AV Related Mobile QR codes User experience

Love Lace App instructional video

One of the biggest hurdles for in-gallery App take up – actually any in-gallery technology take up – is awareness. So when you’ve just released an App (read the full story), a cross-platform one at that, for a new exhibition (opening July 30), then it really helps to have some very obvious visual promotion of it.

Here’s our instructional video put together by Estee Wah and Leonie Jones. (No questions about where we found the enormous iPhone please! Or the hand model!)

If you’ve only visited the Love Lace website on your computer you might want to try it on your iPhone too . . .

[Android version of the App is on the Android market now]

AV Related

AR drone test flights – flying over the collection

If you’ve been following some of us on Twitter you will know that the Digital teams have been experimenting with different kinds of consumer-grade filming technologies to offer new ways of seeing behind the scenes at the Museum.

We’ve had the camera-mounted robot cockroach that scuttles underneath large objects to view the undersides of things, and the iPad/iPhone controlled consumer-grade Parrot AR Drone which flies over and around objects.

Here’s some footage of a few test flights in the Castle Hill storage facility.

As you will see the resolution and framerates are currently too low for this sort of footage to be really useful. However this is early days and we think the idea of flying cameras around and through the collection has a lot of potential.

In fact, beyond the collection potential, our lighting technicians immediately saw the potential of using such drones to check the settings on light fittings usually only accessible with ladders and scaffolding.

AV Related Digital storytelling Digitisation

Exploring ‘The Bandstand, Hyde Park’ – another video experiment with the Commons on Flickr

On the back of the great feedback on the last video, Jean-Francois Lanzarone has made a whole lot of new little video explorations and here’s one that gets incredible detail out of again, a single image.

The original image is available in the Commons and in our online catalogue as well.

These little 90 second videos are a very simple but effective way of ‘digital storytelling’ – something museums should be quite good at, being as they are, repositories of stories. The technology at work here is nothing more than a very high resolution original scan and a copy of the consumer-grade iMovie – something which, for us, is important to emphasise.

Good ideas trump expensive technology every time.

AV Related Imaging open content

Exploring ‘On the wallaby track’ – a video experiment with the Commons on Flickr

We’ve been experimenting with a few ways of showing up some of the amazing and often hidden details in some of the Tyrrell images we are putting up into the Commons.

Jean-Francois Lanzarone put this little test video together in an hour today. This one reveals the detail of ‘On the wallaby track’ that shows the high resolutions that we scan these glass plate negatives at.

View the original image in the Commons on Flickr. Or on the Powerhouse Museum’s own website.

We will be making a few more of these over the coming months an experimenting with a few different formats and styles. We’d love your feedback.

(cross posted from our Photo of the Day blog)

AV Related

Powerhouse’s first video on ABC Fora

Today the ABC’s new cross platform talks site, Fora put the first bit of Powerhouse Museum content online.

Recorded just yesterday, the talk covers the Powerhouse’s shoe collection and coincides with the new edition of our publication Stepping out: three centuries of shoes.

You can watch the talk on the ABC Fora website, share and embed it (as I have done below). The talk will also be available soon on the Museum’s own website as well as on D*Hub.

As the Fora editors write;

As anyone who has ever seriously considered spending more than $500 on a pair of shoes will suspect: shoes are so, so much more than mere fashion. And now these suspicions are confirmed. In this illustrated talk Louise Mitchell, author of “Stepping Out: Three Centuries of Shoes”, looks at the relationship between shoes and culture around the world, since the eighteenth century. Sandals, slippers, clogs and boots from Africa, Asia and Europe, the history of the humble shoe is fascinating and revealing. And the pictures are lovely, too.

AV Related Digitisation Web 2.0

Video archives in YouTube? – National Library of Scotland

Lorcan Dempsey pointed to this rather excellent presentation titled ‘There’s No Place Like Home?’ from Ann Cameron at the National Library of Scotland. In it she describes way that the NLS has been uploading archival video materials to YouTube and highlights some of the issues around Copyright, and metadata that have emerged from the project. The issues around context (slide 15) are also important in light of Henry Jenkins’ recent presentation.

AV Related Digital storytelling Interactive Media Powerhouse Museum websites

True Design – Powerhouse Museum’s latest digital storytelling productions

We are very lucky to have within our museum a pair of media production labs – SoundHouse VectorLab – where the public can do short, low cost courses in video and music production. A spinoff of these facilities is a series of digital storytelling projects. Usually these projects are run in regional and rural communities and with at-risk youth as a means of engaging and stimulating (and diverting) creative energies.

However this time the museum has worked with a different audience – professional designers. As part of Sydney Design 07 and with our design portal, Design Hub, the museum has released a series of digital stories written and produced by practicing designers. A series of short, two minute video pieces were written and produced in an intensive two day workshop in small teams run in the SoundHouse VectorLab and organised by Nicole Bearman (Design Hub editor), and Helen Whitty (from the Education and Public Programmes department). True to digital storytelling methodologies, ultimately these stories are about the process more than the final output – skill sharing, collaborative narratives, cross-disciplinary communication.

This project offered participants the opportunity to contemplate their design practice through a new medium and to present for the viewer a significant insight into design processes, inspirations and working life. It also gave them the opportunity to collaborate and network with industry peers who they might not otherwise get the opportunity to work with, such as curators, editors and writers.

Take a look.

They are screening in the galleries in high definition during Sydney Design, and will also be later syndicated to other media.

(update – there is an interview with Peter Mahony in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Spectrum section today. It is not yet online but once it is I will link it)

AV Related Collection databases Web 2.0

OPAC2 does video

We have added the first of a batch of videos to our collection database.

The first one features Tom Crawford, a former train driver who drove one of the locomotives in our collection discussing his experience.

Rather serendipitously Tom’s family made contact with the Museum and Irma Havlicek from the Web Services team organised for Tom to come in and for his story to be filmed and recorded for posterity.

There are many many stories of objects about which the Museum knows more about as a result of public contact generated by the collection database and through visitation to the physical museum, but this is the first object for which we have been able to add a personal story to in such a way.

For those wanting to know how this is done technically, we store the video in our kEmu collection database in its multimedia table, just like all the images, which is then harvested periodically. We currently use Flash Video (FLV) as a preferred format to balance size and quality.

AV Related Developer tools Interactive Media Museum blogging

Weekly digital media production tips

Over at the site promoting the Powerhouse Museum’s digital media learning labs (SoundHouse VectorLab) we’ve started a weekly ‘tip of the week’ series written by the Vector Lab boss Mike Jones.

The ‘tip of the week‘ series covers everything from simple Photoshop tasks to how-to do tricky video editing tricks with Premiere and Vegas.

And, of course, we’re using WordPress for their microsite.

Feel free to leave any specific technical questions you’;d like answered in forthcoming tips of the week in the comments either here or on the SoundHouse VectorLab site.

AV Related Digitisation Web 2.0

Testing podcast transcription – Casting Words

Audio transcription is an essential part of digitisation. Our curatorial researchers are recording thousands of hours of interviews with subjects onto a mix of analogue (tapes) and digital (MP3/WAV) media. These oral histories are filed away for preservation purposes but will remain almost unusable in any serious way until they are digitised – that is, transcribed into a searchable machine readable format.

Likewise, we record many events at the museum and in the last few years have begun offering them as podcasts on our websites.

Last week we tried out a service called Casting Words. Casting Words is a transcription service that offers to send back a transcription of any podcast or audio file, quickly and cheaply.

Generally transcribing podcasts, especially those of live talks and events, has been an arduous task, one that even with the best of intentions often doesn’t happen. Transcription has tended to be expensive and time consuming. It has also been typically inaccurate.

Yet without a transcription the contents of the podcast are rendered invisible to all but the most dedicated internet user – who already knows of the podcast’s existence. This is because a transcript not only serves the interests of vision-impaired users and those wanting to skim read before downloading, it also exposes the content of the podcast to search engines thus aiding discoverability.

Here are the results from our test of Casting Words.

TEST 1 – The Sydney Observatory February 2007 night sky guide – this recording runs for about 14 minutes and has one speaker talking throughout. Whilst not explicitly technical and aimed at a general audience it is about constellations and uses common astronomical terms. It is recorded in a quiet room with no background noise and is edited in post-production to a script.

Original MP3 – listen at the Sydney Observatory blog
Transcript – view online
Time taken to transcribe – 24 hours (from submission to receipt of finished product)
Cost of transcription – US$10.50

TEST 2 – The live recording of a D-Factory public talk titled “Pop-ups, fold-outs and other design adventures” – this recording runs for 61 minutes and consists of four individually microphoned speakers recorded into a single stationery video camera via a live mixing desk feed. The same audio feed is used as the signal to the PA system in the room. As a result of the room acoustics, mixdown and speaker behaviour each speaker’s voice is inconsistently recorded and the recording itself fluctuates in volume. The talk is set up in the manner of a studio interview – a little like a TV chat show – it is totally unscripted and the recordings have no post production editing. There is background noise present throughout.

Original MP3 – listen or view video online (3rd item, right column)
Transcript – read online at Design Hub
Time taken to transcribe – 48 hours
Cost of transcription – US$45.50

How accurate are the transcriptions?

Other than American spellings, the transcripts are very accurate. In the Sydney Observatory transcript there was one numerical error that has been corrected. The DFactory transcript is a little more difficult to check but there does not seem to be significant errors – which, given the original recording quality, is surprising. There is one instance where the transcriber has noted that all the speakers were speaking at once and thus no transcript was available for those few seconds.

How does Casting Words work and why is it so cheap?

Casting Words uses Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to divide complex work into a small tasks which are advertised for freelancers (turkers, as they are known) to perform – anywhere, anytime in the world. There are some tasks that humans perform better than machines and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk uses its machines to allocate these tasks more efficiently. The name ‘mechanical turk’ comes from a (in)famous hoax by Hungarian baron Wolfgang von Kempelen in the late 18th century.

Turkers who undertake Casting Words transcription tasks are not unqualified. Each has to undertake a small qualification task, and their rate of payment depends upon their qualification level. Also, each transcription is edited and checked as separate tasks. There seem to be about 10,000 qualified trascribers and 3500 qualified editors. did a report on Mechanical Turk mid last year which interviewed Casting Words who explain how it works.

With a little code, plus the turkers, it has succeeded in basically automating the process. The company charges its customers from 42 cents a minute for podcast transcription to 75 cents a minute for other audio. CastingWords pays Mechanical Turk workers as little as 19 cents a minute for transcription. If a transcription job is posted on Mechanical Turk for a couple of hours at the rate of 19 cents a minute, and no worker has taken on the project, the software simply assumes the price is too low and starts raising it.

After a transcription assignment is accepted by a worker, and completed, it goes back out on for quality assurance, where another worker is paid a few cents to verify that it’s a faithful transcript of the audio. Then, the transcript goes back on a third time for editing, and even a fourth time for a quality assurance check. “It’s been terribly useful for us,” says Nathan McFarland of Seattle, one of the co-founders of CastingWords. Transcription is the type of relatively steady task that keeps turkers with good ears who are fast typists coming back. “There are people who have been with us for months, and they’re not leaving,” says McFarland.

The article is essential reading as it also explores the criticisms of Mechanical Turk – the nature of labour allocated under this system, the pay rates and worker agreements, and the question raised by many people who do the work, “do they actually consider it as ‘work’?”. Much of the other tasks done by turkers are micro-tasks – very short, quick tasks such as image tagging, or trivia quiz answering.

The demand for transcription is only going to increase. Each month we are recording more and more in digital form, and the demand for it to be made searchable (which is one of the reasons we digitise in the first place) gets stronger and stronger. What other services have other museums tried to deal with this media overload?