Capturing KansasFest

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I’m a moviegoer and a video gamer, but I generally enjoy those media as a consumer, not a producer. If I had to choose one medium as my all-around favorite, it’d be literature: as described in GET LAMP, there is no means of communication that speaks so directly to the imagination. Accordingly, most of the content I publish for the Apple II takes the form not of software or hardware, but the written word, as evidenced by my multiple blogs and by Juiced.GS.

But when Jason Scott gave his KansasFest 2009 keynote speech, I realized that his presentation could not have been delivered by anyone but him: the content and the delivery were inseparable. A historian, Scott usually records his own speeches, but his travel arrangements had left him without his recording devices. Fortunately, Sean Fahey grabbed his Flip camera and saved the day, but I determined then and there that a more conscious effort had to be made to preserve KansasFest 2010’s moments.

After consulting with my workplace’s multimedia guy, videoblogger Steve Garfield, and a professional photographer who happens to be my uncle, I had an idea of the hardware I’d need. I bought a Kodak Zi8 digital video camera, Manfrotto tripod, and two external microphones (the Audio Technica ATR3350 and Sony ECM-DS70P). I could’ve gotten much better, but only for much more money — and at this point, the Apple II is still a hobby with the appropriate budget.

Recording the sessions was rather effortless. The resulting files were trimmed in QuickTime 7 Pro. If the video needed further editing, it was imported into iMovie; for audio, Audacity. The files were then converted from MOV using MPEG Streamclip, per Vimeo’s guidelines, and uploaded them into a KansasFest 2010 album. I chose that video service instead of YouTube because of the ease with which high-definition movies longer than ten minutes can be posted and even made available for download. I bought a one-month premium account that could accommodate the multiple gigabytes I needed to upload in a short amount of time; when that month was up, I renewed for a year, lasting me through KansasFest 2011.

All was well and good — except that most of these videos are longer than the average viewer’s attention span. When I needed to rewatch Mark Simonsen’s keynote speech, I exported the audio to my iPod and listened to it in the car. Steve Weyhrich mentioned his wish for the same ability to listen to the speech en route to work, instead of sitting at his computer for 90 minutes straight, so I set out to make this option available to others.

Echoes of KFestAs I’d ended up using the Zi8’s inbuilt microphone instead of either of the external mics I’d brought to KFest 2010, the video’s audio captured the background noise of the complex in which the sessions were held. I used Audacity further to remove as much static as I could, via a combination of the noise removal, amplify, and bass boost functions. I then uploaded them to the KansasFest Web site and, upon the recommendation of the event’s former logo designer, used the Blubrry plugin for WordPress to make the files available for streaming and to iTunes. The latter, ironically, required an episode to be published before it would accept the podcast submission — but I wanted an iTunes subscription option to be available for the initial announcement of the podcast’s availability. I worked around this chicken-and-the-egg scenario by backdating an episode so that nobody but iTunes would notice its publication. The result is the Echoes of KFest — technically more an audio archive than a podcast, but still only the third podcast (after 1 MHz and A2Unplugged) to ever be dedicated to the Apple II.

Since Echoes of KFest was an afterthought not conceived of until after the recordings were made, the audio is one area that’s obvious to improve. For KansasFest 2011, I will be investing in a Azden WMS-PRO external microphone. I’ve also ordered the latest version of iLife for use with non-Apple II projects — experience which I hope will translate back to KansasFest.

I’ve learned much by stepping into the multimedia realm; now I can say confidently that I really do prefer text! The number of technical steps to get all this media merely presentable meant that further refinement to make it truly professional was beyond me. I don’t want to dismiss the flaws of this work by saying “It’s better than nothing,” but I do hope its audience (if any) will recognize that my methodology is a work in progress and is attempted with the best of intentions.