Bare-Bones Lecture Capture: Video on a Budget

Cheap lecture capture solution

Previously, Russ Lichterman from Wilmington University offered some ideas for building a portable studio on a budget and finding affordable encoders for live streaming. Today, he offers suggestions creating for a very inexpensive, bare-bones lecture capture room that works with Kaltura CaptureSpace.
This room is a pilot “smart” classroom that needed to be upgraded to have video-enabled features to work with web conferencing and lecture capture. Often these video-enabled features can run in the tens of thousands of dollars, but we’ve put together a budget-friendly version for under $1,000 that features a 1080p camera and a noise-cancelling voice tracking microphone array. (The room already had a smart projector, so this cost reflects the audio and video portion.) On the software side, we’re using it with CaptureSpace and Collaborate Ultra for web conferencing.
One of the advantages of this setup is that even though it’s bare-bones, it has room for expansion – additional cameras can be added later to take advantage of the additional recording streams in CaptureSpace (such as a document camera). Of course for this cost, we’re not working with any PTZ cameras or IP video transport. But for the cost, it’s a very reliable, professional 1080p HD capture solution.
We are using a professional SDI video workflow, but similar devices exist for HDMI video as well. USB webcams are also an inexpensive option, but both HDMI and USB have much shorter constraints on their cable runs than SDI and are overall less robust options. USB cameras also don’t usually offer optical zoom and focus controls at the cheapest price points, which this camera does and even offers changeable lenses using a standard M12 mount. (There are many lens options that use this mount.) SDI has a maximum cable length of about 100 meters, far more than USB or HDMI, and can be extended even further via a distribution amplifier. If greater distances are needed, however, this solution becomes less cost effective and video over CAT-5 or IP delivery would probably be a better (but more expensive) option. For a classroom or lecture hall setting, though, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better balance of cost and reliability to create a video-enabled learning environment. Perfect for lecture capture.
Here is a breakdown of the hardware:

  • 1080p 2MP SDI mini-camera – $85.99
  • Power supply – $6.99
  • SDI to USB 3 video capture – $379.95
  • Voice tracking array microphone – $341.50

Here is the specific equipment we used:

Russ Lichterman spent nearly 15 years in broadcast television production before moving to higher education. He has a B.A. in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and an M.Ed. in Applied Educational Technology from Wilmington University. He is currently Multimedia Manager at Wilmington University. Feel free to contact him with questions at [email protected].     

What else has Wilmington University been doing with video? Read “Wilmington University: Enhancing Student Engagement with Interactive Videos.

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