Nerdy Video Streaming Stuff

I've streamed live video from Parliament Hill a few times and, if I'm able to go, will do so again for #IdleNoMore tomorrow later this morning. UStream.TV has worked well for the streaming and regular microphones have been fine for sound, but regular USB web cameras have sucked for outside events where the speaker is any distance away. For example, this screencap from a March rally against electoral fraud. If I'm going to do this again I want better video that can zoom right in on the speaker.

After a bit of digging I can now use my DSLR with UStream! (I told you this was going to be nerdy)

The Canon EOS Utility software lets you control your camera from a computer, via USB, and also provides a live preview on the screen. I don't need super high quality video, like 1080p, because I'll be uploading it over 3G networks to UStream anyway, so a small preview window is all that's needed. The benefit is having the video coming in from a zoom lens.

So high quality video is now landing on the screen but UStream can't yet access it. Enter CamTwist, the swissarmy knife of video tools. Among a thousand other features it lets you pick an area of your screen to be a "webcam" - whatever is being displayed there is made to appear as the video coming in from a regular USB webcam. Starting UStream again it now thinks I have two camera: "Facetime" and "Cam Twist".

Audio is already working fine.

So how much closer can I get the video now? The lens I'm testing with is a 55m zoom (not that zoomy) so I wouldn't be able to get a tight headshot once I'm too far away. A telephoto would work, but since I'm not worried about quality anyway I can make use of some digital zoom features.

Here's the result, pardon the mess in my living room.


On the left is my mobile TV station: tripod, DSLR, and Macbook Air craftily suspended from the tripod with string and a kitchen towel. I should have about 90 minutes of battery (the EOS Utility is very hard on the CPU).

In the middle is the live view from the camera so you can see where it's pointed: into my kitchen at the battery charger wall-wart. That's a 5x digital zoom on top of the 55m zoom lens.

On the right is a photo of my desktop (taken with my cell phone - yes, this is getting very meta) showing the output from the EOS utility. It's set to 10x digital zoom.

So from about 30 feet away I'm able to get video of a 4 inch wide target and can even read "Canon" off the battery charger.

That'll do nicely.

It's fun living in the future.