Lecture Capture may bring to mind classroom capture solutions that are complicated to set up and maintain. Thankfully, lecture capture software has become much easier to use over recent years. Today, great software lecture capture solutions and lecture capture hardware make capturing classrooms with video easier than ever before.
Update (15 September 2014): Check out MediaCore Capture for Google Chrome — the easiest way for your students and instructors to record their screen and webcam.
If your institution needs to regularly capture lectures in high quality the best option is a dedicated lecture capture box like Winnov’s CBox. These products are specifically designed to streamline and automate the content capture and encoding process – saving faculty time and energy.
But, if all you need to do is occasionally capture lectures or presentations, it's possible to do so with an off-the-shelf video camera, easy to use screen capture software and some basic video editing. In this post we'll teach you how to set up a cost-effective lecture capture rig and create high quality, polished videos that your students will love.
We'll show you how to:
Capture a presenter’s slides and voice using a computer, screen capture software and a microphone.
Record the speaker’s presentation using a video camera.
Combine the two videos in post-production to create a professional-quality captured lecture.
What you'll need:
Screen recording software to record a speaker's on-screen presentation slides and voice.
A video camera to record the speaker.
A tripod sturdy enough to hold your camera.
A microphone to clearly record your speaker's voice.
Video editing software (and a capable computer) to edit the content.
- (Optional, but extremely helpful) A faculty or student assistant to help with the recording!
1. Getting started with screen recording
Recording your computer's screen is a great way to record a presentation at home that's suitable for sharing with your students. If a screencast-style lecture capture is all you’re looking to produce, check out our guide on how to transform your Powerpoint presentations into video learning resources.
This screen capture technique also offers a great way to capture a speaker’s screen and speech in the lecture theatre. With a live lecture, it really helps to also film the speaker: Having some visual contrast in the final video really helps make it more engaging for students (see point 3 below).
If you're using a Mac
If you're using a PC
Check out our recommended apps and tools for more information on software screen capture solutions.
2. Setting up your microphone
Sound is always important to video, but when it comes to lecture capture, good sound is paramount. If your speaker's voice is quiet or inaudible viewers will switch off, so it’s vital to have your microphone set up correctly. Some lecterns feature built-in microphones which you also may be able to utilize.
The easiest way to record a speaker's audio is with a free-standing USB microphone positioned on the lectern and pointed at the speaker. Providing they don't move too far away whilst presenting this setup should capture clear, usable audio.
Great for beginners: Aside from resembling its namesake, Nessie features a built-in pop shield and automatically applies professional audio processing to your recordings. This results in better-sounding audio that requires no post-production, making it great for those new to recording audio.
Clip-on / Lavalier Microphones
If the presenter likes to be a little more mobile, we’d recommend using a lapel / lavalier microphone. These aren’t as ‘plug and play’ as USB microphones (you’ll end up with an isolated audio track separate from your captured screen video. See point 5 of this guide for more on syncing audio).
Make sure your camera has enough storage space available to record the duration of the lecture, and double check that the camera has enough battery (or is connected to AC power). Then, set your camera on a tripod, press record, and go!
It's a good idea to try and include both the presenter and at least some of their presentation slides on screen in your shot. Capturing both provides a visual link between your shots which will give you more options during editing.
Make sure the camera is recording sound: Even though the primary audio track is likely being recorded by the screen capture software on the presenter’s computer, having a backup recording is important – especially when it comes to syncing your primary and secondary video clips in the edit (see section 5).
If you have access to a directional / shotgun mic on your camera and are recording in a smaller room then you may be able to record your speaker’s voice directly to the camera (instead of using a dedicated USB microphone attached to the computer recording their screen).
If you’re shooting with a DSLR:
Make sure to check that there isn’t a limit on recording duration, otherwise you risk capturing only the first half (or less) of your lecture!
4. Recording your lecture
If you're not the speaker:
Get set up before the speaker arrives. Then, all you need to do is make sure that both the camera and screen capture software are both recording when the lecture begins. And of course, that they both get switched off when everything is finished!
If you are the speaker:
If you can, find a student volunteer to help make sure the recording runs smoothly – especially when starting out. If you don’t have a volunteer just remember to make sure your camera and screen capture software are recording before you begin your presentation, and to stop both at the end.
5. Editing and finishing
Once you've recorded both components of your captured lecture it's time to edit them together into the final video.
If you're new to video editing there’s a few apps and resources we recommend.
If you're using a Mac
Apple's iMovie is a great place to start – it's powerful, easy to use and free with every Mac. Using QuickTime to record your screen + iMovie for editing your final video is a great free solution for lecture capture on a Mac.
If you're using a PC
Getting into the edit
Your screen captured content will provide a visual of the presenter's slides and a clear recording of their voice. Remember, this is the primary piece of video in your edit
The live recording of your lecturer is a secondary piece of content. The first thing you’ll need to do is sync these up in your editor’s timeline.
First thing’s first: Syncing your audio
In more basic video editors like iMovie, Camtasia and Screenflow you’ll need to manually sync the audio between your two video tracks. Make sure your editor is set to display audio waveforms for both tracks and look for a peak in the waveform recorded in both sources. Once you’ve identified an audio marker (a sound recorded in both videos) you can manually align the secondary video track in the editing timeline
Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere both feature smart synchronization tools designed to sync up a primary audio track with a secondary piece of media featuring the same content, but recorded using a separate device.
Editing style and display options
There’s a few nice ways to display two pieces of captured content together in your video's frame:
1. Picture in picture
The simplest (and quickest) way to edit the two videos together is to use a picture in picture effect. This lets you show your presenter speaking alongside their Powerpoint slides. It’s really easy to achieve this effect in iMovie.
2. Side by side
Showing both images side by side works well for some types of content. Full-featured video editing apps offer clip scale and positioning controls to achieve this effect.
If you have a little more time to work on the edit you cut back and forth between the two shots. For example, showing the speaker as they present a topic, then cutting to their slides as they explain in detail can be a nice way to add consistent visual diversity and emphasise one visual over another.
Free Final Cut Pro X Lecture Capture presets
Unzip the the ‘MediaCore’ presets folder and add it to:
[Your home folder] > Movies > Motion Templates > Generators
Next, just navigate to the new MediaCore tab in Final Cut's Generators pane to find the presets. All you need to do is drag your videos to the drop zones and extend the duration to match the length of your lecture. That’s it!
Sharing your video with your students
When you’re done editing, it's time to export your video. In most video editing software all you'll need to do is select the appropriate preset: 720p or 1080p, depending on the resolution of the content and your upload preferences.
Finally, all you need to do is upload the video to your institution's video platform. If you're a MediaCore user it's really easy to add your lecture capture video to your institution's media library and determine exactly which students and faculty are able to view easily it on desktop and mobile devices.
We’d love to hear from anybody practicing this approach to lecture capture. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know if you have any additional tips or recommendations.