Directing your remote classes (Part 2)

Part of my ongoing ‘Directing your own online classes’ series. All articles can be found on this page.


In this post I’ll show you how I direct my live streaming. Basically I’m learning the ropes many online streamers (think of a Pewdiepie) have been doing for years. I always had the utmost respect for them…now even more. Many people think they ‘just’ talk to a camera, but the things they do before, during AND after a show are very technical and require lots of preparation.

Anyhow, so currently when I’m streaming, this is how my twee monitors minimal look like:

Monitor 1, the main stuff, on the left and monitor 2 on the right with the ‘behind the scene’ stuff

  • The left screen is the monitor that contains any content the stream can see (if I choose to). So basically this is where you DON’T open emails or bankingwebsite while teaching 😉
  • On the right screen I ‘direct’ my stream using OBS Project. I also have the PowerPoint active that I’m presenting there.
    • If you’re wondering how you put your PowerPoint in such a window: go to “Presentation” => “Settings” and set the option “Present in windowed mode for one person” (or something a like, I have a Dutch version). It doesn’t matter where you place it, simply make an OBS source that pinpoints to “a PowerPoint”, it will pick the first one that is open. So this will keep working no matter what PowerPoint open.
    • The view you see in the upper left corner of the second monitor in OBS is the actual stream the student will see. The lower parts contains all the possible scenes, sources and audio info.
    • The lower right part of the screen contains the “Multiview”-view of OBS. Basically you see here all the scenes you created and how they look. This is very handy if you want to make certain you’re switching to a scene that is ready to be shown. In fact, you can even click this little tiles to rapidly switch to that chosen.
      Multiview: In this demo I don’t have my remote sketch/whiteboard etc open, hence the black screens 4 & 6
  • I currently don’t use the OBS “studio mode” (which is in fact very handy) because for now I don’t want to manually control the fades, changes scenes beforehand, etc. I’m still learning and with one trial using the studio mode, I sometimes forgot to switch scenes.

OBS Scenes

For now, I’m still discovering OBS. I don’t know if this is the way to go, but I try to keep the amount of scenes minimal (and making sure to save them in a “scene collection”). A scene is literally that, a scene the audience will be able to see when I choose to.

Currently I have 4 scenes that I just throughout a streaming

  • Webcam : my face in full screen. I use this if I want to show something with my webcam (other than myself) or when I’m responding to a question that doesn’t require other views like code. I try to gesticulate a bit extra in order to make this scene a bit les boring 😉
  • Whiteboard: a full screen view of my sketching laptop, whatever is happening on it. If my sketching laptop is in use (kids use it to call their Corona-quarantined friends) I use a local whiteboard in the main pc.
  • Presentation: a full screen of my active PowerPoint presentation.
  • Main view: the most complex view that can contain combinations of the other scenes, a banner and a waiting screen

My Main View Scene uses the other scenes as sources, by doing this I can actually keep the look and feel of my different scenes everywhere the same. For example: if I change the lightning or colour in my webcam scene, this will also be seen in the Main View if I choose to view my webcam there.

My Main View Scene exists of the following sources:

  • All three other scenes, but the webcam scene is in the lower right portion now
  • A banner at the bottom containing information about the current stream (i.e. topic, date)
  • A waiting image: this image can be set to full screen. I use this if there’s no questions while the students work, or when I want to prepare some stuff and don’t need the student to see this (e.g. hide confidential information)
  • Monitor 1: a full screen of monitor one. For now, I’ve cropped the taskbar from it. The less distracting, visual, information the better.

Portions of a scene or source: use alt

Thanks to my students I finally discovered how to ‘crop’ a source or scene. By default if you click the red rectangle it allows you to resize a scene or source. However, if you alt+mouseclick you can actually crop a scene or source! This allows you to ‘cut out’ specific parts you only need to show.

Directing it all

Now comes the fun part. Actually streaming and thus directing. Simply put, once the stream starts (using panoto, teams or whatever) I switch live between the 4 different scenes I created, depending on what I’m currently doing (lecturing a more theoretical part, live coding, answering question, etc). Thanks to the OBS I don’t have any cognitive overhead in trying to make sure my screen isn’t cluttered etc. I can focus on THE TEACHING and only need to push 4 different buttons. How? There’s several solutions, I chose the last one in the following list:

  • Keyboard shortcuts:At first I created shortcuts in OBS for all my sources and scenes…resulting in a headache and even more messy streams: I frequently pushed the wrong shortcut, or created one that also did other things in other programs. So, this was no go.
  • Stream Deck Mobile app: Next up I used my phone as a remote, using Stream Deck Mobile. This app works very good and costs 3 dollar a month. When the lockdown is over and I have to teach on campus, this app will be my goto app. There’s other apps as well, but I really like Stream Deck Mobile because it:
    • is compatible with the hardware deck (up next)
    • is portable and takes your settings with you
    • has many plugins for existing tools such as OBS, StreamLabs, etc. making setup a piece of cake. (I actually learned some tricks in OBS through setting up my Stream Deck)
  • Stream Deck: I rapidly decided that I really wanted to actual hardware Stream Deck. I quiet expensive, but you don’t have to go with the 15 button version, there’s a cheaper 6 button version as well.And since you can have “multiple profiles” you basically have endless buttons. This nifty device allows me to bind actual buttons to actions such as switching scenes, sources, pausing the recording, muting, etc. You can define the buttons yourself including the images they show. You can even define an image for the ‘on’ state and one for the ‘off’ state, making it very easy , while teaching, to see what’s happening. No need to memorise shortcuts or switching to OBS to start clicking around. As an added benefit, it allows me to create ‘button profile’. I now have a “live teaching profile” and also a “kids quiz profile” that I use to stream a live Kahoot! quiz for the kids.

How it looks in the end?

Here you can so how I now can stream easily without any extra technical overhead. I just push buttons 🙂 This is the view that students see :

Hope I can inspire some of you to also go down this road. If you do, let me know please!

In part 3 I show how to use your mobile phones camera as an additional (or only) camera in OBS project.

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