Jun 052014

Whether you are faculty or a student, you may eventually need to create a video presentation in Canvas for an assignment at Avila University. Let’s look at a few ways you can do this using some basic techniques.

Creating or Uploading Videos in Canvas

WebcamFirst you need a webcam either built into your laptop or one that you purchase separately and connect to your computer through a USB connection. If you have more than one webcam connected to your computer, take care to identify which webcam you are using when recording the video directly into Canvas. Most webcams have built in microphones but you may need to add a separate mic depending on how far away you place the webcam for the presentation. Again, you need to make sure Canvas or the recording software knows which mic you are using. Create a few test videos to make sure your setup works.

You can either record a video directly into Canvas or upload a video you created using a video editor like Windows Live Movie Maker (a simple editor you can download from Microsoft for free). While it is easier to record directly in Canvas, you risk losing your work if your Internet connection is disrupted half way through the assignment, but for quick video assignments, recording online is easier.

All rich text editors in Canvas whether in assignments, discussion forums, wiki pages, or announcements allow video recording using this step-by-step procedure (follow this link to access the video comments post in the Canvas guide).  Here is a video demonstration of the process.

Now that we have an idea of how to actually record a video (or upload one), let’s take a look at effective low-budget ways of presenting. In all these techniques you will want to make sure your webcam or video camera is far enough back that it captures the presenter and visual aids. The further back you place the webcam, the more care you will need to take with lighting. Experiment with ordinary household lamps until you have what you want (see the diagram at the end of this post for setting up lighting).


Using a Flip Chart

One of the easiest methods is to use a flip chart but many shy away from this technique because they feel uncomfortable writing or drawing in front of a camera. Check out this video on how you can prepare your flip chart before recording the presentation that will make you look like a pro. It is low-tech but very effective.

Using a Large-Screen Monitor

With a second computer, you can display your slides on a large screen monitor but there are challenges:

  • The webcam and monitor angle must be adjusted to remove glare.
  • The brightness and contrast on the monitor needs to be adjusted so that slides are easily seen.
  • The theme of the presentation tool should provide a dark background with contrast between it and the text.
  • Use lots of images and very little text.

In this video I did a quick setup in my office with an external webcam on a laptop and a large-screen monitor on a desktop. I placed the webcam and monitor to remove glare. I looked for a Prezi template that was viewable. I combed my hair and did this with one shot and just a little editing in Windows Live Movie Maker.

Using a Whiteboard

If you can overcome the glare that is typical in whiteboards, you will find this to be an easy setup and effective presentation technique. First watch this video on the actual presentation this person gives. Then watch the next video on the instructional approach.

Now watch this video where the presenter explains the approach. What makes this work is to create the content on the whiteboard before recording the video. Then simply highlight key aspects of the visual during the presentation. Nicely done.

Using  a Blank Wall and some Editing

In this example I recorded the video off-line (not live in Canvas) so I could add captions later as visual aids for my presentation.  Captions are added using a free video editor like Windows Live Movie Maker.  This example was recorded with a webcam set back far enough to capture the presenter and a blank wall. I am far enough away from the wall to not cast a shadow. Here I used no additional lighting but this is always a challenge. If time permits I will use fill-in lighting. I did the recording directly in an editor and then added captions before publishing the video presentation.

It is important to note that editors create “project” files which are only viewed in an editor. Instructors will not be able to view the presentation if this is the file you submit. So be sure to “publish” or “export” the presentation to a video file format like mp4 before submitting the assignment.

Using Lighting

For most of your assignments, normal lighting is sufficient. Professionals use studio lights which have a dramatic impact on the video quality but most of your assignments can be satisfied with normal lighting. You can make some improvements by using ordinary house lamps if you are not satisfied with the ambient light available. This image shows how to place three lamps to help improve your video assignments (click the thumbnail on the left to enlarge the image).

Light Floor Plan

What’s the right thing to do?

Which method you use depends on how much time you have, the purpose of the assignment, and your skills. Most short presentation assignments in your course can be satisfied with live recording in Canvas using simple low-tech visual aids like a flip chart. If you have more time to experiment and want to expand your technical skills consider recording off-line, editing, and submitting published videos. If you want the quality to be professional, add backdrops and lighting.

Okay, so you want your videos to be professional but you don’t have the equipment professionals use. You would be surprised at how much quality you can add with devices you may already own. Let’s close this post with one last video example on using an iPhone to create stunning videos.

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