Classroom Setups Evolve to Leverage Technology
My recent experience teaching digital photography at PowerPoint Live yielded a wealth of classroom experience in a new setup with which I’ve been toying. Other than practice in my office environment, it was the first opportunity I’ve had to test the gear in action and I am pleased to say that it worked in the field.
“Chimping for the Masses!”
My goal was to do a couple of things at once.
- Show live capture on a projection screen as it was captured
- Dump those live captures simultaneously into a folder on the hard drive for use in an image editing package
- Switch seamlessly between the two.
The key to the entire setup is to have a DSLR that can perform live output. (Although my Canon A550 P-n-S also worked well) This allows you to connect a laptop, a projector, and a DSLR in a circular arrangement to maximize your teaching opportunity so that you can demo all aspects of the digital imaging process live. The Canon 40D has a live preview option which allows you to use the Video Out Port on the camera to send a video signal to the projector. In addition, the USB to PC connection is in the same area making it possible to shoot the images without too much tangle of cords getting in the way.
The Video Out cable goes into the projector where it can broadcast the sensor’s live image to a projection screen. This makes it possible for the students to see the image as it is composed, captured, the depth of field previewed as well as menus and viewfinder displays.
The camera sends the captured images through the USB cable to the laptop where the EOS Utility that comes with the 40D monitors for incoming images and dumps them into a pre-determined folder. Here is the beauty of an image management package like Lightroom. Lightroom can be set to monitor this folder for the images and import them automatically. This makes it possible to edit the images you project and capture easily in the two preset image editors you’ve configured. In my case Lightroom will send a 16 bit ProPhoto image to either Photoshop CS3 or Corel Photo-Paint X4.
With the laptop set to snag all the captures and the camera broadcasting the video from the live preview and menu options all that is left to manage the show is a little deft projector input control. Most projectors allow you to do this in one of two ways. There is normally an input button on the top of the projector allowing you to toggle through the video sources. Some projectors come with remotes which allow you to switch the input source on the projector from the convenience of your laptop which is usually situated at the front of the classroom.
Understanding that battery drain on cameras is high in live preview modes, means having auxiliary power for your camera at hand to keep the show rolling. I used the Canon ACK-E2 AC power unit to ensure I could keep the live preview active when I needed it.
A setup like this allows you to truly integrate all the electronic components of digital imaging in a classroom environment so that all can see the composition, capture and editing processes. There is no trying to chimp a group of people around a small LCD, no downloading of card and importing of images long after they are captured, and there is no monkeying around with ultra-complex setups and frenetic cable swapping.
Doubtless this will be changing the process and the method of my future teaching. And, it is about time too!
Rikk Flohr © 2008