How to do this crazy thing?

OK, so the idea is this. We have a workshop on May 7 that will meet simultaneously in a computer lab on campus and online. We have one presenter in the campus lab, and one presenter (me) online. There would be faculty just attending on campus, and some just attending online. We want the two hooked up for maximum interaction, so we can hear and (at least most of the time) see each other. The question is the best way to do this on our own, without expensive equipment.

We tend to use Elluminate for online, though this is not required. I thought I would be off-campus on Elluminate, on the webcam. On campus in the lab, Elluminate would be projected onto the main presentation screen. In order for those of us in Elluminate to see the lab, the on-campus presenter would turn his MacBook with webcam toward the room, and we’d see that in another webcam window. I guess we’d have to shift the video back and forth. I would run all websites through application sharing.

One concern is sound. Would we online be able to hear the lab, just using the built-in mic on the MacBook? The lab presenter doesn’t want to wear a mic, nor have to stand at the front to be heard — he wants to move around the lab. We don’t have a computer mic with a long cord anyway.

Another is video. Would a built in camera on the MacBook be able to show us the whole lab?

Or….is there a better way to do this?

5 thoughts on “How to do this crazy thing?

  1. I will say that movement is the solution.
    Could someone use the laptop and take the docummentary role? So this person could walk the place showing the lab. If not, the camera over a table just will show an angle. The sound wont work if the person that is talking moves around without a mic, this docummentary-person could walk near the one who is speaking with the laptop so could make a better sound take also.
    Hope the crazy thing works.


  2. I’ll mull this over and see if I can come up with any additional idea, but one thought that did occur to me is rather than using the inbuilt camera in the MacBook you could try to connect a digital video camera via Firewire and use that as your video source.

    This would give you the advantage of better pan and zoom capabilities for capturing the room as well as the chance to run proper microphones through the camera. I don’t think Macbooks will support standard mics too well.

    I’ve done something similar with my MacBook before, so I know it’s theoretically possible – the main question is whether you have access to the camera gear.

    Having also tried to use an internal MacBook mic and camera to capture a group I found it left a lot to be desired. You either had to boost the mic volume so high that it picked up an enormous amount of background noise, or pass the laptop around to anyone who wanted to speak. It doesn’t have a really great range.

    The camera also makes everyone look tiny, so it’s difficult to see facial expressions in any meaningful sort of way. Using a digital video camera through the laptop produced far better results.


  3. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely we’d have a helper person to either move the laptop or run a camera. I think we’re the only facilitators available at that time slot. We don’t have a camera. We could possibly get one from Media Services, but it would be hard to explain that we needed it running live through the computer rather than recording and again, no cameraman. But these are good ideas and I’ll see if the motion or camera idea is possible with asking just to borrow equipment.


    1. Ah, all the “students” are faculty who’ll be attending to learn to do complicated things like social bookmarking and aggregating.


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