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    Joanna Spooner

    One of the challenges of a field course is that we can’t take students into the field. As a result, we’re producing virtual versions so students can obtain a similar instructional component. This means we’re taking a lot of video and audio recordings and editing them into a usable whole. The main problem is equipment.

    So far, we’ve been stuck using our personal smartphones for the recording. Video quality is mediocre and sound quality is worse. Sometimes we have to go re-record voice-over material when the ambient noise is too much for the smartphone microphones to manage. (Sound filtering during post-production has helped the audio a bit, but not enough sometimes.)

    So my question is about how to support instructors who need quality AV equipment to teach remotely. The library’s Media Resources Center isn’t loaning equipment for the foreseeable future, and they’ve told me that this is true for all of the potential sources of equipment on campus.

    Has anyone had any luck obtaining AV equipment without spending personal funds?

    Paul Wolff


    I don’t have a good answer to your question unfortunately. I did reach out to one of my colleagues who is a videographer and he offered this advice:

    1. First, check out the tips and tricks here:
    2. PHONE CAMERA: Be sure to use the most up-to-date smartphone you have available (check with all of the people on the team to see who has the latest smartphone). Smartphone video/audio improves with each new release.
    3. HD SPACE: Make sure you have enough space on your phone for video recordings.
    4. PHONE POSITION: Always record horizontally, not vertically.
    5. OUTDOOR LIGHTING: Assuming the recording is happening during the day, recording on an overcast day sometimes actually produces better results than sunny days with smartphones. The clouds are nature’s softbox for the sun and reduce shadows, as well as harsh lighting from direct sunlight that sometimes causes overblown bright spots in videos.
    6. STABILIZED VIDEO: This does cost a little money, but perhaps get a gimbal of some sort to make handheld filming smoother: Alternatively, the instructor could purchase (or may already own) a cheap tripod. She would then need to purchase a smart phone attachment, but the instructor would be limited to static shots.
    7. AUDIO: I’d suggest the instructor stay as close to the phone as possible when recording. The farther away the person speaking is from the phone, the more ambient noise will be prominent in the audio. Alternatively for audio, if the speaker will be a distance away from the phone/camera, you can purchase a wireless microphone system for smartphones. I have not personally used a wireless microphone specifically for smartphones, but I know they exist. I believe iPhones usually come with earpods which have microphones built in, though the audio is not the best. If you use wired earphones with microphones, you’ll need to purchase an audio cable extender.
    Joanna Spooner

    Thanks for the reply, Paul. Your colleague’s suggestions are great, and line up with a lot of what we’ve discovered either through research and trial and error.

    We’ve been using one of the TAs’ smartphones, which seems to have the best video quality. (Mine’s an old iPhone 6S, so it’s right out.) Audio quality has improved a bit since the first virtual field trip as we’ve gotten better about making sure the presenter stays near the phone’s microphone, and the editor found a new sound filter that helps more with ambient noises (traffic, leaf blowers, aggressively singing birds).

    The biggest problem is that we’ve just come up against the limits of the available technology. None of us are going to spend money out of our own pockets to buy additional equipment for this. And I’m still baffled by the fact that the University hasn’t provided equipment assistance with the process of translating courses into online equivalents!

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