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Hard drive video cameras

Sony DCR-SX40

This camera is a hybrid camera, which at this point means that it can record onto the hard drive or onto a memory card (Memory Stick Duo, since it’s a Sony product).  It can, with software downloaded onto your laptop, download the footage straight onto your computer.  It can also transfer the footage onto the Memory Stick Duo.

This is a link to a helpful user manual. 

You can look at another here.

The great thing about Hard Drive cameras is that you don’t have to worry about tapes or DVDs or whatever recording media you used to use.  However, right now, it’s still a little tricky to download the files.  Some cameras are better than others at doing this.  JVC, for example, saves the files in a special JVC format which you have to use JVC software to download and to edit.  What a pain!  Sony and Panasonic seem to be doing a little better, so far.

And the other thing about these cameras is the terminology.  HD means hard drive, but it can also mean High Definition, so you have to be very very careful about reading the specifications.  For now, if your camera is mega-expensive, that HD probably means High Definition.  These cameras, hybrid or hard drive only, are in the $2500 -3500 PLUS range.  In April 2010, apparently, new cameras will be coming out, so the price may drop a bit.  We’ll see if it’s a significant difference.

On the other hand, you can get a Mino Flip High Def for under $300 (or 1500 or so FlyBuys points!).  This tiny camera is probably smaller than many people’s mobiles.  It’s light, it’s got an included USB connector, and it comes with software on the camera to edit your footage which you can download onto your laptop very easily.  The sound quality is pretty good, even in fairly noisy places (I tested one at Bodega), and the picture quality on the HD version is very good, even at a distance.  The camera charges when plugged into the USB port, and you get about 60 minutes of recording with one battery charge.

Samsung and Creative have also come out with these tiny hard drive cameras in the reasonable price range.

In my opinion, these are THE way to go for recording assessments, especially as the software automatically makes the files into Windows Media files, the format preferred by NZQA.  Additionally, once converted to Windows Media files (automatically, remember), you can use MovieMaker to edit the files and choose only the work that you need to send off.  Not bad!

Necessary accessory for these tiny cameras – a mini-tripod, of course!  These are available at camping shops for about $35, less if there’s a sale on.  What this means is that ten cameras AND tripods could cost the same as ONE Hi Def, Hard Drive camera.


March 10, 2010 Posted by | hardware | , , | Leave a comment

Video conferencing Part 3

This last section is about how to find VC or virtual events.

The Smithsonian Institute has virtual events. (Pretty neat!)

Or you can search for “virtual events”. Or you can register with CLIC. Or you can go to the Polycom content providers website. Or you could contact authors.

Some other places to look for events are
Virtual Learning Network (VLN);
Te Papa;
Collaborations Around the Planet (CAP);
Content Providers Database (CPDB);

Other things that are possible are connections with sister or brother schools in other countries or meetings with other LOOP members.

Some things to remember:

TIME ZONES. The best time for VC to the States is the morning; for the UK, early, before school or late, after school; for Asia, remember the 4-5 hour difference; for Australia, not really an issue.

If you are showing websites, show only one part at a time and zoom in so everyone can see it.

If you want to have a multiple-site VC between LOOP schools, you can all go via KAREN bridge. 0800 63 525 is the number for the Polycom engineers help desk, or you can email them at vcsupport@as net.co.nz. You’ll need the PIN number for the virtual meeting room.

For Schoolzone schools, the ones already with Polycom, email VC support or ring the 0800 number.

If you are linking multiple KAREN schools or Schoolzone schools AND KAREN schools, then it will be more complicated.

Enjoy these additional learning opportunities, and leave a comment if you go to a virtual event!

March 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Video conferencing Part 2

You can display the information on the screen of your PC or laptop during a video conference.

You will need:

  • a network connection to show stuff from the T drive or the school network
  • the data projector-type cable to link to the Polycom box (black box near the screen).

Once you are hooked up, use Fn + F4 or F5, as usual, to change the display to the big screen and your laptop/PC.

Important buttons:

  • The Content button (looks like a bunch of dots on a computer screen) starts and stops the sending of content
  • The Display button (looks like a screen with three quarters blacked out and  a small lighter rectangle in the lower left corner)
  • Home button – this one looks like a little house.  By using this one, you can change into or out of dual screen emulation.

Changing in to/out of Dual Screen Emulation:

  1. Push the Home button
  2. Highlight System and enter (the center of the arrows)
  3. It will ask for a password.  Use the Display Onscreen Keyboard button to get a keyboard – looks like a keyboard.
  4. Go to Admin settings
  5. Go to Monitor
  6. Go to Monitor again.
  7. Tick the box for Dual Monitor Emulation (Dual Screen Emulation).

Display button makes changes.  You can choose the most natural setting for the lesson/session context.

Press Content again to get rid of PC screen at end of session.

Note: the Display settings (such as Dual Screen) do not change the way things are displayed at the other end (Far).

March 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Video Conferencing 1 March 2010 – Part 1

On Monday, Alex and I went to the training session for the new video conferencing equipment.  Here are my rough notes on the session.

Best practice:

  1. Introduce yourselves and state your role.
  2. Ask if they can hear you.
  3. Be aware of what’s behind you in the shot.

Using presets:

  • Use arrows and zoom to locate person
  • Press number and hold until Preset # Stored shows on screen; press numbers in quick succession, holding on second number to store, if it’s a double digit.  Press-PRESSSS.
  • Go for midshot.
  • Watch headspace and background.
  • Aim to look like a TV presenter – front on to the camera, well-framed shot of yourself.
  • Group shot should always be Preset 0.
  • Use group shot (#0) for beginning and ending and ‘listening’ shots.
  • Don’t include any unnecessary info in the shot.
  • Can preset to something you want to ‘show’ during the lesson – like an experiment or show and tell item.
  • Everyone in the room MUST be in the group shot.  Otherwise – it’s considered rude.

TIPS for Presets:

  1. Create your presets BEFORE the session starts.
  2. These stay ‘forever’ until they are re-set.
  3. Presets can be changed by overwriting them.
  4. Can set up VC presets and leave them, if the furniture never gets moved.
  5. There are 0-99 presets.
  6. Presets can be changed on the fly.
  7. Purpose of presets is to make everyone/everything look as good as possible.

TIP: Eyeball to eyeball is done by looking into the CAMERA, not at the screen.

TIP: Can set it up so the camera shows school logo when someone dials in, so you can have privacy.  No one can ‘barge in’ on a conversation.  System automatically sets sound at MUTE when you dial someone, or they dial you.

TIP: Avoid putting acetate over things you are going to show as the glare makes it difficult to see.


The microphone is a very powerful microphone.  It can even pick up pen clicking and will tend to focus on that, rather than other noises, so try to keep other noises to a minimum.

  • Ignore it
  • Respect it.

TIPS for Microphone:

  1. Mute it, THEN move it.  Don’t drag it while live.
  2. Can be muted from controller OR microphone.


WGC is in the Managed Schools Directory, as are many schools across NZ.

To dial up a source, click on Directory.  The organisations show as green when available, and grey, if not.

You can also text in the name, either by using the controller like a mobile phone or by using the arrows to move from letter to letter, like the PS3.  After you get to the letter, you must press the ‘Enter’ button in the middle of the arrows.

Once you have found the person/organisation, push the green Dial button.

The protocol for dialling is to set up the meeting beforehand.  It isn’t like ringing your mate (not yet, anyway!)  They need to know that you are dialling.

NOTE: the system remembers the last place you dialled, so re-connecting to them is quick and easy.

TIP: when you do something on your end, talk it through, so that the other party knows what you are doing.  They cannot always see your screen.

TOP TIP! When in doubt, NEAR gets you out.  This is the blue button, directly above the MUTE button on the controller.

March 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 1 Comment