A Remote Video Presentation Guide

david ayman shamma
Mar 10 · 6 min read

As remote participation grows at ACM SIGCHI, so does the need for remote presentations. This little guide presents a how to make a presentation video that can be used in case you can’t attend or for a virtual conference.

A video camera with a sunset in the background.
A video camera with a sunset in the background.
CC BY-NC 2.0 David Yu on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidyuweb/8010839327

Presentation Options

It’s becoming more common; we have to present at a conference but we can’t make it for any number of reasons. While there are many tools for remote teleconferencing which many of us use on a daily basis, this often fails spectacularly given the setup, time zone mismatch, and sporadic bandwidth. To avoid such failures, conferences should not rely upon tele-conferencing or video calling. Instead, conferences should get a video in advance from the remote presenter to play at the conference. This video can be played easily at the conference without bandwidth use; try to use the video fully (have video in your video even). Then either the presenter can try to be on a call to answer questions or, ideally, have a delegate present who could field questions.

There are three basic options for making a video:

  1. Preferred: Screencast and Camera as Picture in Picture or Split screen
  2. Slides and Audio Only
  3. Face and Audio Only

Just recording (#3) yourself with a video camera is pretty straightforward with a webcam or even a cellphone. There are many presentation tools that allow for recording (#2) a slide-show presentation with audio. Either of these videos could be adequate if you add closed captioning however having (#1) a picture in picture talking head can add to the audience engagement. Of course, this means while you record the screen cast with a webcam, you really need to engage with the camera/audience. This also means you should have a corner of the slides reserved for the video, as well as some area on the bottom for closed captioning.

Recording Picture in Picture

Recording a screencast with a video picture in picture can involve some fair bit of editing tools, but there are some tools to help you. I’m going to outline two as a user friendly way to do it and a less than user friendly power tool favorited by livestreamers. For user friendly tools, there’s Loom (for Mac and Windows) which offers a free solution with some premium paid feature upgrades. This can run inside a browser or on your computer more broadly. It’s a pretty straightforward tool with plenty of onboarding and is super easy to use. It does try to cloud store your video when you’re done but you can easily download the video and delete it from their webstorage if you like.

A screenshot of a text document in the main display and the presenter’s video camera feed in the lower left corner.
A screenshot of a text document in the main display and the presenter’s video camera feed in the lower left corner.
A snapshot from a Loom recording of me running Google Docs.

Update: You can also use Zoom to do this which is friendly and awesome. You can start a meeting (with only you on it), turn on your video, click Share -> Select your presentation software of choice, and then hit record. It saves to a MP4 once you end the meeting! Also since this guide was written, Loom added free Pro subscriptions to academics.

The power user option (Mac, Windows and Linux) is OBS Studio which is a bit harder to configure but lets you control much more and is open source. In OBS, you can add any number of video or audio sources to pull into a single recording.

A list of input options for OBS in a popup menu.
A list of input options for OBS in a popup menu.
All the capture import options for OBS Studio.

You can capture video and a display or window, and arrange them and record them all in one go. It’s not totally user friendly, but does offer quite a lot for free. Personally I prefer OBS but it does take more work to configure. There’s just one important detail to recall when recording.

Remember to engage with the camera while recording.

The Play menu of keynote with the Record slideshow option selected.
The Play menu of keynote with the Record slideshow option selected.
Keynote’s record slideshow option.
The toolbar of Powerpoint with the Record Slide Show button selected.
The toolbar of Powerpoint with the Record Slide Show button selected.
Powerpoint’s Record Slideshow option.

If you have a PDF or some other format, you can use Loom, OBS, or any other capture tool (like QuickTime Player on MacOS) to record the screencast only presentation. Just remember, try to speak as if you’re talking to a room and not just your monitor.

Adding Subtitles

Next, with your video in hand, you’ll have to caption the video file. YouTube can help you do this. You will have to upload the video to Youtube but you can keep it private. Then follow YouTube’s instructions. For the most part, it’s best if you have a transcription of your talk and upload it the video without timings. YouTube will sync it automatically. You can also experiment with YouTube’s auto captioning feature but be ready to manually make edits as it doesn’t do well with many technical terms. Once the video has subtitles on YouTube, you can then download the SRT and send both MP4/M4V file and an SRT to the conference team that’s handling remote presentations. Of course there are other services and tools (paid or free) that can help you make an SRT. Feel free to use whatever is easiest for you.

Transcoding

Once a burden, now most programs save a friendly MP4 file or M4V (which is the same thing). However if your video is a different format, you’ll need to transcode it. Handbrake is the best and free tool for this job. Just open your video and pick the (likely defaulted) Fast 1080p30 preset for an mp4 file. While you’re in the app, you can go to the Subtitles tab and add your SRT file there. It will embed the subtitles into the video container so someone can easily turn them on or off. Click Start and then let it run.

Naming and Uploading

You gotta imagine a conference might have tens to hundreds of videos to manage. Sometimes the videos are uploaded through a conference management system like PCS. Other times, the organizers might just have you send them both the video and SRT files. Of course, follow their guidelines. For the SIGCHI Video team it’s usually best to look at your paper’s DOI and and name your files {last_part_of_doi}.mp4. Since each paper has a unique URL in the ACM Digital Library, this makes it easy to match the video to a paper. For example this paper https://doi.org/10.1145/3377325.3380624 should have the names 3380624.mp4 and 3380624.srt for the set of files.

Now you’ll have to email video (which is impossible for many high-resolution video formats) or provide a download link. For this, try the most excellent Firefox Send which lets you bundle several files into a download URL which will expire after set duration time or downloads. Other link download sharing options are ok too, pick your favorite if you have one. It really simplifies the process of sending large documents securely.

We hope these tips are useful and look forward to seeing many more videos to accompany the submissions across the 24 ACM SIGCHI conferences. These videos will facilitate remote participation and can even be archived with the content in the Digital Library.

ACM SIGCHI

Official Posts from ACM SIGCHI

david ayman shamma

Written by

Scientist at FXPAL & ACM SIGCHI VP of Ops. Past CWI researcher & research director at yahoo labs & flickr. instructions: place in direct sunlight, water daily.

ACM SIGCHI

Official Posts from ACM SIGCHI

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