A Recording Studio in Your Pocket

There are almost unlimited options for recording video material in a professional way these days.  This article discusses some best practices for setup, getting a good picture, capturing good audio, and goes through a few recording hardware and software combos.  At the end, I’ll show you how to publish that material on myHeritage (Populi).

Setup

The good news is, that you can get a quality recording with almost any modern computer hardware.  You can record with something as simple as a smartphone, or something as elaborate as a camcorder or DSLR camera.  However, the most important element of your video is lighting.

When recording, make sure your face is front lit, rather than back lit.  Try to angle yourself in the room so that the brightest lights or windows are in front of your face, and not directly behind you.  If possible, angle the primary light source (called a key light) so it is just slightly off-axis to one side – no more than 45 degrees.  You can accomplish this by using natural light sources like a nearby window, or light fixtures that already exist in your room.  You can also opt to purchase a small light kit with a stand for greater control.  This will ensure that your face is well lit and easy to see, and the off-axis angle will help provide some controlled shadows and depth for a more natural look.

Regardless of what hardware you have, do your best to mount the camera so it is just above eye level.  Frame yourself in the middle of the frame with your eyes about one-third from the top edge of the frame.  This will provide the most natural composition.

If you are using a smartphone or tablet, using some kind of clip or stand can help you angle the camera in the right way.  Feel free to get creative with how you ‘mount’ the camera (or smartphone).  No one will see your setup anyway, and spending a bit of time to get the camera in the right spot can really pay off.

If you are using a laptop with a webcam, try propping the laptop up on a stack of books to get the camera higher.  A music stand can be very helpful if you have one available.

Record in a quiet room.  This probably goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway.  Audio is as important, if not more important, than the quality of your video.  People will suffer through bad video if the audio quality is good.  But if the audio quality is bad, it makes folks want to turn it off.  So, record in a quiet room that contains some furniture.  Recording in a room with many hard surfaces can make speech less intelligible and therefore harder to listen to.  The build-in microphones in modern laptops and smartphones can produce good audio results, but only in a quiet room.  So, record in a quiet room such as an office with a bookshelf full of books, or a bedroom with a carpet and a bed.

Always do a test recording or two (or five) and listen back to see how they sound before you commit to an entire lecture.  A set of headphones, or even earbuds, can be extremely helpful in hearing how the recording sounds.

To sum up…

  • Put the primary light source (key light) in the room, in front of you, and not behind you.
  • Mount the camera so it’s just above your eyeline (ever so slightly).
  • Record in a quiet room.
  • Do some test recordings before you commit to a whole lecture.

Record

There are so many hardware options for recording nowadays.  Laptops, smartphones, tablets, pocket recorders, field recorders, USB/thunderbolt interfaces, and more.  The list goes on and on.  The hardware commonly available today would have cost multiple thousands of dollars twenty years ago.  Essentially, we all have access to a modern, high-quality portable recording studio.

Camera App on iOS and iPadOS

The Camera app in iOS and iPadOS is the easiest option that produces the highest quality results.  The app gets consistently good results by recording the built-in cameras (front or rear) on an Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.

  • Setup your lighting and camera rigging/stand/pop-socket.
  • Open the Camera app and frame yourself as described above.
  • Choose video mode and hit record.
  • Remember to test audio.

Once you’re done recording, copy the file off of your iOS device.  There are a couple ways to do this.

  • Copy the file directly to your computer by plugging it in over USB.
  • Upload the file to cloud-based storage such as iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, or Google Drive.  Then download the file to your computer.

Alternatively, you can upload the file directly from your smartphone to myHeritage.  See below in the section called Publish.

Other Options on iOS

iMovie

You can also use iMovie to capture quality recording from the build-in cameras.  iMovie gives you more control over the recording settings but is harder to use.

Filmic Pro

This is an iOS (and Android) app built by a third-party that gives the film maker complete control over your recordings.  You can tweak the resolution, framerate, bitrate, audio, and other settings.  It comes at a cost, but is worth it if you need that level of control.

MacOS and the Webcam

If you own a MacBook or an iMac, you are blessed with a device that has all the hardware built-in to get decent quality recordings.  Below are a few apps that can help you capture the magic.

iMovie

This guide isn’t meant to be a full-blown tutorial on how to use iMovie, but if you have access to iMovie, it’s an easy way to get started recording and get professional results quickly with a

  • In iMovie, open File -> Import Media…
  • In the left column select FaceTime HD Camera, your webcam will be displayed.
  • Press the Record button in the middle and record your clip.  Press it again to stop.
  • Click Close.
  • In the My Media view, your new clip will appear.
  • Import it into a timeline (below), do any necessary trimming or adding other clips, or titles.
  • Choose the Share button in the top-right of iMovie to export your video to a file.

QuickTime

MacOS comes pre-installed with QuickTime.  You can use QuickTime to capture your webcam and built-in microphone.  To capture a movie in QuickTime, try this.

  • Find and launch the QuickTime Player app.
  • Open File -> New Movie Recording.
  • Click the red record button.
  • Save and upload your movie file to myHeritage.

Publish

At Heritage, we use myHeritage (Populi) to publish our course content.  For your course, this can be done from the Lessons tab.

Upload them from your computer

  • Click the Add a Lesson button or open an existing lesson.
  • Click the Design tab to open the design view.
  • Choose to Add a Section and click File.
  • Drag and drop the file from your computer into the area that says Drag & Drop.
  • Once the video file is uploaded, click Save.  If this is a video file, the size is likely huge, so be patient.
  • There are other options in this view like marking a file as required.
  • When you save the file, Populi kicks off an encoding process (much like YouTube’s encoding) to get it ready for multiple device types.

Upload them directly from your phone or tablet

If you’ve recorded your file on a smartphone or tablet, you can upload them directly to myHeritage.

  • Open myHeritage is a browser (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, etc.) and login with your myHeritage account.
  • Navigate to your course and open the Lessons tab.
  • Touch the Add a Lesson button or open an existing lesson.
  • Touch the Design tab to open the design view.
  • Choose to Add a Section and click File.
  • Touch on the area that says Drag & Drop a File or Click to Choose.  This will open the file explorer on your platform.
  • For example, on iOS choose Photo Library.  Find the video you took (or edited) and touch Done.
  • Once the video file is uploaded, click Save

Populi has published a more detailed article on this topic called How to embed audio, video, and other kinds of files in a lesson.  Feel free to check it out for more info.

Setting Up A Connected Classroom

Ahead of this coming semester, I wanted to share this tutorial video called Setting up a Connected Classroom.  It shows how to get set up in the classrooms, focusing on using the room equipment (mics, camera, computer) and connecting to a video call. There are four easy steps to get setup and ready on the day of your class.

  1. Turn on the room equipment
  2. Connect your laptop or tablet to the system
  3. Join a video call with Microsoft Teams or Zoom
  4. Turn off the system

This quick tutorial is meant to be an overview of the system and does not go into great detail on any particular topic.

Setup a video call in Microsoft Teams

You can setup a video call in Microsoft Teams in a number of ways. The methods shown in the video and in the guide below will help you generate a Teams Meeting link to share with co-workers, students, or guests.

Using the Outlook App

  1. Using Outlook.  Open the Calendar and click the big New Teams Meeting button at the top in the Ribbon.  This will generate a Teams Meeting link.
  2. Give it a title, choose additional required or optional attendees and click Send.  If you’re adding other folks from Heritage, you can of course add them to the meeting.  When you click Send, they will receive a calendar invite, and the meeting will appear in their calendar and your calendar.  The meeting will also appear in the Teams app under Calendar.
  3. If you want to share the meeting link with students, simply right-click on the ‘Join Microsoft Teams Meeting’ link and choose Copy hyperlink.  Then paste that into an email to send it to your students or paste it on myHeritage in the Links section of your course under the Syllabus tab.

Using the Teams App

Meet Now

  1. In the Microsoft Teams app, open the Calendar tab (which is located on the left under the Chat tab and the Teams tab).  Click the Meet now button at the top.
  2. Give the meeting a title and click the Join now button.
  3. Open the Participants view by clicking the Show Participants button in the control bar (just to the left of the Hang up button).
  4. In participants view copy the meeting link by clicking on the Copy join info button in the top-right.  It looks like two elongated rings hooked together.
  5. Then paste that into an email to send it to your students or paste it on myHeritage in the Links section of your course under the Syllabus tab.

New Meeting

  1. Inside of Teams choose the Calendar tab and click the + New meeting button at the top.
  2. Give your meeting a title and add any required attendees.  In order to generate a meeting link, you must add at least one other person from Heritage to the meeting.
  3. Click Save.
  4. After the meeting has saved, go back into the meeting and note that the Teams Meeting link has been generated.  Copy and paste the Join Microsoft Teams Meeting link and send it to your students or post it on myHeritage.

Connecting to a Zoom Classroom

Heritage College and Seminary has introduced a new method of lesson delivery through our connected classrooms.  As of Winter 2020, we are using Zoom as the connected classroom software platform.  With Zoom, remote students can connect in via a computer with a webcam, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Virtually any device that has internet access can be used to connect in.

Quick Start

The easiest way to connect to a classroom is to click the meeting link. They look like this.

https://zoom.us/j/116952355

The meeting link is provided on the course page in myHeritage.  Look in the Links section.  Click on the link and follow the on-screen instructions. Your computer, smartphone, or tablet will attempt to download the Zoom App, install it and connect to the meeting.

For Assistants

The connected classroom system uses a number of hardware components (camera, microphones, touchscreen controller) and software (Zoom, Teams, Fuze, etc.).  A few minutes before each class please ensure that the hardware is turned on and working properly, and then connect it to the software conferencing platform on the in-room computer.

During the class, please monitor the remote students to ensure they can see and hear, and to note any problem they may experience.

How to Upload a Video File

From time to time, students will be asked to upload a large file such as a video clip or audio recording.  To upload a video file for your course…

  • Visit the course page in myHeritage and look on the right-hand side of the page for the Links section.
  • In the links section click on the link that says Upload Videos Files.
  • A new page or tab will open showing a Microsoft Office 365 OneDrive folder.  The folder will either be owned by your professor, or the IT Manager of Heritage College and Seminary.
  • Drag and drop your video file into the browser window to initiate the upload.
  • Note that video files tend to be rather large and the upload will take some time.  This is expected.

If you have any questions or need further assistance, please send an email to support@heritagecs.edu or bring it up with your professor.

Connecting to a Fuze Classroom

Heritage College and Seminary has introduced a new method of lesson delivery through our connected classrooms and the use of Fuze for Rooms. Fuze is an industry leading web conferencing solution similar to products from WebEx, Adobe, and Microsoft (Skype for Business). The HD video and audio quality, in addition to its ease of use, made Fuze the appropriate choice for Heritage.

With Fuze, remote students and classrooms can connect in via a conventional computer with a webcam, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.  Virtually any device that has internet access can be used to connect in.

As of this writing, we have one connected classroom, with a second on the way. We have begun streaming live classes and connecting remote students and reception has been overwhelmingly positive. To get connected to a classroom, the process is as easy as clicking on a link, adding your name and clicking Join!

Quick Start

The easiest way to connect to a meeting is to click the meeting link. They look like this.

https://fuze.me/35914311

The meeting link would have been provided via email, or would be noted in the Links section of the course in myHeritage. So, go ahead and click on the link and follow the on-screen instructions. Your computer, smartphone, or tablet will attempt to download the Fuze App, install it and connect to the meeting.

For detailed instructions on the many permutations of connecting to a Fuze meeting, have a look below. Also, if you do not wish to download and install the app, there is an option to ‘join via browser’.

More Details

To connect to a meeting, you will need the Fuze client app, which can be downloaded from here.  You will also need

  • a meeting id,
  • a meeting invite email that contains a link, or
  • a copy of the meeting link from myHeritage.

There are multiple ways to connect to a class.

  • Via your computer/laptop with a webcam.
  • Via mobile phone.
  • Old-school dial-in via a toll free number.

Training the Remote to the Receiver

Sometimes, the classroom presentation remote controls stop working.  This is usually the result of a broken communication between the remote and the receiver.

To train a new remote, or re-train an existing remote, into the receiver:

  1. Press and release the program button on the receiver (the LED lights solid).
  2. Press the advance button (the largest button) on the remote three times. On the third press, the LED will
    turn off, indicating the remote has been successfully trained.
  3. Done.

Please be advised that it is also easy to delete all remotes from the receiver.

  1. Press and hold the program button. The LED will light for 3 seconds then go out.
  2. Release the program button.

This information was taken directly from the Power Presenter manual.

Allowing direct download of files in Moodle

Moodle 3.0 has been a welcome upgrade from our previous version and includes many security, bug fixes, and interface enhancements.  It also now smartly decides how file content should accessed by students based on the file-type and context the file is published in.

For example, after adding a document (such as a Word document, or PowerPoint file) to a course, Moodle automatically allows users to download the file.  When adding a video file, Moodle automatically brings up the embedded video player when the item is clicked on.

The behaviour for audio file is similar to video, in that the file is played in an embedded player within the browser.  This is great in most cases.  However, we have in the past, allowed users to download audio files so the files can be played offline such as in the car on a smartphone.

We can still allow users to accomplish this, but the setting will need be changed manually for audio files.  Here is how.

Allow downloading of audio files

  1. In the course page when adding an activity or resource, choose File from the Resources section of the Add an activity or resource menu.  Or, find the item, click the Edit drop-down and choose Edit settings.add-file-or-resourceedit-file
  2. In the Update: File screen look for the Appearance section.
  3. In the Appearance section, change the Display setting to either Open or Force download.  Details for each setting are below.edit-audio-file
  4. Click Save and Return to Course or Save and Display.
  5. The file can now be downloaded and saved offline.

Display settings explained

This setting, together with the file type and whether the browser allows embedding, determines how the file is displayed. Options may include:

  • Automatic – The best display option for the file type is selected automatically.  This is the default setting for content of type file.
  • Embed – The file is displayed within the page below the navigation bar together with the file description and any blocks.
  • Force download – The user is prompted to download the file.
  • Open – Only the file is displayed in the browser window.  This will allow users the best of both worlds.  To download the file, users will need to right-click on the link and select Save Link As… save-link-as
  • In pop-up – The file is displayed in a new browser window without menus or an address bar

Wowza GoCoder Setup for HeritageLive

Heritage Live uses the Wowza Streaming Engine on the back end to facilitate ingestion of external video and audio sources, transcoding of those sources, and publication to an external site.  To setup GoCoder as an ingestion source for the Wowza Streaming Engine hosted by Heritage College and Seminary, please use the following instructions and settings.

The Wowza GoCoder is supported on iOS and Android mobile devices.

  • Download the Wowza GoCoder app from the app store on your device (i.e. the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store).
  • Once the app is installed, launch it and it will show you a brief legend for each of the apps buttons.
  • Open the Server Info section.  The settings are as follows:
Host -> Server: streams.heritage-theo.edu
Host -> Port: 1935
Application -> Application: HeritageLive
Application -> Stream Name: can be anything that will identify your device in the system.  Use only letters with no spaces.
Login -> Use the Publisher Name and Password sent to you by the Heritage IT department.
  • In the Video Options section of the application you can change what is being sent with your stream, such as video & audio, video only, or audio only.  You can also change video encoding settings such as the size.  For primary video we will be starting with a 720p stream and re-encoding that using the streaming engine on the server.  For secondary source such as a secondary classroom, using a lower resolution such as 640×360 would be appropriate.  The key is to use a sufficient bit rate.  The bit rate setting can be found on the main screen in the lower left corner.
  • Once you’ve got all your setting made, try it.  Punch the big red button in the lower right corner.  If the app is successful in publishing the stream to the server the message will change from Connecting to Connected!

You’re done.  Congratulations!

We first used the Wowza Streaming Engine with an Introduction to the Bible course taught by Gord Oeste in the fall of 2015.