This past spring, Biamp Systems announced a new collaboration tool for huddle rooms and small meeting spaces called Devio. The system, ideal for “bring your own device” (BYOD) spaces, integrates Biamp’s high quality microphones and acoustic eco cancelation (AEC) technologies with USB webcams and displays. Devio is uniquely suited for integrating small spaces with soft codecs such as Skype, WebEx, and Google Hangouts.
Devio originally shipped with a single table-top microphone option. While the mic itself was of a good quality, table-top mics and university environments generally don’t mix (soda: 1 – table-top mic: 0). But, this past week, Biamp added a ceiling microphone option to the Devio lineup.You can also add a second ceiling mic, for large or uniquely shaped rooms.
Learn more about Biamp Deviao at: https://www.biamp.com/devio-unified-communications-collaboration-tool-for-huddle-rooms
So, you can’t afford to hire a professional videographer to produce your videos. But you still care about quality and want your videos to look and sound as good as they possibly can. There are a few things you can do:
- Use better cameras and microphones. Take a step up from the built-in camera and microphone on your laptop. It’s amazing what a difference just using simple USB peripheral devices can make!
- Cameras: There are lots of great–and inexpensive–USB cameras to choose from. One popular and highly tested option is the Logitech C920, which retails for about $100.00. For a higher quality option, we like the $300.00 Cisco Precision HD, which has a longer focal length that makes faces look more flattering. Like a good quality portrait lens on an SLR, it tends to flatten faces out and has less of a fish-eye effect that makes noses look big. The Precision HD also has great color. One great thing about external cameras is that you can move them around. Take care in positioning the camera, paying attention to the background. Don’t point the camera directly at a light source, such as a window. It’s best to angle the camera slightly down–i.e., perched on your laptop screen or monitor, instead of up at your face from a table. The image below shows a comparison between the Cisco Precision HD (left) and the built-in iSight camera on a MacBook Pro (right). For both of these shots I used fill light from the LitePanels MicroPro mentioned below.
- Microphones: For a room where you might want to record multiple people, the Phoenix Duet (about $150.00 is a great option. For simple one-person narration, one great possibility is the Samson C01U Pro, which retails for about $110.00. You can also consider a low-cost wired lav microphone such as the Audio-Technica ATR-3350 (about $25.00).
- Use a light. Lights are getting cheaper and more powerful, and you can find a variety on Amazon for under $150.00, such as the Yongnuo YN-600 600LED, which is currently being used by the production team at Duke that produces videos for Coursera. Duke OIT has also tested the original LitePanels MicroPro, which is no longer available. It is fantastic, but the followup version, the Litepanels MicroPro 2, is a bit expensive at $349.00 list.
- Record in high quality. Spend a little time working with the quality settings in the application you’re using to record. One great option for self-service recordings is DukeCapture Mobile, which uses the the Panopto Windows and Mac recording software. In the Windows Recorder, this setting is a radio button on the main recording screen (see below). We generally recommend using the option that says “High.” (1024×600 pixels at 1000kbps). If you need full 720p video, the “Ultra” setting will produce that.
- Use a studio. There are many production studios nested in schools and departments across campus, so you should check with your local AV or IT group to see if there is one near you. One great central option is the MPS Video Suite in the OIT Multimedia Project Studio (006 Bostock). It contains tools for recording video such as Camtasia and QuickTime, and has a green screen and black curtain to use as backdrops. For recording just audio, you can book the the MPS Audio Suite in the same location. It provides professional quality microphones to allow up to two people to record audio in a sound controlled environment using Garageband, Audacity, or Logic. Use of the audio suite is available by reservation or walk-in. You can also book the sound booth in the OIT Media Lab at American Tobacco.
The screenshot below is from a webinar by Panopto staff in which you can see the contrast between quality video and poor quality webcam video (click on the image for a larger version). The video of the presenter was shot in a simple studio, where production values were taken into consideration. The video on the right is shot in an office without concern for quality. As you can see, things like lighting and camera angle make a big difference!
- Practice! While all of these technologies are great, practice is something that doesn’t cost anything but your time, and it will enhance your videos tremendously. You will see that the 5th or 6th video you produce will be much better quality than your first, so be critical of yourself and keep practicing – it will keep getting better!
This new Panasonic AW-HE2 USB HD camera looks interesting. High list price ($995), but it offers a lot of functionality. I’m going to reach out to Panasonic to see if we can get a demo and I’ll report back if we do. Some highlights are below.
- IP live video image monitoring for remote preview and control
- IP control via AW-RP50, computer with Browser, or 3rd party controllers (Crestron or AMX)
- Picture-in-Picture functionality
- Digital PTZ
- Stereo microphone
- HDMI out
Often times we have events, projects or circumstances that require us to use high end cameras with software that is really only designed for USB cams. Professional and Prosumer gear almost always lacks the USB interface so this can be a challenge. Pro’s typically use SDI video connections while Prosumer products usually use the HDMI standard. There are a ton of PCI/PCIe cards and capture devices out there from companies like Blackmagic, AJA and Matrox that bring our video into the computer. Unfortunately, programs like Skype, WebEx, Screenflow and the like don’t often pick up on those devices as a valid input. So what’s a video professional to do, give up on their pro gear and use a $59 Logitech?
One cool solution is to use Wirecast. Yes, this is a piece of software for streaming but it has one extremely valuable and almost unknown feature, “The Virtual Camera Driver”. Wirecast, which takes virtually any popular input device and typically streams to a streaming server or live streaming service will also easily convert that same stream to be a “USB’ish” output. This will allow you to take your professional and prosumer video gear and leverage it against popular soft conferencing services like WebEx and Skype or rapid E-learning software like Screenflow or Camtasia. You get the added benefit of using Wirecast to add effects to video like lower thirds, multiple cameras and other enhancements if you so choose. To see how this is setup, take a look at our demo video shot in the self-service, open-to the-campus MPS Recodring Studio!
If your browser doesn’t embed the video, check it out here: http://vimeo.com/87130283
In our MPS recording studio I set out to improve the lighting quality with a low budget. I thought I would share my strategies and results in hopes other might benefit. Cameras do a bad job of reproducing what the eye can see. Our eyes easily filter out a broad spectrum of light to produce a pleasing image. Cameras aren’t that smart, one of the ways we can help them out is to control the temperature and power of the light they receive.
Like most rooms, our recording space has a simple office style suspended lighting and bulbs. The generic contractor grade bulbs are about $5 a piece and the room holds 8 of them. While common florescent are notoriously horrible for video work, fluorescent technology itself has been used in studios for years to great effect. The trick is to use good bulbs, the right temperatures and the right power. In most situations contractors will just stuff whatever is cheapest into a fixture so taking a few minutes and a few dollars to correct this can yield great results.
I did a mock up with a visualizer but that’s more than what most people would need. From past experience I know that in most situations 3200K “warm” temperatures look the best on a variety of skin tones. I also know you need slightly more wattage the further away the fixtures are from the subject. The front lights are about 8 feet away while the ones behind me are about 4 feet so I made the closer ones about 25% less powerful. I replaced the front 40 watt, 4100K bulbs with 32 watt, 3500K bulbs. I replaced the same 40 watt, 4100K bulbs in the back of the room with 20 watt 3500K bulbs as well.
As far as the result, here’s a before and after. While it didn’t make a radical difference the improvement is definitely noticeable. You’ll see the glare on my receding hairline is much small in the after photos. You’ll also notice my skin tone is much richer and more vivid, as is the colors on my clothing. The black color is also better, the muslin behind me now barely shows up indicating a correct black point. All in all the cost to upgrade the room was about $80 and took only a few minutes.
I would easily say that the improvement to the quality of the video is at least 10% and it was as easy as changing a light bulb.
Duke’s Logitech rep, Warren Widener stopped by today to show us some of Logitech’s business line products (listed below). Two of the highlights were the BCC950 ConferenceCam and the Logitech Mobile Speakerphone P710e.
The BCC950 webcam features 1080P video, PTZ operation w/remote, and a built-in speakerphone with echo canceling. This webcam could be a great solution for folks in small meeting rooms that would like to participate in a video call using apps like Cisco Jabber, WebEx, Skype, etc. It does not require any software or drivers to be installed. Warren left one of these for us to test and I’ll write more up about it once we’ve had a chance to use it. If anyone would like to borrow it let us know.
The P710E speakerphone can be used either wired (USB) or wirelessely (bluetooth). It features 15 hours of talk time between battery charges. It even has an adjustable stand for holding a mobile phone or tablet device for video calling.
Logitech Webcam C930e
Logitech C920-C Webcam
Logitech B525 HD Webcam
Logitech B910 HD Webcam
Logitech USB Headset Stereo H650e
Logitech Wireless Headset Mono H820e
Logitech Mobile Speakerphone P710e
Keyboard, mouse, and webcam solution
Logitech UC Solution for Cisco 725-C
A popular appliance at Duke, the Vaddio AV Bridge, has received a recent firmware revision we applied to a few units and tested out today. The unit is an interesting piece that basically grabs various video signals (HDMI, Component, VGA, or SDI) and converts them to USB. Essentially this lets you take high performance cameras with professional output signals and use them with software that likes USB cameras (e.g. Skype).
Beyond this simple functionality as HDMI/SDI/Component/VGA to USB converter, Vaddio promised the functionality standalone encoding for web streams that did not come with the early firmware release. We installed that update today.
Todd Stabley and I spend about an hour exploring the functionality and it’s interaction with various delivery services. The unit allows for RTSP and HTTP Live Streaming (HLS). We were able to get RTSP working with the Wowza server and think that for overflow events where this appliance is located, it could be a viable option for capture and delivery. HLS being faily new to the industry, did no play so well. While this expanded functionality is very nice, there were limitations. The main issue was latency, the encoder has an obvious delay of 3-5 seconds in RTSP and a whopping 10 seconds in HLS. This would make it difficult to use in any environment where near real time encoding is needed, such as a live shot, conversational situation, or displays fed in the same room as the presentation. The quality was also a little bit rough. We noticed very obvious seams between the GOPs that appeared as weak pulse every time we received a new I-frame.
However, despite the latency and quality this features is definitely a welcome edition to a product at its price point. The feature will definitely allow some level of utility in “getting video from here to there”.
I don’t know much about it this camera but it is nice to see more USB PTZ options. It claims to work with built-in OS drivers so nothing to install. It also claims to work with all major web conferencing apps including Skype and Cisco Jabber (Movi).
Pretty cool new wi-fi webcam from Logitech. Techspot.com has a nice write-up on it. There are a lot potential use cases for something like this. At this time it works on the Mac OS and iOS only and Logitech claims it works with Ustream, Skype, iChat, FaceTime, iMovie, Quicktime and Final Cut Pro. If anybody gets one of these please let the DDMC mailing list know what you think of it.