Monthly Archives: August 2013

You can’t reach me on my cell phone

cabin and wifi

You probably heard. The Pew Internet and American Life Project released the results of its survey on broadband internet adoption in the US. The results are illuminating and lots of people having been saying that the results illustrate how important public libraries are to filling in the gap. I completely agree.

And yet, a lot of discourse on the topic of broadband adoption and cell phone adoption is mired in conversations about income level and education. As an employee of an institution of higher education, in a place where my college library is also a public library, making a good salary and possessing a somewhat absurd level of education, I feel compelled to tell you that getting good internet and cell phone coverage out here is not always a matter of lack of desire. We only got reliable, campus-wide cell phone coverage in the last five years. This was the result of a Verizon executive who took his family on vacation on Upper St. Regis and was flabbergasted to find out that they couldn’t use their cell phones or email up here. A new tower was built which serves some of the surrounding area including campus, but it does not extend far enough to serve the road running right alongside campus where some of our faculty live. While some people would certainly choose to live without cell phone or internet, others would really like to have it but can’t get it. I’d certainly like to get reliable cell coverage in my very nice apartment located in the center of the most densely populated area in the region, but I’m lucky to get through a whole conversation with my family without the call being dropped. True story: I get better cell phone coverage on the top the local mountains than I do in my apartment. Sometimes, it’s not about income level or education. Sometimes is about the specific geography and circumstances of where you live.

Some of us without reliable broadband or cell service know what we’re missing, wish we had it, and, until they invent satellite signals that bend around geographic features, won’t be getting it. More truth: I make decisions on where I want to live here based partially on whether or not I can get internet, and, boy, am I grateful for the local public libraries (including my own) who truly do fill in the gaps.

What I Did with my Summer

I decided to learn video editing this summer. Because, you know, that’s a totally reasonable thing to learn in three months, one of which was spent mostly in Bangladesh. It took all of those three months, too, let me tell you, and at this point I’d rate my skills only just this side of “Hack.” My approach to video editing is pretty much the same as my approach to Photoshop and InDesign: Find the highest high dive, jump in, and flail around until something works. My approach relies heavily on Google. My approach starts with high expectations and a machete. My approach is not efficient, but now and then it actually works.

Finding Books at Paul Smith’s Library from PSC Library on Vimeo.

This is the first in a planned series of library videos. I unveiled it at the President’s Meeting this morning and I already have requests for my next video. I’m really (really) hoping that the next one doesn’t take me three months.

Notes on the process:

  • I started with a script and the goal to keep it under 2 minutes. I figured that was short enough to get the point and even if the student didn’t catch it all the first time they wouldn’t feel like they were wasting their life to watch it again.
  • Next I created the screencast in Camtasia.
  • I enlisted one of our library techs to play the part of a student and used a library video camera to catch the moving shots.
  • The still photos were taken from my phone.
  • The opening shot was a photo that I messed around with in Photoshop over Christmas break. At the time I didn’t have a plan for it, but it works perfectly for this because the letters stand out clearly against the monotone background but you still get a photo of the library. I tried it with an unaltered photo and it just didn’t look great.
  • I thought I was going to be using Adobe Premiere Elements to do the video editing, but it turned out that Camtasia worked even better because it could handle the zoom and pan and callouts more efficiently in the screencast portions.
  • I still had to edit the video images in Premiere Elements to convert them to a format that Camtasia could import.
  • I had a lot of trouble with exporting the final project from Camtasia into a format that looked good when played in something other than Camtasia. The quality was just awful in everything I tried. It’s also worth noting that I did this on Camtasia 5, and I think that the version is now up to 8, so it’s very outdated. From the tutorials I watched online for the newest version, it seems like most of my problems could have been handled better if I had the newest version.
  • To solve the video quality and format problems, I ended up exporting from Camtasia in .avi format (which looked the best of the versions I tried), importing into Premiere Elements, and then exporting from there in .f4v. Most of the quality issues resolved.

Tips:

  • Microphone pop screens make a world of difference. I made mine out of an old oatmeal container, a pair of pantyhose from the dollar store, a popsicle stick, book glue, and some duct tape. Works a treat. Tutorials here and here.
  • Sound quality is huge. Spend time making sure that you sound right. In my case, it took me forever to figure out how to force my work computer to read from the microphone with the nice pop screen rather than the interior microphone. Don’t give up.
  • I added the background music at the last minute, but I really think it makes the video seem polished. I found mine through Soundcloud.
  • Although I originally figured we would be using YouTube for our videos, I settled on Vimeo instead. YouTube channels are not transferable, which means that if I leave this job, the channel I created under my Google account comes with me. I tried to set up a Google account for the library, but somehow that violated their Terms of Service and I got blocked. Vimeo worked perfectly, had no problems setting up a rather generic account with the first name “PSC” and the last name “Library,” and has better image quality to boot.
  • The one downside to Vimeo is that it doesn’t support closed captioning. Closed captioning is something I really wanted to implement to make the videos fully accessible, but it just didn’t work out this time.

Here’s a little end of the week treat. The library purchased a GoPro Hero camera this spring and we’ve been devising cool things to do with it ever since. This video was my “training wheels” video editing project, and I think it’s hilarious.

How to Confuse Your Livestock from PSC Library on Vimeo.

We’ll be using it to bump up our social media feeds, advertise the GoPro, promote the college, and various other great things. We’re hoping to run a student GoPro competition in the fall, so it will also help seed that. I have a few other potential GoPro videos in the pipeline, one of which involves an axe that nearly ended the GoPro before it even had a chance to shine. Yeah, you heard that right. The Woodsmen threw an axe at my GoPro. I forgave them because the footage is AWESOME.