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Lecture capture: What is it, and how it works

“Lecture capture” is a term you’ll probably hear whenever AV and education are part of the same discussion. For good reason: lecture capture is one of the most common applications for video in education today. Looking for clarity on what lecture capture means? To help you gain a deeper understanding, this blog provides an overview of the following:

  • What is lecture capture?
  • Critical components of a lecture capture system
  • What is a video encoder?
  • How lecture capture works
  • Create best-in-class lecture recordings

What is lecture capture?

“Lecture capture” is an umbrella term for various video applications in education. At its core, it refers to recording live lectures for students to watch back (or for the first time) later.

The reasons why this capability appeals to students – and, in turn, why universities go to great lengths to make this available – are compelling:

  • Flexibility – If students can’t attend a tutorial or lecture in person, they can catch up on the course material by watching the recording when they have time.
  • Comprehension – Students who feel behind or want a refresher on a key concept can review the relevant lecture(s) on demand. Lecture recordings are also excellent study aids for upcoming exams.
  • Accessibility – On-demand lecture videos can support the success of students with disabilities or learning impairments.

Critical components of lecture capture

What does the typical lecture capture setup look like? Typically, there are five key components:

  • Video source(s) – Cameras, a laptop running a slide deck, a tablet or other mobile device, etc.
  • Audio source(s) – Microphones, sometimes paired with a mixer or an in-room audio system
  • Video encoder – A general-purpose computer running a recording application or a dedicated appliance purpose-built for recording and/or streaming
  • Video content management system (CMS) – E.g., Kaltura, Panopto, YuJa, Opencast, Echo360
  • Learning management system (LMS) – E.g., Canvas, Blackboard Learn, Moodle

The first two items are self-explanatory, so we’ll focus mainly on the last three points.  

What’s a video encoder?

A video encoder is the central piece of lecture capture technology. It’s the software or device that covers the recording. Video encoders come in two varieties:

  • software encoder is an application for video recording or streaming that runs on PC or Mac hardware. Some run in your web browser, but most are standalone apps. OBS, Panopto Recorder, and Kaltura CaptureSpace Recorder are a few examples.
  • hardware encoder is an appliance purpose-built for video streaming and recording. All the components inside were designed for this purpose, and the underlying software was engineered explicitly.

Software or hardware?

Every educational institution that embarks on lecture capture faces the decision of whether to use a software encoder or a dedicated hardware appliance.

So, which is best - lecture capture software or lecture capture hardware?

The short answer is that hardware encoders are much more reliable than software and offer unique ways to streamline lecture capture workflows for maximum efficiency. Software encoders are only suitable for low-pressure productions. You’ll want a dedicated appliance handling your encoding for high-quality video and audio. A few of the critical benefits of hardware encoders are:

  • Better performance – they’ll run more smoothly than a computer built with general-purpose parts.
  • More flexibility – multiple video inputs that let you directly connect mirrorless cameras, camcorders, and other high-end equipment
  • More reliable – a hardware encoder is built from the ground up for streaming and recording with no competing or extraneous processes.
  • Easier to service – designed and assembled by a single manufacturer who acts as your point of contact.

And if you’re in the market for a hardware encoder for your live video streaming, we’ve got you covered. Epiphan’s Pearl family of hardware encoders are durable, easy to use, and rigorously tested for long-term reliability. Check out the  Pearl system compare page for more details.

What’s a CMS?

A content management system (CMS) is a web portal that stores, manages, and distributes video content. Deploying a CMS is necessary for schools that create lots of video content. Many include features like live streaming and recording session scheduling, analytical tools that provide actionable insight into how students engage with your video content, and video editors for trimming and annotating.

Most CMSs are searchable, letting students quickly find moments within lectures based on keywords, whether  embedded in a snippet of an instructor’s speech or a line on a PowerPoint slide.

Are you searching for a CMS for your school? Check out Epiphan’s blog on the best video platforms for education.

What’s an LMS?

A learning management system (LMS) is a web-based portal where students can access content for courses they’re enrolled in, submit assignments, view their grades, and so on. An LMS may include tools for managing and delivering educational video content. Still, they’re primarily meant as platforms for professors and instructors to create and provide online course content (lesson slide decks, multiple-choice quizzes, etc.) and measure student performance.

Ideally, you can integrate your video CMS and LMS to streamline your video production and grading workflows. For example, some CMSs can directly feed quiz scores from interactive videos into students’ LMS profiles.

Despite their different functions, schools often treat CMSs and LMSs as the same. That’s understandable: in some cases, the integration between CMS and LMS is refined enough to render the CMS invisible to everyone but the IT team. Just know that the CMS and LMS are two very distinct elements when setting up or updating a lecture capture system of your own.

How lecture capture works

You have your video and audio sources, video encoder, CMS, and LMS. What happens next? A well-integrated lecture capture workflow will go something like this:

Video and audio sources transfer signals to the video encoder, which is either hardware or software-based.

The encoder captures and combines the sources into a digital format. Ideally, the system will automatically upload any recordings to the CMS.

The CMS processes and stores the lecture capture content.

On-demand, the LMS communicates with the CMS to play back the lecture recordings for students.

Diagram of a learning management system using a video encoder

Create best-in-class lecture recordings

An Epiphan Pearl video production system is the most effective way to record video, whether the subject is a lecture in a traditional classroom, flipped classroom content in a dedicated lecture recording studio, or a convocation ceremony in a sprawling event hall – whatever your school needs.

Purpose-built for recording and streaming, Pearl hardware encoders make it easy to create videos that look and sound professional. And with comprehensive Kaltura, Panopto, and YuJa CMS integrations, uploading and managing all your lecture capture content is easy.

*The information in this blog is extracted from Epiphan.

About Epiphan

Epiphan Video provides award-winning, purpose-built hardware solutions that help your business create impactful video content. 

The Epiphan Pearl range of hardware encoders is the ultimate system for maximum versatility with multi-encoding, multi-streaming, recording, custom layouts, switching, and more. Ideal for use in live event production, enterprise communication or lecture capture in higher education.

AP Tech is the authorised Australian distributor of Epiphan Video products. Every Epiphan solution from AP Tech is backed by local warranty and support.

A. P. Technologies Pty Ltd, Andrew Paton November 27, 2022
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