

In the hot seat in the video production studio

In the hot seat in the video production studio

The second photo is a panoramic view from the hot seat, showing all the lights that glare down at you. The production centre in the middle at the back.

The view from the hot seat

The view from the hot seat

Conclusion

A storyboard is a good tool for solidifying my own ideas about the video, showing them to others, and conducting a collaborative review.

I’d love to hear your ideas about storyboarding, the format of the storyboards you use, and how you find them useful (or not). 🙂

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