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documentation open source presentation technical writing video

My first (awful) video presentation

gently up the stream
Paddling upstream with a paddle

Ughh! 8 days for 8 minutes of awful video

A few weeks back, I saw an opportunity to give a presentation to my fellow developers. The dev lead for oVirt put out an RFP for the upcoming oVirt 2020 Online Conference.

Oh, and by the way, please prerecord your presentation so we can upload it to the conference YouTube channel.

Sure! I thought. No problem, I thought. I’ve given many live presentations, recording a video of one should be easy, I thought.

After a week of working on the material, a day of recording, and several hours of editing, the rendered video was eight, almost nine minutes long.

There I was, with a shaky voice, stumbling through my slides like I was in an elementary school play. Numerous jump cuts removed less successful takes.

A week of working on the material

My inspired brain-fart was to simplify modular documentation (aka “mod docs”) and provide a set of markdown templates. The purpose of doing this is to make mod docs easier for developers and other upstream contributors. My goal is to fix the problem of documentarians unintentionally driving away upstream contributors by bringing our specialized doc tools (asciidoc) and methods (mod docs) into upstream open-source projects.

The week flew quickly by as I tried to bring subtractive design to mod docs. I kept going off on tangents, developing a cute bento box analogy for mod docs (that I haven’t given up on yet). Every time I sat down to eat the frog, I wandered off to snack on the appetizers and side dishes instead. I had to work through the material, but that always takes more time than you think. In the end, I thought I had a pretty good set of slides. Many of the appetizers and side dishes ended up as hidden slides – something good to keep for another day.

Many crossed-out eyes mark the slides I chose to skip and may use another day.

A day of shooting

This was my first screen capture on Linux. I’ve used TechSmith Camtasia on Windows in the past. Searching Software for “screen capture,” I found OBS Studio. It was easy to set up and record the slide presentation with myself as a talking head in the lower right corner. I’ll write a separate post about how to do that.

The hard part was getting over my stage fright, or proceeding in spite of it. My voice box felt tight the whole day. Listening to myself, my voice sounded reedy and uncertain, and I clung to the words on the slides instead of describing my thoughts. Standing at an improvised podium in my bedroom, I resolved to continue recording to the very end, instead of restarting every time I flubbed a line. “Try several times and move on. I’d fix it on the edit,” I thought.

The OBS “inception” view you see before you switch to viewing your presentation.

I used Pitivi to edit the handful of clips Pitivi dropped in my home directory. It was fairly easy to cut away my not-so-good takes and slide the better parts together into one somewhat cohesive presentation.

Finally, I clicked the Render button and waited for a few minutes while it created an .ogv file. I also had it render an MP4 file. YouTube accepted the .ogv file, even though it wasn’t listed as one of the supported file types. The .mp4 file was about a third larger than the .ogv file, and it looked sharper on YouTube.

Debrief

It was slow and challenging, but worth persisting. I have wanted to do this for a long time, and am glad I finally pushed through my discomfort with being in front of the camera. I expect I’ll get faster and better with practice. This is a key skill for some of the work I want to do going forward.

Now, I need to start working on a re-shoot or perhaps a voice-over of the original…if I can get my voice box to loosen up.

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