Monthly Archives: August 2012

Webcasting on the go

As we travel around the city doing panels and talks everywhere from Governors Island to the United Nations to our Design Center in Harlem, we’re always webcasting. Lots of people have looked at our setup by now and have approached us with questions– what’s our equipment of choice? How do we make it all portable?  What services do we use? What’s that funny plug thing?

Here’s our secret recipe:

YouTube Live Service (you need to be a YouTube Partner for this). Ustream is an alternative service if you can’t get partnership status, we used to use Ustream before we were invited to be guinea pigs in the very awesome YouTube Live Beta Launch last year.

YouTube live is new & awesome

which pulls streaming data from us via…

WireCast for YouTube (free software if you have YouTube Live) Regular Wirecast software is a paid alternative if you can’t get YouTube partner status.

installed on a…

Macbook Air with Thunderbolt port

plugged in to a…

Thunderbolt male to male cable

plugged in to a…

BlackMagic intensity shuttle with Thunderbolt

plugged in to a…

HDMI male to male cable

plugged in to a…

Canon XF105 camera with HDMI-out port

which is receiving audio from…

An XLR cable which carries the audio from any number of stick mics fed into our mixing board & XLR splitter. If we’re in an auditorium venue we ask for an XLR feed from the AV people there.

HDMI is awesome (image via



The HDMI cable carries both audio AND video from the camera into the laptop. SWEET.

Wi-fi works fine, unbelievably. But a hard wired connection is always best for streaming if you can get it.

Sometimes if your audio and video sources are separate from each other, the webcast will appear out of sync. Sending A and V together through one camera is good for sync.

We tried playing with multi-cam a few times (on a mac pro tower, wouldn’t dare that with a laptop graphics card) This usually choked the graphics card, and gave us sync issues. So we stick to single-cam.

Sometimes we run our own camera and our own mixing board with microphones, and sometimes we’re in a venue where microphones are done by the house staff, and we just ask them for an XLR feed which we plug into our camera.

The UN and WNYC Greene Space house staff ran their own camera and audio, AND they had their own streaming encoder. In this scenario we give them the RTMP and Stream Name codes (stored in the YouTube event settings) from our YouTube account. They plugged these codes into their encoder software–making a direct link between the venue’s audio and video feeds and our YouTube account. In these cases, our only job is to check that the A and V signals are coming through to the net OK, and then clicking “Start Broadcast” on YouTube in a web browser. Then after the program is done I click “Stop Broadcast.”

Every venue will have different hardware and software going on, so this setup can take some major fiddling with settings before you get it to work. Generally this fiddling has to happen with the venue’s encoder software, because the YouTube settings stay pretty static. The UN’s encoder was robust enough that they could push the stream to their usual flash player on the UN web site and our YouTube account simultaneously.

Here’s what the media team at the Walker Art Center has to say about webcasting. We’ll move to a setup more like theirs once our main Museum renovation is done, and we have a permanent home for programming. For now, we’re webcasting in a way that’s light, modular and mobile.

Sealing a Facebook App in amber

One of the more painful things that happens from time to time is the decommissioning of a digital product. And in a museum this, of course, means trying to ‘preserve’ it.

But how do you ‘preserve a Facebook App’ built for an exhibition?

Cooper-Hewitt’s record breaking Set In Style exhibition of 2011 included the creation of both an iOS App and a Facebook App. The Set In Style Facebook App allowed users to add jewellery from the exhibition to their Facebook photos and share them on their wall and the walls of their friends.

A couple of months ago Facebook changed their security settings for Apps (again) and we were faced with a decision – turn it off, or pay to have the code rewritten to support the security changes. With the exhibition ended we opted to close the App down, but before we did so we decided to make a quick video of it in operation with a ‘real Facebook account’ so that the ‘social side’ of the App could be captured in a way that still screen grabs would not.

Here’s the video.

Some questions still remain.

Where does the ‘record’ for this ‘object’ now live? What ‘metadata’ needs to be associated with the ‘record’? What happens to the source code? Should it be released? If it was released, is the App so heavily reliant upon the infrastructure and sociality of Facebook itself that it would be useless?

(Our newest member of the Lab’s ‘Armory of Nerds’, Aaron Cope, has been thinking about these very same issues in regard to ‘preserving Flickr’ with his project Parallel-Flickr)

We’re interested in these sorts of questions at a meta-institutional level too, as, being ‘the National Design Museum’ we are inevitably going to have to be collecting ‘objects’ that face similar issues soon enough. Indeed, should a design museum be ‘collecting’ the designs of Facebook itself over the years? And how?