Using mobile devices to record one-to-one meetings

January 23, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Posted in hands-on | Leave a comment

I was asked recently to provide some advice to some students who need to video dyslexia assessment and tutorial sessions in order to provide evidence for their professional practice qualifications. However the following advice also applies to any one-to-one sessions. The objective is for them to use the devices they own (laptops, tablets or smartphones) to create digital video files which can be securely shared with their tutor.

Basics: make sure that the room is well illuminated and that the camera is positioned to get a good view of the participant’s face, hands and any materials that you are using for the assessment.  Try to make sure that the participant is not back-lit against a window as this will typically make them difficult to see clearly. You (the assessor) will also need to be in shot.

Audio: recording good quality audio is essential, and although the microphone built into the device used may be adequate, you may need to use an external microphone. This is one of the key reasons that you need to practice making a recording well in advance of the real thing.

Laptops: many laptops have webcams built-in, but positioning the laptop in the room may be difficult. You may need to buy a low-cost USB webcam that can be fixed to a tripod so that it is at the right height and angle.

Tablets/smartphones: remember to make sure they are on their sides (landscape mode) as video shot in portrait will appear sideways on your tutor’s PC screen.

Tripods: you can use a camera tripod or bodge something using elastic bands, masking tape and a music stand. For example very few USB webcams have a tripod screw-mount, so you’ll have to tape it to a tripod/stand. You can buy special cases or grips that make it easy to attach a tablet or smartphone to a tripod/stand – it is worth investing in one of these if you need to make more than one or two videos.

File format: ideally MP4, a highly compressed format that can be readily viewed using free software. You should also record at a medium resolution (such as 720p) as the extra visual detail provided by high resolution files (1080p) is not necessary and just leads to much larger files to upload/download.

Finally, it is essential that you make at least a couple of short (5 minute+) practice recordings well in advance of the session you wish to record so that you are confident with the equipment and its setup, the recording options (audio and video quality/filetype) and any post-production needed. For example, how do you export the video from your phone/tablet in the correct format to a PC so you can upload it securely to the person assessing the session? You may need to search the web for advice on how to do that for your particular device/software. Or just ask a teenager 😉

Note that although it is probably easy to upload video directly from a phone/tablet to an unlisted YouTube video (so you could simply send your tutor the link) you must not do this as it is insufficiently secure to meet professional requirements for confidentiality. At Southampton we have our internal Dropoff service which does meet those requirements.

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