Extron Electronics

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!

Panasonic Education Solutions

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.

Check into our Zoom call here

2022 Northwest Managers of Educational Technology Conference Summary

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.

Lake Coeur d'Alene

TOPICS

  • 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 


VENDORS

  • 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 by Stem, 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.
  • Smart was demoing its latest lineup of interactive displays
  • 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 called Vue 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
    • 4k
    • 3G-SDI, HDMI, IP, and USB output 
    • Full or half body tracking

ThingLink Pilot at Duke Has Potential for 360 Video, Images

Duke Learning Innovation recently launched a new pilot of a tool called ThingLink. ThingLink offers the ability to annotate images and videos using other images, videos, and text to create visually compelling, interactive experiences. One  core use case for ThingLink is to start with a graphic (such as a map) or a photograph as a base and place buttons in strategic places that users can click to expose more information. ThingLinks can also link to other ThingLinks to create structured learning experiences.ThingLink Example

The screenshot above is from an example project on ThingLink’s “Featured” page by Encounter Edu. In this example, viewers can click on the “+” signs to reveal more information about each portion of the carbon cycle.

While creation of learning objects like these could have wide value for education, one aspect of ThinkLink we think DDMC-ers might find intriguing is its AR/ VR authoring capabilities. A challenge for 360 video, even with professionally produced material, can be that viewers sometimes feel lost clicking around trying to figure out what to look at next. With a tool like ThingLink’s VR editor, you can curate the experience by creating guideposts, and in doing so provide your users with a potentially more rewarding experience as they engage with 360 videos and images.

OIT Media Technologies production team is going to be reviewing ThingLink’s VR/ AR capabilities and posting their findings to the blog.

If you or others on your team would like to test ThingLink out, you apply to be a part of the pilot here: https://duke.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6R07iAqB2jeXYGh

Links

 

2019 Lecture Capture Survey

We’re excited to announce that our 2019 Lecture Capture Survey is complete. We had a chance to take a birds eye view of ten of the leading lecture capture tools and make some observations about general trends in this rapidly evolving product space.

We hope this information will be useful to you. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments to oit-mt-info@duke.edu.

A publicly accessible PDF version of the complete survey can be found here: https://duke.box.com/s/r50wv3sgqanxj7pq2x7xiud6vppldqfj

-OIT Media Technologies Team

Quick AV Signal Flow with Lucidchart

When collaborating on the design of classroom AV systems, having the ability to rapidly sketch, modify, innovate, and share a signal flow diagram is an invaluable tool in avoiding expensive mistakes before install. But, creating signal flow diagrams has traditionally been a challenge for AV technicians as the software is either expensive, overly complicated, or locks the AV technician in as the single point of modifications for all time.

First, what is a signal flow diagram, and why do I need it? A signal flow diagram shows the signal path (audio, video, network, control, etc.) from inputs to outputs, for the entire AV system. It’s essentially a blueprint for the system… and would you buy a house where they didn’t have a blueprint? With a signal flow diagram, most entry-level technicians should be able to diagnose an AV issue down to the cabling or hardware level. Without this diagram, it’s difficult to troubleshoot small systems, and nearly impossible with larger systems.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been testing Lucidchart to see if it’s capable of eliminating some of the frustrations with other software-based signal flow products. First, Lucidchart is web-based, so it’s not a piece of software you need to download and manage. If you have a web browser, Windows, Mac, or Linux, you can work on your project from the office, at home, or on your vacation… because we all love working during our vacation.

The platform is easy enough for a novice user to pick up after watching a few 5-10 min. videos. But, the true power comes in the ability for the design to be shared. By pressing the Share button at the top, you can share your design with clients in a “read-only” mode, so they can see, but not modify, the design. But, you can also share the design with collaborators to speed up the process. Also, this ability to keep users up-to-date on the design means you aren’t sending PDFs of the drawings. If you’ve ever attempted to incorporate change requests from the initial release of a drawing when you’re already three or four versions ahead… you’ll understand the appeal of real-time environments.

The only negatives we see are that we are required to design our own AV hardware blocks. While this is somewhat time-consuming, once you create a block, you never need to re-create it.

Check out a quick design we created!

Wirecast 10 Adds Live Captions

Wirecast recently announced a new cloud-based service that supports live captions based on ASR (automatic speech recognition) and an rtmp re-streaming service. Both work in conjunction with Wirecast 10. This means that if you are using Wirecast 10, you can automatically caption your videos and simultaneously push them to another provider like YouTube or Facebook live. This is an interesting development because we are seeing the entrance of new ASR platforms like IBM Watson that claim to offer much greater accuracy than has been possible with earlier generation ASR technologies. I’m not sure what platform Wirecast is leveraging, but we’d love to hear from anyone at Duke using Wirecast 10 who is willing to give their 100 minute free trial a go.

New Wirecast Cloud Services

It’s a subscription-based service with monthly fees starting at $25.00/month for re-streaming and $60.00/month for live captions. Detailed information and a link to set up an account and get started can be found here:

https://www.telestream.net/wirecast/webservices/

Kaptivo

Let’s face it… humans like articulating concepts by drawing on a wall. This behavior dates back over 64,000 years with some of the first cave paintings. While we’ve improved on the concept over the years, transitioning to clay tablets, and eventually blackboards and whiteboards, the basic idea has remained the same. Why do people like chalkboard/whiteboards? Simple, it’s a system you don’t need to learn (or you learned when you were a child), you can quickly add, adjust, and erase content, it’s multi-user, it doesn’t require power, never needs a firmware or operating system update, and it lasts for years. While I’ll avoid the grand “chalkboard vs. whiteboard” debate, we can all agree that the two communication systems are nearly identical, and are very effective in teaching environments. But, as classrooms transition from traditional learning environments (one professor teaching to a small to a medium number of students in a single classroom) to distance education and active learning environments, compounded by our rapid transition to digital platforms… the whiteboard has had a difficult time making the transition. There have been many (failed) attempts at digitizing the whiteboards, just check eBay. Most failed for a few key reasons. They were expensive, they required the user to learn a new system, they didn’t interface well with other technologies… oh, and did I mention that they were expensive?

Enter Kaptivo, a “short throw” webcam based platform for capturing and sharing whiteboard content. During our testing (Panopto sample), we found that the device was capable of capturing the whiteboard image, cleaning up the image with a bit of Kaptivo processing magic, and convert the content into an HDMI friendly format. The power of Kaptivo is in its simplicity. From a faculty/staff/student perspective, you don’t need to learn anything new… just write on the wall. But, that image can now be shared with our lecture capture system or any AV system you can think of (WebEx, Skype, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). It’s also worth noting that Kaptivo is also capable of sharing the above content with their own Kaptivo software. While we didn’t specifically test this product, it looked to be an elegant solution for organizations with limited resources.

The gotchas: Every new or interesting technology has a few gotchas. First, Kaptivo currently works with whiteboards (sorry chalkboard fans). Also, there isn’t any way to daisy chain Kaptivo or “stitch” multiple Kaptivo units together for longer whiteboards (not to mention how you would share such content). Finally, the maximum whiteboard size is currently 6′ x 4′, so that’s not all that big in a classroom environment.

At the end of the day, I could see this unit working well in a number of small collaborative learning environments, flipped classrooms and active learning spaces. We received a pre-production unit, so I’m anxious to see what the final product looks like and if some of the above-mentioned limitations can be overcomed. Overall, it’s a very slick device.

Epson Demonstrates Pro L1300U

This past week, Epson provided an overview of their Pro L1300U projector at the Technology Engagement Center. The projector is an impressive 8,000-lumen beast, specifically designed for medium to large environments where image and color accuracy matters.

The laser light engine is designed to provide 20,000 hours of near maintenance-free service. If you’ve ever seen an AV technician’s eyes light up when they talk about laser projectors… it’s due to the reality that they wouldn’t need to service the projector for nearly 10+ years under normal usage scenarios. For example, if a projector is used six hours a day, five days a week, for 50 weeks a year, that’s about 1500 hours a year. Divide 1500 by the expected 20,000 life of the laser engine, and we’re looking at about 13 and a half years! Now if we could only get the faculty, staff, and students to turn off the projectors (half kidding).

Key Features:
Image Quality: While the projector has a native WUXGA resolution of 1920×1200, it also has a “4K enhancement feature.” Wait… don’t close your browser just yet. I’m generally suspicious of such “marketing-ese,” but it actually seemed to work as advertised. The image seemed to be somewhere between 1920×1200 and a 4K image in terms of quality, so chalk me up to impressed.

Service: Epson offers a good service plan for high use cases. If something should fail with the projector while it’s under warranty, you can get a replacement drop-shipped overnight. That’s music to my AV technician’s ears and sets Epson apart from some of the low-end projector manufacturers.

Lens Options: Simply put, Epson has an impressive array of unique lens options for their projectors. Access the right lens can make or break an AV install in a unique space.

Chameleon Mode: Wouldn’t it be nice if you could swap out your non-Epson projector with a new Epson, and not need to reprogram the AV system? Yes, this is a feature of Epson’s current generation of projectors. You can set the projector to respond to commands from a number of other projector manufacturers. Considering the cost of having an AV system reprogrammed, this could be a great cost-saving measure if you aren’t happy with your current projector or want to test an Epson in your space before purchasing.

As the price of laser projectors fall, Epson continues to lead the pack in many ways and their “sneak peek” roadmap seemed to reinforce that opinion. We look forward to seeing their new offerings soon.

Warpwire Workflows and Guides

Many of you by now are familiar with Warpwire’s support website since we feature their collection of video tutorials, called Guides, in the Help section of our service landing page.  Warpwire recently added a new section to their support site, called Workflows. These Workflows show how to use Warpwire from the standpoint of particular use cases, such as when an instructor wants to provide feedback to students via video, or when an instructor in a language course would like to review video or audio clips of her students practicing speaking skills.

Below are some of the new Warpwire Workflows we think you might find helpful. If there are other use cases you would like for Warpwire to consider adding, please feel free to reach out to oit-mt-info@duke.edu and let us know your ideas so that we can share them with the company. And as always, if there are particular features you would like to see in Warpwire that don’t currently exist, we want to hear about those too:

For those of you who aren’t yet familiar with Warpwire’s video Guides, below is a selection of some of the tutorials we think users at Duke might find most useful, especially when they are starting out: