Screencast Live: How To Make Your Own Web TV Show

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Tips and Tricks

If you've followed me up to this step, your computer might be crying for help, and your frame rate might be dropping lower than you'd like. Here's how to tweak your configuration.

First, make sure to turn off anything that you don't need, especially anything using a lot of CPU power. If you use Windows, open the Task Manager, browse through the applications and processes shown, and kill the ones you don't need. Here are a few examples of items to watch out for:

Windows Aero Interface: Disable this by right-clicking your desktop, selecting Personalize, and then picking an option under the Basic and High Contrast Themes.

Antivirus software: Just ensure that no active scan will be running while you're live.

Anything that uses Flash: Online videos, games, ads, and so on. (Don't kill your Flash Media Encoder or your ustream window, of course.)

Next, you'll need to tweak a few settings in the programs you're using to do your Webcast. For example, each app you're using has its own video preview--turn all of them off.

If you still see issues, you can assign different processes to different processors--particularly useful if you have a quad-core processor, like a high-end Intel Core i5 or i7. This setting is called Processor Affinity--check the above video for a guide to setting this up correctly.

A common misconception is that a quad-core processor will automatically do better at a task than a single-core one. In practice, you will often see core 1 running at 100 percent usage, while cores 3 and 4 are just hanging out idly. You can fix this by explicitly assigning programs to run on a given core as shown in the video. Please note that a quad-core computer will often have eight "CPUs" listed. This happens because your processor can run more than one thread. If you assign one process to two different cores, it'll run slower than if you leave it on the same core, so always assign affinity in pairs of 0 and 1, 2 and 3, 4 and 5, etc.

Suggested Equipment

You'll need some decent gear to make your show shine. This is what we use.

Intel Core i7 Processor: A dual- or quad-core processor is required if you want to do H.264 encoding (recommended for high quality), and plan to have two of the cores dedicated to this task. If your computer needs to do anything other than encode video from your camera, a quad-core is strongly encouraged to prevent frame drops. I use an Intel i7 920 overclocked to 3.2GHz (about equivalent to an i7 950). If you're in an enclosed space where heat may be an issue, I don't recommend overclocking your computer, since it will run hotter. (Read "Overclocking for Newbies" for more tips on on this topic.)

Blue Snowball Microphone : This is great upgrade from the default mic that came with your computer, mostly because it's designed so you don't need to have it right in front of your face for it to clearly pick up your voice. It uses a USB interface, which makes it fairly simple to integrate into your setup.

Microsoft LifeCam Cinema : This is a 720p HD Webcam with some nice features like 16:9 video, autofocus, and light adjustment. This particular model is a bit older, so read the Top-Rated High-Definition Webcams Chart for more recommendations.

Westcott uLite 3-Light Video Lighting Kit: This is an inexpensive three-piece lighting kit with two soft boxes and a backlight. This may not be the best out there, but it will allow you to use standard three-point lighting at a fraction of the cost of higher-end kits. I replaced the default bulbs with common 120W ones to reduce the temperature.

Alternately, you can save a few bucks by going to the store and getting a normal desk lamp instead of the soft boxes. Soft boxes add a natural feel to the lighting, but they cost more. Whatever you choose to do with your lighting, you don't want to depend exclusively on daylight or the light from your monitor. You'll find that since many cameras have an auto-adjust feature, your show will have a different look from day to day (or minute to minute, with a computer monitor).

That's it! You now have your own live Internet TV show. Feel free to leave questions or comments below.

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