In this week’s installment of my “5 Things” series, I’m going to tackle lecturecasting tools. As many regular readers of ProfHacker know, I’m heavily invested in lecturecasting. I teach several online and blended classes where lecturecasting (either audio or video) is a vital part (check out my History of the Digital Age class by way of example). I’ve also integrated lecturecasting (both audio and video) into my regular, face-to-face classes (my History of the Modern Comic Book class has full lecture audio recordings available for download). As such, I’ve got a go-to box of tools that I turn to regularly when building and deploying lecturecasts.
As is customary, some caveats. First, these are the tools that I use. There are lots of other tools out there that other people use (and I will mention a few here and there). Second, I’m going to diverge slightly from the previous posts in this series (in which I’ve just talked about software and platforms), and discuss some hardware/equipment I use.
This being said, lets get to the list!
I’ve discussed Camtasia:Mac in a couple of previous posts. However, given that it is really my primary lecturecasting tools, it wont hurt to revisit it. As already mentioned, a good chunk of my lecturecasting is video-based. My tool of choice for creating these video lecturecasts is Camtasia:Mac. Developed by TechSmith, Camtasia:Mac is the Mac version (as its name suggests) of the popular Windows-based Camtasia Studio. Camtasia:Mac lets me to easily record lecturecasts with the camera in my MacBook Pro. Editing is easy, though nowhere near as robust as what you might find in a pro video editor. Camtasia:Mac also features a powerful array of compression and export options, including the ability to dump your video directly to YouTube and Screencast.com. The other important thing (for me) is that TechSmith is a local company. So, using Camtasia:Mac is also about supporting a great local business (which in turn supports the local economy).
If you are going to be doing any purely audio lecturecasting, you are going to need some software to edit & compress. For me, this software is GarageBand. Let’s be honest, GarageBand probably isn’t the application of choice for those who edit audio regularly. There are lots of other options out there (Audacity is a great option as its cross platform, open source, and free; I’ve also used Adobe Soundbooth in the past and liked it quite a bit). So, why do I use GarageBand? Well, first off, it comes free on all Macs as part of the iLife suite. Second, it’s a surprisingly sophisticated audio editor that lets me do anything that I’d ever need to do. Most importantly, even though GarageBand is geared towards multitrack music recording and editing, it has a lot of features that are geared towards recording and delivering podcasts.
Podpress is a handy plugin that turns any WordPress installation into a great platform to host and distribute audio lecturecasts. It has an incredible array of features. With it, you can distribute your audio lecturecasts on your WordPress blog (complete with a fully featured and incredibly configurable media player). It can also generate the necessary RSS feed to list your audio lecturecasts on iTunes (and allow you to exert complete control over how they will look on iTunes). One of the other great added features is that Podpress allows you to visualise (via an array of cool graphs) download statistics of each lecturecast. All in all, Podpress is pretty much the only solution you’ll ever need if you want to distribute audio lecturecasts (as long as you are doing so from a WordPress site, that is).
Portable Digital Recorder (Samson Zoom H4 Portable Audio Recorder)
There are lots of options for doing audio recordings of your lectures. I use a portable audio recorder (paired with a wireless mic—which I’ll talk about later). Portable audio recorders are all-in-one portable devices—complete with an onboard mic, storage, and the ability to set a wide variety of recording options (audio quality, etc.). They are handy because, as the name suggests, they are portable. You can stick them on a nearby desk or the lecture podium, hit “record,” and go to town. When you are finished, you can simply dump the audio file that was captured (usually via USB) onto your computer for editing. I use a Samson Zoom H4 portable audio recorder with a 2GB SD card for extra storage (most portable audio recorders don’t have a lot of storage—hence the extra storage space the SD card affords). The Samson Zoom H4 goes for about $250, which is certainly not cheap. However, I’m very lucky—my research center has a number of them, which means I didn’t have to pony up that cash and buy one myself. For those of you who might not be so lucky, there are cheaper portable audio recorders out there.
Wireless Mic (Sennheiser freePORT Presentation Set)
Instead of using my portable audio recorder’s built in mic, I use a wireless external mic (specifically, the Sennheiser freePORT Presentation Set). I’ve chosen to use a wireless mic (as opposed to using a wired external mic or just relying on my portable audio recorder’s built in mic) for a couple of reasons. First, with an external mic, I get a lot higher quality audio. The other benefit to the wireless mic (as its name suggests) is that I can hook it up to my lapel, and wander around the room. This is a great thing as I never stay in one place when I’m lecturing. The only real downside to this setup is that an external mic means extra things to carry (the receiver, plug, the lapel mic, cables)—which is a pain given the fact that my bag is often close to bursting already. The other drawback is that, just like my portable audio recorder, the wireless mic setup I use isn’t cheap. The Sennheiser freePORT Presentation Set costs between $200 and $250. However, as is the case with my portable audio recorder, I didn’t have to shell out my own money to buy the mic because my research center already had one.
Now that I’ve shared my go-to tools for lecturecasting, its your time to share. Do you lecturecast (audio or video)? What tools can you not live without?
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