Archive for October, 2007

MacBook Pro into Camcorder Hack

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

I scrambled this week to try and figure out a way to record Alex Jacobson speak about HAppS at the last BayFP meeting. At the last moment, it occurred to me that I could at least capture it using a rather baroque hack:

Requirements

  • MacBook Pro with iSight camera
  • Screencasting software (I use SnapZ Pro, $69) w/Audio recording
  • iMovie (or something that can do a flip)

Note: Apple has made this much easier if you have a recent version of iLife (I don’t):

iLife ’08 makes even more of the built-in iSight camera. It’s simply another camera source for iMovie ’08, but that opens up another world of creative possibilities. Record a short clip with no extra hardware. Just MacBook Pro.

The Hack

The basic hack is quite simple:

  1. Bring up Photo Booth
  2. Get the computer really close to the presenter
  3. Capture Photo Booth on-screen display using screencasting software & record using MacBook Pro mic
  4. Flip the movie in iMovie
  5. Profit!

The Details

Turn it to 11

In watching recorded presentations on Google Video & elsewhere, I’ve decided that sound quality is the most important part of any video that you’re hoping to learn from. As long as the presenter has released their slides and aren’t using the blackboard much, you need very little picture quality to sync your own copy of the slides (hopefully readable) to the video’s unreadable version. However, if you don’t have good (or at least loud) audio you’re up a creek. It’s amazing how many of the Google Tech Talks, for example, have reasonable audio quality, but no where near enough volume to be understandable.

To ensure that you’re getting the best possible sound using this hack, make sure you’re putting the laptop as close to the presenter as is practicable. After that, boost your mic’s volume under System Preferences→Sound→Input. You’re looking for your Internal Microphone’s Input Volume (maybe using “Use ambient noise reduction”, though it’d really be much smarter to make everyone shut up and hope the AC doesn’t kick on). After boosting this volume, just watch for a couple of seconds to make the Level meter isn’t spiking. Even in the best conditions, the laptop will probably be far enough from the speaker to not have this be an issue.

Lights

This one is obvious, but make sure you’ve struck a balance in ambient light levels between annoying the audience, illuminating the speaker, and keeping the projector visible.

The Flip

Once you’ve recorded your presentation, you’ll notice that the resulting video is “backwards” (flipped) horizontally. If you load the file into iMovie you can fix this using the Mirror effect (under Video FX) with the Horizontal slider all the way to Left, Vertical at Top, and the Effect In & Out settings unchanged.