Some Tips for Online Teaching Setups
By Gacharná Ramírez, Gerardo
© April 3, 2021
The origami workshops through platforms such as Zoom became a very popular and necessary practice to keep the origami community active and united during the pandemic. Due to that, in recent months I have been improving my setup so to facilitate the online teaching process.
I share below some notes and photos that explain every detail of my setup and how each one has been useful to me. It can be very valuable information for people interested in the virtual development of workshops and origami group meetings through Zoom, Google Meet, Jitsi, etc. By the way, there are a lot more useful tips in...
The Zoomigami Guide, by Ilan Garibi: https://cfcorigami.com/resources/zoomigami-guide
Teaching Origami Using Video Meeting Systems, by LondonOrigami: https://mcusercontent.com/1b8c5614f751f521324e6fe03/files/8feccd5e-8739-43e4-b13a-102f8c57767a/LondonOrigami_Lockdown_teaching_v1.4.pdf
This is my setup
By using a desk lamp as an arm for the webcam I am able to move it closer or farther from the paper. I do not use it as a light source when teaching origami.
I attached a laser pointer to the webcam, by using duct tape, to pinpoint the center of the webcam’s frame. That way I can keep my paper in the center of the frame as I fold. I use a shirt button and wire to keep the laser pointer turned on for as long as I want.
A smartphone has a better camera than most webcams, but since I do not own one I purchased the Yohoolyo 1080P webcam (good image plus autofocus). I made a pocket to attach the webcam to the desk lamp by using a piece of carton board and duct tape.
Since the desk has a leather top and I can not properly fold on it, I place a Formica board on top. By placing the webcam correctly, the board’s edges also gives me an indication that helps me place the sheet straight within the frame.
The small headset allows me to place the microphone closer to my mouth, offering a clearer sound.
The ring light levels the lighting on my face and the paper. I set it that high, so it does not reflect on my glasses.
A second screen allows me to see other things while I keep the video call on the laptop’s, for example, diagrams or OBS Studio. That way I can see people's reactions on the laptop's screen, through gallery-view, and be receptive to them as I teach each step.
OBS Studio allows me to adjust the settings of my webcam, such as exposure, brightness, and contrast, among others, and also allows me to add the laptop’s webcam (picture-in-picture).
A cardboard box lifts the laptop and its webcam to a more natural angle, just a tad higher than my face.
I receive sunlight from one side of the room which I diffuse by using a window shade. This light generates shadows and highlights on the paper, making the creases and folds easier to see. I place the laptop next to the window, so people can see me better instead of placing it on the other side of the desk and far from the window.
A close-up to 1 - 4
Are you interested in buying a webcam to point to the desk and teach origami? (1) Look for one with manual or automatic focus; avoid fixed focus. Now, automatic focus can make the image jumpy, so it might be best manual, but you can often control the focus of an autofocus webcam through software. (2) Make sure it does not produce a "fisheye" image. I mean those that make straight edges (like the corners between walls) curvilinear. Several webcams produce this type of image, including those that say "wide angle." This kind of webcams also make the edges of the paper look curved, which makes the origami learning process very difficult.
I recommend the following which are much cheaper than document cameras.
Loetad 1080p webcam (zero fisheye image and manual focus): https://amazon.com/LOETAD-Webcam-Desktop-Reduction-Microphone/dp/B07FVZPWMG
Yohoolyo 1080p webcam (very little fisheye image and autofocus): https://yohoolyo.net/product/webcam-1080p-full-hd-webcam-with-microphone-and-privacy-cover-living-streaming-web-camera-for-laptop-desktop-autofocus-usb-plug-and-play-video-calls-conference-online-class-zoom-meeting.html
If you have an Android phone and want to use it as a computer webcam but do not know how, I recommend the DroidCam app: https://dev47apps.com.
OK, that is all. Hopefully, what I have learned from so much trial and error will help you.