Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, July 21, 2006

Online Video Interview Recorder: When?

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While Google Video has just released a brand new feature which allows you to address via a standard URL any specific point inside a video (thanks Google for this - please give us next a way to also point to a video "segment"), I remain yet to see anyone company coming out with the what would be a killer video service for independent publishers like me.

Photo: Marc Strassman

I have talked about it to Eric Rice over a year ago (as he runs the truly useful Hipcast audio recording and publishing service), I asked the Sightspeed guy and his gang whether they had any plans for it, and I hoped that some of the new video publishing startups like VideoEgg would have considered in greater depth my simple idea.

I thought that any of the guys behind cool new tools like IP Democracy or Odeo could have taken this opportunity long time ago, just like anyone among Eyespot, Jumpcut or Motionbox could have done the same.

Techsmith itself, the maker of Camtasia could be a smart pursuer of this vein, as the company is healthily growing with no sign of slowdown thanks to a suite of products that fit specific niches left quite open by competitors for too a long time.

Even Adobe/macromedia would be best positioned to introduce one such video recording tool, as it now owns the best technology and brains to make this idea a killer success within the time it wants to.

All of the technology is there, nothing special needs really to be invented, it is only a matter of deciding to assemble this online facility and start selling this new service now.

What do I have in mind?

Garageband2 controls - Photo courtesy of: Macworld

An online video interview recorder.

Yes, a fully web-based, video recorder that would allow me to "tape" two simultaneous video streams of any two people talking in their webcams from different physical locations.

Imagine a video conversation with full VoIP audio, and two nice video windows (say 240x128 or 320x240 - the user should decide what he wants in this respect) that can be fully recorded, in perfect synch by a simple to use Flash-based tool similar to VideoEgg, Hellodeo, Hipcast, Click.TV, Abazab or anyone of the many other personal video recorders now available out there.

Though there are some specific technical challenges to be overcome, none of them appears totally insurmountable to me.

Best results would probably be obtained by recording locally, at each end, the video and audio stream while having a dedicated software facility to post-process and merge the two digital recordings via some form of common time-code that they would also record automatically.

This is similar in principle to what HotRecorder has attempted to do with its Skype call recorder, and to what others have attempted to execute manually by recording Skype conversations at both ends and then merging and synching the two recordings into one at a later time.

Now, many of you could say: why don't you just record your screen with the two live video windows and publish that recording? Isn't that what Camtasia and similar programs do?

Well, I have done my humble and extended testing on this idea, and no matter what I did, used, or how I configured my software, there was always the same problem bugging me over and over again. Since the tools I was using had not been invented to do what I wanted, they all had a significant negative side effect: if recording the two video streams and both audios at least one of the video participants would hear a great deal of echo. I have tried and retried. I have used and experimented with several different recording tools but the result has been always the same.

In my little research I also found out that only by purchasing and integrating a second audio board or an external audio box to one of the two computers used for the interview, one could achieve the type of results I am looking for.

I have also tested several web conferencing and online collaboration tools that allow recording but each and every one having some major limitations, either in the way of the recording format, or in the ability to record both video and audio, or even in being able to record just the video and not the rest of the conferencing interface. Among many the one that came closest, albeit with some limitations was Wiredred e/pop, which provided integrated audio and video Flash recording of more than acceptable quality. Unfortunately e/pop has no video only recording mode, and therefore if you want NOT to capture also the rest of the conferencing interface, you need to switch to a full screen video layout mode which is very CPU demanding and which also often reduces somehow the resolution/definition quality of the video images recorded.

The only other valuable solution I have found while working at finding a way to record online video interviews is the one of having a third-party person attend the video conference and have that person record the video conversation from a third computer. By using this approach there are no echo issues and you can use just about any video conferencing software to do this.

And in fact I really don't think that the issue is much different from the one that over two years ago, early adopters and heavy users of Skype first smashed into, when attempting to record their own quality audio interviews.

To this day only very few tools have mastered what it takes to generate high quality, perfectly synched audio recordings of online interviews, namely HotRecoder, general open audio recorders like TotalRecorder and more recently the excellent Skylook for Outlook.

(As I write this, I realize for the first time, that a cheapo but rather effective solution for those who could not wait for a service to offer this, would be to do just the above - that is record for example with Camtasia Studio the two windows along with both audios - while having those people use also a phone line connection to actually listen to each other, independently of the computer-based software and audio system).

Notwithstanding the above, I personally do not think there are not any insurmountable major tech challenges that can't be overcome in this direction, and I feel that the long wait in this direction has only been due to a lack of true vision by those who had the tools and capacity to take it.

The only two people I have seen being rather awake on this, are two individuals, who, driven by their passion and creativity have already gone to experiment and execute some interesting work in this direction.

Photo credit: Phil Shapiro

Phil Shapiro is an educational technology researcher and writer. He publishes his own blog and has been working in several different areas connected to the advancement of the online user experience.

Between 1993 and 1995 Phil wrote a monthly column, "Thinking About Online Communications," for the GEnie information service. This column explored the nature of online communications, with a special emphasis on the psychological and social aspects of online communications. The essays there contained have been recently collected together into an anthology, while Phil has not economized on writing also some interesting software reviews for some of his favorite commercial educational software programs.

But Phil's greatest idea, at least from my viewpoint, came rather recently when he started to think of how he could create a video interview recorder without needing to become a programmer or to having to get some VC money first.

Not only was he able to picture exactly what he wanted and why ( he was driven by my very same needs - the desire to record live, online video interviews), but he went ahead and created one such tool for himself.

Here is one of his first samples of his "rosetimes", a short video interview with himself.

After this first public demo that Phil has published on his site, he has gone ahead and realized a few more of these video interviews, which, while very large in file size, showcase the potential of this new format.

The only other person that during my research showed to have had attempted to do something similar is US news and media reporter Marc Strassman, executive editor and publisher of Etopia Media News. Marc has been doing video interviews for the last two and half years with all kinds of people and about several different topics and issues. A few of his video interviews are effectively online video interviews, in which two video/audio streams have been recorded together and in synch.

Photo: Marc Strassman

Without doubts Marc has recorded these few video interviews while using Sightspeed video conferencing service coupled with a reliable screen recorder like Camtasia Studio. The results are indeed more than acceptable, but even here technical issues make the recording experience not as good as it should be. Echo, though much less, is still there, and therefore the interviewer may need again to consider having the actual conversation take place in parallel on a traditional telephone line.

In fact, I don't know if due to this, or other factors, Marc Strassman, did publish only a few of these, switching back to traditional "in-person" video interviews for most of his video content.

Here is a good example of one of Marc Strassman online video interviews:


I see a wide open opportunity for any development company or business entrepreneur to design and bring to market an online two-way video recorder capable of reliably capturing a full one on one online video interview.

The recording format should be Flash, as it makes easiest and most effective then to republish it and distribute it.

Highly desirable key basic features would include:

  • Recording quality settings

  • Recording format

  • Video windows size

  • Video windows number (can do interviews with two guests, why not)

  • Visual layout and packaging

  • Titling and captioning ability

  • URL-addressable video stream

  • Automatic or human-assisted text transcription

Cost should be very low and at worst a little higher than what Hipcast charges today ($5-10/month). Advanced features and facilities will come at a premium price.

I think we will see one and more such tools come to market before the end of this year.
I am ready to test and drive the first one that becomes available.

Do you think I am seeing double?

Readers' Comments    
2010-03-03 17:32:48

preston zorner

I am a college student at Lehigh University and am researching the possibilities of online video interviewing with video capture technology. I found a company called InterviewStream. What do people think?

2007-09-25 02:17:11


i like the orbit downloader, which lets you download videos without any software installation.

2007-09-10 19:41:36

Steven Cox

Hey Robin,

did you ever find a service that does this? It's SO needed. We need to use it right now for interviews with some of our instructors.

2006-08-03 18:43:53


Here is a new site that has an online video recorder

posted by Robin Good on Friday, July 21 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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