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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Deconstruction of deconstruction

The Deconstruction

The end of last week, I participated in a call for pretty cool projects the deconstruction, an idea original of creative collaborist Jason Naumoff.

What is deconstruction?  It is a game about rethinking the world as we know it, take apart, make some adjustments, then put it back together a little awesomer-er.  It's a lighthearted competition, but it's really more than a collaboration on a large scale between friends, participants and the public. The concept is to make the world a little better, more fun and more interesting place more than 48 hours.

Yes, this is an ambitious large order, but we pulled it off with the help of over 60 participating teams on six continents. The winners have not yet which will be announced officially, even if only one lucky team will walk away with a full range laser cutter.

My role in the deconstruction was to establish infrastructure to stream live and production. As for the project of creation of Red Bull I helped Jason to last year, this was to be a distributed happening. Each participating team was encouraged to live stream their creations builds and update their team page on the official website of deconstruction.

We setup an attaché at the studios of Synergize live here in San Francisco. Alan, who heads the space, a large part of the streaming infrastructure was already in place. Several camera with a green screen studio, live mixers video, encoders, monitors and much decent bandwidth.

The plan was to have guests here on the plateau to communicate often with different members of the team from across the world throughout the 48 hours challenge. To do this, we need to make a variety of technologies work well together. In the mix on the side of video were Skype, Facetime, Google + Hangouts,, Ustream, Livestream, black magic, Wirecast and Resolume Avenue.

Deconstruction 2013

We have several Mac mini that would serve as media hubs to communicate directly with remote teams on Skype and Facetime. According to our experiences with the creation of Red Bull, we knew what we had to do to make this work. We took the HDMI output of the Mac mn and fed in a live video mixer (a PC tower with several black fashion magic video capture cards Resolume Avenue) and did a little magic mix-less on the incoming and outgoing audio feeds. This has enabled our producers to make 'calls' the remote team members and then bring in live, so the local hosts can communicate with them on the virtual game. It is similar to what you see on a newscast when anchors communicate with journalists to distance in the field, but without the expensive satellite trucks.

Remote teams could use any platform live stream they wanted, if were encouraged to use if they don't already have an account somewhere. We made this choice because it is easy to install and distribute for free. Although free means annoying ads pre-roll inserts and mid-roll (like Ustream) we managed to avoid seeing them by paying $10 for a Pro account. Ustream allows also to remove paid ads, but the side diffuser to many more expenses. It gave us a way to economically host team RSS and cut us to them without having to worry about ads bloom a broadcast medium.

We used "new Livestream» of the Livestream produced for the main stream that we embarked on the first page of the deconstruction site." It worked pretty well, even if we were not satisfied with their based text chat system. While the new Livestream chat text looks good and is attached to the player, there is no way to integrate without chrome page additional event. In addition, their text chat requires a user create a Livestream account and it censorship links automatically, that sucks.

We intend to make use of Google + Hangouts and Hangouts on Air as our primary means of communicating with remote teams, but we met several roadblocks.  The main problem being that Hangouts would not recognize our capture card in the direct encoder. Meeting places is really designed to work with a webcam and does not give you much control on input options. A second problem is that if you press a meeting place for Hangouts on Air, which is basically a stream of YouTube, there is no persistent URL. In addition, Hangouts are limited to 4 hours. We have worked with our friends at Google to try to make this work for us, but the product is not ready for the type of event, we wanted to remove. Let's get back on Google + Hangouts next time.

All told, we ripped a global success of decentralized pleasure, several participant event live using an assortment of technologies disperate. Take a look at some of the final videos of that people built during these 48 hours.

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