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”

Computer reviews – Check with your school

I saw this article on the Verge titled What’s the best student laptop? We asked students by Monica Chin. Being I am in IT and education I am always interested in these articles and this one asks students themselves. What would students say they like? Here is a group of people who typically don’t have a lot of spending power, so I was curious what they would suggest. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed.

Continue reading “Computer reviews – Check with your school”

Blackbird – A review

I’m always interested in websites that teach coding. I like the idea of learning new skills and testing oneself. Blackbird is one of those sites. The goal here is to teach people JavaScript which is pretty cool because JavaScript runs in browser making a bit easier for people to play around in it.

This website is geared for middle school students and up and unlike block programming (like the super popular Scratch) this has students working with actual code, but it does it with a lot of hand holding which I like. Just to be clear I am no programmer. I have dabbled here and there with mostly Python but with this review I was learning right along everyone else. Let’s see if it is worth using.

Continue reading “Blackbird – A review”

Teacheasyapp.com – A review

So I saw a comment on my TeacherMade review. It felt like a bit of advertising for Teacheasyapp which is fine. Apps and services have to get their name out there so I don’t mind too much. After taking a quick peak at it, I figured to do a full on review of it. It basically is a way for you to annotate and leave comments on PDF files that students share with you. It has some interesting features and I will be looking at the online app that you use with your computer and the Android app (it has an iOS app as well).

Continue reading “Teacheasyapp.com – A review”

WordPress.com – Damn it

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

My last three posts have been screwed up by my blogging platform. WordPress.com published my last three posts (Whiteboard.fi – A review, WordPress + Anchor.fm = Podcast? and A/V in our classrooms) as earlier versions than the final version. Basically it was publishing drafts of my posts which explains why they appear to be unfinished.

Damn it.

Luckily WordPress.com keeps versions of all your posts and I was able to find the finished version and publish those versions in place of the drafts.

Here is what I think happened. WordPress.com has two post editors. One is called the “Classic Editor” and it is rock solid. The other version is the called the “Block Editor” which is a little buggy but clearly the future of what WordPress.com wants its users to use. In all three of those posts I used both editors thinking that the content would have updated regardless of editor but I guess not.

I’ve learned and will keep a more watchful eye on those posts going forward.

Snow days – are they gone?

Growing up in Ohio there were the occasional day when the snow or ice was too much and the school district closed. Those joyous occasions are snow days! It was a free day for students. No homework or tests; everything just paused.

As a student, those days are golden. As a teacher those days are nice. Time is as valuable as diamonds for a teacher and anytime you can get a little more unexpected time injected into your day is a good thing.

As a parent, they can be troublesome because it effects your work. You may have to take some time off to be with your child, or that could be something that you absolutely don’t mind doing from time to time. I guess it is all up to your perspective. Continue reading “Snow days – are they gone?”

Chromebook + Wacom tablet? Interesting

I am quite interested in this. I have seen some Chromebooks with touchscreens and even a few of those may have a stylus, but the quality of those Chromebooks may leave a little something to be desired.

Then I saw this article in Engadget that says Wacom now has a drawing tablet that works with Chromebooks – no drivers or software installation needed! If you’re not familiar with Wacom, they make some of the best drawing tablets in the world. They also have some entry level tablets too which is where the One by Wacom (lousy name) comes into play. Continue reading “Chromebook + Wacom tablet? Interesting”

Mote – Chrome Extension review

OK, it’s a weird name but it has a pretty cool function.

This is an extension you can add to Chrome and use on a variety of Google products to leave audio comments. If you mark up an essay or digital document, all too often students will just take a look at the score at the top of the first page and maybe leaf through the rest of their work and then stuff it in a folder, trashcan, or some other dark region never to give it another thought.

This is obviously a problem as feedback is a pretty crucial part of the teaching-learning process. mote allows you to record audio feedback and add it to Any type of Google document (Docs, Sheets, Slides) and it also allows you to add comments on Google Classroom as well. Continue reading “Mote – Chrome Extension review”

Funny spam comment

We use wordpress.com for IT Babble and have from the start. It’s solid, reliable and they block a bunch of spam comments from finding their way onto our posts. Every now and again I like to go in and just take a look at what these say and usually I can find some funny. ones (like the one above).

I’ve grabbed just the comment and pasted it below for easier reading.

Enjoy and happy Friday everyone.