We were asked at the cutting-edge BEtreat to go through the equipment we were using to bring online people into the room and to give some idea of how much it costs. Our intention is to use technology and equipment that would be within the budget of an average community (usually rather modest) and which doesn’t require an expert to come in and set up. It also has to be compatible with our Macs.

In whole group discussions “online folk” are projected onto a big screen at the front. We use Adobe Connect for the video-conferencing and Skype for sound. The sound quality on Adobe Connect is not nearly so good as Skype. However, as we discovered at the Academic BEtreat, Skype sound with more than four people quite often drops.

It’s tiring for onliners to be listening and participating for such long periods so we have invested in good microphones to give them better quality sound. We use music stands to prop up a computer or i-pad when they join in small group discussions with “face-to-facers”.

We don’t claim that this is the ideal set-up – it is simply what we have found, mostly through googling and our trusted friends. Next BEtreat we’ll invest in more good microphones for the small group conversations instead of using internal computer mics. Up until now we’ve been using some perfectly good speakers we’ve had for a while to bring online voices into the room, although we ended up simply using our internal Mac Book Pro speakers in the Academic BEtreat.

Equipment Qty
The good The less good
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 1080p 3LCD Projector 1 $1,299 One of our best buys. Huge, but does very well in bright light. Optical lens shift  so you can easily move picture up and down or make it bigger or smaller. Gets very hot. Bulky, taking up a lot of space.
Epson projector Powerlite 1725
1 $1200 We use this for a second screen and for smaller groups wanting to project their online folks. Small and portable. Not an HD projector; screen is not so wide.
203 Project-o Stand Projection 11.25INX19IN Table Shelf 1 $114 Simple, robust stand that easily comes apart for storing.
Da-lite Model B 96X96 Mw Manual Pull Down Screen
1 $105 Great size!
Shure PG42-USB Vocal Microphone  1 $249 Makes for very good quality sound. We also use it as a shared microphone for webinars and phone conferences. We’ll get more for small group conversations next year. Sensitive to background noise.
On-Stage MS7201B Microphone Stand 2 $23 Good, solid.
Shure PG288/PG58 Dual Vocal Wireless System 2 $495 Sound quality is excellent and they don’t pick up any feedback. Eats up batteries. Rechargeable 9 volt batteries last a few hours; non-rechargeable last a day.
Shure PG30-TQG Cardioid Condenser Headset Microphone with TA4F Connector 2 $39 A good idea at the time for people leading a discussion. We used these for the first day in 2011. But we decided that a mic going around makes turn-taking explicit; this (and stating your name) helps online people know who’s talking.
Logitech 960-000764 HD Pro Webcam 6 $99 Noticeably good quality for the price. We have two each for the main room and one for each small group. It would be good to have a videocam in this price range that could zoom
On-Stage SM7211 Professional Folding Orchestral Music Stand, Black 20 $30 We’re glad we went for the more expensive but solid ones. They were meant as a placeholder for online folk, but people use them for keeping papers and computers.
Altec Lansing BXR1220 2.0 Speaker System 4 $20 We attached these to the music stands to amplify the sound of online folk. It never quite worked, so we haven’t used these speakers much.

In addition we bought 2 x 100 feet (30 meter) internet cables and many – many – extension chords.