Thursday, November 01, 2018

Ever Want To Set Up A Low Cost, Wireless, Mobile 4 Camera (multi-cam) TV Studio?

Turns out, you can now setup up one of these multicam systems for less than the cost of one pro camcorder. And you can do it in a completely mobile/wireless fashion with a setup time of fewer than 10 minutes. There are now several low cost 'tv studio's' that can be set up with an iPad and a bunch of iPhones that allow you to record and live stream in full 1080p a multi-cam 'show' that's not too different than what you see from your local TV stations. This includes overlays, transitions, pro audio input, but also includes something the old school folks don't: real-time interaction with people on Facebook and YouTube, if you want it. Why should I care? As part of the creating these non-profit low operating cost local newsrooms of which the Longmont Observer is the prototype- video is part of the equation. Gotta capture those local news events, city council meetings, school board meetings, high school sporting events, ribbon cuttings and many other day to day life kind of things a local newsroom covers. These kind of systems are also useful for things like local music and comedy venues, churches, convention centers, and local sports and event arenas. I've found 4 companies worth looking at. Switcher Studio Mevo (Livestream) Cinamaker SlingStudio I'm sure there are others, but, these are the one's I was able to really dig into. I'm still doing evaluations on feature sets, but, honestly, all 4 can do pretty much the same (basic) things. Of course, the longer they've been around, the more polished their products are likely to be (Switcher Studio is the most mature, with Cinamaker almost brand new. Mevo and Sling came out about the same time). What's really interesting is the cost. Here's a spreadsheet with a breakdown of all four systems costs. As a baseline: I used iPhone SE's (4K capable) purchased (new) from one of the MVNO's who sells them for $150 new (locked but doesn't matter, you don't need to activate them to use them). I also used, pretty much, the same set of 'base' equipment (iPhone SE's, cables, stands, mics, etc.) for each system as a cost basis since they all use the same parts, not including their proprietary hardware and/or software. Interestingly, the cost to get going and to operate the systems the first year really is far less expensive than you might think. From a low of around $1600 to a high of around $2600. For everything (including the first year subscription costs for the software/service). Considering a Tri-caster mini (the 'switching' device used by many 'pro' studios) starts around $5,000 (no cameras, at $2500 each, included), that's pertty darned impressive. Can you spend more? Sure. But this is 'good enough' for about 90% of the things you'd want to do on a day to day basis at a local level, where, you know, we live our lives every day. Yes, there are differences in what you get, the capabilities of each system, the level of sophistication possible in the productions, the reach of the wireless each is capable of and the scope you can grow into, but, the basics are all pretty similar. I'll be doing a feature comparison as part of the evaluation as well, but that's likely a 'few months' away kind of thing right now. This'll get you started though. If you're interested in creating a low cost, highly capable 4 camera (or more) 'multi-cam' wireless mobile TV studio- you've got plenty of options.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Times Call = Boulder Camera (?) Apparently it's the same Newspaper

Longmont and Boulder:  Very different towns.  However, our for-profit local newspaper chain seems to think it's the same town, and we won't notice, so they just reuse the same content.  Over and over.

From 60% on the low end to over 90% on the high end (any given day) the content is the same.

This isn't community news and information media, it's an advertising container.

However, it's also the reason we started the Longmont Observer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Times-Call, our local newspaper, turned off commenting- this is not a good thing

Some of our readers at the Longmont Observer, recently, pointed out to us that The Longmont Times-Call, owned by Alden Global has made the decision to turn off commenting by readers for its entire site.  They referenced this article: Times-Call ends story commenting

The Times-Call, a Digitial First Media Corporation property, states that "Commenting on stories, while a sound idea in principle, presents a host of challenges for us and we simply do not have the tools or adequate resources to ensure story commenting provides positive value to our readers."

They go on to say: "The majority of the time, the comments are dominated by a small group of people, most posting anonymously, and who, frankly, tend to simply shout down or ridicule any opposing view. Commonly, our comments sections are filled with vitriol, personal attacks, profanity, and angry and hateful speech — and worse, unfortunately."

Many news outlets in America, and across the world, have moved the conversation from local media outlets to the large social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  The thinking has been they create a barrier that raises the bar by creating helpful friction in the process that, in theory, would produce a more restrained and thoughtful commentary.  Others, especially over the last couple of years, agree that places like Facebook offer a massive space, but, are not always a place for intelligent discourse.
What appears to be happening with social media is a significant portion of people are behaving irresponsibly and writing without thinking of the consequences their messages have.  Often, these people hijack public discourse and set, even control, the tone of the discussion.

That, apparently, has now happened to the Longmont Times-Call.

In addition, most sites that have commenting only see a small percentage of their readers actually sign up and participate in the comment sections.  Sections that require, often, significant resources to moderate from already struggling news media entities and their constantly shrinking staffs.

The news, today, is no longer concentrated and fed to a city by a single source anymore.  The local newspaper used to be a quasi-monopoly on how people found out what was going on in their town and determining what was important and what would be ignored.  People were willing to pay for that news.

Those times are no more.

We still pay for it, make no mistake about that, but it's distributed among several players now.  The average person pays on average $50-100 a month for their internet service at home.  Another $50 a month for your cell phone and it's data service.  With that comes access to 'free' information and news.

What we forget is we pay for 'free' services like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.  What also forget is that, when a service is free to us, we become the product.  My Friend Dennis Dube, when the iPad first came out said to me, quite insightfully "oh look, a screen attached to your credit card'.

How true.

We pay with our personal information.  It's collected and sold, as highly focused advertising, to sell us things.  From cars to politicians to, it now seems, social contracts on how to behave. 

Those advertising dollars used to go to that local newspaper.  The old Times-Call building in Longmont had, at it's prime, 200 plus employee's, creating a well informed daily record of our lives in Longmont.

Also, no more.

The small, personal and sometimes even petty is now relegated to the short sound bites of Twitter or the cloistered bubbles and echo chambers we create for ourselves on Facebook.

The question then becomes where to turn to find out what's really happening in your town?  Who's paying attention to what's going on at St. Vrain Valley Schools?  Who's digging into that tip about the troubled kid's facility going up on the west side?  Who's asking about things like police misconduct?  And who's talking to local businesses to find out what's available to people in our town?  What kinds of local goods and services do we have in Longmont now?  And what's happening with issues like the train noise on the East side? 

I like to think we're taking a shot at it with the Longmont Observer.  We're doing our best as a non-profit supported solely by the goodwill of the institutions, businesses, and residents of Longmont, but it's going to be a difficult road.

Competing with the locked in costs of internet and cell phone bills, and the well-crafted game theory used to manipulate people to come back, over and over, to their social network profiles, maybe something that no one can overcome.

Let's hope not.  Let's hope that we can keep a level of local independence and local engagement by people who live in our town(s) by creating and supporting things like the Longmont Observer.

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

  As you know, I once was an evangelical megachurch pastor and my pastoral career stretched over many years. Eventually, I could no longer t...