I often do things at the front of the church, particularly with children, that I would like the rest of the congregation to have a better view of and the obvious solution is to feed a live video image onto the screen through the data projector. Given that most of our services are based aroung a PowerPoint presentation the neatest solution would be to feed this into a PowerPoint slide.
Streaming a live video image to a PC
As with many technical issues, when you find the correct solution it can be really easy to implement. The key to this is to use the camera on my Android smartphone (Motorola G4 running Android 7.0, but I suspect any reasonable smart phone and recent Android version would work) and an app called IP Webcam (simply install from Google Play Store).
Amongst other things this allows you to broadcast the output of your camera to your local network. Once installed scroll through the menu and select the bottom item, Start Server. This will activate the camera and specify an IP address on the bottom of the screen (something similar to http://192.168.250.42:8080).
To view the output open a browser on any PC connected to the same network and type the IP address (http://192.168.250.42:8080) into the address bar. This will open up the control interface and if you select Browser in the Video renderer options, then you will see the image from your camera displayed as well. On my system there is a lag of about a second but as long as you don’t move the camera too quickly this isn’t really an issue.
Alternatively if you modify the IP address by adding “/browserfs.html” to the end (e.g. http://192.168.43.1:8080/browserfs.html) you will find that only the video image is displayed.
Unfortunately any time the wireless connection between the phone and the the network is restarted (for whatever reason) a different IP address may be generated so you’ll need to keep an eye on what this is and update it if necessary. This is a particular problem it there is poor wifi connectivity as, if the phone connection drops out, even momentarily, you may find that the IP address has been changed. (Note that it should be possible to force the same IP address for any particular device but this will need you to start playing around with the settings for your router).
I’ve found a solution to this is to set-up the mobile hotspot on my phone and connect the PC directly to that rather than to the network. For my phone, this signal is considerably more stable than the church’s wifi and it has the advantage of always using the same IP code (I think!). I have to remain connected to my mobile broadband signal but because the data is transmitted directly from the camera to the PC this does not appear to use up much of my data allowance.
Displaying this in PowerPoint
The key to displaying this in PowerPoint is to use a PowerPoint add-in called LiveSlides. Go https://www.liveslides.com/ and follow the instructions to download and install the add-in. Then open up PowerPoint and you should see the LiveSlides tab on the ribbon.
From this select LiveSlide (the leftmost option) and specify the cameras IP address with “/browserfs.html” added (e.g. http://192.168.43.1:8080/browserfs.html) as the URL when prompted. A rectangular placeholder should appear on the slide which you can move and resize as you want. The IP address is stored in the Notes pane for that slide. Editting this will change the IP address that PowerPoint uses. (Although I think you have to restart Slideshow mode in order for this to take effect).
When you go into SlideShow mode, Hey Presto, the camera image should stream directly to this slide.
If the connection with the camera get’s interrupted the image blacks or whites out (sometimes giving an error message). Once the connection is restored it appears to be necessary to move off that particular slide and then back onto it for the image to come back. As far as I can see the only requirement is for the connection to be working at the time that the slide is first selected which means that the camera can be turned off until shortly before you want it (although be aware that if you are working over a network this may result in a different IP address being allocated).
Although the set-up is reasonably simple there are a number of things that can go wrong which will result in the same outcome – a blank white screen in PowerPoint with no obvious indication of what is wrong. So here are some things to work through:
Check the phone is on and transmitting the image. It looks as if by default the phone remains on whilst the IP Webcam app is active but this runs the risk of ruinning the battery down. To avoid this take one or more of the obvious steps:
- Ensure that the phone is fully charged before you start.
- Keep the phone on charge until you need it.
- Only turn the phone and app on just before you need it.
Check the phone and computer are connected to the same wireless network or hotspot. This sounds quite straightforward but in the modern environment a range of networks are often available and phones and computers do have a habit of selecting the one they want rather than the one you want. This can happen particularly if there is a break in connectivity (however momentarily) or if a phone or PC goes into some form of sleep mode for any reason.
Check that the IP address on the phone is the same as that specified in the notes pane of the slide. Again remember that if the connectivity is lost then you network may alter the IP address of the phone thus breaking the link with PowerPoint. In my experience the hotspot option is much more stable from this perspective.
Stand for the phone
A hand-held camera can result in a disconceringly wavering image. I’ve found that mounting the camera on a selfie stick that can be fitted to a portable microphone stand provides a good solution. Obvioulsy you’ll need to shop around for a stick with a handle of the appropriate diameter for the stand you have available.
The camera mount on some selfie sticks incoporates a screw fitting compatible with standard camera tripods which provide an alternative solution.