Monday, 7 April 2008

So, it turns out I can't spell!

Trying to sort out the video I shot for the first Silverlight UK User Group meeting has been a fascinating, if frustrating, foray into the world of producing video for the web for me.

On my 'emergency' video editing machine (a Dell D820 laptop, albeit a laptop with fast CPU, 4GB memory, oodles of hard drive space and an internal 1920x1200 screen) it takes about 8 hours to render half an hour of video at 720p resolution! Yikes!

That's AFTER I've added the subtitling for any inaudible pieces (audience questions/comments or talks from presenters who just won't wear a radio mic). I'm not sure I'd have bothered with sub-titles if I'd known ahead of time it would take 8 hours to transcribe/edit into the video the questions asked during a simple half hour talk, but with technical subject matter the audio is often more important than the video, and short of insisting every audience member use a mic it's hard to see any other solution to the problem.

But there's a lot of other time taken up by the production process too. Renders not only make your laptop unusable for anything else for ridiculous amounts of time, but they can crash too (with an amusing .NET "Write exception" message from Sony Vegas Pro - who knew it was written in managed code?!) which all adds to the "clock ticking away and I'm getting nowhere" fun.

Even after all that rendering time the resulting half hour video turns out to be far too big (over 1GB!) for any of the free video hosting services to take onboard. So the video then had to spend a couple more hours in Microsoft's Expression Encoder to get it down to a more realistic size (under 250MB). And that shrinking down in size, with viddler's own compression applied on top, sadly means my dreams of 720p hi-def perfection over the web are somewhat dashed! Quite aside from the fact we're still not done with wall clock time!

Add in 4-5 hours for Viddler and/or Vimeo to upload the video, and then a couple of hours on top of that for the hosting service to do its own compression on the resulting uploaded stream and you start to see why what sounds simple ("I'll just record a couple of sessions at a user group and put them on the web") can turn into days of elapsed time and a not insignificant amount of work.

So, I was feeling quite pleased with myself earlier this morning when the first three videos were finally done, uploaded and content approved, until presenter Tim Sneath just mentioned in passing that in the title sequence which starts each and every video I hadn't spelt the word 'inaugural' correctly. Aaaaarggghh! I'm afraid I WON'T be going back through all the video to correct it and then tie up my laptop for another 3 days re-rendering, but the lesson learnt (yet again!) is if you've got a spell checker you should use it! In the meantime I'm wishing I had a top-of-the-range Macintosh and a copy of Final Cut Pro at my disposal!

The first three videos are now available for viewing over on Michelle Flynn's blog. Also a mailing list has been set up for those in the UK interested in the group and discussing Silverlight overall.

One side effect of this work is that launch of The Daily.NET Show has now slipped a week. But I think it's worth the slippage because the content of these user group videos makes them well worth seeing.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Inaugral Silverlight UK User Group Meeting

Earlier this evening I attended the inaugral meeting of the UK Silverlight User Group at Conchango's offices near London Bridge.

The group got off to a cracking start, with over 50 people in attendance (and several more who wanted to attend having to be turned away because of lack of room). The only problem I can see the group having moving forward will be finding a space big enough to hold all those developers and designers who want to attend.

I came away with about three hours of video, in spite of having to stop filming at certain points to avoid capturing 'confidential' or 'controversial' information which is fine for attendees who are known, but can quickly escalate into a mess of a situation if broadcast to the world at large via the web.

To say this was one of the best user group meetings I've attended is a bit of an understatement. What impressed me most was the experience of many of the people present, and the depth of the questions being asked.

Microsoft's Tim Sneath was the main presenter, although we got several quick sessions from others with some great Tips and Tricks from people who've been working with this stuff 'in the real world'. I thought the quality of presentation was really high, and this was a fantastic 'inaugral' meeting for the group, whose organisers have some serious plans ahead with regard to helping the community of Silverlight designers and developers.

Tim's session was excellent, mainly because he very quickly 'deviated from the script' when he realised that what people really wanted was a good Q & A session, rather than a repeat performance of the demo's shown at MIX 08. Lots of good stuff came out, and it was good to see Microsoft staff able to good-naturedly laugh at themselves and the company they work for in the way Tim did.

For those who missed the event, hopefully the video will soon be made available for all to see. Visually there's not a lot going on (especially when questions are coming from people's backs of heads!) and, as with last week's Vista Squad meeting, the lighting in the room was so poor it was hard to get high quality high definition footage. But thanks to the use of radio mics the sound should be decent and the sessions are absolutely worth listening to if you have any interest at all in Silverlight

There are tentative plans for the user group to hold meetings every 8 weeks, but details will become clearer as discussions take place, initially via an email list that will apparently be set up over the next few days. I'll post a link to the videos here on this blog (assuming the group's organisers decide to publish them) once I've finished rendering all the footage.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Podcast interview with "The Social Programmer"

Just after I got back from MIX 08 I did a podcast interview with Craig Murphy for The Social Programmer web site.

We talked about the MIX08 conference and other events, community, new Microsoft technologies, the upcoming Daily.Net Show video podcast and a whole bunch of other stuff besides.

Apparently this podcast (Craig's 42nd) is the longest he's done, which I guess is a polite way of saying I talk far too much! ;-) The signs for my getting The Daily.NET Show running in at under 5 minutes are looking less and less likely as time goes on!