Users of Blackboard Collaborate
I really hope someone will be able to help because we have been wrestling with this particular issue (though in other scenarios) for quite some time and no one seems to be able to find a solution for us.
Our business school has face to face seminars with anywhere between 20-70 students at our main campus in Norwich (UK). The seminars consist of guest speakers (former graduates in successful business roles) making a presentation followed by questions.
We want our business school students from our London campus to be able to attend those seminars via an online solution.
We have Collaborate so it seems to make perfect sense to use it for this purpose.
We need a wireless 2 channel mic solution - a handheld roving mic for questions and a lapel/headset mic for speakers going into a wireless receiver connected to the audio socket in the computer.
The business school students will be logging in from indidvual computers so we don't need to worry about providing a venue and audio in London.
Ideally we would also want a video camera that can act as a web cam also.
We have purchased a solution (KAM dual VHF Wireless Mic system - http://www.normans.co.uk/p-2644-kam-kwm1932-dual-uhf-wireless-mic-s... and the kit works fine in other contexts. It works in Collaborate but not well - bad quality, tin-y, fishbowly sound.
Does anyone do this stuff and can you recommend kit to purchase?
I hope, "VHF" was a typo, as this technology is out-dated. The description shows a UHF unit. Please accept, that I can not provide my list of working equipment. Here in Germany, the wireless equipment did change in the last years, as the UHF frequencies are reconfigured by law. In short, you should use actual professional equipment and make shure, that there is no neighbour using the same frequencies.
Please note, that the external audio equipment itself is not the main quality degrading factor very often. Computer audio inputs are sometimes bad matching to professional signal levels. A USB audio interface may improve that.
But first of all, mention this:
Using hi-compression speech codecs like Elluminate/Collaborate, you have to manage two main acoustical degraders:Background Noise and Feedback. There are a lot of ugly compression artifacts, if microphones are distant from mouth. The distance acceptable depends on the feedback (reverberation, echo) level of the hall. Avoid to use loudspeakers onsite, as this is an amplification of feedback in front of the microphone. In larger rooms, I suggest to use the headset, not the lavalier. For making online student´s audio hearbale in the hall, you should take care, that your microphone is muted (single talker setting). Echo cancellation is on the roadmap for Collaborate v12. It will make things easier here.
I have to state, that the v11 (Collaborate) version of audio codec increased the impact of quality problems coming from background noise and feedback (compared to Elluminate v10). This is currently under investigation.
Default settings are optimized for the average desktop situation, not for external audio. Please try this: In the preferences audio tab, switch off any checker. Collaborate´s automated level controls are the best way to get a high level of background noise. I don´t like it.
I found the sample rate worth to play with. A lot of hi-frequency noise can be suppressed simply by lowering the sample rate.
If you drive an external 2 channel microphone setting, please imagine, that the microphone currently unused picks up background noise very effective. In this case, there should be a mixer, which mutes unused microphones ( manually, or - with extended budgets - a noisegating automixer).
For better control, I suggest to place a second machine in the main hall equipped with isolating earphones, just to monitor the sending quality onsite.Producing a recording with different audio parameter settings may also being helpful to find an acceptable adjustment.
Hope this helps. good luck.
I appreciate feedback on how my hints did work for you
Thank you for your reply.
I’m planning to test out the kit with a USB audio interface over the weekend that we have at home in our music room. But apparently (according to my husband - who is the one who uses it) its quite complicated. And the thing is i need to be able to give this kit to academic or administrative members of staff to set up without technical assistance!
I'll be passing on all your comments to an AV guy here - I'm hopeful I can secure some of his time for finding a solution.
Without wanting to cause any offence, can I just ask why you are not able to let me know what equipment you use?
Many thanks for your help.
why do I not list my equipment here?.
I´m consultant and field engineer working as facilitator, troubleshooter and professional supervisor for many organizations helping them to implement online collaboration and videoconferencing in their own ecosystem. I mostly have to adapt to the existing equipment of my clients.It is always different.
For live online participation at events (trade fairs, congresses, med surgery rooms etc) I have some own equipment, but it is mostly professional AVtech level. Wireless microphones are coming from rental suppliers.
The more knobs, the more adjustments potentially causing trouble in outcome. That´s simply the reason for why I do not want to share my multi-knob list in detail. It would not work plug-and-play ;-)
Some simple "hand-over without tech. assistence" stuff:
Phoenix Duet All.In.One USB microphone/speaker with acoustic echo canceller built-in. Easy to setup. Works for 2-5 persons if there is a table in between. This is always in my backpack.
Behringer USB-Mixer adapts an active loudspeaker and wireless microphones.
I don't know of a kit to purchase, but many times at conferences I have been able to take the room or system sound and plug it into the sound jack of a PC for broadcasting the session. It works quite well, although is a little tricker if you need to be able to have the remote viewers take microphone privileges to speak back--in which case someone has to be turning off "talk" on the main speaker side so as not to get a sound echo. I have used a very inexpensive wired lapel microphone I got at Radio Shack for doing this on the fly that I keep in my tech bag when I'm at conference.
I'll be interested to see if anyone has feedback on the "kit" with other recommendations for sound quality.
I do know of several folks who have used a video camera as the input for video in the same circumstance, I've just not done it myself. It seemed to produce a very high quality video feed.
The thing is that the venues for these seminars probably don't the same set up as conference venues. I need kit to lend out to people where we can only assume they have a PC or laptop.
To be honest, I'm suprised that Elluminate/Collaborate don't give any guidance on this, not necessarily specific products, but the specification you need to think about. Surely we're not the only ones want to do this type of thing?
I've asked if the Blackboard Connections Summit could make use of Elluminate for people not able to get funding to travel to the U.S. - it kinda makes sense to me that I should be able to join those sessions online from the UK. So maybe if they look into that - we will get some technical guidance from it.
To be honest, I'm suprised that Elluminate/Collaborate don't give any guidance on this, not necessarily specific products, but the specification you need to think about.
This is not correct. At Collaborate´s Ressource page you can request some Best Practises whitepapers.Ask for a copy of Best Practices for Hosting Blended Events, a 20 page guide dealing with both organisational and technical aspects of scenarios like your´s. If you can´t get this "Elluminate" Whitepaper from Blackboard, send me a Ning message.
Thanks for all your help and information in your posts on this discussion - I really appreciate your time. I'll certainly be taking forward everything you say to our technical guy and will be hoping that we can find a solution.
I'm interested to discover that there is a white paper that discusses this area, and will be definitely seeing if I can get hold of a copy of that!
Thanks again to Mero for being so darn knowledgeable!
This is a good thread, and hopefully it will spark some brainstorming, Jo.
it is good to see some uk interaction going on here, hi Jo from Warwick. On a smaller scale I also went through the issues you describe and found it difficult to get support, infact I have found the white paper through Mero's link and was pleased the download worked as there was an error message from the page. I do think there is an issue of a rather US centric approach which ignores the (possibly slower developing) market in the uk. This community will help those of us in the uk who are willing to join and I am a big user of the ticket system for bb collab but I know I will have to do the leg work (although I am a teacher basically) on the tech side as there is little interest/experitse in sound/media management here. Maybe our audio engineers are all working for recording companies and we don't train new ones due to our poor technical education system.
Just as an update, the kit we bought - that i mention above works a treat. We didn't need a USB interface. The problem was just simply a problem with the lead. Think it may have had something to do with earth-lift (or some such thing that i don't really understand). Anyway the point is... it works!! Wooo Hooo
The next step is to try it out in a real session - but of course in the meantime a different solution has been found for the scenario i talked about at the beginning of this discussion.
Thanks to those people who offered their advice.
We are currently looking into a solution in using a wireless microphone for a hybrid session. This thread has been really useful. With regards to headset in terms of our experience usb input has always been the best solution. In terms of a wireless usb microphones these are hard to come by but we have a product that may meet our needs called xTag USB. More information by accessing link http://www.revolabs.com/Products/Product-Line/XTAG-USB.aspx
Are there any solutions that might have used a Wireless USB Input from your experience.
I tried the Revolabs Xtag with Collaborate and I found the audio quality sub par. We ended up going with an analog UHF wireless mic from AKG and using an analog to digital converter to get into the computer for Collaborate. The whole setup (with 1 wireless lav mic) costs about $320 USD.
Specifically, we are using the AKG Perception Wireless Presenter Set and a Sabrent external USB sound card (that acts as a analog to digital converter.)
This setup is a bit complex, but it works well for us. I have also successfully added a Shure 4 channel mic mixer to mix 2 presenters on separate wireless mics going into collaborate. AKG also makes a handheld wireless mic in the same line that would probably work as well.