A simple, quick and cheap setup for filming WordCamp videos

I have been attending WordCamps for a long time now. My first was back in 2009 for WordCamp UK in Cardiff, my most recent WordCamp Manchester 2018. More recently there has been the trend of filming the talks and these are then placed on the WordPress.tv website.

Filming talks is a great idea and allows attendees to see videos from the alternative tracks available as well as allowing people who could not attend the event to view the talks. However recently it seems to be taking a long time to get things onto WordPress.tv. With that in mind, I set about trying to find a quicker solution that still produced a good quality video and did not cost the earth in terms of hardware and post-production time.

Before I continue with this post, I just want to outline that I am fully aware that all of this is done by volunteers and by no means is this post de-valuing the work they do, rather trying to pose an improved way to make life easier for everyone.

WordCamp Central video equipment

WordCamp Central currently have a suite of cameras and audio equipment for use at WordCamps in the US, Europe or Canada. This is great and involves an HD camera and wireless audio transmitters and receivers. However, this needs to be shipped around the world in order to get to the WordCamps which can be costly and take time.

The WordCamp Central video equipment box.

In addition to this, the video files that come off the cameras can be large and moving large files between computers can be tricky and hence the ease of editing is difficult.

The other difficult thing is that the video/audio files are separate from the screencast of the presenter’s slides. This means you have two video files to merge into one.

My current video/audio setup for recording WordCamp talks

Not only WordCamp talks, but I have used this at local meet-ups too. When trying to come up with this setup I had a few goals in mind. I wanted to keep the price down as much as possible. I also wanted to kit to be portable, so that it could be transported easily in a laptop bag. Finally, it still had to be decent quality.

The idea with my setup was to capture the entire presentation in one piece of software on my laptop, using a video camera and external audio all connected to the laptop. I would also record my screen at the same time.

Video recording hardware setup image.
My kit, all setup ready to record at the WordPress Manchester User Group in November.

Below is the final kit that I settled on:

Screenflow

https://www.telestream.net/screenflow/overview.htm

This is a piece of software for Mac, that allows you to record your screen, external audio from a connected Mic and also a feed from a webcam. It also provides pretty good editing facilities too.

Video editing on a Macbook Pro
Editing my video at WordCamp Edinburgh 2018

Price: $129

The Logitech c920 HD Webcam

https://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/hd-pro-webcam-c920

Initially, I thought it using the laptop camera however that you mean that the camera would be too close to the subject. Therefore I thought that there would be nothing wrong with an external webcam because Screenflow would still pick this up.

Logictech HD Pro C920 webcam image
A great quality webcam for a good price – HD Pro C920

We had already purchased this camera for one of our employees and it worked really well, recording good quality video.

Price: $65

Lavalier Microphone

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B011EXBCMQ/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00

As the presenter is likely to be stood further away from the laptop during recording (although not a million miles away) an external Mic would ensure better quality audio. I also use a standard 2-metre headphone extension cable so the presenter can be about 2.5 metres from the laptop.

Price: $10

Basic tripod

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00XI87KV8/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00

To make sure the camera is not looking up at the subject, a simple tripod works well and the webcam above is tripod mountable which means it is secure. I also use a standard 3-metre USB extension cable so the camera can be about 3.5 metres from the laptop, which means you get a nice wider shot.

Price: $15

All this kit adds up to less than $220 dollars. In addition to this, and perhaps more importantly in terms of getting videos published quickly is the speed on editing.

I last used this setup at WordCamp Manchester 2019 and I managed to have the video edited in about 30 minutes, the same evening of the WordCamp and uploaded to Youtube within a further 90 minutes.

An additional advantage with using Youtube is the quite superb audio captioning for the videos which are automatic and does not require any work from the video editor. It is also extremely (if not 100%) accurate.

The video recording setup at my talk at WordCamp Edinburgh 2018

The finished video

The finished video from WordCamp Manchester is below:

Photo credit: Claire Brotherton (@abrightclearweb)

Published by

Mark Wilkinson

Lead developer & owner at Highrise Digital @highrisedigital. Develops the @wpbroadbean plugins. Former teacher.

4 thoughts on “A simple, quick and cheap setup for filming WordCamp videos”

  1. I have noticed in the video above some auto-focusing on the camera which has not been a problem before. I think this is because in this video I am moving in front of the camera rather than staying to one-side.

    I have, however, downloaded the Logitech software and turned off the auto-focusing feature and therefore I hope the next video I do will be a little clearer and not have that annoying feature on.

  2. Note to self: when recording another video at the WordPress Manchester meet-up this evening I noticed the finished audio was not picking up the correct Mic. This happened previously and I thought it was me not selecting the correct mic on record.

    However this evening I was certain I have selected the correct mic. Turns out Screenflow does pick a mic that is plugged in after the software is loaded. Therefore you must plug in your mic then launch ScreenFlow for the software to pick up the mic.

    Lesson learned and the experiment continues.

  3. Great blog post. For WPLDN we have a similar setup for live however use https://www.ecamm.com/mac/ecammlive/ as the software and then out to restream. This is a great affordable streaming software and you can go live to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Twitch all at once. To see it in action https://youtu.be/Y0Gq_N21HiM at other times we have used higher quality setup with a better camera and software but more expensive and until lighting is poor you will survive with the first setup https://youtu.be/5BX_6BrAYDQ

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