Streaming events #2 – Update

We have the goods!

We have done some quick testing and this looks pretty promising. Right now my family and I are moving into a new house so I’m a little strapped for time between that, work and posting to IT Babble. So instead of a long detailed post (that is coming) I’ll give some quick thoughts and recommendations.

ATEM Mini Pro

This thing is awesome! When you hook it up to a monitor you get to see all the cameras (up to 4) and switching between them is super easy and literally just a press of a button. Setting up our live stream test (we tested Facebook Live and YouTube) was crazy easy. We did have to plug the ATEM Mini Pro into our network via an ethernet cable. Once we did that we used the software on the computer to configure the live stream.

If this is set up and you are using the same service over and over, then you do not need a computer connected to the ATEM Mini. You simply hit the On Air button and then from your computer turn on the the live stream and that is it!

One concern that we found was that an HDMI input stopped working for a little while. We tested it one day and the HDMI 2 input just didn’t work. We plugged the camera into the other inputs and it all worked fine. It was just HDMI 2. The next day it worked fine with no issues. Not sure what happened. It wasn’t the camera or the cable it just stopped

Cameras

The Canon Vixia HF-R800 cameras are pretty good. They are very simple and the image quality is very good. They have image stabilization which makes hand held recording results less jerky. There are not a ton of options on the cameras which is great, especially if you want students to be able to work them (which we hope to do).

We haven’t had a chance to fully test out the batteries but on a full charge they claim 176 minutes of run time. I’m not sure how well that will hold up but we will see. One thing I hate about the battery is how they charge. You connect the battery to the camera and then plug the camera into the wall and it trickle charges the battery. The batteries took over 7 hours to charge from dead to 100%. 7 FRICKIN HOURS!

Now I have found generic chargers that will charge the batteries much faster and may go that route in the future.

Hollyland Mars 300

This is a transmitter and receiver that will allow cameras to wirelessly connect to the ATEM Mini Pro and it works great! I was pretty blown away with how minimal the lag was. I’ll have a video in the future to illustrate this. You connect the batteries, plug it into the computer and turn it on! The find each other and that’s all there is to it!

One gripe is that these things don’t come with batteries. You have to purchase the batteries separately. I’m not sure why this is, but I do wish they came altogether. I also have no idea how long those batteries last either.

Other equipment & considerations

While this is a good start we do need some more equipment to make this a more viable streaming set up. We need to get some tripods for these cameras of course. Having a person hold a camera for two plus hours will yield poor results.

We also need to get longer HDMI to Mini HDMI cable or an adapter with a long HDMI cable. We need that to connect the Hollyland Mars to the camera and to connect the camera directly to the ATEM Mini Pro.

A monitor for the ATEM Mini Pro is needed. Right now we have a 27″ monitor that we can use but it is pretty bulky and really not that necessary. Something smaller and portable such as this portable monitor.

The only problem with this is that it could be pretty fragile and kids can be rough on tech. There are quite a few of these out on the market that range from $150 – $300 a piece. We only need but it would make setup a lot faster.

Another thing we are thinking about getting are broadcasting headsets so students or teachers could announce games. These can get pretty expensive (around $200 a piece) so we will be looking to spend $50 a pair.

Some considerations that we will have to grapple with is filming sports events. We will want some sort of platform to get a better vantage point. I am thinking of having a small platform (8 feet high) and then add the camera to it. Set it up once and then just leave it there for the whole game.

Also, another question are batteries. Do we need to more of them? This is a question for another time.

So stay tuned for a more detailed rundown of this setup. Right now it looks very, very promising!

Streaming events – An ongoing experiment

Photo by CoWomen on Pexels.com

This is going to be an ongoing series. Here I am talking about what we currently do and are planning. In future posts I will talk about the testing of the equipment, the use of the equipment and finally changes that we’ve made.

Streaming school events (concerts, athletics, presentations) has always been a bit of mystery for me. In theory it is pretty simple. You need cameras that feed into a computer and that computer then encodes and feeds the video to a streaming service. In practice it is pretty complicated and there are lots of questions:

  • What cameras do I use?
  • Do I have to wire the cameras?
  • How do I manage multiple camera feeds?
  • Can I brand or add graphics?
  • How do I capture audio from the event?
  • How do I encode the video feed so it streams properly?
  • Does it have to be 4K?
  • What service do I use?
  • What programs do I use?

What we do now

Right now, we have it super simple. We use a Mevo Plus camera. They have a newer version but here is what ours looks like.

Here is how you use it. You turn it on (it has a battery) and it connects to your smartphone via its Mevo app. Once they connect you control the camera with your smartphone. You can zoom in, out, and even pan all digitally. It can stream from your phone to YouTube, Ustream, Facebook and others live or you can record it to its micro SD card and then edit the footage later. The camera is a wide angle lens so it does a good job of covering a large area and the output can be up to 4K.

The quality is very good and while the camera we purchased was $400, outside of a tripod we did not need much more. We did buy some accessories, but we have figured to run audio from a soundboard or mixer into the Mevo for greatly improved sound. Overall, we have been very happy with our Mevo and will continue to use it.

There are some issues though. The Mevo is a single camera. There is no way to integrate it with other cameras. It is its own singular solution for streaming. You have one camera and that is it. It is simple and straightforward and that is the beauty of our Mevo, but as we look at covering athletic events, having more than one camera is desirable to cover more of the action. This has led to some good conversations and more importantly a plan.

The Plan

We are looking to stream with multiple cameras but as you add complexity to any solution, it usually requires more equipment, training and of course – money. We are looking for this equipment to be managed by middle school students (with appropriate teacher/administrator supervision – of course) so the solution has to be pretty easy. Easy to set up, use and tear down. All of this is important.

The first part is the BlackMagic Design ATEM Mini Pro ($499). This is going to be the brains of the operation.

This thing looks expensive but it offers a lot of flexibility and power when it comes to streaming. You can have 4 HDMI inputs, professional switching between the inputs as well. You can have two microphone line ins and if you hook it up to a monitor you can view all four inputs at once. Great for producing. Also, you can attach a hard drive to it to record if you don’t want to stream. There is also powerful software you can download and use to get even more power out of this thing. Best of all, it is pretty easy to use. I’ve watched a few demo videos about it and I think that middle school students could be up and running with this deck with some minimal practice and training. This video by Zebra Zone is particularly good. He shows the set up and goes through all of its features one at a time. Just great!

Now on to cameras. We don’t want super expensive prosumer cameras. We are looking to save a little money and through my research we are going with the Canon Vixia HF r800. Yeah that name just rolls right off the toungue there doesn’t it? Here it is from BH Photo.

Since it is going to be covering athletic events, it could get damaged so having a less expensive camera that does OK with motion is what is important. All of our events are going to be well lit (for the most part), so low light is not a factor. Another plus to this camera is that it comes with optical image stability. If we put it in the hands of someone or are doing a panning shot on a tripod it should look pretty smooth. The big thing it offers though is HDMI mini out. This means we can plug it into the ATEM Mini Pro! We are planning on purchasing two of these cameras.

Now here is the expensive part. We don’t want to be running HDMI cables all over the place, especially if student athletes are going to be walking or running in those areas. We want to do this wirelessly if possible and so an HDMI wireless transmitter/receiver set is in order. This starts expensive and can get really expensive. We decided on the Hollyland Mars 300.

This is for one camera! Right now we are going to stick with just one, even though we are starting with two cameras. We need to try it out even though it has great reviews. This boasts 300 feet wireless connectivity which is way more than we need, but to know that it can go that far is pretty impressive.

Broadcasting live!

Another piece I would like to add into this setup is the ability for people (ideally students) to announce the games. Rather than just have coaches and athletes talking to each other, it may be a nice touch, but how do you do this?

The ATEM Mini Pro does have two mic inputs and so we were thinking of just adding them that way. Perhaps purchasing some “cheap” broadcasting headsets. The problem with that is that many of them are only XLR and we need a 3.5mm input instead of XLR or 1/4″ inputs.

Another issue is the price. The cheaper headsets are starting at $50 and they quickly go up from there.

What’s next?

The equipment has been ordered. Once we set things up and try it out we try to find a workflow that works for us.

Google Chrome – Tab groups

How did I not know about this?! If you’re like me, then you rarely have more than 10 tabs open at a time. However, not everyone is as . . . considerate to their computer as I am. I have seen colleagues of mine have anywhere from 30-50 tabs open and not feel shame!

I know each browser has there own way of managing lots of tabs and there are more than a few extensions out there that can help people as well. Since my school uses Google, it only makes sense for me to use Google Chrome, plus I like all the extensions they have to offer, but this feature is built right into the browser itself. No need to install anything else or create an account with a third party. Just open tabs up and group them!

Continue reading “Google Chrome – Tab groups”

Google Workspaces and transferring ownership

Well, well, well I learned something new today.

An area I’ve always wanted to do better was to help our students leaving our school transition their data from our school account to a personal account (most likely a personal account since they probably won’t have their new school account yet. As you can tell from the title we use Google Services (recently rebranded to Google Workspaces). Our students use Google Drive to not only create documents but also as a place to store their files.

For safety reasons we limit all sharing of documents and emails to be restricted to our domain, but at the end of this year we decided to try and do a better job of helping out students transition their data from their school account to a personal account.

I thought it would be as simple as having students go into the sharing settings of individual settings, share it to their personal account and then go back into the sharing settings and change the ownership to that account.

Continue reading “Google Workspaces and transferring ownership”

A/V in our classrooms

This post will give you a rundown of what we currently use for our A/V solution and what we are going to be switching to. I will be using specific names of products (and current prices if I can find them), but that is in no way IT Babble promoting those items. IT Babble receives no ad revenue or any financial compensation for mentioning them. This is just what my school is doing and what works for us. This set up may be complete overkill for some schools or completely not appropriate for others.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments. We moderate all comments so it will post when Tony or myself approve it and then I will respond. Continue reading “A/V in our classrooms”

Newish Zoom Recorders

Just to be clear. I am not talking about Zoom, the video conference tool. I am talking about Zoom, the audio/visual recording hardware company. For long time readers of IT Babble, you may know that I have a sweet spot for Zoom.

I own a Zoom H6 for about 8 years and absolutely love it. The Zoom has never, never failed me in all that time. The build quality is rock solid. If I happened to drop it I certainly wouldn’t worry too much and it can run on a variety of power sources:

  • AA Batteries
  • USB power bank
  • Computer power
  • A plug in brick adapter with a USB input

There is more, in fact I could easily write a whole post just about my H6 and how it is a great podcasting machine, but folks, I am here to bring news of Zoom’s most recent endeavors and how awesome they are. Continue reading “Newish Zoom Recorders”

Royalty Free Images – Where to find them

If you are still using the old “copy and paste” method from random websites to add images to your blog, worksheets or websites then you should stop. It’s probably a violation of copyright but there are better and more legal ways.

People are paying more attention to where photos come from and what they are being used for. Basically, if you have done the old copy and paste you may have committed a copyright violation. đŸ˜¦ You can always try and ask for permission but those requests usually go ignored.

A problem before was where do you find these images? Where can you go to safely and confidently know that you are downloading an image that is safe to use?

You can always sign up for an image repository website like stockphoto.com, gettyimages.com or shutterstock.com. These sites have millions of photos and you can either purchase them individually or sign up for a subscription and just download away, but if you’re a teacher and are just looking for something fun to drop in the corner of a worksheet this seems a little over the top. Not to mention these sites can get expensive fast.

Luckily, there are sites out there that can help you with this little predicament. These sites offer royalty free images that are also free to download and use. As always be sure to check each individual photo for its licenses or restrictions. Some may allow for download and use but won’t let you modify it, some may let you do whatever you want to it but require attribution. At any rate, here are four sites that I like to use. Continue reading “Royalty Free Images – Where to find them”

YouTube – How to make a playlist

This is pretty easy and certainly not a new topic but YouTube does change a bit over time so I thought I would put together this hand dandy little guide (with beautiful pics) to help you out.

Keep in mind you must be logged into YouTube in order to create your own playlists to share with your students or to to keep for your own teaching (or personal enjoyment) needs.

Why make a playlist

If you’re big into lesson/unit planning this is a great way to organize these resources and have them on hand year after year. It’ll save you a bunch of time so you won’t be scrambling around for the last minute. I’ve perused YouTube plenty of times, stumbled across a great video that would assist my class and just dropped it into a playlist and keep on perusing.

Continue reading “YouTube – How to make a playlist”

Mic Tests!

We have some teachers who need to teach from home even though we are teaching in person. So I worked with them and worked out a solution with the devices we currently have on hand. The teachers will want to Zoom in to do their instruction so the students need to see and hear them and the teacher also needs to see and hear the students. Seeing isn’t too difficult with built in webcams but hearing the students is a different problem, so I tested a few mic options. In this test I test the following mics:

You can check out the results in the video below. I read the same description of a book around the room in a normal speaking voice to make sure the test is pretty fair. You can also check out Tony’s post about his Hi-Flex iPad option.

Continue reading “Mic Tests!”

Google Classroom and Multiple Accounts

There are a lot of people out there using the Google Classroom app. We have encouraged our parents to log into the app as their child. That way they can see what their kid sees and have a real understanding of what is happening in the classroom.

A question we have received is “What do I do if I have more than one child?” or “How can I view all of my children’s Google Classroom assignments and materials? These are good questions and while it is pretty easy, it may not be the most obvious thing. Continue reading “Google Classroom and Multiple Accounts”