I’ve been working with an indie game dev studio based on Vancouver Island for a while now. Normally, when my boss Denny wants to know what any one of the team is doing, he’ll just walk up to a station, look over a shoulder, and ask questions. Similarly, when anyone else needs to show something quickly, it’s trivial to wave someone over and get on with things. When half of the company works in Vancouver and the other half works in Austin, however, that all goes out of the window. It’s not uncommon for the process of explaining something over Skype to be clunky and more time-consuming than it would be if we were all in the same office, and this becomes much more of an annoyance during crunch time.
Earlier this month, Denny and I found ourselves repeatedly having the same weird conversation–he would ask me what I was up to, and I’d tell him I was too busy working to explain what I was up to. It’s funny the first time, but gets old pretty quickly, and doesn’t really keep anyone clued in.
So, to fix that, I put together a Boss Stick. I call it that because it lets me put my boss on a stick so he can look over my shoulder from 2300 miles away.
On the hardware side, it’s just a photographer’s light stand with a telescoping boom arm, a quick-detach ball mount, my trusty Logitech C920 HD webcam, a Smith Victor reflector lamp with a daylight CFL, and 16 feet of USB 3.0 cable.
On the software side, I upgraded to a Skype premium account (the quarterly plan’s a good deal!) for the group video chat and screen sharing features. I also set up a Flash streaming server account with Onyxservers and use that to stream a live feed to the other office during working hours. Topping that off is ManyCam Pro acting as a video mixer/switcher, which allows me to use multiple video sources and cut/transition between them as needed.
This setup has already proven its utility several times over by allowing me to demonstrate works-in-progress and show hard-to-describe issues over live video, and Denny can see exactly what I’m working on just by tabbing over to my video feed when he needs to. We’re in the process of setting up something similar for the Vancouver office, which should be fun.
The other nice thing about the Boss Stick is that it’s also going to come in useful when I do more papercraft videos in the future. I always have a blast shooting those, and it’ll be nice to actually work with the ideal camera angles that I couldn’t get before with a small table tripod.