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.
If you are having no issues with your streaming services, but are having trouble in Zoom, it is likely because you have excellent DOWNload speeds, but slow UPload speeds. Most residential internet is optimized for download, because we are most often trying to bring data INTO our homes, not send it out. In the time of COVID, though, and in the case of trying to teach and/or learn from home, our needs are a little different.
I had terrible Zoom issues at my studio at the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, more frustratingly, it would be fine for about 45 minutes to an hour of classes, and then BAM! At 8pm like clockwork, we would be stuttering and freezing such that it was impossible to hold class at all. I was frustrated and losing hope that I would be able to make it work. Luckily, I have a husband who Knows All The Things about technology and suggested I run a speed test or three at different times of the day when I might want to use Zoom, and see what my speed UP was. So I ran some speed tests (link below for that). I did the first ones during the day--aka low usage hours in my area--for a control group, then ran tests in the evening with some helpful, patient students and friends.
Sure enough, the speed test revealed just what was happening. When I ran tests, I was getting 70-80 Mbps down, and 5 Mbps up...until about 7:45/8:00 pm. At that time, it would dip significantly--as low as .7 Mbps up during "prime time" in my area. I confirmed this with a few calls to the tech help desk with my internet provider as well. They were seeing the same dips at the same time due to the entire neighborhood using regional internet services around the same time of day.
A little research showed that Zoom wants about a MINIMUM of 2Mbps for "group calls", but the minimum gets higher with greater data load. This means a one-on-one call takes less bandwidth than a group call, and also the higher quality video you want to offer, the better sound you want to offer, and every additional student will add to your overall load.
I was lucky we had a fiber internet option in my area, and now I have ridiculous speed both directions and no issues. You can run a speed test at this provided link. Make sure you do it during a time of day when YOU will hold classes, because it can look very different depending on time of day. If possible, do it with as close to the conditions you hold your classes, aka number of students, video quality, lighting, and sound in the mix can all effect your results:
If you find your speeds are low, talk to your internet provider about options. In talking with fellow teachers there are a number of possible solutions they may be able to offer. If your speeds aren't all that bad, the next step is to check how far you are from your router, upgrading your router, or adding a WiFi booster to your home set-up. Of course the best option is to hardwire to your internet, to remove any connection degradation from wireless internet.
Steps beyond that, which your internet provider may be able to offer could be upgrading the wiring to your home, and/or upgrading their tech at the street. One of my dancer's internet provider noted that some of their tech at the nearest telephone poll was due for repair/upgrade, which they did at no cost to her and fixed her issues right away. Alternately, they may be able to offer you a different package, with better speeds in both directions, and/or upgrading to fiber internet, if it is available in your area. This one will likely cost you more, though how much will vary widely. I was lucky to be close to the nearest fiber connection, so minimal work on their end, and they had a sale on new customers. I was able to close one account and open a different account (it meant being without internet between the two, so not everyone will be able to do this), costing me about $100 for a new router that could handle the upgraded tech, but only $5 more a month for ludicrous speed improvements over my old internet.
Whatever your issue, and whatever your solution, I hope you are able to track down the culprit and nip it in the bud! Happy dancing!
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.
I got it set up easily--plug n' play as expected--and while the wide angle was excellent and not too fish-eye, the colors were a little off (orangey) and the whites blew out. When I say blew out, I mean just the light from my monitor was making me a complete ghost. I had to turn off all the lights in the room sit 4 feet back from my computer to stop it from making me look like a glowing, featureless figure. Any natural light in the room made it even more terrible. Worse yet, I was getting wavy lines on my video, we believe because the framerate is matching the same as my LED smart bulbs. That I could tweak, with different lighting, but the color being off and the whites blowing way out in even low lighting, I decided to exchange it in hopes it was just a defective model.
No such luck. I got the replacement in two days (thanks Amazon!), but this one was ALSO blowing out the whites, the color was off in a different direction (a distinct green cast), and the issue with the wavy lines was worse. Rather than keep taking my chances, I am just returning the second one also. If you need to do video in the dark, and don't care about colors being off (and use different light bulbs, I guess!), I guess this would work okay. Here's a screencap of me with the orange-tinted camera. I have my lights set to as low as they could go and am sitting back from my computer screen, but you can see the orange (for sure), as well as how bright the left side of my face toward my monitors is. Any more light than this and I was washing out. I mean, I KNOW I am a super pale white chick, but still!
Based on the near-identical form factor to the C920's, these may very well be chips and lenses that just didn't pass Q&A with Logitech, being resold as a random Chinese brand. Some people are getting lucky, and the ways they are defective don't effect the video quality enough to be an issue. In my case, both ones I tried were complete deal breakers. Luckily the return policy is excellent, so I guess it won't hurt for you to try, and you might get lucky as some reviewers on Amazon seem to have been. But burned twice was enough for me. A definite DO NOT BUY for me.
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!
Everywhere you look right now there is some dance teacher experiencing an issue or complaint with Zoom and their audio. If I had a dime for every time I ran across a post about these frustrations, our studio would be set up for the rest of the pandemic, let me tell you! If you are one of these teachers, I thought I'd break it down into some simple concepts so you can at least understand the issue, and maybe you can start to find the solution that is right for you. In a future blog post, we can look at answers (or perhaps you will be empowered to employ better Google-fu than you felt able to before!) Here we go...
In short: Zoom doesn't like processing sound from multiple sources. In fact, it is specifically designed NOT to. It was optimized for office environments, where it wants to prioritize sound from a single source at a time, and actively suppress or de-prioritize sound from any other source. Think of all those clickety-clackety keyboards, or conference rooms with squeaky chairs. Zoom was offering a solution to certain problems. Unfortunately, they created problems for us dancers when we tried to use it for our unique use-case.
New session begins this week, May 21st. Registration is open now, and we can't wait to see you in class!
What will the new tweaks be? Who knows? In the last few weeks we jazzed up the live studio to add a little pizzazz. We really take your feedback into account to help improve what we bring to you each week, so thanks for everything you share with us over on the Deep Roots Live! Facebook Page, guys. And if you haven't joined us over there yet, we hope you will. It's just for you livestreamers!
What tweaks have we seen over the last 6 weeks? Take a look at our first week photo vs. now...peek at the tweaks:
As we move to the internal during quarantine, and examine way we are spending our time and energies now and in the weeks and months ahead, I want to share this dancer blog post with excellent advice. Here are just a sampling of the gems:
7. Strive to constantly make new discoveries about dancing (rather than waiting to be spoon fed the answers). This is a crucial part of developing your unique perspective and voice. Don’t be a dance robot.
8. Seek out instructors/mentors they mesh with and who push them.
9. Practice the shit out of everything. Does this one need explaining? Of course you’ll need to do high-quality practice, not mindless practice.
10. Disregard their inner critics’ harsh thoughts. Your inner critic is just a little child trying to distract you from doing worthwhile things. Hit the ignore button.
Read the whole article here:
My feed seems full of friends playing with make-up right now during quarantine. What a fun way to break up the monotony of COVID-19 quarantine, to add a splash of color and sass to your day!
To get you in the spirit, here's a link to a blog post I made way back in the day, and the tutorials within are still some of my faves for basics in everyday makeup skills for those getting started. And of course, I still think my basic tutorial on tribal bellydance makeup is a solid guide, but I'll let you be the judge. Check it out, and have fun playing!
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.