Home-Made Document Camera / Visualiser

Angle-PoiseI needed a visualiser for a presentation I was doing at work. The idea was to give worksheets to the audience and then complete them by hand under the visualiser. This has many advantages compared with IWBs – not least that you work facing the audience and can develop concepts with ease just using traditional pen and paper. You can also place physical models under the camera – try that with a long-in-the-tooth overhead projector! And, a big plus for some, you don’t need to perform the “OHP Shuffle” to avoid blocking the light!

8453911698_cdd8bebc29_bI found an old angle-poise lamp and stripped off the shade and fittings. This left a thread protruding which was a near-enough fit for an old tripod head I had lying around. You can get a new unbranded one off eBay for less than a fiver. I then fitted a Logitech C920 webcam. This is currently a top-of-the-range model and resolves to HD at 30fps. However, when my laptop was connected to the digital projector, the resolution needed to be dropped back to 800×600, so perhaps you could get away with a lesser device.  On the other hand, the C920 is very sensitive and you don’t always need an extra light-source. The sound is pretty good too so it works well for its intended original purpose. It has 20 focus settings and will focus right down to ten centimetres – so it would presumably make a good microscope!  Shame it doesn’t come with a carrying case to protect it but overall, even at £60, I’m very happy with it.

8453911690_0b3906b46a_bOnce assembled I needed some software to display the view at full screen. I discovered “My Screen Cam” – it’s free and it’s functional, and will work with Windows 7 even though it doesn’t specifically state it does. However, don’t do what I did: install it without realising it boots with Windows at power-up. When I switched my laptop on the next morning and went off to have a shower, I came back to dreadful, house-filling, howling feedback! I could hear the noise from under the shower but thought it was a lorry reversing or some industrial process somewhere! And beware: even when you unplug the webcam it reverts to the internal webcam and microphone so I had a repeat performance the next morning.  The configuration button in the program didn’t work so the only way to do it was to run MSCONFIG from the Windows 7 program search box. That did the trick!

OK, overall it’s nothing very innovative but it’s effective and relatively cheap, especially as the webcam has multiple uses so even better value for money!

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