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A Physcial Control Surface for Wirecast

At Mozilla we make heavy use of Telestream’s Wirecast to stream video events. While Wirecast has a nice GUI, using a mouse or trackpad to control a video production is far from ideal. In some of our larger venues we have real production video switchers, but for remote events and streaming from smaller venues we’ve been stuck with the default GUI control interface. Until now…

NanoKontrol2At the Mozilla Festival in London earlier this year I saw some projects using MIDI control surfaces for things other than controlling music. It turns out that grafting a midi control surface to any program with an Applescript interface is quite easy thanks to Nico Wald’s MidiPipe program.

A few minutes of searching the web showed that none of this is a new idea. Mark over at ttfn.tv implemented a similar solution years ago.

Mark’s solution used an earlier version of the Korg control surface, and was specific to an earlier Wirecast 4 release. It also used more than a dozen different scripts which made it hard to both understand and maintain.

I’ve done a ground-up rewrite and bundled the scripts and configuration files into something I’m calling Video Director. There are versions for both Wirecast 4 and Wirecast 5, and you can get all the code over on GitHub. (Here’s hoping that someone with better Applescript Fu than mine will fork these projects).

Video Director is a script designed to enable control of Wirecast 4 from a Korg nanoKONTROL2 midi control surface on MacOS X computers. The Korg nanoKONTROL2 is a low-cost solution to providing a tactile interface which, while not as elegant as a real production video switcher, provides much more tactile feedback than trying to control a video production with a mouse or touchpad.

In addition to simply providing real physical buttons for video switching operations, Video Director also simplifies the process of populating the various control layers of Wirecast with video and graphic content. It will load layer content from a pre-defined directory structure on the host machine, allowing rapid re-configuration of Wirecast for programs with differing content requirements.

The functionality of Video Director is limited by the very restricted subset of Wirecast operations for which Telestream has exposed a scriptable interface. The most obvious omission is that there appears to be no way to script the master audio level control, either through the Wirecast API or via System Events scripting. For use with a control surface such as the Korg nanoKONTROL2 with its many sliders and knobs, this is a galling omission. In addition, Wirecast 5 appears to be even less scriptable than Wirecast 4. Here’s hoping that changes in the next couple of releases.

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Resizable 4-way Rocker Widget

It has always seemed odd to me that the 4-way rocker switch that’s at the top of almost every TV and DVR remote and game controller has not made its way into the collection of web input widgets. Even with all the new whizzy input controls in HTML5, there’s not an analogous 2-axis control.

I took a crack at creating one and discovered that I couldn’t do it with pure CSS. While it’s possible create things that look like triangles on the screen, in (cyber) reality they are rectangles with transparent bits. There’s no apparent way to create triangular areas for hover detection.

But using mouse position detection and a bit of jQuery, it’s not too hard make something work. The code is up on jsFiddle. The widget is re-sizable, with the scale of all the various bits and pieces being controlled by the font-size property in the rockerControl div.

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Simple HTML Slides – Not Ready for Prime Time?

Christian Heilmann, one of the most persuasive of Mozilla’s evangelists for HTML5 wrote a blog post titled “Why I don’t write my slides in HTML.” It’s a good read. In it he provided a list of places where he sees HTML slide tools falling short. These days, Christian spends much of his life giving presentations on HTML so slide tool developers who ignore those points do so at their peril.

I’ve remixed Christian’s list and used it as a scorecard and feature checklist to guide further development of Simple HTML Slides. If it’s possible to satisfy all (or at least most) of those requirements then I can be confident that Simple HTML Slides are actually useful in the real world of hard core presenters.

Check out the Simple HTML Slides Project Page to see a working presentation that has a slide with video on it, all embedded in a WordPress post.

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