12.30.20

How We Record Videos With Very Low-Budget Gear and Only Free (Libre) Software

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Videos at 10:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: Some readers (or viewers) have asked us to explain how we record videos; today, for the first time, we seem to be doing that more properly and here’s an explanation of what we’ve tried and what we use currently (as of today)

A decade or so ago (slightly more) we started doing shows in audio form and occasionally experimented with video as well. That was known as TechBytes. It never really ended, but we’ve put a pause on that because my co-host Tim was between jobs and looking after 2 young children is a lot of work. I recently fired up GTK-RecordMyDesktop because I was trying to record a Downfall joke that I had subtitled (without realising it was not possible to then download the resultant video). Seeing that GTK-RecordMyDesktop was still working (it has not been updated at all for about a decade), I decided to experiment a bit with video and for webcam I went with something very simple; Cheese is widely used on GNU/Linux systems and it’s best suited for GNOME users, it’s in the Debian repositories and so on…

So I started with Cheese. Not a great choice. It seems to be better suited for taking selfies with some effects. It doesn’t do much more than that.

After a few lousy videos I started experimenting with a combination of GTK-RecordMyDesktop and Cheese (e.g. browser with Cheese on top of it, set to “always on top”/”Above Others” and a borderless window). But clearly enough there was a better way to do this, somewhere out there…

That’s when I discovered Webcamoid, which is unfortunately hosted by GitHub (Microsoft). Webcamoid is very impressive in its own right. It has even called itself “The ultimate webcam suite!” (In the page title)

Being the sort of person who sticks to old habits and what’s already rather familiar, the past couple of weeks were still spent recording everything using GTK-RecordMyDesktop, basically a graphical front end for RecordMyDesktop. I used it to make GNU tutorials almost a decade ago. It generally works, but it’s a screen grabber that has deficiencies such as major lag, low frame rate capture and so on.

It was only this afternoon that I finally found time to properly study Webcamoid, which based on information I found online is widely regarded as one of the better if not the best thing for this task. As it turns out, Webcamoid makes recording video very easy, so there’s no need for RecordMyDesktop (or GTK-RecordMyDesktop) anymore. This will certainly make life a lot easier and it also seems to enhance quality, not just simplify the whole workflow (working with several applications in tandem).

For those who asked how the videos are made, well… all I can say is, don’t be reluctant to try new things. New Free/libre software projects emerge (or get submerged) all the time and some of them are rich in features and are also mature/stable. Webcamoid has its share of bugs (I found no major bugs in RecordMyDesktop), but nothing is perfect and it costs nothing. It more importantly respects your freedom!

The video above is my first recording produced directly in Webcamoid. It’s not scripted or anything, it’s mostly a ramble, but it explains my journey (about a fortnight so far) in the world of video recording when Free (as in Freedom) is a strict requirement.

Next week when we start releasing some new leaks (not just EPO) I wish to be able to explain them not only in textual form, which lacks nuance. Obviously we’re not like some fancy newsroom or recording studio; it’s just some tiny home office at a corner of a room. But we do our best, every day, given those limited means. We don’t wish to be judged by or compared to people who do those sorts of things for a living. We have neither the experience nor the equipment/budget.

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