Offline Features Including Recording and Editing

As described above, IMES is especially effective when one course or class is shared among multiple locations. However, there are cases where students or instructors want to record lectures and distribute them later (the international courses we observed included participants from nine countries in locations such as Asia and Africa, with as many as 6 h time zone difference. They somehow made do by starting class at 4pm. This will become impossible if any participants join from North or South America).

Therefore, we also developed as an external device for IMES a system to enable recording and storing lectures in high resolution, and making edits, as needed, for standalone transmission at a later time. The problem here is that IMES sends and receives two screens—video of the instructor/students and the presentation screen. When recorded as two separate video streams, both timelines must be kept in careful sync, or editing becomes extremely difficult when importing into editing software (also called non-linear editing). There is also no video or audio for the presentation screen, because it is difficult to shift the time of one in the editing software and align it with the other. To address these problems, we developed a simultaneous video recording tool.

This simultaneous video recording tool saves the two video types as separate files on to a single hard disk, and keeps their timelines in sync when they are imported into editing software as content for editing. During the editing process, they are typically combined into a single widescreen image (the 16:9 aspect ratio used in high definition broadcasts). During presentation, the screen on the right is

Fig. 22.5 An example of an edited screen

the original presentation screen (4:3 aspect ratio), and laser pointer markings are embedded as images. Instructor video other video is placed in the space left over at the left side of the screen. Of course, other editing is possible as well, such as swapping the two screens depending on the course/class, or using wipe or other transition effects. An example of an edited screen is shown in Fig. 22.5 above.

Users love this combined screen view, so as an added feature, IMES currently makes available a “low-bitrate A/V distribution system” as a web view (at a lower resolution) at all times. It is convenient when the signal is lost during a class or to monitor class conditions.

Conclusion and Topics for Future Discussion

As described above, we developed and continually improved a system under the concept of multi-point, real time and bidirectional courses, actually using the system throughout the year in a course held once a week, by placing equipment in eight overseas countries. The IMES system we built was comprised of commercially available video conferencing systems and a control PC with the remote presentation system software described above, using one of three configurations from rack mount to laptop PC, depending on the time of configuration and size of the site (Fig. 22.6). IMES was proven to be extremely effective through a series of international course experiences. Field work is extremely important in environmental studies as was the case here, and the system showed its value in the importance of discussing things before field work, such as sharing opinions or going over detailed schedules

Fig. 22.6 (a) Rack mount type; (b) Desktop PC type; (c) laptop PC type of External appearance of IMES

Fig. 22.7 Several class scenes using IMES

or procedures, and for summarizing or presenting post-field work data. The field work of an international team and preand post-field work discussion work went very smoothly, thanks to the use of IMES.

IMES is currently being evaluated in classes other than environmental studies as described above, such as at the medical faculty of a nearby university (not our own university), being used to hold seminars with remote graduate students in one professor's laboratory, as well as being used for non-recurring events such as symposiums.

Several class scenes are shown in Fig. 22.7 above.

However, the skillful use of IMES depends not just on student not simply feeling he or she is watching a “video course,” but how skillfully the instructor can bring the people from the remote side closer to his or her side. Instructors should call on many students and invite them to speak even when they don't volunteer, announce the results of group work, showing the importance of the strength of course coordinators in making the course more interactive.

Only pointer tracks can be shared at this time, but there remain many development desires, such as sharing over an electronic board instead of whiteboards, simultaneous control of various software packages in every location, or enabling presentation of even more types of presentation materials.

In any case, it is without a doubt that communication tools such as IMES that break down space and time barriers will grow even more essential the global society of tomorrow.

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