Swivl points the camera at whoever has the microphone

If you are alone hosting a webinar session where you have several participants in the room with you it can be a problem keeping the camera on the person who is speaking. Swivl is an inexpensive solution that takes care of the camera for you. Swivl is a small robot on which you can mount a tablet, smartphone or camera. It has a wireless connection to a small microphone and Swivl will rotate to automatically focus on whoever has the microphone. This makes discussions much easier to follow remotely since you always see and hear whoever is speaking.

Here is a short introduction film.

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Short Documentation of “Extending the Webinar”-Webinar

On March 7 the webinar about webinar extensions took place. More than 75 people in total from many European countries took part live.

Recording with clickable links

Some links:

How to show your Smartphone during a Webinar

The online world is getting more and more mobile. But how can you integrate your mobile device into a webinar? Showing your smartphone display to the webcam is somehow clumsy. Best is to use mirroring software like Reflector or Mirroring360

How does it work?

Your computer and your smartphone need to share one wireless connection. For iOS devices you need to activate Airplay (for mirroring your Android device you should use Mirroring360.) Then your smartphone screen appears on your computer. After that you have to start (computer) screen sharing on e.g. Adobe Connect and your smartphone device can be seen by all webinar participants.

A nice idea is not only to show your smartphone screen. By opening your mobile device camera you can show virtually everything around you. Thus the smartphone screen serves as a second flexible camera.

Furthermore Reflector lets you screencast your iOS device screen and you can publish to e.g. Youtube.
Both applications offer 7 days free trial. If you decide to purchase they are around € 12 each.

Visibility in Webinars – Some Thoughts

To be seen in a webinar contributes significantly to the personal atmosphere of this format. Whereas voice and the quality of the microphone is the most important part of communication one should consider the following points:

Although the quality of the camera itself is not crucial – more important is how to use the camera – I want to share some hardware recommendations. The built-in camera of notebook computers is usually sufficient. Still you will notice in many instances a quality difference if you use a good external camera.

The best webcam I have ever come across is probably the Logitech C920 (ca. € 100). It has superb image quality and a wide angle of view. A nice feature is the tripod mount. As the camera position of notebook computers is usually too low you should consider using a tripod in order to put the camera at the same level as your eyes. As an alternative one can consider the Microsoft LifeCam (less than € 100). A more professional option is the Logitech PTZ CC 3000e. PTZ stands for “pan, tilt, zoom”. This camera comes with a remote control. The option to pan, tilt and zoom is specifically interesting if you have 5-10 people sitting around a table.

If you prefer a good and low-priced solution around € 20 have a look at the Trust SpotLight Webcam.

Please, consider as well the following aspects besides your hardware:

  • Avoid backlight as your face will be too dark,
  • Try to put the camera at the same height as your eyes,
  • You can mix daylight and artificial light. This will give the picture a warm and colorful atmosphere.
  • Do not underestimate the impression you will leave through your webcam. How much of your room do you really want to present?

“Do you hear me well?” – Some Microphone Recommendations

Audio is among the most important aspects of a web conference. But which microphone should I use? A headset is almost always the preferred method. It is not only close to your mouth but keeps the same distance at all times!

My personal recommendation is the the Plantronics C720-M . It comes together with a nice case and has a USB plug. The price is about € 120.

If you do not want to spend that much the Plantronics Audio 478 DSP is a good alternative for around € 30.

Please, avoid headsets delivered with your smartphone. As the microphone is quite far away and you easily hides behind your collar the quality is not always as expected.

My favorite solution at the moment is a Blue Yeti with a flexible microphone arm and a shock mount. But this is the most expensive of the mentioned solutions and needs proper technical adjustment and preferably an additional audio mixer.

blue

P.S.: If you are looking for a nice integrated solution without using a headset you can try a Jabra Speakerphone  (€ 100). This device is a speaker and a microphone in one single case. It is USB powered and can be connected as well via Bluetooth.

Multiple Webcams

There is quite a simple solution to use many webcams in a webinar: software based video mixers. I tried CamTwist Studio for the Mac. This nice piece of software is open source. You can plug in as many webcams as you like. It is easy switch between them. You have many different effects (like color adjustments), even PIP (picture in picture) works pretty well. There is an enormous amount of functions. They are fun and useful at the same time. Think about a web meeting with a number of participants in the same physical room. You do not have to move webcams… just switch to another one for a fresh perspective.

As Camtwist is only available for the Mac here are some alternatives for other operating systems.

camtwist

A nice webcam to be used in a multiple webcam setting is the Logitech Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam. Wireless mobility is fine. But the picture quality of a wired webcam is usually better. You will experience as well some minor latency issues.