So it’s been a while since I’ve written here and let’s just say that I’ve been busy. We started a show, Sudo Make Me A Sandwich, a couple months back and I’ve been trying to figure a way to get the quality up without breaking the bank. There are some small things you can do, like invest in a quality microphone or headset. It doesn’t have to be anything too fancy, I just bought a decent looking Logitech headset from BestBuy and it already sounds much better.
We were also having the problem of incorporating guests into the show. I bring my cohost in via Skype and we wanted a way to be able to also bring in a couple more panelists if needed. Right away I thought of Leo Laporte’s Skypesaurus — maybe I even got the idea to do the show this way from him. He’s got a quite expensive setup though. Not only did he build four custom machines that are dedicated to Skype, but he’s also got the TriCaster, the IP audio mixer, and lots of bandwidth.
We had to figure out how to do pretty much the same thing for a fraction of the price. Instead of a TriCaster we’re using some desktop software. There are a few different options depending on what platform you’re on. Instead of building four custom Skype machines we’re using scrap parts that were being thrown out at the local high school — I’ll admin, we lucked out on this part. We got three older Dell gx270’s, 2.8GHz Pentium 4 Hyper-Threaded CPUs, and generic AGP graphics cards. To capture the screens, we’re using an application that captures the desktop and sends it over the network. I also invested in a gigabit ethernet switch as well as some low-profile capture cards. I’ve been planning to buy the switch for awhile anyway and the capture cards aren’t vital to the operation, but will let us send video back to the others hosts and/or guests.
Instead of the IP audio mixer I decided to go with — no, not even an analog mixer — a PC application, Virtual Audio Cable. It’s tedious, and probably doesn’t give us the best audio quality — definitely not any live control — but it saved loads of money. I should also mention, the only way it was possible to use Virtual Audio Cable with all these interfaces was a sound card donation from a friend’s freshman-year PC.
My goal was to get something as close to Leo’s setup as possible with quality that would make the show watchable without spending too much money for now. I figure, if the show grows we will be able to buy equipment with the procedes and not have to dig into our own bank accounts.
Make sure to check out the show for the quality. Just a note: Episode 13 will be the first one shot with the new CPUs. Before that the Skype frame-rate was quite poor. Before the Pentium 4 CPUs we were using the stock 2.4GHz Celeron chips.