MY SIMPLE LIVE ONLINE TEACHING SETUP
I got some very rewarding feedback after publishing a blog post about my video production setup. Therefore, I decided to share what I use to teach live online classes. I hope that some of you might find it helpful.
After the pandemic started in 2020, the world turned toward online communication. I was starting my small creative business and I thought that it was the perfect time to start offering live online classes. At first, I used what I had. As time went by, started purchasing some new equipment that made the process simpler and the output better.
Please note that I started with a laptop, a phone, and a bright table lamp, and so can you. However, when the time comes to invest in something new, you might consider my tips.
Live online teaching setup
I will again start with a photo of my current simple setup:
I will describe each piece of equipment that you see in the photo above.
When you teach live online classes, your students will typically first see you, or the so-called talking head. This is what I use my laptop for. It’s also useful for monitoring the students while I teach and share my drawing surface. I use Zoom and keep an eye on the students to try to pick up on their signs (thumbs up, requests to slow down etc.). If you have a laptop with a good integrated camera, you don’t need an external webcam. I am happy to have a laptop with a high-quality camera at the moment. My laptop also has a very good microphone, so I don’t need an external one.
I don’t have a special stand for my laptop – I simply use a cart from Ikea, which has some plastic boxes stacked on it. 🙂
When I started offering live online classes, I didn’t have a document camera, so I used my phone, which was kept on a long arm holder. However, using a document camera proved to be a more convenient solution. This is an Ipevo camera that I am really satisfied with. It’s small, compact (easy to carry around), but powerful. You can also use it as a webcam (for the talking head), by simply rotating the camera head. As I mentioned, I use the laptop for that purpose, so I only use Ipevo as a document camera.
You can see that it’s connected to my laptop with a cord. I use the Visualiser app for it. So, when I want to switch from the talking head to showing my drawing process, I use the share screen option and choose the Visualizer app.
Here are my two important tips:
- If your Internet connection is not really powerful, you might have to lower the resolution, to avoid lagging. If you change the Visualizer resolution down to 1920×1080 the performance will improve, and the quality will still be good.
- As you draw, you don’t want your camera to switch focus from your drawing to your hand when you move it. Before starting, go to settings and choose the single focus mode (AF–S), directing the focus to your paper.
Good light is crucial for my work. Last year I invested in a LED panel, and I am very happy with it. It’s powerful enough to light my face and my working surface at the same time.
The LED panel stands on a tripod so I can easily move it around or rotate it as needed. However, once you find the sweet spot, you don’t need to change it. It has a variable color temperature (3200-5600K) and adjustable light intensity. It also has a small remote controller, but I rarely use it, because it’s set to my favorite temperature and intensity. Before I had it, I used a bigger lamp to light my face (you can use a ring light) and a table lamp for my surface.
Here are my tips regarding the light:
- If you are right-handed, place your light on the top-left side, and vice versa. You don’t want your drawing hand to cast a shadow over what you create, so be mindful of that.
- Additionally, place your document camera or whatever you’re using to film the drawing process in a way that it does not cast a shadow on your drawing surface.
I have a really simple drawing surface. Depending on the color of my tile, I choose an A4 (letter size) paper that I glue with washi tape to my table. This allows me to know where to keep my paper tile when I draw and as I rotate it – in the center of the paper. I also often use that paper to sketch something while I teach. I try not to keep too many things on my table, to avoid distractions. You can see that I have the set of supplies that I need for the project, a small box with a pencil sharpener. Usually, I also keep a finished drawing that I teach, just as a visual reference and reminder.
Above is another photo of my setup, this time from a different perspective. You can see that I have a window and balcony door behind my back. That is not ideal, because any light that comes from the back can only cause issues. That’s why I’m keeping the blinders down. You might have noticed a jewelry bench (that I’m currently not using) and a spare, foldable table, in the back, too. Those are not a part of the live online teaching setup. 🙂
If you want to teach online, whether it’s the Zentangle method or another type of creative work, you will need a few pieces of equipment to start with. However, you don’t need a lot – start with what you got. You need good-quality video and sound, but you can start small. Once you see that this is something that you’d like to do in the long term, you might consider making some new investments.
Written by Anica Gabrovec CZT
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