Cameras for virtual programing

Canon M50 III think virtual programs are going to be part of everyday life in libraries going forward, at least in some small part. So, I thought I would share with you some research I’ve been doing on tech gear you might want to use for your programs. I was going to write one complete post about all the gear I’ve come across over the last several months, but that would make for a long and boring post. Instead, I thought I would start with a short and boring post about cameras.

You’ve probably already been doing some form of virtual programming with a webcam or your phone which has probably worked alright for you so far. But, if you want to make your programs look better, you could upgrade to a digital camera designed with vlogging in mind.

When purchasing a camera to record programs or for live streams, I have 5 criteria to consider:

  • Articulating screen; so you can flip it around and see if you are in the frame
  • External mic jack; so you can connect a shotgun or lavaliere mic to the camera
  • Full HD recording; If the camera says HD 720 P, it’s not full HD
  • Good auto-focusing and tracking; this means the camera can quickly and quietly focus on a subject while moving around
  • HDMI output; for live streaming

If you find a camera that meets the first 4 criteria, you are well on your way to making your virtual programming better quality and easier on yourself.

Two cameras that came out in 2020 that I’m excited about are the Sony ZV-1 which was released in April and the Canon M50 mark II released in October. Both cameras meet all 5 criteria listed above and both go beyond by also offering 4K video. The biggest difference between these two cameras is the Sony ZV-1 is a Point and Shoot, meaning it has a fixed lens. The Canon camera is mirrorless which accommodates interchangeable lenses.

I struggled to find anything negative about either of these cameras. If I had to pick one thing, it would be that they both have a short battery life when recording video. Both cameras can overcome that, though. The Sony camera comes with a USB cable you can connect to a USB power source to keep the camera powered up while recording, and you can purchase a dummy battery with a power cable for the Canon camera.

These cameras cost anywhere between $700.00 - $800.00. If you would like to spend a little less and you’re not too concerned about the quality of live streaming the original Canon M50 can still be picked up new for around $650.00. If that’s still out of your price range you might be able to find a used Canon Rebel T5i or T6i that would give you the first 4 criteria and a USB port out for even less.

My intention here isn’t to go into great detail about either camera, you can find quite a lot of information online about both cameras, I just wanted to let you know these are available.
In a future post, I’ll write about microphones, lighting equipment, and stands.

Check out these videos for more information about each camera.

 

More Tools for Online Programming

My last TechBits post was about Interactive Tools for Virtual Meetings and Workshops. This time, I want to share a few physical tools that will help you host great online programs.

CookingClassThe inspiration for this topic came from a recent online cooking class I took. It was over Zoom and the presenter, Elyse Kopecky, wanted to be able to see all the participants cooking along with her. I was using my iPad Mini to attend and trying to find a place to put it so I could see Elyse, be seen, and cook was a challenge. As you can see in these photos, my first try was to use my cupboard and my second used a combination of books and storage containers.

If you are regularly presenting or hosting meetings, you may want to invest in a Ring light and a stand or tripod for your phone or camera. My colleague, Jamie Matczak from the Wisconsin Valley Library Service, recently added this Ring light and tripod to her equipment toolkit. There are lots of options out there so find one that works best for your needs. SCLS member libraries: if you need some advice, reach out to Craig Ellefson as he's helped many libraries with equipment needs this year.

Next, let's talk about sound. David Lee King recently tested a mobile friendly lavalier microphone. I like that this one is small and you don't have to wear a headset with a microphone to get good sound quality. On a similar topic, Richard Byrne from Practical Ed Tech recently covered Easy Ways to Sound Better in Virtual Meetings. He mentions a couple of microphones along with some tweaks you can make to Zoom to improve the audio quality. Again, there are lots of options for microphones so look for one that will work for you.

Lastly, attending this cooking class was a lot of fun! SCLS recently added a baking and cooking kit so you can host your own cooking show! Need some inspiration? Madison Public Library has a program called Cooking with Chef Lily and you can see the recordings here. Sun Prairie Public Library's program, Books and Cooks, features library director Svetha Hetzler cooking from a variety of cookbooks. And,I recently attended an event from Penguin Random House which featured a cooking demo with America's Test Kitchen Kids Editor in Chief, Molly Birnbaum.

SweetPotatoBiscuitsBy the way, I made Sweet Potato Biscuits and they were yummy! Happy Cooking!

 

 

Library Extension

Most of the time, when I'm interested in a book I'll head straight to LINKcat and do my searching there. Occasionally, though, I find myself on Amazon reading reviews of something I've heard about. In those cases, there is a handy browser extension that can quickly and easily tell me while I'm still on Amazon if the title is available in LINKcat or through Wisconsin's Digital Library (OverDrive) and provide links so I can hop over and place a hold. That extension is "Library Extension" and is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.

LibraryExtensionForSCLS

You can find more information about Library Extension here:

Library Extension and many other very cool tools were covered in the Tech Days 2020 "Productivity and Technology" session.  Recording, slides, and list of apps can be found here: https://techdayswisc.org/resources

Happy searching!

Interactive Tools for Virtual Meetings and Workshops

Like all of you, I've been attending and facilitating virtual meetings, webinars, and workshops a lot since March. I wanted to share with you a couple of the tools I've learned about that can make your virtual meetings and programs more interactive and fun.

First is Mentimeter. I'd seen this tool but not really explored it until now. I recently attended a fabulous Thoughtfully Fit Communications Masterclass with Darcy Luoma and Mentimeter was one of the tools used during the presentation. From live polling to creating word clouds, there are many ways you can use Mentimeter during your presentations or meetings. The free version allows up to two question slides and five quiz slides for an unlimited audience. You may see this in an upcoming meeting or workshop! I signed up for my free account today.

StickyNote4Next up is Google Jamboard. This is a virtual interactive whiteboard. I first heard about Jamboard from Richard Byrne of Free Tech for Teachers in this blog post from last May. Richard has a short video showing how to use Jamboard - it's really easy! Jamboard can be used to brainstorm and share ideas or even as a virtual icebreaker. That's one of the ways I've used it recently. My favorite question to ask at the beginning of a workshop is "What is making you happy this week" (which I borrowed from the podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour.) 

I set up a Jamboard for this Tech Bits post. Try it out and share what's making you happy this week. I started us off with the Great British Baking Show - Holiday Episodes. What's making you happy?

Good Calculators, Google Forms, and more

WVLS has shared some short (3-15 min) "Digital Bytes" training videos recently that may be of interest to you or your library patrons:

Good CalculatorsGood Calculators
Time: 5:01
Jamie talks about an educational and fun tool that can help library patrons of all ages.
Watch

Google Forms
Time: 15:11
Anne talks about creating a Google Form and how to share it.  Watch

Social Media Message Optimizer
Time: 5:26
Jamie talks about using CoSchedule’s Social Media Message Optimizer to see if you’re getting the most out of your library’s social media posts, based on several factors. 
Watch

JCW Resume Builder
Time: 10:29
Anne talks about using the Job Center of Wisconsin online resume builder. Watch

WVLS Digital BytesUsing Bluejeans
Time: 10:46
Jamie demonstrates how to use Bluejeans as a moderator.  Watch

Scanning Documents On Your iPhone
Time: 3:24
Don’t have access to a scanner? Jamie talks about using your iPhone to scan documents as a PDF file.  Watch

You can find more of these "Digital Bytes" here on the WVLS website: https://wvls.org/digital-bytes/

Canva

I made this using CanvaWisconsin Valley Library Service (WVLS) recently provided a very helpful training video on Canva, an online drag-and-drop design tool that lets you create visual content with ease. In the 50-min video, Anne walks you through some of the many features of Canva including including tools for font combination suggestions, color pallette generator, and the design size guide for tailoring your designs to specific social media platforms. She also points out tools within Canva for learning more about how to use Canva and runs through one of the tutorials to demonstrate some basic tasks.

LaborDay

 

Canva is free for basic use, and Pro accounts are pretty affordable. Non-profit organizations with a 501c3 designation can get access to a Pro account for free.

 


LibraryFlyers

 

If you haven't already discovered Canva and are looking for an easy way to generate flyers, posters, and images for use on your websites and social media posts, check out Canva and the WVLS video tour of Canva.

 

Google Meet is Neat

Video-conference-5167472_1920 from PixbayWe use several applications for virtual meetings within our organization but sometimes they are in use at the same time and it’s nice to have an option that I can rely on if I want to have an impromptu meeting. Most of us already have a Google account of some sort whether it’s Gmail, G-Suite, or YouTube and that’s all you need to use a free application for virtual meeting called Google Meet. If you’re familiar with other video conferencing applications then you will be able to easily pick up how to use Google Meet.


To start a Google Meet session;

• Log into your Google account.
• Locate “Google Meet” and click on it
• Click “Join or Start Meeting”
• Enter a meeting name, click “Continue”
• Allow the mic and camera settings (if you so desire)
• Send an invite to whoever you would like to join your meeting. I usually miss that step and copy the link in the URL to send to attendees.


Google Meet can accommodate up to 100 people for up to an hour per meeting with unlimited meetings. If you would like more than that you can sign up for advanced options.

 

Image by Alexandra Koch from Pixabay.com

Tech & Happiness Hacks

Many of you know that I admire Gretchen Rubin and have read many of her books and listen to her podcast. I've picked up many tips on how to make my life happier simply by listening and trying out some of her happiness hacks. On a recent podcast, Gretchen reminded listeners that September is the "other" January and to use the start of the new school year as a time to set new goals and try new things*.

NerdforaYearThis reminded me that I never shared a resource from Your Nerdy Best Friend from January of this year. In this post, Beth shares an updated handout called "Be a Nerd for a Year" with small fun tech activities that you can try out monthly. For September, some of the options are:

  • Trying out Zamzar to convert a JPG to a PDF (see Tech Bits posts here, here, and here for more)
  • Using Photomath to help your kids (or yourself) with math homework
  • September 24 is National Punctuation Day and you celebrate by using Grammarly to check your punctuation, tone, and more! (See Tech Bits posts here, here, and here for more)

It's a fun resource to look at and learn from all year round. Next year, I'll start in January!

*And buy new office supplies!

Emergency internet resources

Just a quick reminder that the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin has a webpage to help consumers find internet resources during the pandemic. It includes a map of public wifi locations, special internet deals from commercial providers, and a few other options.

MCF_wifi_detailsMost of the SCLS libraries filled out a survey in April to provide information about their wireless signal and coverage, and this information should be reflected on the map. If you've had changes to your library's wireless availability (added an outdoor AP, maybe?), a link to contact the PSC about changes to your wireless info can be found on this SCLS webpage (password required).

If you have patrons, friends, or community members who may need help finding internet resources, consider directing them to the PSC page in addition to mentioning your own library's offerings!

Trivia & Streaming

Over the last few months, I've been hosting Zoom meetings for Adult Services/Programming Librarians and I've learned a lot! I wanted to share a couple of the tools that have come up in our discussions recently.

CatsFirst up is Crowdpurr. From the cool name, you may think it's a crowd of purring kittens. In reality, this is an "Audience Engagement Platform that helps you create amazing interactive mobile-driven experiences for your live or virtual events." The E.D. Locke Public library used Crowdpurr to host trivia game recently. You can use this with Zoom, your YouTube channel, or your Twitch livestream (see previous TechBits post).

SUNBookBuzzSpeaking of livestreaming, have you heard of StreamYard? Sun Prairie is using this to stream their weekly Book Buzz interviews with Sun Prairie staff. Check out this recent episode featuring librarians Erin and Emily. Streamyard can stream to multiple platforms at the same time - Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Periscope, and more. One of the cool things that you can do is add a caption during the broadcast. Erin and Emily add the titles of the books they're discussing to the screen.

What tools are you using to connect and engage with your patrons and community?

 

 

Image by Kiều Trường from Pixabay