Enhancing webcams creatively for online teaching?

  • Hey,

    As we move into the new normal of online teaching, I would love to be able to have more control over how I send my image out into the world. In my case, my institution is forcing us to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, which is about as inspiring as the DMV (for those outside the US it is where we have to go to get our driver's licenses). 

    Blackboard, as I would imagine most similar things, only looks for what it sees to be webcams, and will thus offer a choice of whatever camera is available. But that is it. No creative control of any kind. So that brings me to the question--is it possible to somehow make the output of Isadora available to the rest of my computer such that programs that don't talk to syphon or NDI can connect to it as a video source? Is there any syphon app that can convert the signal to be seen generically as a webcam source? Am I just missing something incredibly simple?

    it would be so great to be able to have a simple interface at hand that would allow me to do live mixing or add effects while teaching. Apparently Zoom does allow for green screen but my institution won't support a Zoom pro license.

    Any thoughts out there?

    Hope you all are staying safe and sane. Crazy here in the Bay Area. 

  • @swda using a second computer with a capture card that gets its input from your Isadora computer would give you a lot of control. The capture card should show up as a webcam on the teaching software, and can be fed with the output of your Isadora computer.

    You can use the webcam on your Isadora machine to show your face when you want (via an Isadora scene) or to show your interface.

    On PC you may have some luck with manycam or other such software that creates a virtual webcam, but on Mac as far as I know these solutions do not exist.

  • Weird--thought I just replied but guess I hit the wrong button? Anyway, I figured it out after a lot of trial and error. Using camtwist. So Isadora/syphon/camtwist/blackboard. Took a long time to figure out how to get blackboard to work with camtwist but seems like it is working now.

    Just trying to find ways to make this fun for myself and entertaining for my stressed out students.

  • Beta Platinum

    @swda said:


     Hi Sheldon,

    I have used Camtwist for sharing an Isadora stage as a webcam stream. It worked OK but always disappointed by the frame rate and that the end viewer was seeing a lot less frames than what appeared to be going out. Things may have improved along the way since then.

    Best Wishes

  • That is interesting. Thanks for sharing your experience. I'll have to test that. It looked fine on my end or at least ok but I'll broadcast it to someone and see what they get. I suppose it is all going to be pretty crappy no matter what especially once I have 16-20 students all sharing a screen space with their own images. Hopefully the internet and servers for all of this intense online activity is going to stay functional. Was okay yesterday.

  • Tech Staff


    Not a precise answer to your question, but Syphoner and ScreenCaptureSyphon (mac only) can be used to turn any application into a syphon feed which could form part of a solution if you're trying to bring other software into Isadora (though you'd still need to figure out a way to send out the Isadora feed as a webcam feed): https://community.troikatronix.com/topic/1954/capture-video-from-another-program/6

    OBS, if I recall correctly, can also turn your screen view into an NDI source (with an additional plugin I think), so that offers another way of manipulating software to get a feed into Isadora.

    It looks like Blackboard Collaborate Ultra also supports screen-sharing, so you could share a second monitor (to which you feed your Isadora Stage) and do your Isadora work on your primary monitor. Combined with Syphoner/ScreenCaptureSyphon, you can select Isadora itself (meaning what you're doing in the main window while you're programming) as a Syphon feed which can then be fed into Isadora, allowing you to use Isadora as a video mixer to switch between showing the Stage Output and the programming interface on the second screen-shared monitor. Does that make sense?

  • Sorry I didn't reply sooner. Like all of us, adapting has been a full time job and not leaving a lot of room for adapting creatively. But getting there. I am currently using Isadora to at least have some creative control over how my image goes out to my students. Took some tweaking but camtwist is working pretty well. 

    Like many others, I am hoping to be able to get going quickly with live streaming student projects as well as find solutions that are somewhat student friendly that will allow us to join students together in single screens. I know how to do all that technically. More a matter of energy at this point.

     Thanks again for your insights.

  • If it matters, blackboard screen sharing is horrid for video so that was abandoned pretty quickly. Camtwist works fine but do you think it would ever be possible to make Isadora outputs available as a virtual webcam as camtwist somehow does?

  • Tech Staff

    @swda said:

    If it matters, blackboard screen sharing is horrid for video so that was abandoned pretty quickly. Camtwist works fine but do you think it would ever be possible to make Isadora outputs available as a virtual webcam as camtwist somehow does?


  • @woland

    if that was implemented it would be awesome. at the moment i have a project that uses hardware to create a virtual webcam out of Isadora (i don't like using Camtwist) so to get it working naturally would be another level-up for Isadora.

  • @dbini om currently looking into implementing this for some other C++ based projects. If anyone feels like going deep this is my starting point https://github.com/webcamoid/w...

  • Beta Platinum


    +1 - I agree, this would be of real value. Not just now but into the bright future post covid19.

    Kind regards