Q: I recently attended a College-level faculty event where the guest speaker, Michael Wesch, used some pretty amazing graphic effects for his Zoom presentation, and all while he interacted with them! I think this would help with engagement in my online lectures. The talk was recorded and made available to University log-ins (Michael Wesch | "Teaching Without Walls"). Is it possible to do this for my course? He mentions using OBS. What’s that?
We live in the future; anything is possible! Though, the heart of your question is: “How easily can I do this for my course?” and that depends on your perseverance to both learn a new tool (OBS) and compose material differently in a familiar tool (PowerPoint).
Our team recently wrote about the differences between a tool like Illinois Mediaspace and the open-source recording/streaming tool, Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). Michael Wesch uses a particular blend of OBS and PowerPoint to achieve his style:
Michael admits in his guest talk with Illinois Faculty that it took him either 3 years or 3 minutes to learn OBS (depending on how he frames his learning curve). We think you could land somewhere in the middle of those time estimates. Once tackled, these techniques are applicable to recorded lectures and live lectures via Zoom alike.
For the purest explanation of how Michael achieves his style, watch his recorded workshop wherein he breaks down his methods:
For those needing more to get started with OBS, this video is a step-by-step for beginners.
A note about PowerPoint backgrounds... Michael uses a default black background in PowerPoint so OBS knows what color to make transparent (aka Chroma Keyed). This can be problematic with PowerPoint graphics or images which also have pure black pixels (Michael works around this by disabling the keying filter if ever this problem degrades his visual). OBS allows you to choose any color for this effect. So, our team typically recommends a vibrant green. Green is an industry norm – think “green screen” - because of its use with human actors, who have few green tones in their skin. If you have many green-hued graphics and images, try hot pink since that’s a very specific color for OBS to make transparent.
Remember, if you are teaching live via Zoom, there are ways to connect this method/style with Zoom via the Virtual Webcam feature in OBS.
There are several cost-benefit analyses to be made when considering this style; the least of which is asking whether your particular teaching style and content match this mode of production. If you find yourself struggling to choreograph your teaching with these whirring visuals, you may be square peg fitting. Our team’s mantra for this situation is “Let the content lead.” Try not to compromise your teaching message for your methods. Rather, they should complement and reinforce each other.
Of course, our media team at CITL is available to help via remote consultations or in our studio spaces to demo these techniques and options. This is especially useful for a glimpse into how your content might look in this format, but without all the upfront time. Our team can help with the rapid prototyping stage so you can soar for the rest.
Instructional Media Resources (CITL),
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About Dear A/V
CITL’s media team has been flooded with questions from Illinois instructors about the best ways to teach with technology and media. Dear A/V collects the most common and timely questions and our experts’ comprehensive responses.
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