How NOT to film a keynote

The Linux Foundation has just uploaded a video of Linus’ keynote at the Plumbers Conference – An Advanced Git Tutorial.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Sure, except that the person taking the video never captures the screen, so it’s effectively useless.

This happens all the time, including at Linux Conference Australia, and it’s dumber than a hat full of dumb things.

We appreciate the effort, but if you’re filming a presentation that’s not a circus act, we don’t always need to see the person giving the speech. We can hear them thanks to the magic of microphones. What we would like to see, is what the hell they are talking about.

Ideally you’d have two cameras, one constantly on the screen and the other on the speaker, then you can clip them together and switch between the two. That’s a lot of work however and no-one at a conference has time for it. Fair enough.

So use your brain. Film the presenter talking, then when they show something, pan across and show us the screen. Then, pan back to the speaker. Use a view finder so that you can see when the best time to switch is.

The magical thing about video is that we can pause it. So you only need to capture the screen momentarily at the least. And while you’re at it, make sure you zoom right into a decent depth so that when it’s encoded at a low resolution we can actually read it.

Do this and when Linus says:

Here’s the most awesome Git command in the universe..

..we actually get to see what the flipping thing is!

10 thoughts on “How NOT to film a keynote

  1. Yeah totally agree!!

    What’s the point in filming it, if I can’t actually see what Linus is doing! Or was it done on purpose, the Linux plumbers rubbing our noses in it, giving us a sample of what we missed 😛

    Linux conference tend to have a heap of technical guys, so why can’t they use common sense???
    There watching the damn thing, at least film what they were watching!

  2. The reason it happens at LCA (at least) is that getting enough volunteers who can barely operate a camera is hard enough, ones who *actually* can without being “too smart” is impossible.

    Most presenters make their slides available via USB which is why there’s no real chasing of the screen in the video’s.

    (My half of the LCA08 video team hat on for probably the last time)

  3. Hey Julien,

    Thanks for the comment. Yep, this is always an issue but some basic training could vastly improve what we get. The notes are good to have on-line and could be spliced into the video like a second camera (even better than), but this doesn’t work in a conference type situation where time is limited.

    Anyway we all appreciate the videos, it’s just frustrating when you find something you’re really interested in, only to discover it’s useless to you 🙁


  4. Kaveh Bazargan of River Valley Technologies ( provides some excellent examples of how to record and edit presentations at conferences; showcasing the output of the video projector separately and allotting just a small portion 5-20% of the screen for an inset of the speaker at the podium.

    Videos from some of the presentations at this year’s Libre Graphics Meeting can be viewed at

  5. I wonder how much it would cost for a box that sits between the presenters laptop and the projector and records everything passing through? The work by Kaveh Bazargan linked above is excellent but appears manually intensive (I’m guessing he’s matching the slides to video by hand)

    If the box was a networked computer with an appropriate capture card then, as well as storing for later muxing together, you could live stream it with very low bitrates (until the presenter quits showing slides and fires up some HD video). You could then select to watch/hear any and all of the simultaneous streams at appropriate rates for each.

    There’s commercial products that will combine talking heads and powerpoints but I doubt there’s anything shrinkwrapped that will cope with a software demo, live coding and/or command line action.

  6. Actually, the talk about stop-motion video from that River Valley page includes exactly the kind of screen use I mentioned, including live video of the audience. I wonder how Kaveh is achieving that and if it can become standard practice?

  7. Hey Dave,

    Might be worth looking into, but I guess at the very least some basic training with standard equipment wouldn’t go astray 🙂


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