webcam on a stick

“Webcam on a stick” for live streaming of paper-based graphic recording to groups of 15 people.

Here’s how it works:

1. You use the medium you are comfortable with (paper and markers).

2. A webcam puts a live video image from the paper onto the screen of your computer.

3. Screen-sharing software transmits that live video image to the group.

4. Group audio via VOIP or land-line teleconference.

Choices for screen-sharing software include Skype, GotoMeeting (free one month trial), Adobe Connect, Googlehangout. They all have some kind of VOIP capability.

You can see how two 8 1/2 x 11 pages fit nicely into the frame. And then when you fill up the right hand page, everything just shifts left, oldest out of frame, and the new page is on right. Note that this small jpg doesn’t in any way do justice to the 1600×1200 resolution of the webcam; click here or on the image to see larger version. Be sure and stretch your browser out side ways to accomodate.

Full details at

BTW, the webcam-on-a-stick setup also provides a couple of ways to record your imagery as animation:

1. Gotomeeting (30 day free trial) used to netcast has a “record” feature (PC only)
2. The Evocam software records as well (15 day free trial)
3. For Mac users, QuickTime X on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard has a record whole screen feature

Content on Visual Raccoon is licensed under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 United States License unless otherwise indicated. Comments are property of the commenters.


One Response to “webcam on a stick”

  1. Many thanks to Fred for this webcam-on-a-stick approach, and for help locating the supporting technology. I have used it successfully, as described below. I had a client meeting to review and revise an illustration rather than recording a meeting, but it was the same process and the same technology you’d use for both. It was live, and it was a meeting, and they could watch me write and draw what they said while it appeared on their own laptop screens. They were tickled pink.

    A small-business client (Monterrey Company, Inc) wanted to show customers how their ordering process worked, and how their custom pin or coin would be produced. I was asked to create a simple, colorful and friendly graphic to show how the process worked. To make it reasonable in cost and effort for all of us, I proposed a three-stage development process at a fixed price. First, I would create a rough draft in black and white. We would review the draft together and make any corrections. I would make a second, more finished draft using colored lines. They would review the second draft and make any final adjustments, and I would produce the third and final version in full color. I was clear that if they had any major changes after the second draft, anything that required re-drawing the image (for example, changing the order of events, or moving a major element to someplace else on the drawing), it would be out of scope and we would need to contract for another draft.

    I started with a flow chart that showed their ordering process. I converted that into cartoon sketches of what people were actually doing at each step.
    I scanned and emailed it to the clients for initial review.

    Then we had a meeting on Skype (using Go-To-Meeting) to correct and refine the images. There were three keys to doing a live graphical review meeting over the web:

    1. Getting a webcam with adequate quality to send a large, clear image of the paper drawing pad on my desk as I drew. (I bought a Logitech WebCam on Amazon for about $100)
    2. Finding software to reverse the mirror image that is the default mode of most webcams. Otherwise my writing showed up backwards on the clients’ screen. (I got EvoCam at’s Evological store for $30)
    3. Getting a light source that was clean, clear and steady. A standard GE incandescent light bulb in my desk lamp looked like a pool of crawling light particles on my screen. I substituted a full spectrum Verilux incandescent lightbulb and the problem of crawling light-ants went away.

    The set-up looked very much like Fred’s webcam-on-a-stick above, but even simpler. Since I have a swing-arm lamp on my desk, I used twist-ties to fasten my webcam to the swing-arm, facing straight down onto my sketch pad.

    I didn’t even need a separate phone line – using Skype I could talk right through my computer, without a headset, and they could do the same at their end. You could hear coffee house chatter going on in the background but it wasn’t a problem. There was a very friendly, low-tech feel to it all.

    This allowed me to sit in my home office in Northern California and meet with my two clients sitting in a coffee shop in Southern California, view the draft, and discuss it. I could make corrections (words and sketches) right on the draft with them looking on and making suggestions. If you’re interested in seeing the end result, you can go to their website (they make some cool custom pins and coins), click on how to order, and see the illustrated process there.

    Try it, you’ll like it! I recommend before doing it with a meeting full of clients, you do a dry run or two. I suggest doing it with a friend who’s willing to put up with a bit of fumbling around the first time or two you set the sketch pad up and try writing what you’re hearing. It’s helpful to have a friendly soul going “oh, that’s so cool!” while you’re discovering that the writing is mirror-image, or the light is weird, or that you have to lock your cat out of the room lest she try to help you out in the middle of a meeting. Go forth and spread the light of graphic recording to remote, low-budget or needy places! Avoid the airport, enjoy a mug of tea at home! – Lynn K

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