Portable audiovisual recording of lecture materials

In this post I will make some comments on Camtasia Studio and Echo360/Echo 360 Personal Capture as  recording options for videos/screencasts of classes and other teaching materials. These comments arise out of my current project on Portable audiovisual recording of lecture materials. I expect to expand on these points in due course.

Background

Those who have been reading this blog will already know a lot about my own screencasting efforts so far, and many of my own screencasts are available from the page https://explainingmaths.wordpress.com/screencasts/

This year I obtained funding to purchase some more hardware and software so that several of my colleagues, henceforth to be described as the project staff, could join in my project, using tablet PC’s and screencasting in their teaching. I ran some training events on this over the summer. Most of the project staff began using the tablets to present classes/seminars in the autumn semester, and once they had gained sufficient confidence in this, they began to try screencasting too. We have now made some progress in our trialling of Camtasia Studio and the Echo360 system, especially Echo360 Personal Capture, for  audiovisual recording of teaching materials.

So far, most of the recordings in this project have been of live talks (lectures or seminars). However, we have also made some recordings in the office as a useful method of disseminating further information.

We are still at a relatively early stage, and the project staff’s confidence and fluency in this use of IT is still developing. For example, the project staff have mostly focussed on recording video of the screen, rather than incorporating additional video of the teacher (e.g. using a webcam).

As you would expect, feedback from students on this use of IT in teaching is highly positive. (See
https://explainingmaths.wordpress.com/feedback/
for the feedback I received from my students when I introduced screencast recording to the teaching of my  second-year module G12MAN Mathematical Analysis.)  The project staff have also found this generally to be a positive experience and an important development.

Some sample outputs from the project

I have already mentioned that many of my own Camtasia-recorded screencasts are available from the web page
https://explainingmaths.wordpress.com/screencasts/

In addition to myself, seven project staff have been active in this project so far, using the five new tablet laptops paid for using the grant. Here are some of the outputs, especially recordings, which have come out of the project.

  • Sally Hanford has made use of the project equipment to help train the project staff in the use of the Echo360 Personal Capture software.
  • Professor John Barrett has recorded several of his recent graduate-level lectures, the spin foam lectures (Workshop on Quantum groups and physics, Caen, France, September 2010), using Camtasia Studio. The resulting screencasts are available from his blog page page http://johnwbarrett.wordpress.com/talks/
    He has also tried out Echo360 Personal Capture, and plans to record a large number of classes using that system in spring semester.
  • Professor Ian Dryden used both systems to record some of the lectures for his level four module G14CST Computational Statistics.
  • Peter Rowlett was one of the project staff before moving to his new job. He has tried out the Echo360 recording system in the local Interactive Teaching Room (ITR) , and he has also worked with Camtasia.
    • He used the ITR to record a talk given to the University of Nottingham Mathsoc, Substitution ciphers: Ancient to Renaissance. He also used a digital voice recorder to make an additional sound recording. This produced several media files (screen-recorded video of the slides, camera-recorded video of the speaker, and two audio files). In order to produce a single video file in the form he wanted, he edited and combined these media files to produce the result which can be found on YouTube at
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diqXRyhKatw
    • He used Camtasia Studio to record a talk given to given to the University of Nottingham Mathsoc,  Shape of the cosmos. The resulting video is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdTT6NrZpKc
  • Peter Rowlett talked about these two methods for recording lectures, including their relative advantages and disadvantages, in the following two conference presentations.
    • “Podcasting History”, Peter Rowlett at The History of Mathematics in the Undergraduate Curriculum, British Society for the History of Mathematics/MSOR Network at University of Greenwich, 30th March 2010.
    • “Mathematical Podcasting”, Peter Rowlett and Samuel Hansen at the 13th IMA Early Career Mathematicians Conference, Institute of Mathematics and its Applications in London, 20th November 2010.
  • Peter Rowlett and I ran a workshop on Using IT when teaching mathematics on November 19th 2010, offered by the HEA MSOR Network and the University of Nottingham as part of the National HE STEM Programme Mathematical Sciences Curriculum Innovation Project. This workshop also included contributions from Sally Hanford and Brett Bligh.
  • Project staff have also made a variety of other types of recording (some of which I hope to make available here shortly), including Camtasia recordings from the workshop on Using IT when teaching mathematics, and some short tutorials (recorded in the office) on how to use statistical tables.
  • This blog post is itself one of the outputs from the project!

Comparison of various aspects of Camtasia Studio and Echo360

In considering which system or systems to use, you need to take into account a variety of aspects. Here are some of our initial impressions on the options available, in relation to these aspects.

Ease of use

For many teaching staff, ease of use will be the major concern when it comes to recording teaching materials. This covers not just making the initial recording, but also any further processing required afterwards in order to render video and make it available on the web, if required. As we were using Camtasia Studio rather than Camtasia Relay, Echo360 has several clear advantages here, whether you are using a fixed installation such as one of our Interactive Teaching Rooms (ITR’s), or using Echo360 Personal Capture on (for example) your laptop.

  • The Echo360 software comes with sensible default settings which allow you to simply press a button to start and stop your recording. See below, however, for some concerns and further details.
  • Once your recording is finished, you simply log in and submit the recording to the EchoSystem. The processing is then done for you behind the scenes, and you receive an email once the processing is complete. This email provides links to the resulting web resource in a variety of formats.
  • Echo360 is officially supported by the University of Nottingham Information Services (IS) team.

By comparison, Camtasia Studio requires more work to use.

  • It is still very easy to make recordings using Camtasia Studio. However there are many options available, and the default settings might  not produce a recording in the form you want.
  • After you make your recording, you still need to render the video using Camtasia Studio, and this is an additional step with another set of options/choices to make.
  • Once you have rendered the recording, you still need to publish the results on the web. This may be a significant additional step, or it may be as easy as dragging a folder and publishing a URL, depending on your IT set-up.
  • Camtasia Studio is not currently supported by the University of Nottingham IS team, though this may change in the future.

options and limitations

Echo360

There are few options available when recording using Echo360/Echo360 Personal Capture. Of course, this contributes to the ease of use! However there are some limitations when it comes to recording and publishing videos.

  • You may wish to record video at a size larger than Echo360 offers.
  • You may wish to modify the sound recording quality settings.
  • Although you can record video of the teacher, Echo360 does not currently offer the option to produce a single Picture-in-Picture (PiP) video file combining the two video streams. In such a video, (for example) you may have a small webcam-recorded video of the teacher appearing in one corner of the main screencast video. If you are simply presenting a relatively static slideshow, and you want a single video file suitable for publication (for example) on YouTube, this can be a significant issue.
  • The editing options available before publishing the video are rather basic.
  • Currently, at least under Windows XP, Echo360 has a problem recording my preferred type of high-visibility mouse pointer. (They are likely to fix this in future versions of the software.)

Camtasia Studio

By contrast, Camtasia Studio has almost too many options! Finding the settings that you want may take quite some time (as described in several of my blog posts, such as the post on Camtasia Solutions). However, once you have found some good settings, these settings can be shared with others. When we obtained the new tablets, our local IT staff helped me to ensure that my carefully chosen Camtasia settings were used on all of the new machines. Here are just some of the many options available with Camtasia Studio.

  • You can choose which area of the screen you wish to record.
  • You can choose from a large variety of qualities and formats for the audio recording.
  • You can choose the dimensions of the final video.
  • Camtasia has a good set of video editing tools available.
  • Camtasia is able to automatically detect which portion of the screen is changing at any one time, and during the rendering process you can choose to allow Camtasia to automatically zoom in on those portions of the screen. (Camtasia calls this SmartFocus.) I usually do not use this feature myself, as I prefer the audience to be able to see as much as possible at a time, but it is a very impressive feature.
  • When you do wish to include webcam footage of the teacher alongside the recorded screencast, you can choose between two side-by-side videos or one single PiP video. This last option is particularly helpful if you wish to include both the webcam footage and the screencast in one video. For an example of such a video, see my Camtasia-recorded lecture on the Uniform Boundedness Principle, available on YouTube at
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xS3S1uYu2U0&p=A9721D7E1FB7CD34

Note that the new EchoSystem 3.0 has a feature called External Media Ingest which allows you to upload screen recordings created with Camtasia into the EchoSystem. So you can let the EchoSystem manage the publication and organization of the files into courses.

Fixed installations and portable systems

Interactive Teaching Rooms

The University of Nottingham currently has five ITR’s fitted with the Echo360 lecture capture system. These are extremely popular, as you don’t need any special equipment. You can just turn up, press the record button, give your lecture, press the stop button, and submit your recording for processing and publication directly to your assigned EchoSystem course.

The popularity of these rooms is also, however, a problem. Although booking one of these rooms for a one-off session is not a problem, recording an entire module is a more significant issue.

  • With only a limited number of ITR’s available, it is not possible for everyone who wants to record their modules to be assigned the use of one of these rooms.
  • Currently most of the ITR’s are not large enough for a large class of (say) 180 students.

Portable recording solutions

By comparison, using a portable system requires you to bring your laptop, microphone and webcam (if required). Moreover, in order to obtain satisfactory levels of lighting when recording PiP videos, I needed to bring my own desk lamp with me. So, as you can imagine, I was rather weighed down, especially when I had piles of handouts to distribute!

The portable solution is, however, incredibly flexible. There are essentially no timetabling problems, as most lecture theatres have a data projector. Moreover, you can make recordings at any convenient time or place,  in your office,  at home, or in any suitably quiet room.

Conclusions

Obviously you should choose the recording solution that best fits your requirements.

The Echo360 solutions (whether ITR or Personal Capture) place the least additional burden on the teacher, allowing them to focus on other things. As long as you are satisfied with the results obtained this way (and many teachers are), this is a good way to go.

However, if you want more control over the final product, and especially if you want to produce PiP videos suitable for publication on YouTube (or iTunes), the Echo360 recording systems may not currently provide the flexibility you need. In this case, you may need to look at using software such as Camtasia Studio for your recordings instead.

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3 responses to “Portable audiovisual recording of lecture materials

  1. Hi, thx for an interesting review. I have taught over 1000 users and many universities how to use camtasia studio and i feel it might have been more useful to compare Camtasia Relay with Echo 360. The new features of version Camtasia Relay 3 – speech to text, searchable video etc – also help students find content with the videos more quickly too.

    We can set up a hosted camtasia relay trial for you if this would be helpful.

    stewart

    Like

    • I am interested in Camtasia Relay but, at the time I applied for funding for the first project, the University of Nottingham was primarily focussed on Echo360. However, the University has now funded me (along with colleagues in other schools) to buy 100 Camtasia licenses (among other things) under the CHEST scheme in order to get more staff recording video content. With more uptake of Camtasia software, it is possible that Camtasia Relay may also come into the equation as a possibility.
      I will forward your comments to the University’s learning team to see where things currently stand.

      Joel

      Like

    • Hi Stewart,
      Please could you email me at Joel.Feinstein@gmail.com with some further details, and I can put you in touch with our learning team.
      Joel

      Like

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