Technical talks should be recorded —
I think these are world-class talks. But if I hadn’t brought my little camera with me and recorded them, they would be destroyed. No-one else offered to record them, even though they were popular — the Paul Irish talk had 110 people signed up to attend, and more than the same number again waitlisted who couldn’t go because they wouldn’t fit in the room. So there were more people in Boston who didn’t get to see the talk (but wanted to) than who did, even before we start counting the rest of the world’s interest in technical talks.
I’m happy that I’m able to help disseminate knowledge from Boston, which has an abundance of incredibly smart people living here or visiting, to wherever in the world you’re reading from now. But I’m also sad, because there are far more talks that I don’t go to here, and I expect most of those aren’t being recorded.
We’re technologists, right? So this should be easy. It’s not like I went to video camera school:
- The equipment I’m using (Panasonic Lumix G2 camera and Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens) costs under USD $800. Maybe it could be cheaper; maybe a recent cellphone (HTC One or Galaxy S4?) would be adequate.
- I use a $20 tripod which is half broken.
- I don’t use an external audio recorder (just the camera’s microphone) so the audio is noisier than it could be.
- My camera’s sensor is small so it doesn’t have great low-light performance, and it records 720p instead of 1080p.
- Sometimes the refresh rate/frequency of the projector is out of sync with the camera and there are strobing colors going across the screen in the final video. I don’t think I can do anything about this on the camera’s side?
- I don’t do any editing because I don’t have time; I just upload the raw video file to YouTube and use YouTube’s “crop” feature to trim the start and end, that’s it.
I’d really like to know what the right answer is here. Am I overestimating how important it is to record these, and how privileged I am to be somewhere where there’s an interesting talk happening almost every day? Is owning a device that can record HD video for around 90 mins rare, even amongst well-paid developers and designers? If the presenter just recorded a screencast of their laptop with audio from its microphone, is that good enough or is that too boring for a full-length talk?
Might part of the problem be that people don’t know how to find videos of technical talks (I don’t know how anyone would find these unless they were randomly searching YouTube) so there isn’t as much demand as there should be — is there a popular website for announcing new recordings of tech talks somewhere? Maybe I just need to write up a document that describes how to record talks with a minimum of hassle and make sure people see it? Do we need to make a way for someone to signify their interest in having an upcoming talk be recorded, so that a team of volunteer videographers could offer to help with that?