The DDMC welcomed Ryan Budvitis & Brooks Platts from Shure’s conferencing and meeting product line up today. The STEM ECOSYSTEM audio products fill that gap just below professional audio products like the Microflex and the home office product lines at Shure. When you have a meeting space that can host 5-15 people and you would like to keep the AV simple and user friendly. The Shure STEM audio products is the right fit. The Audio Fencing feature reduces the busy streets and noisy offices that often encroach into most of our web conferences.
Additional features that include room design, one button room adapt, room check, and remote management are more features that helps the STEM ECOSYSTEM stand out in a very crowded USB peripheral market.
Mark Bednarcik & Don Mitchell with Extron Electronics dropped into the DDMC and gave us a run down on some of the powerful tools that Extron has available for Collaboration spaces, Conference Rooms, and Lecture Halls. Also highlighting control and their new Virtual Control platform that will allow control of up to 50 rooms on one box.
Mark and Don pointed out the expansive online and in-person training that Extron offers. Worth checking out! Especially if your are in need of CTS or BICSI continuing education credits.
If you would like to review the meeting please follow this link to the DDMC Panopto to this video!
The DDMC met with our good friends at Panasonic this afternoon. All of us know they provide high quality classroom projectors. We just now discovered is they have a “pimp my projector” option with custom vinyl wraps! Custom Graphic/Logo/Colors. A 5-10 day Business day turnaround will get you stylin n’ profilin before the fall semester!
Also new to the Panasonic line of education products is their entry into wireless microphones with (11) new products that aim to be intuitive to use, lightweight and secure. Designed for lecture halls, auditoriums, the system has the flexibility to deliver excellent quality in spaces small too large.
New and notable is the Panasonic Lecture Capture & Auto – Tracking system. An all-in-one system to automatically track, record and stream video. Delivering a high quality, rich multi-source viewing experience. Co-developed & certified with Seneca and Panaopto for plug and play capabilities that should make for easy integration into existing AV systems. I have requested a (4) camera on site demo! So, stay tuned for further developments.
This April I attended the Northwest Managers of Educational Technology conference held this year in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Since there’s nothing quite like this group in the Southeast, it felt well worth it to me to fly across the country to enjoy a little normalcy and connect in person again with fellow A/V professionals focused on education. Of course, I can’t deny that the location for this year’s event on the shores of beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene was an added draw. The conference was well attended (I’m guessing ~100 attendees), and exceptionally well run. NMET is a close organization with a history that spans several decades going all the way back to the beginning of the AV industry as we know it in the era of analog media.
Responses to the pandemic and various school’s efforts to work toward a “new normal”
The CARES Act as a catalyst for A/V classroom upgrades: UNLV launched a huge new program during COVID called RebelFlex using CARES funds that is seen as largely successful that would likely not have been possible otherwise. (Duke, along with several other top private universities such as Harvard and Princeton chose not accept CARES act funding.)
COVID as a driver for A/V initiatives and standardization: Many schools saw decision-making for A/V and IT-related projects shift to the provost level and higher as schools developed alternative teaching strategies such “emergency”, “HyFlex,” “hybrid,” “co-mingled,” and remote teaching as pandemic responses. In most cases timelines for implementing major A/V projects sped up significantly as well.
COVID as a driver for A/V standardization: Oregon State University described how COVID helped their campus standardize on an enterprise A/V strategy that centered on Kaltura, Canvas, and Zoom, and quieted demand for competing tools. Interestingly, OSU does not use a dedicated recording tool such as Panopto but instead utilizes Zoom for all recording and pushes this content to Kaltura within Canvas course sites.
Faculty support models for hybrid teaching: UNLV’s RebelFlex program experimented with hiring students who were assigned to in-person classes as tech support. While overall this seemed successful, there were challenges, such as the diminishment of the need for tech support as the semester went on and faculty became familiar with the new technologies involved. Additionally it was observed that faculty members tended to morph the roles of their student help into roles resembling TAs and research assistants over time, including using these helpers as moderators for their Zoom chats.
Building a Networking Group like NMET: Some of the conference attendees were surprised I came all the way from North Carolina to attend the conference. “You mean the Duke?” several asked. I explained there’s nothing in the southeast comparable to NMET, an education-driven organization focused on the intersection of A/V and IT. That’s sad, but not surprising in a way, since a successful organization like NMET isn’t built overnight. NMET began holding conferences in 1979 and is the result of the hard work and passion of several generations of A/V professionals who have comprised NMET.
The A/V Superfriends Podcast (https://www.avsuperfriends.com/): Some of the members of NMET together with other A/V professionals extending beyond that group maintain a very cool podcast for A/V professionals focused on the intersection of A/V and pedagogy in higher ed. They were actually recording new episodes of the podcast live in the exhibit area. Members of this group led several interesting conference sessions focused primarily on the impact of COVID for classroom technology. Recent topics of their podcast include:
Managing PO’s and supply chain issues
Campus support structures
Auto-framing and auto-tracking cameras
Cabling infrastructure and TIA standards
The intersection of A/V and IT in hiring new staff
AV replacement cycles–do we set arbitrary schedules of 5, 7, 10 years or tie AV refresh projects to capital projects?
Bootstrapping light video production switchers into classroom systems
AV over IP: It was argued by some that the NDI (Network Device Interface) protocol represents the wave of the future, and that we should future-proof our classrooms by purchasing NDI-capable cameras
Benefits and drawbacks of Zoom certification: It was discussed this may be OK as long as not mandated or exploited for commercial benefit (cross reference Tandberg)
“Hybrid” (instructor-driven) vs. “HyFlex” (student-centered) classrooms
USB as the “common language of hybrid learning spaces”
Elevating sound quality in the rush to add A/V infrastructure to classrooms
Keeping classroom AV UI’s simple and standard even in classrooms where there is great complexity under the hood
ePTZ (auto-tracking) cameras: Importance of good lighting, fixed positions are better than continuous tracking
Making a virtual lightboard: One presenter showed how he used Procreate and a green screen in front of presenter to make a virtual lightboard
Kaltura: Kaltura was one of three main sponsors of the conference. As mentioned above, Oregon State University, which was the main organizer of the conference, is a Kaltura customer. It was noted that Kaltura, unlike most other vendors, still offers an unlimited storage and bandwidth licensing tier, although it was mentioned it is “expensive.”
Panasonic: Panasonic was another major sponsor of the conference. Their projectors and displays were used in conference venues.
Elmo was showcasing its wide array of document cameras from a $200.00 USB to similarly portable wireless options starting at ~$800.00 to its flagship 4K, 12x optical zoom version designed for fixed classroom installations, the PX-30E (MSRP $3700.00). Interestingly, while WolfVision is the 500lb gorilla in the doc cam space, Elmo actually invented the document camera, and is the older company.
Epiphan was showcasing its well-known Pearl live encoder lineup along with its cool new device, the LiveScrypt. The LiveScrypt connects to Epiphan Cloud to add live ASR-based captions to your live production. These captions can be embedded with your live streams or sent out to monitors in the room for display for in person or hybrid events. There is a charge of $10.00/ hr to use the cloud-based ASR service in addition to the $1,500.00 cost of the device itself.
Alfatron had its wide range of PTZ cameras on display, ranging from a MSRP of $700.00 to $2150.00.
Shure had a booth showcasing equipment byStem, a company they recently acquired. Stem offers complete solutions for outfitting conference and meeting rooms with a range of mics, including tabletop, wall, and ceiling mounted ones, together with a hub and an integrated control system for managing the individual elements.
Legrand AV showcased a wide range of products focused on physical classroom infrastructure, including displays, display mounts, projectors, PTZ cameras, speakers, device controllers, and network switches. Legrand is a large company that owns Vaddio, Chief, Da-Lite, and Middle Atlantic Products.
Cleardigital featured its modular display wall calledVue featuring very smooth touch surfaces and replaceable panels as well as other products such as a PTZ cam, the RL400, a portable doc cam and an all-in-one conference camera.
Newline Interactive was featuring its newest interactive and non-interactive displays ranging from 27” to 98”
AVer gave a conference session demo-ing its new autotracking PTZ camera, the TR333V2. The TR333V2 offers:
30x optical zoom
Sophisticated pre-set configuration, including the ability to move in and out of continuous tracking and fixed position mode based on how an instructor moves in the classroom
The TeamConnect Ceiling 2, with its patented automatic dynamic beamforming technology, was already a leader in conference room audio technology. Now, with the addition of TruVoicelift and advanced zone control, TeamConnect Ceiling 2 combines the advantages of a boundary microphone and a microphone array. Therefore, it is the best solution for both (video) conferencing and in-room audio, for example in classrooms, lecture halls and boardrooms. TeamConnect Ceiling 2 now offers our customers unparalleled levels of control with the addition of a priority zone (allowing a single area in the room to be highlighted), 5 advanced exclusion zones (for pinpoint targeting and removal of unwanted noise sources) and more. All of these new features are activatable and configurable via the latest firmware update for the TeamConnect Ceiling 2 and via the latest version of Sennheiser Control Cockpit. Easy to install and, due to a flexible microphone ceiling mount system, easy to integrate. Let us help you understand the difference TeamConnect Ceiling 2 can make for you and your business.
MobileConnect consists of three main components: The MobileConnect Station is the “audio-to-network bridge” that picks up the audio signal in the room and streams it to any preferred streaming network. Using the pre-existing WiFi access points, the signal is provided to up to 100 smartphones per Station, using the MobileConnect App as a receiver. When using multiple Stations, the MobileConnect Manager can be used as the single point of administration for all MobileConnect Stations. If not needed, MobileConnect can also be operated in the so-called Standalone Mode, where single MobileConnect Stations can be run and administered using a local web interface.
As we enter year 700 of COVID-19, some faculty and staff are looking at 2021 wondering how they can spice up their online teaching environment without spending hours or days learning a full-blown video production application. While Zoom offers a wide range of ever-expanding features, there is still plenty of room for growth and mmhmm, a startup from Phil Libin, is capitalizing on that need.
First and foremost, mmhmm acts like PowerPoint steroids. You can supercharge your presentation by your webcam video overlayed on rich media content elements such as slides, images, videos, sounds, etc. Best of all, I was able to pick up the basics of the application in under 20 minutes or so, your mileage may vary. The easy drag and drop configuration nature of the application will have you creating or enhancing your presentation in minutes. Best of all, you can save your layout so that the next time you present, unlike Zoom, you won’t need to reposition your webcam feed, content location, etc.
Where mmhmm really excites us is its ability to feed that content into Zoom and a range of other video applications as a virtual camera or piece of content. While Zoom has enhanced a few features in this area over the past 6 months, mmhmm is considerably further along when it comes to rich presentations. On top of that, mmhmm is capable of capturing your presentation locally in a high-quality .mp4 video file WHILE also sharing that presentation with Zoom. Yes, Zoom can record the session, but sometimes you want a higher quality version, or you would rather not have the participants being a part of your recording. It’s the best of both worlds.
Finally, mmhmm has a copilot capability that will allow a remote participant to manage aspects of the presentation. This would come in handy when you have large productions where people are working together advancing slides. Perhaps not something for everyday use, but for power users… this could be a game changer.
It just works!
Adds a level of sophistication to presentations, when you have the rich content
May allow for a better teaching delivery
Simplifies tasks that could take 30-60 seconds in Zoom (30-60 seconds doesn’t sound like long, but when you perform that task 20-30 times during a class, it’s an eternity)
The ability to save rich presentations can’t be understated… and is a feature lacking in Zoom. Having to “reset” your video layout can be problematic.
The subscription pricing model is… well, expensive ($9.99/mo or $99/yr – no educational pricing to be seen)
mmhmm can consume a considerable amount of processing power. The fans on my MacBook Pro were screaming when running Zoom and mmhmm with advanced videos, etc. in the content box. I’m sure the new MacBook Pro with the M1 CPU won’t even blink.
You CAN do much of what mmhmm does with free and open source applications if you are willing to invest a good bit of time learning such platforms (which can be buggy at times), but mmhmm packages it up in a more faculty/staff friendly package.
Music teachers across the globe are struggling with the reality that they cannot bend time/space to their will and teach music synchronously as they’ve done in the past. Modifying instruction and understanding the limitations that online instruction impose will help make a meaningful learning experience for your students.
Mike from Brooklyn provides some great ideas on how to make the most of teaching online using something as simple as the mobile phone you already have. Again, understanding the limitations of camera angles and microphone performance and adapting are key to having successful online lesson
Here’s a summary of top points from his video:
Sit at a 45° angle from the camera for wind instruments so students can see the embouchure and fingers
Lighting is always important (no light behind you)
Student(s) and instructor should be in a quiet environment
Number your measures – students and teachers to make conversation about the music more efficient
Audio compression is significant. Sit farther away from the phone when performing and move physically closer when talking
Put phone on a tripod or some sort of a stand to avoid “difficult” angles
In a recent conversation with Brooks Frederickson from Duke’s Department Of Music, we both agreed that making sure the sound going into the computer is the best it can be is critically important. Using a headset mic or your computer’s built in mic will start your audio’s life off at a disadvantage so any challenges along the way will only make a bad sound worse.
In their testing, they’ve found that the reasonably priced Røde NT-USB mic is a great all purpose mic for use with many types of instruments. This pressure gradient mic features a JFET impedance converter with bipolar output buffer, A/D converter 16bit 48kHz to make it extremely flexible for voice and instrument use.
They are also experimenting with two interesting technologies.
They are using Cleanfeed to handle the audio collaboration while using Zoom to handle video. It offers built in recording, conferencing and a mixer to help give you much better control of your audio.
Soundtrap is a web based DAW that allows you to produce asynchronous collaborative music projects. Each individual performance will be in sync since you all will be playing with the same track. Brooks aptly described this as “Google Docs for music creation”. This could be used as a new approach to producing ensemble performances.
Please comment below for any tips/tricks that you’re employing to help continue music education through this challenging time.
This past Friday, Cisco visited the Technology Engagement Center on Duke’s campus to provide an update on their software and hardware offerings. While much of the conversation revolved around “behind the scenes” updates to the platform and general trends (on-prem vs. hybrid installs vs. Cloud), they did mention a range of new AI-based features that may be available in the near future, specifically transcription, translation, and virtual assistant services.
No Cisco conversation would be complete without an overview of their existing and soon-to-be-released hardware. While many of their offerings are unchanged, they do plan to offer a version of the Cisco Webex Room Kit Mini without the codec, for rooms where you simply need BYOD support. If a codec is needed for the room, a simple software key will bring the room up to a full Webex Room Kit Mini.
It’s no surprise, but I’m a fan of Zoom and Zoom Rooms. The platform is easy to understand, flexible, and users simply like it. While many people are familiar with Zoom, they are generally less familiar with what a Zoom Room is. In essence, a Zoom Room is a computer attached to a display, mics, speakers, camera, and a control interface, that is always on and ready to host a meeting. This is in sharp contrast to a bring your own device (BYOD) space where the user brings a laptop and connects to the AV in the space, wasting precious conference time and adding complexity to the essential task of having a meeting. With a Zoom Room, similar to a Cisco WebEx Room Kit, you walk in, touch a button on the control interface… and away you go! But, unlike a Cisco WebEx Room Kit, a Zoom Room is hardware agnostic which, relying on a Windows or Apple computer at the heart of the system, attached to anything from consumer to professional peripherals. This nearly infinite flexibility of the Zoom Room platform comes at a cost of reliability. Maintaining a Zoom Room can be challenging… keeping the local computer up-to-date with the OS, security, virus protection, not to mention all the drivers of the peripherals! If only Zoom offered a Zoom Room codec style device!
Enter Zoom Room Appliances… While these haven’t shipped, they may resolve many of the issues many Zoom Room managers have experienced. By eliminating the need for an in-room computer attached to a camera, mic, and speaker… it dramatically reduces the overall complexity of the platform. Install the soundbar like device, enter the Zoom Room activation code and BOOM! The system is connected to the hardware and you’re ready for the next meeting. No more worrying about Windows updates, what feels like weekly security patches, etc. etc. It should just work! We can’t wait to get our hands on the devices to properly test these in higher education!