Recommendations for academic and staff IT equipment: home and office use

COVID-19

This document has been written in the summer of 2020 to address specific requirements of pandemic-time teaching.

 

Recommended equipment

A computer

A Mac, Windows, or Linux laptop or desktop computer can be used with the Microsoft Teams application. Only Mac or Windows operating systems work with the Panopto manual recorder software (more on Linux alternatives below).

A webcam

Laptops and some monitors have a built-in camera, otherwise we recommend the Logitech range – ideally the Logitech C920 or C922 (approx. £80). Note that some models may be unavailable but similar models are functionally fine.

A microphone

An in-built laptop microphone may suffice provided the laptop is near the speaker and the laptop fan is not running at high speed during the recording, in which case an external microphone would be better.

A desktop microphone such as the Samson Meteor USB microphone (£150), Blue Yeti USB (£129) or Rode NT-USB (approx. £100) are recommended for Panopto personal use. (The Rode NT-USB comes with a mini USB to USB A cable. Many modern laptops have only USB-C so an adaptor or mini USB to USB-C cable would be required).

An alternative is a headset microphone, either wired ideally or otherwise Bluetooth. An inexpensive model is the Logitech H340 wired headset. Though audio quality of these headsets can be variable on the cheaper models the overall quality on better models should be reliable and consistent. When used for recording, as the microphone is very close to the mouth, careful placement of the microphone stem is required to avoid harsh plosives (i.e. “p” and “b” sounds). These headsets are also extremely useful for Teams Meetings and Zoom calls. A list of headsets suitable for both Teams and Panopto can be found here.

For a room where multiple speakers may be present or the speakers are moving around then a boundary USB microphone MXL AC-404 is recommended (approx. £80).

Additional accessories

A wireless presentation remote helps with controlling PowerPoint – the Logitech Spotlight (approx. £90) or Kensington Ultimate Presenter (approx. £70) both feature a digital laser pointer which can be recorded.

An iOS or Android tablet – using the camera app a tablet can be used as a makeshift visualiser for showing documents or objects, in conjunction with a stand such as the Belkin Stage Presenter (approx. £150). It can also be used in conjunction with a stylus as a virtual whiteboard. The iOS or Android tablet can also be broadcast to your computer using AirServer Connect (£10, Windows or macOS) or LetsView (free, Windows or macOS). In this instance, a second monitor is recommended.

An alternative to drawing on a touchscreen tablet would be to use a WACOM drawing tablet in conjunction with a drawing app such as Smoothdraw or Microsoft Paint (Windows), or Autodesk Sketchbook (macOS) - all of which are free.

Software: Panopto manual recorder (free, available for Windows or macOS), Microsoft Teams client (free, Windows or macOS).

Recording using Panopto

The Panopto manual recorder can be configured to record multiple inputs into a single Mac or PC: a webcam, a microphone, a main screen and (optionally) a second monitor. An iOS or Android tablet can be broadcast live wirelessly to the Mac or PC and captured on either the main or secondary screen.

The Panopto manual recorder has special integration with Microsoft PowerPoint (Windows and macOS) and Keynote (macOS), and these are the preferred presentation formats. PDF presentations can be captured using the screen capture functionality, with reduced functionality compared to PowerPoint or Keynote (such as automatic chapter markers based on slide transitions).

Panopto will record locally to the presenter’s computer, before being automatically uploaded to the Panopto cloud server where they can be reviewed and edited using a simple browser-based editor, and then made available to students via the VLE.

The Panopto manual recorder is available for Windows 7, 8 and 10; and macOS 10.13 and above. For earlier versions of macOS, or for Linux, it is recommended to use an alternative screen and audio recording software and to upload the resultant media files into the Panopto cloud, where they can be edited and accessed like any other Panopto recording.

For Macs running older versions of the macOS operating system (macOS 10.12 and below) which are unable to run the current version of the Panopto manual recorder, QuickTime – which comes free with the OS – is an excellent option. This can record either camera + audio, or one screen + audio (but not all three at the same time, nor multiple screens). File sizes of QuickTime recordings are also quite large, but these can be compressed in the app using the function File > Export As.

For Linux, a list of screen recorders can be found here.

Using Microsoft Teams

To ensure your microphone and camera are set-up correctly for using Microsoft Teams then we recommend checking your settings and make a test call - select your profile picture then choose Settings > Devices. Choose Make a test call under Audio devices.

In a test call, you'll see how your mic, speaker, and camera are working. Follow the instructions from Test Call Bot and record a short message. The message will play back for you. After that, you'll get a summary of the test call, and you can go to your device settings to make changes.

When recording a Microsoft Teams meeting session, it is recommended to use the built-in Teams recording functionality rather than the Panopto recorder. This recording functionality is available on the Meeting toolbar once a member of staff has requested this privilege by completing the Oxford policy form linked from here.

Although Panopto can be used to record a Teams session, having both Teams and Panopto active at the same time can cause camera and microphone sharing conflicts, and can also be very processor-intensive resulting in excessive fan noise.

Unlike Panopto, Teams has an integrated virtual whiteboard which can be used in conjunction with the Teams app on iOS or Android to broadcast handwriting into a Teams session.

Once the Teams recording has finished, it will be processed on the cloud server and shortly afterwards, the Teams meeting convener (usually the lecturer) will receive an e-mail with a link to the recording in Microsoft Stream. If this recording is to be shared with students, it is recommended that the recording be downloaded from Microsoft Stream as an MP4 file and uploaded to Panopto, where it can be easily shared with students via a Canvas course. This process is outlined fully on the Centre for Teaching Learning website.

Small, detailed text on screen may be difficult to read in a Teams recording and it is recommended to use large fonts in any presentation. Panopto has a much higher recording quality (approx. 3.0 Mb/s compared to 0.5 Mb/s in Teams), and it may be more suitable to record in advance using Panopto, any material that contains complex detailed presentations.

Tips & Notes

Webcam

Whether you are using a USB webcam or the built-in webcam on your laptop, make sure that the camera lens sits at or slightly above eye level, no higher than your hairline. If you are recording using a built-in webcam on a laptop placed on a table, you may need to place it on a stand to make it higher. Ensure any support is sturdy to avoid camera shake when you tap the keyboard.  Do not sit with your camera facing a window or with a window directly beside you as your face will be silhouetted.

Microphone

Do not place your microphone close to your computer if the fan noise will be picked up. Try to sit or stand within 0.5m of the microphone. Use your OS sound settings to ensure input volume levels are high enough, but not so high as to cause distortion in your recording. Using a carpeted space will help to improve sound quality and reduce echo, conversely recording in kitchens or tiled laboratory rooms will cause unnecessary reverberation and listeners will then find the recording tiring to listen to and functionality such as automatic captions will be less successful. If using a headset microphone, try to position the microphone stem to the side of your face to avoid plosives and speak slowly, clearly and at a steady volume, perhaps repeating complex phrases.

Laptop

Panopto can be processor-intensive so use a laptop stand to allow airflow beneath the laptop to avoid overheating and fan noise.
Network connectivity: It is always best to use a wired direct connection to your network hub. If this is not possible, try to make your wireless connection as fast as possible by reducing activity across your shared home network.

Lighting

All cameras capture better-looking video when there is a good light source. The room should be well-lit with natural light where possible. When selecting a place to record, avoid locations with low light or too much backlighting (avoid windows in the background as mentioned above). If a location with ample natural light is not available, you ideally want to light yourself from the front with soft, indirect light, and minimise other lighting in the room.

Portable LED lighting kits are available and can improve a dark recording space or for an ad-hoc studio. An example set is the RALENO LED Video Lighting Kit (approx. £50) You will also need either desktop or floor stands. It is recommended to choose a set with heavy diffusion as not only will this create a more pleasing image, but it will prevent retina burn caused by very bright LEDs.  If you plan to record at different times of the day and combine your LED lights with existing lighting, You may wish to choose a bi-colour LED light that can be tuned to either a warm tungsten colour temperature (3200K) or cooler daylight colour (5600K) to match your existing light sources.

Inclusive teaching

All online teaching material should be designed to be as inclusive as possible. Websites must conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines v2.1 which includes the key requirement for captions to be available for all videos. Panopto and Teams both utilise Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) captions.

Panopto

ASR captions can be imported for all Panopto sessions. Please see the closed captions guidance for Panopto for further details. ASR captions are not available for Panopto live webcasts until after the webcast has completed.

Microsoft Teams

Live ASR captions are available for any Teams meeting by a viewer using the option in the meeting toolbar. Recordings in Teams do not have captions automatically applied but ASR captions and transcripts can be added to Teams recordings by following these instructions.

Get support


Local IT and administration staff provide your first line of Lecture Capture support

Local Lecture Capture support

 

For more complex queries, contact the central Replay Lecture Capture team

Contact Replay team