Vaddio’s TrackVIEW system allows faculty to forget the technology and offers students fast access to their lessons from anywhere.
"Just teach as you normally would and don’t worry about the technology." That’s the advice that Video Systems Engineer Edward Breault has for faculty members using the new Vaddio TrackVIEW system in the Broadcast Media Center of De Anza College in Cupertino, California. The system was installed to provide media on demand for students and faculty over their DSL and cable modems at home and by all accounts, it has been a resounding success.
"Our selection of the Vaddio TrackVIEW system was based on a combination of price and functionality," said Breault. "TrackVIEW does not require the instructor to carry a tracking sensor so the teaching environment is more natural for faculty to teach without having to do something special or to remember to put on something special." Another major advantage the TrackVIEW system offers is the reduced dependency on student directors to run the pan/tilt/zoom camera in their record classrooms. As the number of "recording classrooms" grows the cost to train and fund student directors becomes a major factor.
The idea at De Anza College was to have a system for recording lectures with video, audio and graphics that didn’t require students or staff to set up or operate. The camera tracking is based on movement rather than totally on sensors. The TrackVIEW system is incorporated with multiple video and graphic instructional resources including, a document camera, DVD/VCR, video-on-demand server and the instructor computer/electronic tablet combination that enables the instructor to make live annotations, right over the computer display.
The ultimate in versatility, the Vaddio TrackVIEW automated camera tracking and preset control system uses a wide angle reference camera and tracking camera that automatically follows the instructor or zooms to a preset shot based on activation by StepVIEW mats, ceiling mounted AutoVIEW infrared motion sensors or by manual control from the ProductionVIEW FX camera control console. The pressure and infrared sensors are used in any combination of up to five mats or five IR sensors. The only equipment worn by the instructor is the wireless microphone.
The key to setting up the system for automated camera tracking is in drawing the mask. This is done in setup software that allows small blocks of video area seen on the reference camera to be masked off. "You draw over the image from the reference camera to identify what areas of the teaching area will sense motion and what area will be ignored," Breault explains. "Two important portions of the reference camera shot that should be blocked off from motion detection are the classroom display screen and the student’s heads in the front of the classroom." Once the mask is drawn and a little tweaking is done, only the instructor’s movement is detected and the tracking camera faithfully follows.
Although the TrackVIEW auto tracking camera system is used to record most classroom events, the faculty does have the option to request a student director to operate a student director desk located in the back of the classroom. The director desk offers the student operator access to the instructor control panel, a Vaddio ProductionVIEW™ FX video switcher and two additional pan/tilt/zoom cameras. The additional equipment allows the director to select from three camera shots: the auto tracking camera, a front student question camera and a second rear mounted camera. This is the one that uses the WallVIEW Quick-Connect™ PRO and EZCamera Interface Module to perch in the right spots for best coverage. Breault says the dual mode capability has proven to be one of the system’s secrets of success.
The system’s versatility extends to the selection of the recording options available to the instructor. Edward outlines the choices. "It is important to offer faculty the option to record any combination of instructional resources: audio, video or graphics. For example, if the faculty does not plan to use graphic material during class instruction, they would choose the audio and video only record option."
The TrackVIEW video and the audio/graphic materials are recorded on a web encoder that can be started manually by the faculty using a touch screen panel or using an automated scheduling program. The audio/video content is recorded on the campus video server and the graphic material is recorded on the campus web server. Once the recording is done, the students have nearly immediate access to the video from anywhere. The goal is to get the web stream bandwidth between 200kbps to 400kbps to make it very efficient for the students to view at home on their DSL or cable modem connections.
Of course, the key beneficiaries are the students and their acceptance and use of the system is a bedrock requirement. It didn’t take Breault long to recognize an unexpected benefit in this important factor. He explains that what was feared as a distraction actually drew the students in. "We purposely avoided the students seeing themselves on camera but by accident they saw themselves while recording and the technology seems to have pulled them in and gotten them a lot more excited about the instructional process."
The TrackVIEW system’s initial success has already spawned plans for a more ambitious deployment in the near future. De Anza College is now working on a new Media Learning Center that will have eleven more classrooms. The plan is to refine the prototype room and apply those changes to the building currently under construction.
How can the faculty teach naturally in any format and give the students quick access to the lecture with one intuitive system? For De Anza College, TrackVIEW has all the answers.