I’ve been doing larger Zoom events and this series of posts will document my experiments and discoveries and failures. A quick tour of Zoom’s website will reveal that Internet meetings are now a routine part of doing business because the pandemic has made in-person gatherings too risky.
For corporate clients Zoom offers not just the meeting platform, but also fancy meeting room gear to upgrade the quality of visuals and sound. Home users and financially strapped nonprofits have been scrambling to assemble similar functionality using free or cheap cameras, software, and studio gear.
This article will explain how to manage the logistics of presentations, performances, and mixed media productions using easily affordable gear. Here is a list of things I’ve accomplished on a shoestring budget. You may be surprised at what’s possible.
- Powerpoint slides on Zoom
- Video playback on Zoom
- iPhone as a live wireless camera for a PC
- Canon Rebel DSLR as a live webcam via USB cable (no overlays and not limited to 29.9 minutes uptime.)
- HDMI output of one computer as camera/video input to a second computer.
- HDMI output of a Verizon set-top box (STB) as camera input to a PC.
- Screen capture to video for instructional purposes.
- Live streaming of Zoom meeting/event to YouTube.
This is a list of hardware and software items you will want for your studio lashup kit.
- Zoom Pro account ($15/month).
- YouTube Studio account. (Free)
- Free conference call account (for crew intercom)
- Broadband Internet Connection(s) – Minimum speed = 10 mbs.
- Computers (2) with dual core 64 bit processor and Windows 10 OS.
- Zoom monitor device (iPad, iPhone, modest laptop, chromebook.)
- External camera with USB interface. (See Canon and iPhone options below.)
- Directional Microphone, lavalier, headworn, etc — any performer mic that rejects ambient sounds.
- 3.5 mm microphone extension cable 25′
- USB cable with powered repeater 30′
- Extension cord, powerstrip.
- HDMI cable 20′ (for performer monitor)
- Cam-Link HDMI to USB converter (Creates HDMI input for a computer)
- HDMI active splitter — one in two out.
- Open Broadcast Studio software (free download)
- Virtual Audio Cable (to pass AVio sound to Zoom or OBS.)
- 24″ x 48″ folding table and stool.
Where to get certain tools
This is an inexpensive iPhone App that transmits video from an iPhone to a PC with the free companion PC software. Your computer see it as an external camera.
Install and launch this software on your PC and then connect the USB port on the camera to a USB port on the PC. Set the camera to movie mode. Bingo, you have a high quality web cam with optical zoom. No, the camera’s mic does not work. Autofocus does work and the camera’s touch screen lets you pick what’s in focus. Most other settings don’t work – you must live with automatic settings the camera does.
Virtual Audio Cable [https://vac.muzychenko.net/en/]
I learned the hard way that the internal signal paths in a PC are not simple. Logically I assumed that audio that comes in on the HDMI to USB connection should be as available as the video signal. It’s not. The video connected immediately and instantly, but after initial success, I couldn’t make the audio connect reliably. Internet research revealed that this is a common problem easily solved with a virtual patch cable. This is a driver program that grabs the audio from one device and assigns it to another. Since you can’t predict when you might need it, buy it.
More to come
For the techies who read this, not much more explanation is needed. The tools themselves suggest how you accomplish the tasks I listed at the outset. I’ll provide some diagrams and narrative in a later post for those not inclined to experiment or willing to endure the frustrations of trial-and-error approaches. Stay tuned.