Photos from the NROL-129 mission launch using the Northrup Grumman Minotaur rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Photos from an Army training exercise at the sand dunes in West Greenwich, RI.
This week I created a simple dashboard for COVID19 related data released by the state of Rhode Island. It tracks the following key COVID19 metrics in Rhode Island:
- Positive COVID19 cases
- ICU stays
- Patients on Ventilators (new as of 4/15)
- Testing data
- Cases by City/Town (now a map rather than table)
Both current/cumulative and historical data for these metrics are shown with graphs and day over day change annotated to visualize trends.
Initially, data was only being shared via a shared Google Sheet from the state’s Department of Health so using Google’s Datastudio platform was an easy way to visualize the data.
Today that sheet is no longer in use (that’s a good thing!) so I’ve updated the dashboard using CovidTracking.com‘s excellent API to continue to bring in live data automatically. The COVID Tracking Project is a volunteer organization that is bringing disparate data from US states together into a single dataset and providing publicly available APIs to access everything.
Using their API is a bit overkill, and it’d be nice if the government could provide a similar service, but for now it’s the best way to get comprehensive data in the US right now.
I poll the API every few hours via a simple JSON request to a filtered dataset with just RI’s data to avoid pulling in a much larger dataset than needed. Documentation for CTP’s APIs can be found here.
Typically RI DOH updates their data once daily in the afternoon, but as CTP sometimes synthesizes data from different sources I wanted to make sure what was being shown was the most up to date version.
Since I originally created this tool, the state has also released an ArcGIS-based dashboard of their own with a similar format using Power BI and Datawrapper. I’m now embedding their map in my dashboard to visually depict cases by City instead of displaying a table.
Their hub is accessible at https://health.ri.gov/data/covid-19/.
To start, a quick disclaimer. Retrospectives are an Agile thing and while I’ve worked at places that used bits and pieces of Agile, I am far from an expert. This write up is for noobs like me looking for a way to learn from their mistakes rather than repeat them.
So, you wrapped a big project. Deliverables delivered, clients happy, all the hell of actually making the thing behind you. At this point, you’re eager to move on to the next challenge. At this point the last thing you want to do is litigate that difficult conversation with the client about budget, or the unintended consequences of that last minute timeline shift, or how you really should have stuck to your guns on that script revision.
It’s natural to want to get on with things, but if I could impart one lesson as a moderately seasoned video marketer with tons of experience of every online video maker around, it would be this: always do a retrospective.
What’s a retro?
A retrospective (or if you’re goth, a post-mortem) is a follow up meeting directly after the end of a project. At this point, your memories are fresh and it’s the optimal time to take stock of how the project went and most importantly write that assessment down for posterity.
Why do I like them?
Firstly, I believe that one of the keys to creative success is self-reflection. Looking inward and examining our process is the first step to improving it, and practicing this idea as a group can be revolutionary. Regardless if you’re freelance, in-house, agency or non of the above, we all have times where we feel stuck. The same (bad) outcomes keep happening and we don’t know how to improve them. Well, fixing those things can be hard but if you can’t identify them in the first place it’s nearly impossible.
Conversely if you don’t identify your successes, you can’t lean into what you do best and figure out how to do more of that.
Retrospective meetings combine this idea of self-reflection with the idea of being actionable. The goal is to come out of the meeting with a better understanding of what happened, and insight to help you and your team do an even better job on the next mission.
For video teams especially, we do a lot of different kinds of work. Throughout the course of a project your team is not only doing creative things like concepting, script writing, filming, animating, and editing… they’re also doing managerial things like scheduling, budgeting holding meetings.
Because the team has so many things to think of and production has so many moving pieces, when it’s all done it’s so easy for potential insights to get lost without a formal process for immediate review. Doing a retrospective as a team right after you finish a project ensures you gain as much insight as possible before memories fade, and you make changes collectively as a team rather than dictate changes from above.
How do you run the meeting?
Despite all this lofty talk about introspection, retros are easy. The way I run them is based around what I learned from the excellent team at my very first agency, Sculpt. We’d pick a project and answer the following questions as a team:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What things did we learn?
- What new questions do we have?
- What action items do we have moving forward?
That’s it. It’s really not hard.
What’s important is that people have time to think about these questions and discuss them as a group. In a larger team, it can be helpful to put these questions on a whiteboard or have folks come prepared with thoughts in advance.
The most important question in the retro is the last one: action items. Talking about what happened is great, but learning from it requires making changes and being able to articulate next steps is the key to make retrospectives empowering and actionable, not just a forum for commiseration.
When the meeting is done, make sure you’ve captured everything in your notes, share them with your video team, and put those insights to work. Continuous improvement is a powerful motivator and creativity multiplier, retros are an essential tool to achieve that.
Read more posts about the business of video here.
Have more questions about running video teams? Let’s chat.
I took a short road trip to western Massachusetts with my buddy Andy. He brought his GoPro Karma drone. I brought my personal camera rig.
Whether you’re trying to reach prospects, customers, or internal stakeholders, live video provides a powerful, engaging way to get your message out into the world. But if you don’t have any live streaming experience, the process can seem a little daunting — especially if you’ve ever witnessed any live streams gone wrong. I mean, no one wants to be remembered for that live stream when the audio went out or the camera stopped recording.
So, you may be wondering: Where do I even begin? And how can I ensure my live stream goes off without a hitch? Well, fear not! We’ve got you covered.
Our team has pulled together the ultimate Live Streaming Checklist — outlining all the tools you’ll need and the steps you should take to ensure your live stream runs smoothly.
Get the guide over at the Brightcove blog.
Every marketer knows doing things “the old fashioned way” is unsustainable yet most people still don’t think this same way about video. Agencies and brands alike keep getting stuck viewing video through the lens of the “deliverable,” meaning a snappy 15 or 30 second spot that you make once, then syndicate across platforms.
That’s no longer good enough. We’ve seen email and social marketing thrive on the notion of personalized content that resonates with a hyper-specific audience, and we have to approach video in the exact way.
I’m a lifelong avgeek and as I’m learning to fly for real, I use my home simulator as a really useful training tool. Occasionally I’ll stream my flights, and because I have a production background I really wanted to have a proper audio workflow. The following setup is exactly what I use to send audio to OBS for live streaming on Twitch and elsewhere.
Getting the sound out
In order to hook into the pro mixer I have, I needed a pair of external USB sound cards, hopefully ones that either output a pro line or mic signal. My same friend who’s working on those overlays recommended a digital DI box by Peavey that outputs to two XLR jacks. It rocks.
It’s a step above some similar USB cards that I’ve found and it includes circuitry to eliminate electrical noise and ground loop hums. This is really nice because PCs are noisy and most cheaper external sound cards don’t output truly clean audio. I have two of these, one for X-Plane ambient sound, and the other for PilotEdge output.
Mixing the sound
Everything gets sent into a Behringer 1002b mixer. With 5 XLR inputs and a total of 10 channels of audio, I have a lot of granular control. It’s very easy to adjust the mix to compensate for a quiet controller, or an extra loud plane. In order to use a typical pc headset with a mixer, you need to supply it with ‘plugin power.’ This is sort of a lower voltage version of phantom power and it’s tricky to find the right adapter. I found a nice one from a company that makes a lot of small adapters and power modules, Sound Professionals.
Routing audio to the right places
Two 1/4″ patch cables go from the mixer’s main outs to a Tascam USB audio interface that I typically use for recording into my Mac. I use Tascam’s app or hardware knobs to tweak the signal levels and OBS recognizes the input as a generic USB soundcard.
The mixer has both monitor and FX Send submixes, so I can isolate my headset mic and just send that back to the PC for PilotEdge. With the other submix, I send ATC to my headset plus my own mic input to simulate sidetone.
Full parts lists
An excerpt from a post on the Videostrategy.org blog:
Whether you’re working in a studio or on location, controlling your lighting setup can be a pain. As your setups get more complex, it takes more time to tweak individual lights and even if you’re working with a larger crew making final adjustments can eat up a lot of time unless you have a dedicated pre-light day which is pretty uncommon for the kind of work we do.
In 2014, I worked on a Superbowl campaign that used Rat Pac Dimmer’s Cintenna system to wirelessly control DMX lights via an iOS device and it was awesome. Unfortunately, it costs a lot to get up and running so I wanted to build my own for smaller projects.
Another roadblock was that many of the lights we use (fresnels, Quasar Science LED tubes) might not have DMX control built in like some high end lights do so I needed to figure out how to make a system that would work with that.
This is that system. It’s a combination of a portable wireless router, an ethernet to DMX adapter, and a portable dimmer pack that allows you to have DMX control over any light that accepts a dimmer. This setup works great in the studio, and packs into a pelican case for using on location. You can plug it into any DMX system, wired or wireless and it’ll just work. Here’s what each part does.
Read the full post at Videostrategy.org.