A Way to (Almost Automatically) Record Your Presentations for $140

I’ve been using Camtasia to record my lectures since 2009. It is an outstanding product, and it rarely has failed me. But I know that there are “smart classroom” that automatically record class sessions, and I wanted to create one without breaking the bank. I think I’ve achieved that goal, and I’ll tell you how in this article.

Having two teens and one tween in the house, I know how alluring video games are. My kids have shown me videos on Twitch of people playing particular games. How did the player’s record these videos? They connected a device to their XBox One or Playstation 4 and let it do its thing. So, I thought, why not do the same for the equally fun experiences that are my lectures?

After a little research, I purchased the ClearClick HD Capture Box from Amazon for $99. The ClearClick features an HDMI input, and it also has an HDMI output for passing the video signal to your projector or SmartBoard. You connect your computer’s HDMI output to its HDMI input, connect a flash drive to its USB port, and it records an mp4 of your HDMI signal to the flash drive. No setup is required. By default, it records a 1080p signal. To record a 720p signal, which is what I need, you simply hold the Rec/Stop button until it changes from green to blue. Then, to engage the recording, you press and let go of the Rec/Stop button. To stop the recording, you press and let go of the Rec/Stop button again. You can then remove the flash drive and connect it directly to your computer for viewing, further processing, or uploading to a server. It couldn’t be simpler.

As a classroom media specialist, you would position the ClearClick between the instructor’s computer and the projector or SmartBoard. The computer’s output would connect to the ClearClick’s input, and the ClearClick’s output would connect to the projector or SmartBoard.

As a teacher, you would connect your computer to the input of the ClearClick. You’d also connect your flash drive to the ClearClick’s USB port. Then, when class starts, you’d press the Rec/Stop button on the ClearClick to start recording. When class is done, click the Rec/Stop button again, wait for the LED next to the button to stop flashing, and then remove the flash drive so that you can take it back to your office to do with it whatever you need.

Unfortunately, this will record the video only. To have the ClearClick record the audio, too, you need to connect a microphone to its mic input. You could connect any mic that has a 3.5 mm male connector. Or, if you want to move around as you present your classes, you’ll want to connect a wireless mic to the ClearClick’s mic input. A wireless mic will free you from having to stand at the podium, and that is what I opted for.

The wireless mic I purchased was the FinFine Lavalier Lapel Microphone for $32. The lapel mic has a receiver with a 1/4″ male connector, as well as a wireless transmitter connected to a microphone that you attach to your shirt. To connect the lapel mic to the ClearClick, I had to use a 1/4″-female-to-3.5mm adapter that I purchased in a five-pack for $7.99. Once connected to the lapel mic, you will be able to record what you show on your screen along with what you say onto your flash drive.

Here is a picture of my setup.

To review: assuming you have connected the output of your computer to the input of the ClearClick and the output of the ClearClick to the projector or SmartBoard, just clikc the Rec/Stop button at the beginning of class to begin recording. Press the Rec/Stop button at the end of class to end recording. And there you have it – an almost automatic way to record your lectures.

I did run into a problem with the size of the files recorded by the ClearClick: they are larger than what I usually post. For a 50-minute recording, I typically post a 100 MB file, but the ClearClick produces a 300 MB file for 50 minutes of video. So, I needed to come up with a way to reduce the file size of the videos recorded by the ClearClick. I wrote a Python program to do this. and that is detailed here. If you want to upload conveniently sized videos to a web server so that your students can download them, feel free to use the code I’ve posted there.

About Ray Klump

Associate Dean, College of Aviation, Science, and Technology at Lewis University Director, Master of Science in Information Security Lewis University http://online.lewisu.edu/ms-information-security.asp, http://online.lewisu.edu/resource/engineering-technology/articles.asp, http://cs.lewisu.edu. You can find him on Google+.

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