Teaching Tech

Taking your online presentation to the next level – Part II

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CTE setup

Last year, I wrote a blog post detailing what I learned to virtually deliver our Annual Celebration of Teaching Excellence (CTE). With the high spread of Omicron happening in the background while we were planning the 2021 CTE, we decided to play it safe and keep the event online again. During the past year, there have been a few changes and updates to software (Microsoft Teams and OBS), which made me think I should write an update to the original post. We also decided to have two co-hosts, which added a little more complication to the broadcast, so I wanted to write about that set up.

It might be a good idea to read my first blog post about online presentations as there is some information in that post I won’t be repeating in this one.

Hardware-wise, things didn’t really change too much. Having two co-hosts meant having twice the set up as last year, and luckily, I already had mostly everything I needed to broadcast two people. Camera set up was easy as OBS can handle multiple cameras. One thing I needed to get was another capture card, and I ended up purchasing another Elgato Cam Link 4K.

There are numerous tutorials on YouTube on how OBS works, and it would be a good idea to watch a couple of tutorials to learn the basics as it’s not necessarily the most intuitive of programs. Just like last year, I had to set up scenes in OBS the way that would work for what I needed to do. 

To get the video feed from OBS to Teams last year required a few arduous steps, but software upgrades have made it very easy now. Once OBS is installed, you will see a button in the Controls panel located in the bottom right part of the program called ‘Start Virtual Camera’. I’m on a Mac, and when I hit that button for the first time, my computer prompts me that OBS wants to make a change to the system, so I allow it by typing in my password. If Teams is open, I quit Teams and restart it. Now when I go to my camera options under Video Settings in the Device Settings, I see an option called OBS Virtual Camera. By selecting that option in Teams, then clicking on ‘Start Virtual Camera’ in OBS, the OBS stream will be delivered into Teams. StreamGeeks has a video that shows how this is done.

Before I get into audio, another point I want to bring up that was different from last year is how the Keynote presentation was delivered. When Keynote or PowerPoint go into presentation mode, the software takes over your graphics card and you cannot do anything else but display your presentation. That does not work for our purposes as you need to be able to control OBS. What I discovered is that you can export a Keynote presentation as HTML, which creates a folder with everything you need in it. You can then run the presentation within a browser with some limitations. Embedded videos within your presentation will work, which is great, as will any animations within a slide as well as transitions between slides. You won’t have a preview to the next slide, so you’re kind of flying a little blind. It might help to have a printout of all the slides so you know what is next. If you want to go to any part of the presentation, move the mouse to the extreme left of a slide and a preview of all the slides will be displayed. You can then move to any slide you want to, just keep in mind that if the presentation is being broadcast at that time, people watching will also see this.

One annoying thing which hasn’t changed in Teams is how your video is displayed. By default, the setting for displaying your video is ‘Fill Frame’. In order for viewers to see the whole presentation the way it’s meant to be seen, they have to right click over your feed and select ‘Fill to Frame’. Despite many requests from users to change this, Microsoft has yet to change this. It would be ideal if the person who sets up the meeting could control how their feed is seen by others. Since this isn’t the case, you need to inform viewers that they need to do this. What made this even more annoying this year was that for no apparent reason, the fit to frame would be lost once in a while and users would have to change it again. This setting is also lost once another user gets spotlit, which we had do a couple of times.

Getting audio from OBS to Teams is a bit easier now, but not by much. To get this working, you need to get two things: a plugin for OBS called Audio Monitor and virtual audio cables.

The virtual audio cables I used were created by VB Audio Software, and while there are others out there, these worked for me with the least amount of grief. There is a free version you can download from their home page. If need be, you can also download a version that has more inputs and outputs, but there is a donation cost associated with downloading the file that amounts to about $5-6.

Getting the audio to work will differ from user to user depending on if you are on a PC or Mac and the hardware you are using. I’m using a Mac and an older audio interface, but your audio could be multiple sources, from one or multiple mics to sounds from videos in your presentation, to music you want played in the background streamed from other software on your computer.

Once you have the audio monitor plugin and the virtual audio cable installed, go to a created scene in OBS and select your mic. Choose ‘Filter’ and add the Audio Monitor plugin. Something to note, in the Filter section, you can also apply other effects such as compression or noise gate to alter your sound. If you have VSTs installed (Virtual Studio Technology), you can also choose it here.  Some VSTs allow you to manipulate your sound to get some cool crazy effects, like reverb, delay, pitch alteration etc….

In the Audio Monitor dialogue box, choose your virtual audio cable as your ‘Device’, in this case VB-Cable. One thing to note before I go on, with my setup there was a bit of sync delay between the camera and audio which was noticeable. To correct it, I added 60ms in the ‘Delay’ dialogue box found in this dialogue box. It took a while to find the magic number and involved having volunteers give me feedback. Obviously if you have a delay, the number you input might have to be different from mine. There is a delay option under ‘Advanced Audio Properties’, but from what I understand, it won’t have any effect.

Now, go to ‘Advanced Audio Properties’ and choose ‘Monitor and Output’ from the dropdown menu. When choosing this option, you will want to have headphones on otherwise you will get feedback if you monitor your output through speakers. If you don’t have headphones, then just choose Monitor Off. The audio will stream from OBS, but you won’t hear it. If you want to use headphones to monitor the audio, choose it from your OBS preferences and in my case, I had it plugged directly into my computer and not my audio interface. For whatever reason, I wasn’t able to hear audio from my headphones when it was plugged into my audio interface.

One thing that threw me for a loop this year was the ‘Mono’ option that each audio input has. What this does is makes your mono input stereo. Last year, I used my boom mic (a mono input), and I don’t think I had this option clicked, so my audio was only outputting to one speaker. This year, because I had two people co-hosting, I used lavalieres, so one lav per co-host for each for my two inputs on my audio interface. Since I didn’t have the ‘Mono’ option on, only one of my co-hosts was heard as it was only taking in one signal from one input on my audio interface. As soon as I clicked on ‘Mono’ it worked perfectly. It took me a while to figure this out, so it’s something to be mindful of.

Once OBS is set up, go to Teams and under Device Settings choose VB-Cable under the ‘Microphone’ option. Now your audio from OBS will be delivered to Teams. If you want audio from other software to also be delivered to Teams, you would probably need to pay for the extra inputs and outputs from VB-Cable and then set up the outputs on those specific programs to either go to OBS or Teams directly.

Enrico Zamparo explains how to get OBS audio to Zoom or Teams in this YouTube video. StreamGeeks also explains how to do it as well, just in case you need another video. If you want to get an audio stream from Pro Tools into OBS, watch this video tutorial.

It might not be worth mentioning, but during a rehearsal the day of the event, I wasn’t getting any audio from either co-host. I spent about 25 minutes trying to figure out what gremlin in computer was causing this glitch, and panic did set in as the event was only a few short hours away. It turns out that both lavs had been set to mute without me knowing it, which was a lesson in troubleshooting for me: start at the source first.

As far as setting up the co-hosts, each had an iPad they were logged into the event as themselves so they could see what was going on. Audio to them was relayed via Bluetooth headphones so they could hear what was going on. They also had a laptop with a secondary monitor hooked up to it that had the script on it with one person controlling the scrolling of the script. We also went through the script a few times to make sure we got our transitions and beats right.

Last year, we tried to record the event in Teams but that didn’t work out. What Teams broadcasts to viewers is different from what it records, something we learned after the fact. What Teams recorded was not presentable, so this year we recorded the event with Camtasia via screen capture. In theory this should have worked, but it didn’t as the video started micro looping at various points for unknown reasons. Luckily, I recorded the feed in OBS, so everything that was broadcast from OBS was recorded well, and I only needed footage from three additional guests. Two of three recorded well, but the last speech by the president was unusable, so I had to edit the video in Adobe Premiere to just show a picture of the president.

Watch the 2021 Celebration of Teaching Excellence.

Peter provides expertise in the area of multimedia in support of CTL programs, website design, and special events. He has been doing graphic and web design for about 20 years. He is a graduate of Print Journalism and Digital Media from Conestoga College, and Communication, Media and Film from the University of Windsor.

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