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Woodblock Webcam goes 'live'

Posted by Dave Bull at 4:42 AM, May 1, 2011 [Permalink]

A quick, easy announcement this morning - the Woodblock Webcam has now gone 'live', as in 'full motion video'.

Details on the schedule, how to watch, and how you can see pre-recorded streams even when I'm not at the bench, are on this information page.

It was in the autumn of 2001 - nearly ten years ago - that the Woodblock Webcam first went live. I had only a very restricted internet connection back then, so the 'stream' that was broadcast consisted of a series of snapshots from the camera, uploaded one by one, at intervals of around ten seconds.

But even so, it still became a popular feature of the site. Of course! For anybody interested in traditional Japanese printmaking - and especially those wanting to learn how prints are made - a view directly down onto a craftsman's workbench can be a very valuable resource.

Some years ago, the telephone company got their fiber optic lines out this far, and I signed up immediately, giving me a 1Gb (that is not a typo - it's 'one gigabit') connection to the internet. Now although that is the nominal value, they don't actually let me use that much, and my router isn't capable of it anyway, but the point stands - I have a fat pipe!

But I couldn't switch to live video right away, because the (very old) computer down in my workroom just couldn't handle it. Last week though, browsing the websites of a few of the major Akihabara electronics retailers, I discovered that there has been a major price plunge on laptop computers (I think mostly due to the overwhelming success of the iPad in the market). I grabbed a good one, and with all the pieces now in place, set up live streaming video from my workbench to the world.

I'm using the Ustream system, and this allows both live stuff, and the broadcast of 'pre-recorded' video. You can see the schedule on the previously mentioned webcam information page; if you're visiting at a 'live' time, then when you click through to the actual webcam page you should be seeing me working. During times when I'm not 'live', the page will display a pre-recorded version (the previous session).

I have also updated the Message Board on the webcam page; it is also now 'live' - messages appear within seconds - so it can act as a kind of 'chat', between viewers and myself. My new laptop is positioned at the side of my workbench, so - working conditions permitting - I can respond immediately to questions, etc. that appear on the Message Board.

There is a downside to all this goodness, and that is the fact that Ustream is not 'free'. They do have paid services, but the minimum plan starts at $99 monthly, more than I can afford to pay for this at present. So I signed up for their free service, which is of course subsidized by advertising on the stream. I myself can't see the ads, because they aren't shown to the owner of a stream (I wonder why :-), but others will, and I have already received strong feedback from one long-time friend/collector that this cheapens my site and that it would be better if I didn't go ahead with this.

I'm a bit more ambivalent - didn't we all grow up with all TV content sponsored by ads, many of them quite bothersome? - but I'm open to hearing from the viewers about this. If indeed, the consensus is on the side of that friend, then I can easily pull the plug on this, or pony up the $ for a paid stream.

(It may also be that the world of streaming video is about to change dramatically. A few weeks ago, YouTube jumped into the live streaming business, so I suspect the cost of entry is about to drop still further ... we'll see.)

Please let me know what you think about this, and please check out the stream!


Following comment posted by: Julio Rodriguez on May 3, 2011 1:42 AM

Dave, the advantage of watching you work 'live' vs. 10 secs snapshots is so one-sided that I don't mind the ads at all, not one bit !!! You are already offering a tremendous service by sharing your experience with us, to expect you to have to pay to provide this service is completely out of the question....but if you get too many complaints why don't you open up the webcam as a paid subscription service ;-)

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