21/04/2017

Class and Lecture Capture

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In this blog we will look at what is commonly referred to as lecture capture. However, this method of recording events can also be used for classroom capture and lesson observation. At the very least, lecture capture systems should offer screen capture (desktop capture), camera capture and audio.

Lecture Capture And Classroom Capture

Typically the classroom/lecture theatre is equipped with a camera, audio source and the ability to capture the lecturer/teacher’s display, e.g. whiteboard/projector.


Observation

This technically has the same requirements as the above, however, it is beneficial if the observer has the ability to give live feedback to the person who is being observed. It is worth noting that with Planet eStream, all commenst and notes entered are linked to the time location in the video, which is particularly useful when reflecting on the session.


Equipment

The equipment required can be applied to any of the methods mentioned above. The first requirement is of course a piece of software used to capture from our live sources - I will be using our Planet eStream system. With Planet eStream, we are able to capture directly from our desktop, which leaves only the audio and camera source to consider. When selecting camera and audio sources it is important to take the following into consideration:


The Location of the Presenter

This is an important point of consideration, e.g. if the camera is trained on the presenter and the mic is built into the lectern, this would seriously impact on a lecturer’s ability to move away from the lectern.


Wireless or Fixed Audio

The most common methods for capturing the audio is by either using a wireless tie-clip microphone or using a fixed mic in the lectern.


Tie-Clip Microphones

These offer extremely high quality audio quality from the presenter only. The negative to this audio option is that presenters very rarely remember to turn off the belt pack after a presentation, which inevitably means a new set of batteries per lecture.


Fixed Boundary Microphones

These mics are a good option if you wish to capture the audio from a wide area and are usually available in two derivatives: omni-directional and uni-directional. The only drawbacks to this type of mic is that by the very nature they will pick up ambient noise. This can be negated slightly by selecting a uni-directional version of the mic.



Automatic Microphone Systems

For users who wish to set up a capture environment, where the presenter is free to walk around the presentation area and not have the inconvenience of using wireless tie-clip mics, a good solution is to use a multi-mic system. These systems consist of a series of mics hanging from the ceiling and are connected to a auto mixer, which will automatically control the gain of the mics dependent on the presenter’s position.



Cameras


Some lecture capture users choose not to capture from a camera but simply capture the audio and screen. When selecting cameras for use in lecture capture, the rules mentioned previously still apply, e.g. fixed camera directly on the lectern, wide angle camera capturing the whole of the presentation area, 360 degree cameras, or advanced motion tracking cameras.



  • USB camera - Best used for talking head shots and personal capture
  • PTZ camera (pan tilt zoom) - Best used for practical spaces where the camera can be pre-set to different room locations
  • Tracking camera - Ideal for larger lecture theatres where autonomous presenter tracking is required
  • 360 degree camera - Experimental use at present but highly effective for teacher training and personal reflection as, when viewed, the user can look around the whole environment, e.g. rotate between the presenter and the audience reaction
  • Box cameras - Come in a variety of guises and are available with wide angle lenses, which are ideally suited to a fixed installation environment

Capture Software


With Planet eStream, you are now able to capture your live event using three methods:


The Planet eStream Live Encoder. This is a Windows based application and can capture from a wide variety of different sources including webcams, USB capture devices including USB visualizers, high quality capture cards, e.g. Magewell, screen capture, IP sources such as IP cameras, IPTV streamers and mobile phones and tablets.



The Live Encoder application also has the benefit of supporting Picture In Picture and live streaming of events and lectures. The live streaming functionality is particularly useful when remotely observing events, as the observer has the ability to make live comments during the event, which are linked to the time in the event where the comment was made.


The Planet eStream Web Recorder

This offers any user with permissions live capture from their desktop, web cam or capture card, including Picture In Picture directly from the Planet eStream navigation bar. This option offers virtually all of the desktop application functionality, with the exception of IP device support and live streaming.



Mobile Device Capture


The Planet eStream’s HTML 5 compliant web interface offers live capture on mobile devices by simply opening the eStream web page, clicking Create and upload; the device will then ask which source you wish to capture to.



Connection


When setting up a lecture capture suite, the connection method used between the camera, microphone equipment and the capture system is dependent on the following factors:

  1. The equipment selected for use in the room
  2. The infrastructure in place
  3. Budget

The most common methods used in connecting this equipment to your capture system are USB directly connected devices, cabled connections and network connections.



With a network/IP connected system, it is important the audio is connected to the camera first so the audio and video signals are converted to the IP at the same time - If not, the audio will be out of sync with the video. This method is particularly useful if additional cabling is an issue.



Cabled systems are predominantly selected for new builds and refurbs, as the cabling can be carried out without additional disruption. The cabled solutions offer a greater choice of equipment and are easily fitted into most budgets.