Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Goodbye Cameraman...Hello Swivl

I don't know about you, but making a video is hard.  I struggle to balance my device, get just the right shot, and stay in the camera's field of vision.   For me, it is definitely a challenge.  I've had others hold the camera, operate the tripod, and help build a tower of boxes to attempt to hold the device at the right height. I make lots of videos with both teachers and students and have yet to master just the right set-up.  So when I saw the opportunity to apply to be a Swivl Video Pioneer, I jumped on it.  And guess what???  I got it!!! Now, what exactly that entails, I have yet to understand, but what I do know is that I get to give the Swivl a try! My box arrived almost a month ago...about the time my summer class began, so I have used it only a couple of times, but wanted to share what I like about it already.

The Swivl Robot makes creating video (and soon...live streaming) easy with its seamless integration of the Swivl app.  Users can place an smart phone or tablet in the stand on the Swivl Robot and the robot will turn to follow you as you move about the room.  All you need to do to make it work is carry the included marker which contains a high definition microphone and a sensor for tracking. And just like that...the Swivl moves the way you do.  This is a million times better than the tripod or bulky video conferencing machine I normally use.  I usually have to physically move the tripod or try to manipulate the bigger machine with a remote control.  Needless to say, both options produce jerky results making the end view of the video less than ideal.

I also like the audio quality of the built-in microphone on the Swivl marker that is held or worn by the presenter. The sound is clear and plays back at a comfortable volume.  I usually use my Apple headphones when I am creating a screencast, but they are quite limiting when I am trying to record myself teaching or presenting.  Therefore, I frequently end up with poor sound quality unless I focus on raising my voice to abnormally loud levels.  With the Swivl, I am able to speak at normal a volume and feel much more natural when I record.  Here is a video I made.  See if you can recognize the point at which I changed mics to narrate. (I should warn you...this is the video of my first attempt at using it!)

By using the the Swivl app, it is possible to record and upload video directly into the Swivl Cloud, which...are you ready for this???...has unlimited storage!!!  Now, I obviously love the free storage, but I did find myself wishing that I could access my video directly from the device I used to create the video.  In my original video, I wanted to make a few edits and add additional clips. Unfortunately, the only option within the Swivl app was to upload the video to the Swivl Cloud before I could access it.  Still not a huge problem, but we do not have unlimited internet where we live.  We use a hotspot with a limited monthly data plan, so I don't like to unnecessarily upload and download files (it cost $$$).  I was really hoping to be able to have the video that I filmed store directly into my camera roll, so that I could make my edits without using my hotspot's precious limited data.  I know...its a minor issue and does not effect my overall love for the Swivl)

In short, I like it...alot!  It is lightweight, compact, and easy to use. There is video support to get you started, along with a list of frequently asked question to which users may refer, if needed. With the robot's ability to move, a teacher or student is able to make a video without being planted in one spot for the duration of the recording. By utilizing the included marker (which is what the robot tracks) the user is able to be mobile and still be clearly heard.

I can see this being used to flip the classroom, record students reading aloud, film best teaching practices, and record guest speakers and special events.  I took it to ISTE and I plan on using it at the Discovery Educator Network's Summer Institute, so expect more videos to come.

Are you videoing in your classroom?  If. so, please share.  I am eager to explore more applications for the Swivl!

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