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Live-streaming lectures – with a special mobile bench

The coronavirus pandemic is creating major challenges for educational facilities in particular. 

Universities and further education institutes are currently conducting most of their teaching remotely, with students tuning in on their computers. As the pandemic situation has now eased, hybrid events are growing in popularity. Social distancing can be observed more easily when only some of the students are present in the lecture theatre, with the others at their desks at home. While a lecturer can handle a lecture where all students are attending via live stream on a laptop, the hybrid version is more complicated, as it throws up the following questions: How do you involve the students attending in person in such a way that the remote viewers don’t miss out on anything – such as taking questions in the lecture theatre? How do you achieve the necessary degree of flexibility if the lecturer wants to move around a bit more, for example? And is there any way to improve the quality of the transmission?

These questions were at the heart of a student project initiated by Professor Christoph S. Zoller of the Faculty of Automotive Systems and Production at TH Köln. The aim was to develop a special streaming bench using the item Work Bench System.

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High-quality live-streaming of lectures

“The idea was to design a mobile bench that is suitable for a range of scenarios and offers professional-quality audio and video,” Professor Zoller says. Since the main problem with the systems available on the market was the lack of the requisite flexibility, he decided to initiate a project to design a solution that would suit the relevant needs. The streaming bench developed by the three students is mobile and has an electrical height-adjustment system. It also has four Monitor Arms. A total of four HDMI sources can be connected. This provides a full overview at all times – for example, you can keep an eye on the presentation, the students in the room, the students attending remotely and system performance at the same time while giving a lecture. Two high-end mirror reflex cameras and additional lighting can be attached to two Pivot Arms. These cameras can record video in HD quality and be turned 180 degrees. There is also an integrated teleprompter. Open Broadcaster Software is used for editing or – in lecture situations – switching perspectives for the image on the projector.

A stable, industrial-standard, height-adjustable bench is the ideal solution. The item bench was therefore the number one choice to meet our requirements, especially with its flexibility and pivot arms.

There are also wireless microphones for the students attending in person in hybrid situations. This makes it possible for their classmates who are attending remotely to hear any discussions that might follow the lecture. Due to their familiarity with item from various other projects at TH Köln and their high quality requirements, the team decided to use a bench from the item Work Bench System. “A stable, industrial-standard, height-adjustable bench offered the ideal solution for our requirements. With its flexibility and pivot arms, item was our number one choice,” says Zoller. The combination of height adjustment and stability in particular is a key factor. Flexible adjustment – both height adjustment and castors to offer flexibility for positioning in the room – must not compromise the quality of the broadcast. As Zoller says: “Any vibration would affect the camera, meaning a standard height-adjustable desk simply doesn’t fit the bill.”

The streaming bench has every option needed for a range of room layouts.

One solution for various streaming options

Thanks to the versatile streaming bench, there is now a solution that can be used flexibly and easily in various scenarios and room set-ups. First of all, there is the hybrid lecture with live-streaming as already mentioned. The lecturer can even move away from the bench, tracked by one of the cameras, with an assistant taking care of controlling the image. Live-streaming from an empty lecture theatre is also feasible. Alternatively, the top-end technical equipment can be used to make and re-use high-quality recordings of events. However, the bench is not only perfect for live-streaming lectures – it’s also ideal for in-house university conferences and committee meetings. “These events are currently held digitally, for the most part, but a hybrid model has also been used for them in the past. We could go back to that. This bench can be positioned at the end of a conference table, meaning all the participants joining remotely can be seen,” Zoller says. In such cases, a table microphone picks up the sound in the conference room.

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