Coffeehouse Thread

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Should we step up the video quality?

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  • User profile image
    scobleizer

    I posted this over on my weblog at http://scoble.weblogs.com but thought it'd be good to post here too:

    Speaking of Channel9, the first two weeks saw a fun community start up. It's been fun trying to do a couple of videos everyday that get people talking.

    This week we have videos of Sara Ford coming up. She's responsible for accessibility in Visual Studio (and is a tester on that team too).

    I note that over on Channel9 we're getting pressure to increase the quality of the videos. I'm torn over that. Right now we're using low-end Canon digital camcorders that most people could afford and a $30 microphone.

    We're using this equipment for a couple of reasons. One, the cameras are extremely small and non-intimidating. I've had several subjects mention that these interviews were a lot more fun than other video interviews. A big part of that is that the equipment doesn't look "professional." Plus I don't make subjects wear makeup, or sweat under special lights, or put weird microphones under their clothes.

    The pros over at Microsoft Studios probably laugh at the quality of my video (er, lack thereof) but I like the "non slick" results I'm getting. Plus, I'm using normal equipment that almost any customer of ours could afford, if they wanted to get into video for their family. Video is a lot of fun. All you need is a $40 Firewire card, and a $400 or so digital camcorder. Windows Movie Maker and Windows Media Encoder, and away you go! And you thought only Macintoshes could do good quality streaming video.

    The other reason we chose these cameras is because we're trying not to spend much of our investors', and our customers' money. Think about it. Every dime we spend comes out of someone's pocket (maybe even yours). So we spend it very carefully. Why spend $3000 on a camera when $400 will do just fine?

    But, now that Channel9 is getting watched by lots of people, there's pressure to step up the quality. What do you think? Should we do it?

  • User profile image
    BruceLee

    Some video and audio quality is not very good. I think it's better to provide more options to users and let them select the video quality fit their bandwidth best.

  • User profile image
    eto

    No way. The videos are just the perfect quality for the purposes.. Like I really want to see the pimples on the developer's faces.. lol If you go higher quality production wise, then it will lose it's community appeal, and start to become a more staged event. I like the 'off the seat of your pants' idea where it seems more informal. It keeps it real. You guys have done a great job thus far, and all I can ask for is more of the same. Cheers!

  • User profile image
    Catatonic

    The video & audio quality you have now is very good, when the camera is locked down (i.e. not handheld). Dunno if this counts, but it would be great to have transcripts of the videos, maybe even subtitles. Especially if you're going to interview an accessibility expert.

  • User profile image
    Jaz

    yes subtitles or transcripts would be better for the deaf developers among us.

    Sometimes you can't hear an interviewers question, maybe thats cause they're not wearing a mic or not close enough to it.  However i say keep the video's the same,  they're fast to load on my UK DSL line.  there's no need to go into hollywood production territory. heh

  • User profile image
    CplCarrot

    The video seems just fine. What I am interested in is what is being said. The visual aspect simply provides a framework for what is being said and provide the body language reinforcement.

    To that end I would like it if the audio was concentrated on. The interviewer really does need to be miked up as well. Indoor seems to work better than outdoor.

    Just my 2p Worth

    Charlie

  • User profile image
    Cronan

    I think quality is fine. A few of the latest postings have been quite bad, but I've had no problems up until then. Someone made a note about transcripts ... perhaps we (the community) could do this?

  • User profile image
    PeteBeech

    I think the videos are excellent as they are, pretty much. Making everything more slick and polished would definitely lose some of the appeal for me. The whole idea, after all, was to be like the original 'Channel 9' on the plane, where you get to hear everything exactly as it is, not staged or approved, etc. If it went in the more professional direction, it would certainly seem more as if everything is being too controlled, which I assumed is exactly the impression you don't want to give.

    As others have said, I just think you need to have an additional mic for the interviewer. I even like the sometimes shaky camera work - it just seems much more low-key, something that anyone might do, more real.

  • User profile image
    pftqg

    I'm one of the "It's just fine an dandy" types - it feels quite natural and unforced. Beefing up production might lose that. It also seems to load fine, and I don't have buffering issues, so no problems there either.

  • User profile image
    Peter

    The video quality is just fine. The audio could use a little work though. Hooking up a second mic for the interviewer should probably do the trick.

  • User profile image
    vanlandw

    yeah...it's fine the way it is

  • User profile image
    pierlove

    I think the quality is marginally better than most streams online today and the content is definitely more important than improving quality.  I say go with it as is.

    My biggest concern is that you guys get burnt out on the video thing. I think it is an important ingredient for C9 and that every effort should be made to make the video segments a priority.

    Respectfully,

    Jamie

  • User profile image
    ghos

    Just adding my two cents that the videos are high enough quality now, no need to get all flashy and stuff.  Just improve the audio as we have to strain to hear the interviewer.
    My only suggestion would be if possible to provide a lower quality feed for dialup users.  I was on dailup until recently and couldn't take advantage of the videos.  Of course that may not be possible as even a short video could take awhile to download unless it was streamed.

  • User profile image
    Shining Arcanine

    scobleizer wrote:
    But, now that Channel9 is getting watched by lots of people, there's pressure to step up the quality. What do you think? Should we do it?


    Higher quality is always good.

    If you decide to increase the quality maybe you could give the option of a few bitrates (e.g. 300k, 500k, 1m).

  • User profile image
    Camilo Telles

    I live in Brazil and have a 256k ADSL connection.
    I canĀ“t see the videos of Channel 9. I think that the lowest bit rate is 291k (300k) and my effective bandwith is 190Kbps.

    I think that you can go up in the quality, but give me an option of lower bitrate.

    Thanks!

    Camilo

  • User profile image
    ralph.poole

    Absolutely not! Next thing you know others will want you to get editors and designers to make the writing and presentation more professional. Maybe you should even add moderators to the discussions. It would be the death knell to start to add overhead and bureaucracy.

    BTW, I recommend a style manual for all microsoft posters and you should tone down the icons.

  • User profile image
    lenn

    Which icons Ralph?  Style Manual?  What is this the Washington Post Smiley

  • User profile image
    submariner

    From a perspective of somebody who's gone to school for television production (I REALLY miss those days...) I personally like the low-budget look, per se. It adds a casual look to the videos, makes it look less staged, makes you and your subjects look like "real people we can relate to". Plus like you mentioned, it makes the subject feel more at ease with the interview, as it's easier to ignore a camcorder than a production portable unit (not to mention the pain of carting around the camera and associated lighting kit). Bottom line: you've got a good thing going there, there's not much I would change at all, and the cameras work, and work very well for the format of this site. Now, if you were doing something for a formal Microsoft-branded site, like the TechNet site or whatever, I would suggest some higher-end equipment. but I like it as it is!

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