How to Be a Guest on the TWiT network
- Most guests of shows on the TWiT Network are remote, but show guests also visit the TWiT Brickhouse in Petaluma, CA (about an hour north of San Francisco). When in the TWiT Brickhouse, everything said or done by anyone in the studio area may broadcast on live video.
- Most guests are remote.
- If you are a guest calling in via Skype Video or phone, you'll probably get an email from the show producer for a 10-minute Skype setup check.
- Most shows are done via Skype, both audio and video.
- All shows are recorded in front of a live webcast audience of several thousand at http://live.twit.tv.
- Our chat room is very active, often with 1,000 or more people. This is located at http://irc.twit.tv. You can use a browser or an IRC client.
- Your entire conversation will be broadcast live to the audience, from the time you say hello until you say goodbye.
- We do very little editing, so almost everything you say will go into the "final" version of the show, edited in post production and release a day or two later.
- With the exception of The Tech Guy radio show, we are not governed by the FCC but we like to keep our shows family friendly so kids can listen. We ask you to follow broadcast standards with language and topics.
- You will be tempted to watch our live stream while you are on the show. This is a mistake you will likely regret, because it's delayed several seconds and the bandwidth used by the stream will harm the quality of your audio and video.
- You will enjoy using our IRC chat during the show, provided you have a thick skin (sometimes chatters can get a little personal). Find it at http://irc.twit.tv.
- Many shows post topics in advance either on http://wiki.twit.tv or on http://delicious.com. If you're a guest on This Week in Tech, producer Chad Johnson will send you a link to our official Google docs the day of the show.
- Chad usually updates the final version of these topics a few minutes before the show.
- You can suggest your own topics on Delicious by tagging an item "for:twit" or adding it to the bottom of the Google doc.
- A producer invites you to be on one of the TWiT shows, TWiT Live, or the Tech Guy radio show.
- One of our producers will connect with you to check out your Skype connection.
- You go on as scheduled.
The primary method of communicating with Leo on TWiT is through Skype. Skype is available on Windows, OSX and *NIX, although the Windows version tends to be the most up to date. DO NOT install browser add-ons, as they are annoying (but harmless) to your browsing experience.
Download the latest version of Skype from http://skype.com - it's free. Make sure to have a good Internet connection and test Skype quality prior to your appearance. If you are able to, you may improve Skype call quality by setting a fixed port and enabling port forwarding on your router.
Position your camera so that you'll be looking into it most of the time when you're speaking. Speak clearly and with ample volume, ideally in a room without much echo and few background noises.
We strongly recommend using a USB headset for your appearance. If time allows we will be glad to overnight you a USB headset for your use on the show. Please ask your booking producer. If you wish to buy one on your own we recommend the Plantronics .audio 655 USB Headset. They run about US$35 on Amazon.com. Do NOT use a Bluetooth headset - they sound terrible.
In any case you must at least use headphones to avoid echoes that will disrupt the show. Make sure that you are using the best microphone you have access to and that the outbound microphone volume level is set appropriately both in your computer OS and within Skype. Skype also has its own internal setting for audio input. If unsure what microphone is selected, check the "Sound In" device in Options->"Sound Devices" or call the Skype echo testing service and tap the microphone.
- Make sure you have the latest version of Skype. For Macs, it's Skype->Check for Update.
- You do not need a professional audio/video setup to be on TWiT.tv or TWiT Live (of course if you do, congratulations - it should work even better). But if you don't, you'll need:
- USB headset: If time allows we will be glad to overnight you a USB headset for your use on the show. Please ask your booking producer. If you wish to buy one on your own we recommend the Plantronics .audio 655 USB Headset. They run about US$35 on Amazon.com. Do NOT use a Bluetooth headset - they sound terrible. We've also found that USB headsets without foam covering on their microphones often don't sound as good as the ones that do.
- Please do not use the built-in laptop microphone if at all possible. This is only for use if we have exhausted all other options. If the laptop mic must be used, then find some iPhone/iPod headphones and plug them in so you hear the audio through the headphones. This will prevent echo coming back into the TWiT studio mix.
- USB headset does not mean a headset with two connectors that look the same as those for iPod headphones. It means that it is plugged into your computer via USB.
- The newest Mac laptops do support the microphone from the new iPhone headphones, but it's not much better than a laptop mic.
- Video: you have several options
- Built-in camera: If you have a new computer, chances are it has a built-in webcam. That should be sufficient.
- External webcam: This is OK, too. We get excellent results on both Mac and Windows with the Logitech C510 webcams.
- Firewire-connected DV camera (or even HD).
- Ethernet connection rather than Wi-Fi, please. If at all possible please connect directly to the ethernet rather than using Wi-Fi as you will have a much greater likelihood of looking and sounding good. Also, if you have to reconnect multiple times it will disrupt the live show and increase the amount of editing needed.
- Are you using your home network? If so, ask others on your network NOT to watch you on http://live.twit.tv as it can kill your bandwidth. Also ask them not to watch YouTube or download stuff from BitTorrent or iTunes. Honestly.
- Headset feedback: It's possible that there could be feedback from your headset cable. You will not hear this, but Leo and the other panelists will. Try calling "echo123" on skype and testing your audio for a few minutes. If you hear the feedback (sounds sort of like a tapping pencil), then you will need to sit on any slack in the headset's cord to prevent it from making the noise.
- Which USB port? We've found that when using a laptop, it's best to use the USB port nearest you (furthest from the screen), as it usually has the least power/interference issues.
- Multiple USB ports: You will want to make sure the webcam and USB headset are plugged directly into the USB ports, not through a hub.
- Will your office-mate or family member be shouting nearby? Close the door and put a sign on it that says: "Shhhh! Business phone call in progress. Please don't come in before X o'clock."
- Please, NEVER play the audio of the show via your computer speakers, internal or external. This creates echo that makes it difficult for the audience to understand the show and is almost impossible to edit out in post production.
- Skype Audio
- We use the free version of Skype for all our podcasts.
- Always make sure you have the latest version of Skype.
- Skype overwrites the computer's audio and video settings. And these settings usually need to be re-set each time you plug in the headset. On a Mac, go to Skype->Preferences->Audio and select your USB headset for "Audio output" and "Audio input." Leave the "Ringing" setting to your built-in speakers (this is so you can hear it ringing if you've stepped away from your computer. In Windows, go to Tools->Options->Audio Settings. There you will be able to select your USB headset for Microphone and Speakers, but leave "Ringing" set to "Windows default device."
- We have seen significant problems combining Skype audio (and video) with some recent Linux versions. Please don't use this combination on TWiT.
- When restarting Skype, call "echo123" and test your audio with "the Skype lady." Tap your headset's microphone to make sure the audio is coming from that source. If your audio sounds hollow or has an echo, then your audio is coming from the laptop microphone.
- Unplug any other headset or earphones plugged into that computer. They may conflict.
- Skype video
- TWiT is quickly moving all its broadcasting to having a live video component.
- This is done via Skype's free video service.
- These settings usually need to be re-set each time you plug in the headset.
- On a Mac, go to Skype->Preferences->Video and select your "Built-in iSight." Check "Enable Skype Video" and "Automatically receive video from: People in my Contact List." Enable iSight camera. When connected with Leo, select the teeny-tiny button that looks like the profile of a video camera.
- In Windows, go to Tools->Options->Video Settings. Select your webcam. Check "Enable Skype Video" and "Automatically receive video from: People in my Contact List." When connected with Leo, select the teeny-tiny button that looks like the profile of a video camera.
- Feel free to point your friends to http://Live.twit.tv, but don't watch it while you're on, as the delay will confuse you and the bandwidth you're using can harm the quality of the audio/video you're sending us. We'll feed the video back to you.
- Check to see how you look by using Skype Video settings.
- Consider your camera. Most built-in webcams are plenty good for our purposes, but if you are purchasing an external camera, you might try something like the Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 (also see this camera's Windows drivers to curb autofocus). Make sure the camera is compatible with your system as some are OS-specific. For a little more money, an external DV camera with Firewire connection is also a good choice. Even with these external cameras, you'll still want to use the headset microphone.
- Consider your lighting. If you're going to do this regularly, you might try a lighting system such as Verilux, a Lowel EGO Light, or something similar. You might even try the whiter compact fluorescent lightbulbs like the Lowel bulb, and just use them on your normal lamps. Please have a stronger light in your face that you do at your back, instead of being backlit. If you have a pretty view behind you you'd like to show off in the shot, make sure you have at least two strong lights pointing right at your face. Yes, it's bright, but it can make a beautiful shot.
- Frame the image well. Usually the best way is to have your head almost touching the top of the frame, and your head be in the top three-fifths of the frame and your chest the bottom two-fifths (enough to put your name in the "lower third" of the screen). And please, put the webcam just at the top of the monitor you are going to be using, so you're pointing right at it as you're on your computer. No sideways views, please.
- Enable video automatically. Don't wait for Leo to ask for you to send video. The conversation will begin right away - make sure you're sending video.
- Advanced Privacy Settings
- For the purposes of your call, please go into "Privacy" settings (you may need to click on "Advanced") and allow calls, chats, and video from anyone, and show you're online. After the show, you can revert these settings to be whatever you like.
- Our audience loves it when guests participate in chat, but be forewarned it can be distracting. Our IRC chatroom is located at http://irc.twit.tv, the room is #twitlive. Here's a full primer on IRC. You actually don't need a password to sign in. However, if you're already IRC savvy, particularly if you're going to be on the network more than once, please register and get a "nick" so your identity is reserved and you have special privileges on IRC.
- If you're coming in person, here's information about getting to the TWiT Brickhouse and Petaluma itself.
- Optional Reading: Here's a very in-depth blog posting about one guest's day on TWiT. Note: Fancy microphone and background not required. It's actually a much more simple affair than he describes, but it makes for good reading.