Mixers have a lot of little knobs and buttons and switches, which can be confusing to us laypeople. We just want good sound, without being too quiet or too distorted. We just want it to work!
The importance of gain in your mix is important. it's how you can help control that upper end distortion, empowering your volume knob to have as much of a usable range as possible. A thoughtfully set gain knob makes all the difference. Take a look at this video to learn more:
Another question from the Belly Dance Teaching Online group I belong to/admin!
"We started w the website computer (ugh), changed to casting from the phone, and currently are using a webcam. I wonder if I should just go for the DSLR...do you happen to have one you recommend at all?
Again, this is so helpful and I am grateful you are willing to share all of this info."
This question comes from a comment by V. Violett, and the subsequent discussion on the Belly Dance Teaching Facebook Group. VV is currently using iTunes as a share within Zoom, and an external mic coming in via the mini-jack plug on the side of her HP laptop. She is seeking ways to streamline her set-up before classes, and is considering a virtual mixer over a physical mixer for her use-case. Here's my thoughts:
Sound can be tricky--it really varies based on what device(s) you are using, your environment, and not the least of the factors: BUDGET!
I have tried 3-4 different sound set ups, but the best for me so far has been a small USB mixer with my music and voice going into that, then via USB going into my computer. I have tried different microphones, and learned the old adage "you get what you pay for" is largely true. There are a few exceptions, but the cheaper you go on wireless mics, you'll find battery life and consistency of connection can be an issue.
In-room sound didn't work for me (meaning set up a mic to capture in-room voice and music), not only because it makes all sound a bit muddier, but it means any ambient noise potentially goes into my feed as well. Street sounds, the massive industrial heater over my head, other people using shared spaces at my studio, etc. would all be in the mix. With a closed system (wireless mic and iPod into mixer), I get very clear sound and little to no distracting noise. Bonus, when I go to hybrid classes and we're still masked in-person, I won't have to try to yell to be heard through my mask and over music. I can choose to amplify my voice via my in-room speakers as well as transmit to the stream. But that's a topic for another time...
My gear list is pretty simple, not cheap, not high end, and works:
Many times when in conversations online about connectivity issues with Zoom, there is often confusion about internet capability and how it effects your Zoom call experiences. Comments like, "I don't get it. I can stream Netflix just fine..." are common, and I was among them! I was able to learn what my issue was and fix it, and I want to pass this knowledge on to you.
I purchased the Aukey FHD Webcam based on a recommendation by someone on an online streaming teacher's group; and after reading reviews, it looked promising. I got mine at a steal of a price ($30) and super quick delivery and I was so excited to try it. As of this writing it is shipping overnight to my area for even cheaper, only $24. However, I do not recommend this camera. Read on to learn more.
At my studio, Studio Deep Roots, we have two beloved dance and movement spaces. My classes have been primarily held in the Warehouse Studio, which is our larger space, and is also our performance space for haflas and music events. When COVID-19 closed down the studio, I quickly set up our live streaming classes in the smaller studio--The JewelBox--as it was easier to control environmental factors that would effect the quality of the stream and our comfort as instructors, such as light, sound, and heat.
Over many weeks of tweaking and fine-tuning the details, we were able to come up with both sound and visual quality for our classes that has been great. Students have reported our classes as some of the highest quality they have experienced in streaming classes--in presentation and content--and that is high praise indeed given the massive influx of opportunities they have right now. It made all the hard work worthwhile.
Bonus: it's plug n' play! So any teacher who comes to rent our space can--with a little tutorial on how to turn on the proper lighting--plug their laptop into the system and be able to stream their high quality dance classes from this space using this great equipment. Check it out.
Recorded at Studio Deep Roots as part of our "Deep Roots Live!" live streaming classes with Deep Roots Dance. This week, we had a mix of mainly experienced dancers, so we did a slightly modified Week 3 all around, with alternate drills in finger cymbals, and some brief re-breakdown of Basic Egyptian, and very short taqsim practice at the end. Enjoy!
No matter what platform you are teaching on, you most likely have run into issues at one time or another with trying to find the right lighting for teaching dance, yoga, or other movement online. Any number of these common complaints sound familiar?
The joke among my students and me is "New Week; New Tweak!" It's like a game of spot the differences from a newspaper or magazine, now coming to you LIVE in your living room. LOL If it's not some new piece of tech--like a new camera, upgrading the WiFi, or an improved lavalier mic--it's a new way we're setting up the space to make it easier for students to see us on whatever device which they are trying to study with us.
In this slideshow, look at the evolution of backdrops in our teaching. From a bland beige we blend in with too easily, to vibrant colors, and even a move to a new studio space. You can see how the different colors and textures of a background, in combination with what we choose to wear each week, can make a big difference.
What tweaks have YOU introduced to your online classroom since you began? I'd love to hear other ideas and inspirations!
Shay is the owner, director, and headmistress of Deep Roots Dance, Studio Deep Roots, and Deep Roots Live! Sharing the exciting and surreal journey into teaching online during the time of COVID-19, and the joys of staying connected to community when it seems the world is literally trying to keep us apart.