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With conferences off my agenda for the next year or two, or more, as a result of COVID-19 I’m considering doing some pre-recorded webinars based on conference presentations I’ve done over the past few years. Time zone issues mean that presenting live to anywhere outside Australasia or east Asian countries is out of the question.

But first I needed to get a webcam for my computer (my laptop’s inbuilt webcam is very grey and grainy). Do you know how rare webcams became as everyone started working from home? My first purchase was a disaster (a $100 no-name one from Amazon, which overexposed everything no matter what light I used, and didn’t sync my moving lips with the sound it recorded; to their credit Amazon refunded me in full). My second purchase from a local retailer this past weekend (stocks are now returning to retailers) was more successful, and I now have a Logitech C270, which seems perfect for webinars as it doesn’t have a wide field of view and seems to focus more on your head and not everything else in the room. The light balance without using their software, which you have to download separately from the Logitech website, is good and so far I haven’t needed to install that software. The microphone seems to pick up voice well too, and there’s no time lag between my voice and my moving lips. I’ve only tested it with the Camera software that comes with Windows 10, and with Zoom.

Zoom will likely be my preference for recording any webinars I might do as it has screen sharing functions I’m familiar with from webinars I’ve presented that were hosted by professional organisations in Canada and New Zealand. But I’ve never hosted my own, nor have I tried to record myself presenting a webinar without an audience. It wasn’t easy to find out how to, using Zoom’s own help, but I found an excellent set of instructions from the University of Oklahoma that got me started: http://www.ou.edu/cas-online/website/documents/Using%20Zoom%20to%20Record%20Presentations.pdf (I’ve put a copy of that PDF here Using Zoom to Record Presentations in case it disappears from the university’s website).

My first tests using those instructions worked well and I was able to record successfully.

Next step is to figure out how to show me as the active speaker (typically at the beginning and end to simulate a conference presentation) then switch to the PowerPoint slides and back again. Zoom has an option in the settings (Record settings) to display a small view of you presenting, or not, but I want to start off with a full face intro, and then switch to that thumbnail view while the slides take over. Back to the learning curve! I’ll update this post as I discover things. Of course, if someone already knows how to do this, feel free to comment!

Update 28 July 2020: I did a bit more testing with various settings and discovered these seemed to work best for my setup:

  • Wear the headset when recording and use the headset’s microphone as it’s clearer than the webcam’s mike (NOTE: I haven’t yet installed the Logitech webcam’s software, so I’m not sure if that will make a difference or not)
  • Zoom settings > Video: Touch up my appearance (I left the rest as the defaults)
  • Zoom settings > Share Screen: Side-by-side mode (rest were the defaults)
  • Zoom settings > Recording: Record video during screen sharing AND Place video next to the shared screen in the recording (rest were the defaults)
  • When you go to Shared Screen mode in the Zoom recording, resize the thumbnail to the maximum allowed, otherwise you’ll look like a small dot in the recording
  • PowerPoint > Slide Show tab > Set Up Slide Show: set the Show Type to Presentation by a speaker (full screen)

Switching from me as the active speaker to the shared screen and back again doesn’t appear to be very intuitive, and I couldn’t find a setting in Zoom to do this seamlessly. The only way I could do it is described in Steps 6 to 12 of the instructions below:

  1. Start PowerPoint and switch to presentation mode.
  2. Start Zoom and start a new meeting.
  3. If muted/turned off, unmute the audio and turn on the video in Zoom.
  4. Optional: Put on your headset if you’re going to use that microphone, then click the arrow next to Mute and select the headset’s microphone.
  5. Adjust the webcam to get your face in the viewport as you want.
  6. Ready? Click More (the three dots) in the Zoom controls and select Record on this computer.
  7. Start speaking and introduce your presentation. Where possible, speak to the webcam lens not the screen to be more personal to your audience. (Tip: Some people suggest putting a cutout of a friend’s picture next to the webcam and using that as your ‘audience’).
  8. Click Share Screen.
  9. Choose the screen to share (i.e. the full screen of the PowerPoint presentation). This puts the video of your face into a thumbnail view at the top right of the viewport being recorded.
  10. Optional: Resize the thumbnail to maximum size.
  11. Do the presentation.
  12. To return to the video of your face, click Stop Share to stop sharing the screen.
  13. Finalise what you have to say in the presentation, thank the attendees, then click End.
  14. Once you’ve clicked End, click End Meeting for All.
  15. Zoom will automatically create an MP4 file of the recording.
  16. Before distributing/publishing it, watch it and check for places that you may need to re-record. (I don’t know how to cut and splice changes into a video like this, but there will be software that does this. If it’s only a minor error, don’t fuss too much about it—it will show you’re human and that you make mistakes like everybody else. If you were on stage doing this presentation, you might make mistakes there too, and nobody would think less of you for it. Only re-record if there are major errors you want to correct, such as things not working as they should (practice several times beforehand), clothing that disappears into the background, background objects looking as though they are growing out of your head, family members or pets interrupting you, exceptionally loud noises coming from outside that you have no control over, etc. If this is a solo presentation for later distribution, then re-recording is not as disastrous as if it was a live presentation where these things went wrong.)
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