Failing is Important: Drupal Camp A/V Kit Update

When I learned BADCamp wasn't going to be recording sessions, I jumped at the chance to field-test the camp record kits I'm working on. After all, I was confident I fixed the audio equation and was going to start talks with the Drupal Association about next steps.

The current recipe for the kit is a Hauppage HD Rocket PVR for the screen capture and the Zoom H2N voice recorder as the microphone. Add to that a handful of dongles and converters to cover HDMI in/out for the PVR, and you're good to go.

Walking in to BADCamp, I was feeling great. I'm a big advocate for session records and I would be covering three rooms. Pretty cool, right? 

Wrong.

Throughout day one of sessions, a couple laptops had connection issues and had to bypass recordings, but overall things appeared to be going smoothly. It wasn't until the end of the day when copying files off the thumb drives that I noticed many recordings were 0k mp4 files, primarily from the main room. This was the most disconcerting, because every indication was that things were working.

On this, I have a couple ideas, but no solid understanding of why the files didn't write. That was the easiest room in terms of handshake between PVR and projector, plus there was a dedicated A/V crew that was helping hook up laptops.

When we tested at Fox Valley's camp, the laptop was typically disconnected by the time I made it to the rooms to swap out equipment. I suspect that disconnecting the device before hitting the stop button and waiting long enough for the files to write may kill the save. This one will be easy to test.

Projectors were also an issue. In the main space, none were HD and all were different flavors of Sony. Some hooked up just fine, while others squeezed the output. The Saturday-only keynote room was loving it. 

And then there were presenter laptop issues. There were a few older VGA-only laptops. One refused to work with the VGA to HDMI converted, while one worked for about 15 minutes before failing off and on, mid-presentation. One of the A/V techs suggested that maybe there is not enough USB power on the laptops to handle both the PVR and the converter, so a powered USB hub may be in order. Most Macbooks were fine, but a handful gave output with a very green tint to it.

No surprise, HDMI in/out is proving to be more of a hurdle than originally anticipated. In addition to HDMI in, the PVR also has an option to accept component video. It's likely that converting VGA out from a laptop to component video in to the PVR will be a safer bet. So the question becomes whether I can convert the HDMI out of the PVR to VGA for the projectors.   

All in all, this was an enormous fail. That said, this was the absolute best time for it to happen. My goal is to build a system that can handle the majority of the random that a camp will throw at it. 

I'm looking forward to testing the next iteration.