An All-In-One Conference Video Streaming Box

When running a hacker camp or other event, one of the many challenges faced by the organisers concerns the production and distribution of event videos. As the talks are recorded they must be put online, and with a load of talks to be processed it quickly becomes impractical to upload them one by one through a web interface such as that provided by YouTube. At the BornHack 2019 hacker camp in Denmark they were using a particularly well-integrated unit to do the video uploading in real time, and its creator [Mikkel Mikjær Christensen]  was good enough to share the video we’ve put below the break, a talk he gave about it at The Camp 2017, a Danish open source software camp.

It takes the viewer through the evolution over several years, from simple camcorders with integrated microphones and post-event processing, through a first-generation system with a laptop and rack-mount monitors, and into a final system in a rugged portable case with a significantly powerful laptop running OBS with a hardware MPEG encoder. Careful choice of power supplies and the use of good quality wireless microphones now give instantaneous video streaming to events such as BornHack without the need for extensive infrastructure.

If you were wondering where you might have heard that name before, [Mikkel] is the [Mike] from the Retrocomputing with Mike YouTube channel. It’s being honest to say that more of our conversation was about retrocomputers than the video box.

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Building DIY Acoustic Panels To Cut Down On Echoes

Plenty of hackers and makers are passionate about content creation. In the dog-eat-ice-bucket-challenge world of online video, production value is everything. If you want to improve your audio quality then cutting down on echoes is a must, and these acoustic panels will help you to do just that. 

The build starts with aluminium L-channel, affixed together into an equilateral triangle with the help of some 3D printed brackets. Two of the triangular frames are then fitted together via a series of hexagonal standoffs. Foam or housing insulation is then added to act as the primary sound absorbing material. To give an attractive finish, the panels are covered in fabric. The panels are then placed on to drywall using nails glued into the standoffs.

While the panels are likely more expensive to build than off-the-shelf foam alternatives, they have an attractive look which is key in video studio environments. If you’re wondering where to position them for the best results, there’s a simple and easy approach to figure it out. Video after the break.

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Measure Your YouTube Importance

How do you hack your motivation? Do you put red marker Xs on a paper calendar every day you exercise? Do you use an egg timer to sprint through dozens of emails? Do you lock all the doors and shut off your data to write some bulletproof code? If you are [Hulk], you build a YouTube Desktop Notifier showing his YouTube subscribers and views. This is his ticket to getting off the couch to make a video about just such a device. There is something poetic about building a mechanism to monitor its own success making a feedback loop of sorts. The page follows the video, so anyone who wants to build their own doesn’t have to scribble notes while pausing the video which is also posted below the break.

The hardware list is logical, starting with a NodeMCU module programmed through the Arduino IDE. Addressable 7-segment displays show the statistics in red, but you can sub in your preferred color with the back-lighting LEDs. It should be possible to share the CLK pins on the displays if you are important enough to need more digits. [Hulk] already outlined a list of improvements including switching to addressable backlights and adding daily and monthly tracking.

Monitoring online values without a computer monitor is satisfying on a level because it shows what motivates us, whether that is Bitcoin or the weather.

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Logic And EEPROMs Bring VGA To Life, Sans Microcontroller

For whatever reason, the Video Graphics Array standard seems to attract a lot of hardware hacks. Most of them tend to center around tricking a microcontroller into generating the signals needed to send images to a VGA monitor. We love those hacks, but this one takes a different tack – a microcontroller-free VGA display that uses only simple logic chips and EEPROMs.

When we first spied this project, [PH4Nz] had not yet shared his schematics and code, but has since posted everything on GitHub. His original description was enough to whet our appetite, though. He starts with a 27.175-MHz clock and divides that by 4 with a 74HCT163, which has the effect of expanding the 160×240 pixels image stored in one of the EEPROMs to 640×480. Two 8-bit counters keep track of horizontal and vertical positions, while the other EEPROM takes care of generating the Hsync and Vsync signals. It’s all quite hackish, but it works. [PH4Nz] tells us that the whole thing is in support of a larger project: an 8-bit computer made from logic chips. We’re looking forward to seeing that one too.

This isn’t the first microcontroller-less VGA project we’ve seen, of course. Here’s a similar one also based on EEPROMs, and one with TTL logic chips. And we still love VGA on a microcontroller such as the ESP32; after all, there’s more than one way to hack.

Thanks to [John U] for the tip.

Pi Zero Streams Video From “Fake” Security Camera

Fake security cameras are advertised as a cheap way to deter anyone who might be up to no good. This isn’t a crime and punishment blog, so we’re not really in a position to say how accurate that claim actually is, but we see enough of these things for sale that somebody out there must believe they’re worth having. Though if it were us, we’d take this tip from [Daniel Andrade] and convert our “fake” camera into a real one with the Raspberry Pi and WebRTC.

There are an untold number of makes and models of these fake cameras out there, but it seems that many of them share a fairly common design in that the enclosure they use is actually pretty useful for putting your own hardware in. They’re hollow, relatively well protected from the elements, and as most of them use a blinking LED or some other feature to make them look more authentic, they already have a functional battery compartment.

As it turns out, the one that [Daniel] picked up for $9 USD is pretty much perfect for the Raspberry Pi Zero and its camera module. He even wired the blinking LED up to the Pi’s GPIO pins so it will still look the part, though replacing it with an RGB LED and appropriate scripts to drive it would be a nice way to get some visual feedback on what the system is doing.

The software side of things is done with Balena, a suite of tools for setting up and managing Linux Internet of Things devices. They provide everything from the SD card image that runs on the Pi itself to the cloud infrastructure that pulls all the data together. [Daniel] dove a little deeper into the software stack when he created his Bitcoin traffic light last year.

For any readers who may feel a sense of déjà vu looking at this project, you aren’t going crazy. We recently saw a similar project that used an ESP8266 and a PIR sensor to add motion sensing capabilities to one of these fake cameras. Now all we need is somebody to put an Arduino in one of them, and we’ll have the Holy Trinity represented.

Art Project Analyzes Every Public Recording Of Facebook’s CEO Since 2004

[Benjamin Grosser] had a simple question: “What does Mark Zuckerberg think about?” The resulting art project is named ORDER OF MAGNITUDE and to create it he researched archives of every public utterance the founder and CEO of the world’s largest social media network has made, going as far back as 2004.

The end product is a nearly fifty-minute film consisting entirely of cuts centered around what [Benjamin] says are three of the Facebook CEO’s most favored and often-used terms:

  • The word “more”
  • The word “grow”
  • Metrics such as “ninety-nine percent”, “two million”, and terms of that nature.

The idea is that the resulting video provides insight into what Mark Zuckerberg thinks about, has focused on, and how that has (or has not) changed between 2004 and now.  How well does ORDER OF MAGNITUDE do that? Watch the video below, and judge for yourself.

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DIY Vactrols Give MIDI-Controlled Video Distortion

It’s one thing to assemble your own circuits from scratch using off the shelf components. It’s quite another to build the components first, and then build the circuit.

That’s the path [Joris Wegner] took with this video distortion effects box, dubbed PHOSPHOR. One might wonder why you’d want a box that makes a video stream look like playback from a 1980s VHS player with tracking problems, but then again, audio distortion for artistic effect is a thing, so why not video? PHOSPHOR is a USB MIDI device, and therein lies the need for custom components. [Joris] had a tough time finding resistive optoisolators, commonly known as Vactrols and which are used to control the distortion effects. He needed something with a wide dynamic range, so he paired up a bright white LED and a cadmium sulfide photoresistor inside a piece of heat shrink tubing. A total of 20 Vactrols were fabricated and installed on a PCB with one of the coolest silkscreens we’ve ever seen, along with the Sparkfun Pro Micro that takes care of MIDI chores. Now, distortions of the video can be saved as presets and played back in sync with music for artistic effects.

This isn’t the first time Vactrols have made an appearance here, of course. We saw them a while back with this Arduinofied electric guitar, and more recently with a triple-555 timer synth.

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