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AV and Multimedia Related Thread, Teachers using video cameras in Technical; I hope this is in the right place, and apologies if it's a subject that's been covered before.. I've recently ...
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    Teachers using video cameras

    I hope this is in the right place, and apologies if it's a subject that's been covered before..

    I've recently had a regular stream of staff approaching me with the simple-to-say comment 'I want to make a video in class' at which point my heart sinks as I know that it's never that simple! I've yet to work out a good, simple, robust way for staff to record in the classroom and edit the results to a final video for playback to the group in the enxt lesson.

    Just curious what solutions others have come up with for a simple workflow from shooting trough editing to showing..? At the moment we have two ways of working: DV tape camcorder or more recently these new Flip Video camera things that plug straight into a USB socket.

    Obviously the DV tape solution, whilst far superior in terms of video quality, is a lot more involved in terms of capturing the footage onto the computer, and in practical terms, to make things easier, capturing is best done with a DV Firewire card that we have installed into a selection of computers in the ICT areas, but of course this limits where they can actually do the capturing. Once captured though (using Windows Media Encoder with a preset configuration file setting the correct video and audio sources) the resulting WMV is of a reasonable size and can be edited in Movie Maker.

    The Flip camera solution appears to be FAR simpler in terms of capturing, being simple plug in and drag off via USB, but at the sacrifice of image and sound quality. It's also slightly less efficient with file sizes as the copying process will be less discrimitaing than the realtime capture process of DV. The teachers will inevitably just copy the whole lot across and not think about only copying over what they actually need. However, the teacher can upload and play/edit the recorded video files pretty much immediately, and from pretty much any computer in school now that we have rolled out the codec.

    We've recently acquired a couple of new Sony DCR-HC62 Handycams that appear on paper to be the best of both worlds - record good quality to DV tape but then plug in through USB to stream and capture the footage onto the network using Windows Media Encoder. This system falls down though when actually trying to capture - although I've got the codec installed and can see the video preview playing back in WME, as soon as I hit capture the screen goes black and no video is captured. Now this may be a configuration/driver/codec issue but it will take time to fix and I'm deciding which path to persue.. This system, if it works, also has the benefit of being able to work anywhere that has USB (albeit still needing the install a codec/driver) as opposed to having to install Firewire cards all over the place.

    So, do I stick to trying to get the Sony cameras to capture via USB properly, do I stick to the relatively limiting but tried-and-tested Firewire capture or do I go with the Flip video cameras which are pretty much idiot-proof but sacrifice a bit of picture and sound quality, and unfortunately, maybe allow the new DV cameras sit around doing nothing as nobody knows how to use them.

    More generally, out of interest, how much IT support time does everyone give to this sort of thing? Is it even an IT support thing at all? We have a new IT/Multimedia post being filled pretty soon so I guess that's the person to be doing these sort of tasks. Would you consider it reasonable for the teachers to do the shooting, for us to then capture and make said footage available for them or should the capturing be something that the teachers do themselves..?

    The worse case, and that's happening more often, is the request that starts 'I've got some kids that have filmed something for me at home...' and of course I have no idea how it's been captured, whether it's on DV, Memory card or HDD (usually .mod files) and again, should this be my problem to fix..?

    So again, just curious what solutions other places have come up with for this growing area of teaching resources.

    Questions questions questions... (sorry!)

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    Which codec did you roll out ot get the flip cameras working? I thought the one supplied on the camera is commerically licensed so i've tried to use 3rd party ones but found that the decoding is so slow that on older pcs you can't edit properly in movie maker, sometimes you have to export the video just to be able to play it and see the edits.

    Video editing became the thing to do here a few months ago, a few departments bought dv camcomders and more flip video cameras and i'v ended up with similar problems to you and ended up trying to run the files thorugh 3 or 4 converters to try and get it into something they can definitely edit.

    We've got a suite of apple stuff so the easiest solution at the moment is to get it onto a mac, which is on the whole easier than the pc (for the devices i get given anyway - generally having lost any driver or application cds that were in the box) and then direct them in there to do there editing. That goes onto a seperate server so doesn't cause space problems on the main system. Unfortunately people don't seem to realise that video editing over a network is a bad thing and if there was a device or method to make it easier I think we would instantly have to tell people not to do it any more.

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