Friday, 11 September 2015

User group audio and video

I’ve been pondering how to improve the ability of ADNUG (Adelaide .NET User Group) to do a decent job at:

  • Skype/Google Hangout video conferences – so that the remote presenter can see and hear attendees
  • Record audio of our group for a member with a vision impairment which means that they can’t physically attend meetings.

I’m not sure if there’s necessarily a huge overlap between those two requirements, but they both involve audio so they’re kind of related.

Microsoft LifeCam StudioFor the recent Google Hangout we had with Scott Hanselman, I purchased a Microsoft LifeCam Studio webcam. I mounted this on a tripod and used a couple of USB extension cables. Scott reported that the video quality was a bit poor with some flickering. I suspect the use of the extension cables might have reduced the quality of the signal too much – combined with the fact that I was only on Wifi instead of using the network cable (that I only noticed when the meeting was almost over!). The tripod mount is definitely a plus though.

Scott recommended the Logitech Webcam 930e, which has the advantage of being wider-angle (90° vs the LifeCam’s  75°). I’ll see how I go with the Microsoft camera, otherwise trading up might be an option.

Sound-wise was also not ideal. I didn’t have any complaints with previous hangouts earlier in the year with Jon Galloway and Sayed Hashimi, but maybe Scott was possibly more interactive and wanted to hear questions raised from and converse with the crowd. As it was, I had to repeat the questions for him (as I was standing near my laptop). So a microphone that can pick up the whole room would be great.

It seems the kind of microphone I’d need to pick up is a a conference or ‘boundary’ type. Most of these are ‘omni-directional’, meaning they pick up sound in all directions and from a wide area – contract that with a normal vocal mic, which works best right in front of your mouth.

For a USB solution, these models from MXL seem to be well regarded:

MXL AC404 USB Conference Microphone

MXL Mics AC-424 USB Boundary Microphone (MXL AC-424)

For an XLR connector (XLR is the 3-pin connector commonly used with professional audio equipment), then maybe something like this:

Samson CM11B Omnidirectional Boundary Microphone

The meeting we had this week at Marcellinas had over 40 people in attendance. It turns out Marcellinas function room has their own PA system, so I was glad to make use of that so that everyone could hear better. Having said that, they just have a hand-held microphone with no mic-stand – so that can get tricky if you’re speaking and trying to type at the same time.

Having a mic and loud speaker was a big help to the people in the room, but I didn’t have time beforehand to see if I could hook into their amplifier to record the audio.  Instead to make the audio recording of the meeting, I just used the Windows 10 Voice Recorder app on my laptop (using my laptop’s inbuilt microphone), and just left that running for the duration of the talks.

A lapel microphone would be ideal, and wireless even better (so you’re free to walk around). 

Audio2000 AWM-6032UL UHF Dual Channel Wireless Microphone System with One Handheld & One Lapel (Lavalier) Mic. This kit with a wireless hand-held and lapel would be pretty nice – wire up the main presenter with the lapel, which leaves the hand-held for the MC.

I get the impression that if you got the XLR-type microphones, you really need some kind of mixer/pre-amp that you’d then feed into the laptop (or other recording device).

Something like one of these:

So who knows if we ever get any of this. Given the costs, most of it’s probably just a pipe-dream. Having said that I’d appreciate any thoughts/suggestions/feedback on the options above or other ways that we might take some ‘baby-steps’ to improve things just a little bit.

No comments: