Micro & Nano studio MOOC

Today we decided to create the ultimate mini studio for recording a MOOC with pro quality audio and video while on budget and in need of transportable setup.

The minimum we are looking for is recording the voice of our teacher a front camera and a tablette for his writing.

The Micro studio MOOC

The Micro Studio is a setup that will allow us to have 2 microphones like this two people could be recorded together.

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Micro studio MOOC

 

 

Using the Atomos Ninja2 allows us to record the iPad Tablet

The tools we will use for the micro-studio are as follow:

  • 1x iPhone 5s
  • 1x iPad Pro 12.9”
  • 1x Apple pencil
  • 1x Apple HDMI adaptor (for our iPad)*
  • 1x Atomos Ninja 2
  • 1x SSD 256GB
  • 1 or 2 Lavalier microphone (XLR)
  • 1x iRig Pro Duo (for our iPhone)
  • 1x iRig Power Bridge

*Tips: you can use a power supply with the adaptor to charge the iPad. I would recommend to use the power supply of 29W for MacBookAir with an USB-C female connector and using the Lightning to USB-C cable from Apple. Doing this you will be able to recharge your iPadPro 12.9″ much faster than the original power supply provided by Apple.

Here is the schematic of our micro-studio

micro-studio-mooc-v1-0-schema-de-fonctionnement

 

The Software we will use is as follow:

For the iPad

  • 1x PDF Expert
  • 1x FilMic Remote
  • 1x Clapperboard
  • (1x FileBrowser)

For iPhone

  • 1x Filmic Pro
  • (1x FileBrowser)

FileBrowser is optional, but is a great tool to transfer files from your iOS device to a Cloud server or a computer with sharing options using only WiFi.

The workflow

  1. We start the Atomos recording first then the iPhone is launched with FilMic Pro (with the remote option enabled)
  2. Now Using the iPad we will start (or stop) our recording on the iPhone using the FilMic Remote
  3. Both recorders are now recording (iPhone + Atomos)
  4. We need to synchronise them. We will use Clapperboard to do this
  5. On the iPad we launch Clapperboard and clap it
  6. The image of the clap will be recorded to the Atomos
  7. The sound of the the clap on the iPad will be audible through the speaker of the iPad and our microphone will catch this sound and it will be recorded on the iPhone. Because we connected the iPhone audio jack OUT to the Atomos audio jack IN using a Jack male-male 3.5 (this will work only for earlier versions of the iPhone than the iPhone 7) the sound will also be recorded on the Atomos Ninja
  8. Then we can finally launch PDF expert on the iPad and start our MOOC

PDF expert is nice because it will send the image of our PDF without the tools around it.

The Nano studio MOOC

For the Nano-Studio we will replace the iRig Pro Duo and iRig Power Bridge with the iRig Pro I/O. This is nice for a lighter studio but we will have only 1 microphone. On the other hand we will have the power supply for the iPhone directly provided through the iRig Pro I/O. 

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Nano studio MOOC

The tools we will use for the nano-studio are as follow:

  • 1x iPhone 5s
  • 1x iPad Pro 12.9”
  • 1x Apple pencil
  • 1x Apple HDMI adaptor (for our iPad)
  • 1x Atomos Ninja 2
  • 1x SSD 256GB
  • 1x Lavalier microphone (XLR)
  • 1x iRig Pro I/O (for our iPhone)

Here is the schematic of the nano-studio

nano-studio-mooc-v1-0-schema-de-fonctionnement

The workflow will be the same as the micro-studio

Pro

  • very light studio
  • possibility to use it on battery only
  • good sound quality
  • good image quality
  • the iPhone using FilMic Pro will give a .mov container with an AVC codec and can also record the video in Pro Log (in version 6) giving some nice possibility for light and color correction in post production
  • The Atomos record directly in ProRes format allowing us to easily work with it in a post production software (Final Cut Pro X or Premiere).

Con

  • The Atomos Ninja 2 (and Ninja Blade) can record only 1080p 24,25 and 30 fps but the iPad using the HDMI adaptor can only send an image in 60 fps (59.94) therefore the resolution can not be recorded in 1080p and the Atomos will force the iPad to revert the resolution to only 720p 60fps (59.94).
  • If we wanted to record the Tablet in 1080p we would need to use a different, more expensive recorder. For exemple the Video Device PIX-E5 or PIX-E7 or Atomos Ninja Flame
  • For the moment PDF expert outputs the slides via the HDMI adaptor with a black border around it, and not in full screen 16:9. I hope for an upgrade in the future.
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Clip Exporter (3 month update)

So for the past 3 months here at CEDE in the EPFL we have been testing a small piece of software called Clip Exporter that can have a massive effect on the way we store and archive our footage. I have already written a more in-depth article on how we are using the software here. For this article I just wanted to give an update on whether Clip Exporter is still as good as we initially thought it was.

I have now completed the editing of a whole MOOC course implementing the extra steps with Clip Exporter. These extra steps do take time in the editing process and a slight adaptation in the way I edit my videos. Generally the first edit is only for eliminating superfluous footage like pauses, hesitation, bad takes etc. Then I export the XML from Final Cut and run the Clip Exporter software to separate all the clips. I import all these clips on a new time line in the same Final Cut project. Personally, I like to call this new timeline the ‘Light’ timeline so I can clearly see which version I am working on. It is only on this second edit that I apply effect and transitions as this information is not transferred with the XML file. This method has worked very well for me so far.

Whilst I am working on a MOOC project, which comprises of anywhere between 10 to 40+ videos, I don’t delete the original rushes just incase a teacher or presenter in the course wants to revert to a different take for a certain video. So in the rush folder for each video I will normally have the original rushes plus the ‘video’ folder with all of the clips from Clip Exporter. Once all of the videos have been validated and uploaded this means there are no more changes that are going to be made so at this point I can erase the original rushes. It is at this point I’ll reap the benefits of the Clip Exporter software. Here is the folder size information for the project I have just completed:

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Here is project folder with all the original rushes plus the Clip Exporter clips.

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Here is the same folder once all of the original rushes have been deleted from the folder.

So to break down the numbers:

Total size on server = 745.88 Gb

Size of deleted rushes = 552.30 Gb

Size of Clip Exporter Clips left on Server = 193.58 Gb

Total space saved with Clip Exporter = 358.72 Gb

% of space saved with Clip Exporter = 64.95%

As you can see from the breakdown I can make considerable space savings in my projects by using this one little piece of software. So after a few months of using the software on live projects I can definitively say that it has met all my expectations for what we want to use the software for, space saving.

If I could develop something to make Clip Exporter more effective for the way we use it, I would develop a Final Cut Pro plugin to directly export the clips and create a new ‘Light’ timeline from Final Cut. Or a more sophisticated XML exporter that included effects and transitions (obviously this would only work for FCP to FCP projects), but this would be something for Apple to develop not the Clip Exporter team so I’m not holding my breath for that!

*Warning* Server at critical level!

Ahhh, the age old problem of storing digital rushes on servers or hard drives is the bane of every production company and freelancer alike. Right now at the Centre for Digital Education (CEDE) at the EPFL we are starting to feel the pinch with our server space. We have known for a while now that our method of storing our rushes isn’t the most efficient. To help you understand our problem let me first explain briefly our setup here and how we work with our rushes.

Here at the EPFL we have three studios specifically designed for recording MOOCs. The concept behind these studies was to allow the professor, presenter or speaker to be as autonomous as possible. So we have a studio assistant set them up in the studio and do a short test recording to make sure everything is working properly, then after that they are on their own in the studio for their recording session. When they record we tell them to start the recording at the beginning of their session and just let the video record continuously, capturing mistakes pauses and all. Here lies the problem. At the end of their sessions we have three large video files (we record three video streams with audio simultaneously), often 25+ GB each, with lots of mistakes and pauses that we will never use within those files.

Our rushes policy up until now has been the classic “keep everything” approach. Obviously, this takes up loads of space on both our working server and archiving server. But we can’t afford to work this way anymore and now we have started to take action to fix the errors of our ways.

After many discussions in the office our studio technician, Gilles Raimond, found a lovely little program that seemed to be the answer to all our problems. ClipExporter.

The idea behind ClipExporter is to be able to quickly export clips from your Final Cut Pro X timeline.

You first make your rough cut.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 15.41.18.png

Export a .fcpxml file.

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Then the program will make copies of the each individual clips used in the timeline referencing your original rushes.

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So you end up with a folder full of short clips that you are going to use in your video.

The idea is that then you can take these clips and go into Aftereffects or Nuke to do further post production work. But what we do is then make a “light” version timeline of the same project and reconstruct the time using these clips.

Normal timeline

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 15.41.18

Light timeline

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 15.41.34

We can then delete the clips that are not used from our server and voila! From bloated, overweight rushes to space saving, efficient clips in no time at all.

We have been testing out ClipExporter for the past few weeks here at CEDE and we have been impressed with the results. We have had to change our editing workflow a little to incorporate the new software which now takes a little more time. And so far we have only been testing it on our more ‘simple’ editing projects where we don’t have a lot of video and audio layers or too many visual effects. But from the space saving results that we are seeing so far it is well worth this extra effort.

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Obviously, our case is a fairly extreme one in terms of the amount of space that we can save by using this software. But even if you save a small amount of space on each project pretty soon at all adds up.

We will add some updates further down the road to see how we are getting on with ClipExporter. But for now everyone in the office can sleep a little easier knowing that we aren’t going to have warning e-mails saying our servers are about to burst at the seams.

**Sigh of relief**