Our Live Sessions Setup

We don’t have it quite perfect (yet), but we’re pretty happy with our live streaming setup for our live coding sessions (weekdays at 1pm, Irish time).

Since we toyed with a few variations on the tech, we figured we’d write up what we went with, in the end, in case anyone else found it useful.

The Session

The basic session is about half an hour of coding and working through the material in the Everyone Can Code Puzzles book from Apple in Swift Playgrounds on an iPad. I tend to give a brief intro, on camera, to the session, then we dive into the iPad for exercises and illustrations of that lesson’s concepts.

It’s designed for kids from age 8 or so to 108, so long as they have an iPad and an internet connection. Ideally you’d have another screen, like a TV or laptop or other iPad to watch the coding session on while you follow along on the iPad.

The course material is geared towards people who have a limited understanding of what coding is. It introduces computing concepts in as painless a way as possible and is a great intro to programming.

The Gear

For the basics we have a MacBook Pro from 2015 running Catalina and a couple of our 2016 iPads we use in our Code Hub classroom for Swift Playgrounds and the Books app (and occasionally a couple Keynote slides). And I have an iPhone X that I use as my camera.

The recording setup

I bought a Shure MV 5 a few years ago and it works like a champ for a good quality external mic. The mic is just off camera, pointed at my face, and it’s very near where I work through the day’s code on the iPad.

I also have a 7-port, powered USB hub for charging and maintaining The Code Hub iPads, and it’s been pressed into service as my hub for connecting the iPads and iPhone, which has been a life saver if I need to change between multiple iPads and have all the other stuff connected, too.

Lastly, I have a USB-powered light/phone holder from TK Maxx (I still find it weird to say or type TK and not TJ). We bought it for a lark just before things shut down, but it’s been pretty great for lighting video calls and the sessions, as well as a camera mount.

The Software

I’ve floundered around most with the software for our setup, for sure. I tried a number of streaming apps for the Mac, including some that did multi-streaming, but in the end I really like OBS Studio’s feature set.

In the beginning, I just used OBS to stream to Twitch, and I used the scenes to switch between different elements, like an image I captured of a Keynote slide for the intro, video capture from my phone, connected by USB, just from the normal camera app previewing me, then the screen capture from the iPad.

Now I think I’ve got it a *little* better. I use OBS Camera, which has a plugin for OBS Studio and an app for the phone, which presents a much better video feed of me. My scene switching has gotten a little better, but I’m sure there are loads of tricks I’m missing.

OBS Studio is configured to save the recording to disk as well as stream it, in mkv format, which YouTube will accept. After each session I upload the saved video to YouTube and chuck it in the kids.code() playlist.

I watched this video to help me use the software a little better (but I could probably do with watching it again:

Audio Setup

Like I said, I’m not 100% sure I have my audio setup perfect, but it’s working well, for now.

I disabled my laptop’s mic and just use the external mic for my audio. I also mute the OBS Cameria mic, as you can see in this screenshot:

My opening Scene is the intro screen, which is just an image, that I put up when I start the stream. The Intro 2 group is my camera and a link screen I usually prepare the morning of the session with some tips for the day.

Once I’ve finished the intro I select Scene 3, which is the iPad(s), and I transition to that, and I’m off camera for the duration.

We’ve chucked a duvet up on an old clothes rack from Argos to help out with audio quality, and it does seem to damp the echo down a bit.

And that’s it! It’s not the most sophisticated stream in the world. It’s not the slickest. But I can run my classes online now, and I’ve had a ton of fun doing it.

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