Video production and open source communities

In this mornings community managers meeting at work, I presented on using video as part of our community promotion. As I said at the beginning, this is a hobby which I enjoy – although I’m far from being an expert. And I’m trying to figure out if it’s actually useful as part of promoting our projects.

Here’s a summary of what I talked about, and some of the questions that were asked.


I use a Vixia HF R72 camera. You can get it from a number of online vendors. Here’s one of them:

This camera is available in a number of different models. I got the one that had the largest on-board storage, so that I didn’t have to mess with SD cards. However, you can get it a lot more cheaply with less on-board storage, and get as large an SD card as you think you’re going to need. For reference, a minute of raw video at default settings on my camera takes roughly 150MB. Plan accordingly.

When I’m doing planned video (as opposed to roaming about, on-site videos) I use an external mic, plugged into the camera. I have a Zoom H2n (see one at for example). I have a GorillaPod – which is a flexible tripod (see here: ) so that it can set on any surface securely. It also provides a slight noise dampening effect to isolate it from the surface it’s sitting on.

However, the on-board mic on the camera is pretty good.

Remember that you have a better video camera in your pocket than most movie makers have had in the history of film. Full feature films are being made with iPhones these days.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to justify the expense of a GoPro for some time. I really want one, but I realize this is mostly geek appeal, and I probably wouldn’t get enough use out of it to justify the cost. The main reason I didn’t buy one as my original camera is that it doesn’t have an audio input jack, making it less than ideal for the kind of interview situations that I started with.


I edit video with kdenlive – – which is free and available for most modern operating systems. It took me perhaps 5 hours to get comfortable with it, and another 10 to feel like I’m really good at it.

Now, if you’re going to be a professional, you’ll probably end up using some expensive software from Adobe, or from Apple. And that’s great. I’m sure they are objectively better, in ways that professional videographers can appreciate. But for us amateurs, kdenlive has everything that we’re likely to need. And it’s free.

Several years ago I tried to teach myself to use iMovie – back when I was a Mac user – and found it incredibly intimidating. I’m curious how I would feel about it now that I know more.


There is a huge selection of free music available at Free Music Archive – – in a wide variety of genres. I have always found something that seemed to fit the video.

Here’s one of my favorite videos featuring music from there:

(Note: If you’re reading this on Facebook, you won’t see the video. Follow the link at the top to my website.)

What’s unclear to me about FMA is what their business model is, and how all of these talented artists are making a living. Sometimes I feel bad about that.

Reasons for making videos:

There’s lots of reasons for making videos. What your reasons are will greatly affect how much time and effort you put into it, what kind of video you make, how you promote it, and so on.

Some reasons include:

  • Because making videos is fun
  • To show off a project/hobby/interest/yourself/something cool
  • To educate
  • To draw people in, so that they go to another site
  • To advertise a product/project
  • To put a human face on some project/product/concept

For my personal channel, it’s primarily the first two reasons. This morning I posted a video of a caterpillar, because I wanted to. There’s really no other reason.

For work, though, I have to justify the time that I spend, in terms of what the measurable benefits are. Mostyly, in that case, it’s the other four reasons.

Which leads to …

Measuring whether it’s effective:

Measuring whether what we do at work advances the goals of the company/project/whatever is tricky. If I enjoy doing something (like making videos) then I’m likely to think that it’s a useful thing to do, and look for reasons that support that.

But it’s important that it is actually effective, for some definition of effective. Does it bring traffic to the site? Does it educate people in performing some particular task. In fact, is anybody at all watching the videos, or are they just sitting there sad and lonely?

What to make videos of:

In short, everything. However, this can be extremely time consuming if you want to do postproduction, so you might want to be selective.

For the purposes of work, I recommend:

Events/Presentations. If you’re at an event, capture video of the sessions you attend. The people that weren’t there sometimes appreciate this. Make sure you ask the speaker if it’s ok. Make sure you have a mic, and that the speaker users it.

Meetings. Maybe. If you use some kind of video conferencing meeting service, and if the content of the meeting might be useful to someone else that couldn’t make it, press record. Why not? I wish I’d recorded the meeting this morning, for example, since I’m sure I’m forgetting something that was discussed.

People. People like to talk. Most of them, anyways. If you ask them to write a blog post or article, they’ll all say yes, but almost none of them will actually do it. But get them in front of a camera and start asking questions, and most people will have something useful to say. Everyone is an expert on something, and they like to talk about it.

YouTube has been kind enough to provide us with infinite storage for anything we want to create. Granted, they have their own reasons for this. But you might as well take advantage of it.


Other topics and questions that came up:

Q: Do you ask people to sign any kind of waver when you take video, saying that it’s ok to put it online for the whole world to see?

A: I never thought of that. I probably should. Seems that it’s also company policy for me to do so, so I should start right away. However, I always clearly set the expectation – “This will be on YouTube, ok?” – and get verbal assent, and this hasn’t, so far, resulted in any problems.

Q: How much time does it take?

A: It depends. If you’re getting a video of a presentation or a meetup, just post the raw video and be done with it. Total time: Length of event plus upload time. If you’re doing a more formal interview, it can take around 5-10 minutes per minute of final product. And if you’re doing something more elaborate like piecing together several clips and trying to tell a coherent story, it can take hours to make a 5 minute product.

And I’m sure that people that do this for a living are both better than I am at it (so they can do it faster) and more careful (so they do more work in that time, for a better finished product).

One thing I didn’t mention is that rendering the video (the process which produces the final uploadable file) takes a really long time. Around 5-10 minutes per minute of video, depending on your computer.

So, really, you need to experiment, and figure this out.

Q: How do you have people prepare for an interview?

A: I always provide a list of questions ahead of time. Usually a day or two before, so that they can think about what they’re going to say. Giving them a sample video of someone else answering similar questions is a great way to get them prepared. Then at the end, I always ask “was there something that I didn’t ask?” so that they can put in what they actually wanted to say. I then edit that bit into a relevant place in the conversation.

Q: Who are some YouTube’ers that you like to watch.

A: I like Casey Neistat – – because he’s really good at this, and his videos are, mostly, a lot of fun. And some of them aren’t. But he just post stuff because it interests him, and this seems to work out for him. (Warning: He’s not careful about his salty language. Sometimes.) My kids watch hours and hours of Good Mythical Morning. These guys are insane.

Related, I hate technical videos that take information that could be adequately stated in 2 lines of text, and make a 15 minute rambling video about it. There’s thousands of “how to install Whatever on CentOS” videos out there that, tell you to type “sudo yum install kdenlive” but take 15 minutes of boring voiceover to do it. Thanks. I’ll do without.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about starting making videos?

A: Feeling that you don’t have anything that anybody will want to watch, and it’ll just be stupid. Solve this by just looking at Youtube. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. That’s almost 50 YEARS of video every day. And, sure, most of it, nobody ever watches. But I guarantee you have something more valuable to say than about 45 of those 50 years of content.


Finally, some links.

My personal YouTube channel:

The RDO Community channel:

kdenlive –

And I’ll probably eventually make a video to accompany this blog post. Because that would make sense. But I’ll try not to make it boring. Which could take a little longer.


One thought on “Video production and open source communities”

  1. If you’re at an event, *always* ask the event producers (especially if there are formal tickets to attend) if you can video the sessions. That’s more likely to get you in trouble (if they were going to say no) than not having waivers from individuals.

    But if you’re attending events that say no when you ask nicely, then… that’s not very nice. Unless, of course, they have a professional video that they sell or provide after the event.

    Future post idea: using Google Analytics (or whatever) to better track how many people watch and where they came to you from.


Comments are closed.