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06/10/2021

Classroom Capture for Schools – Getting Started

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We often get asked about the best way to set up a classroom for recording and streaming. This short guide provides an introduction to the technology and will take you through some steps and aspects you should consider.


Planning

It is worth spending time setting out a checklist of goals that you would like to achieve when looking to deploy classroom capture. Here are a few pointers that you should consider…

  • How much interaction with hardware/software do you want teaching staff to have
  • Budget – you will inevitably have to purchase some hardware, so how much can you spend on equipment for each room
  • Do you want to publish recordings with another platform e.g. VLE or Microsoft Teams
  • Scaling – will you be piloting the project in a few rooms as a pilot and scale-out later?
  • Are you looking to capture content presented on a whiteboard or projector?

Room Setup

Although rooms differ in size and shape, the positioning of hardware usually stays the same. Below is a diagram of a typical classroom capture scenario that includes…

1. Camera Commonly mounted at the back of the class to capture as much of room as possible.

2. Microphone Audio is often overlooked during the planning phase, and the problem this causes is usually only noticed once lessons are being recorded. You will find that audio is just as important, if not more important, than video quality. As quiet or poor quality audio can be infuriating for viewers. There are a few options when mounting your microphone(s). Usually, they are placed towards the front of the class, close to the teaching area. Although student interaction can be meaningful, audio clarity from the teacher is the most critical element. We look at the options available for audio in much more detail below.

3. Encoder Most lessons include digital teaching content, usually displayed on a whiteboard or projector. Capturing this content separately using a hardware encoder will provide viewers with an easy-to-read and crystal clear video of the teaching materials used in the lesson.

Hardware Options - Cameras

Static Cameras - These are fixed cameras with no option for remotely controlling the camera angle or zoom. These cameras are usually inexpensive, small and discreet, and suited for spaces where the teacher often doesn’t move position.

PTZ Cameras – These cameras offer manual control for panning, tilting and zooming (PTZ) the camera remotely. They are usually controlled over IP or via infrared remote.

Tracking Cameras – These are essentially advanced PTZ cameras. They include a second wide-angle lens that is used to track and follow the movement of the teacher. The cameras can be calibrated to only track people in ‘target areas’ to ensure the camera only follows the teacher.


Hardware Options - Microphones

Omni-Directional Boundary Microphone

A smalland descreet microphone that can either be ceiling or desk mounted. Being Omni-directional, it will pick up sound in all directions. It is more suited for group scenarios such as focus groups where sound pickup from all directions is essential.
Usually ceiling mounted in the centre of the room or the middle of a meeting table.


Cardioid Boundary Microphone

A small surface mounted microphone great for accurately recording vocals in a particular direction. A microphone with a ‘cardioid’ pick up pattern is most sensitive to sound coming from the front. Sound from the sides is also picked up but quieter, and the sound from the rear is significantly reduced.
Usually mounted on the ceiling and directed at the front of the classroom. They can also be desk mounted if required

Hanging Microphone

As per the name, these microphones are designed to hang from a ceiling. These are fantastic for picking up vocals; however, they are not always practical for classrooms due to the lower ceiling height. You can also use multiple microphones to increase the pickup area.
These hang from the ceiling, just in front of the teaching area.


Beamforming Microphone

These are designed for lecture and classroom capture. The beamforming technology enables the microphone to track a person’s voice as they move around a room with virtually no setup required. As they are designed for use within room capture scenarios, they are very discreet and easy to install.
They can be mounted on the wall or ceiling, usually in front of the teaching area.

Hardware Encoders


These are small devices that take any video signal and turn it into an IP video feed. They enable high quality capture of content being displayed on a projector or whiteboard. You can can also use them to convert a standard video camera into an IP camera.



Streaming, Recording and Publishing Lessons


Delivering your lessons is the final piece of the jigsaw. The mechanism needs to be secure, reliable and easy for teachers to use and students to access.

There are plenty of software and hardware solutions that offer classroom capture. However, they are often unintuitive, expensive and have a laborious setup process.


So what makes Planet eStream different?

  • Planet eStream has worked in the education technology sector for over 25 years. We know that for a solution to be successful, regardless of the application, it needs to be robust, easy to use and affordable within the shrinking schools budget.
  • Planet eStream Classroom Capture is a centrally managed cloud-based solution that works with inexpensive IP based hardware. Scheduled classroom recordings start and stop without teachers interacting with hardware or software, making their lives easier and freeing them to concentrate on teaching.
  • As Planet eStream includes an unlimited room licence as standard, there is NO limit to the number of rooms you can record or stream from. And each room can have multiple-video sources depending on your needs. Usually, this will be a camera to capture classroom activity and at least one hardware encoder to capture the classroom screen or projector.
  • Many platforms require expensive proprietary hardware. Planet eStream does not, and you are free to source your own compatible hardware. For ease, we do have hardware options available that are incredibly cost-effective – our off-the-shelf kits provide all the equipment you need to get a room online for less than £900! You can see them here
  • Once up-and-running, recorded lessons or live streams can be securely shared with students via links or embedded into learning platforms such as VLE’s or Microsoft Teams.