Authoring Presentations

iVocalize allows you to show PowerPoint and OpenDocument presentations, as described here.

Showing these presentations involves converting them from the source format (PPT, PPTX, or ODP) into Flash slides (SWF) for display in the co-browser and into static images (PNG/JPG) for display on the whiteboard.

In some cases, the conversion into SWF/PNG/JPG is not exact, and the converted slides appear differently from the original slides.  We recommend using the OpenOffice suite to author your presentations, and saving them in the ODF Presentation format (ODP).  This will insure maximum compatibility and the best fidelity for your converted slides.

If your presentations are already in Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT,PPTX) format, you can import them into OpenOffice and save them as ODP files, then edit them in the native OpenOffice format.  OpenOffice is free, and it runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.  By correctly formatting slides in OpenOffice Impress it is possible to resolve most slide conversion issues, such as text fomatting, misaligned tables, or incorrectly rendered RTL (right to left) text.

If your slides contain embedded images, make sure that the images that you import to your slides are relatively large in dimension, and scaled down inside the slide.  That way, when the converted slide is displayed in your webinar, it can scale up or down and suffer no loss of resolution.  If the embedded image is small to begin with, then the image quality in the converted slide may be poor.

When shown in the co-browser, the the Flash Slides scale to fill the available area in the each guest’s embedded browser.  When shown on the whiteboard, the slides are displayed using fixed dimensions.  Because guests will have different screen sizes, the size of the whiteboard will be different for different guests, and in some cases the size of the whiteboard will not be large enough to display the entire slide without scrolling.

Presenters can adjust the percentage of the iVocalize application window devoted to the browser/whiteboard area by setting the Browser% in the Appearance section of the Room Control Panel.  Also consider showing slides in the Co-Browser using the Synchronized Browsing feature so that all guests can see a complete and properly scaled slide image.  If it becomes necessary to mark up the slide during your presentation, then the Open in Whiteboard button on the browser toolbar will automatically load the current slide into the whiteboard.

Live Polling

The iVocalize Live Polling feature allows presenters to ask multiple choice questions and display the results to the room.

Initiate a poll by pulling down the Moderator menu and selecting New Poll:

newpoll1

The Poll editor window will appear.  Select New Poll and enter a new question and up to 5 answers, or choose a previously entered poll question from the drop down list.

All poll questions are single answer multiple-choice.  True/False or Yes/No type questions can be constructed by providing just two answers.

Click Begin Poll to send the question out to the room:

beginpoll

The poll sponsor sees a dynamic view of the poll results as each participant votes.  Each answer shows the number and percentage of votes, along with the name of each participant who has chosen that answer:

poll results as seen by sponsor

(sponsor view of results)

The poll sponsor’s participant display shows a question mark next to participants who have not voted yet:

participants display as seen by poll sponsor

(sponsor's user display)

The participants in the room are shown a simple view containing the question and the available answers:

poll questions as seen by guests

(guest view of questions)

After voting, participants see a static view of their vote until the sponsor closes the poll:

(guest view of cast vote)

(guest view of cast vote)

When the poll sponsor closes voting by clicking on Show Results, all participants see a simplified view of the poll results as shown below.  Participants can see the percentage of votes for each answer, but not the actual number of votes or the names of participants voting for each answer.

(guest view of results)

(guest view of results)

The poll sponsor may also close the poll without showing the poll results to the room.

When recording a session, the guest view of the poll questions and results is shown in the recorded archive.

Playing Music or Movies

Presenters often want to play music to the conference room while guests are signing in and waiting for the presentation to begin.  This is easy to set up.

First, upload your MP3 file to your website and create a web page to play the song using the HTML 5 audio tag.  For example:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<body>
<audio autoplay controls>
<source src=”MyFavoriteSong.mp3″>
</audio>
</body>
</html>

Then, set this web page as the home page for your room in the Appearance section of the room control panel or use Synchronized Browsing to load the web page that will play your music.

Playing movies is very similar.  Instead of the audio tag, use the HTML5 video tag to play your .mp4 movie.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<body>
<video autoplay controls width=320 height=240>
<source src=”MyMovieTrailer.mp4″>
</video>
</body>
</html>

MP4 video files should be encoded using H.264/AVC video and AAC audio. Support for this format is built into Windows 7+ and Mac OS 10.5+.  Windows XP/Vista users may obtain support by installing a 3rd party codec pack such as http://www.divx.com/en/software/divx-plus/codec-pack.  MP4 is the recommended video format for greatest compatibility.

FLV videos are also supported and should be encoded using ON2 VP6 video and MP3 audio.  Support for FLV using the VIDEO tag is built in to the Java 7 browser.  FLV will not play in desktop browsers using the video tag, and it will not play in the Java browser using Flash.  If using FLV, a hybrid solution is needed to use either Flash player or HTML5 video tag, depending on what is available in the browser.  One  solution for FLV that will play using either Flash or HTML5 video is the JW Player.  FLV is a legacy format and is not recommended.  Use MP4 instead.

A simple video test page  for the embedded browser is available at http://www.ivocalize.com/html5video.htm.  YouTube also plays in HTML5 mode in the Java 7 embedded browser on supported platforms.

PowerPoint and OpenDocument Slide Shows

iVocalize makes showing PowerPoint or OpenDocument Presentations over the web easy.

Just click the Open Presentation button on your embedded browser or whiteboard toolbar. If the Open Presentation button is not visible on the toolbar, then log in as a moderator to enable it.

When the Open dialog appears, select your PowerPoint (PPT, PPTX) or OpenDocument (ODP) Presentation file. The upload file size is limited to 25 MB.

After selecting a file and clicking open, the Uploading window appears:

Following Uplaod, the processing Window appears:

Processing can take several minutes. You can wait for processing to complete, or click Cancel and processing will continue in the background while you continue working in the room.

If you wait for processing to complete, then as soon as the slides are ready, the first one will appear, and the slide navigation buttons will be enabled:

If you clicked Cancel instead of waiting then your presentation will appear under Cached Presentations once processing has completed. To check the presentation cache, click the down-arrow to the right of the Open Presentation button:

Clicking on the Cached Presentations button opens a menu of presentations available on the server.  That most recently uploaded presentations are available on the drop down menu:

Choose a cached presentation from the list to begin showing it to the room. If you are operating in the web browser, then you must turn on Synchronized Browsing to show the slides. If operating in the Whiteboard, Synchronized Browsing is not required. You may also switch back and forth between the browser and whiteboard.

It does not matter whether a presentation is uploaded from the Browser or from the whiteboard — it will still be available in either location. Slides shown in the browser use a vector format and scale to fill the available area on each person’s computer, while slides shown in the whiteboard are raster images of a fixed size so that you can draw on them and everyone will see exactly the same thing. If you will not be drawing on the slides, then use the browser and Synchronized Browsing for the best experience.

The presentation cache holds the last 10 uploaded presentations. There is currently no way to manually remove an item from the cache, however, by uploading new presentations, old ones will automatically be removed.

We recommend using Open Office Impress to author your slide presentations. In the case of Google Docs, you will have to first save the presentation to your computer as a PPT file, then upload it to the conference room.

If you experience upload errors or conversion problems with your slides, such as with Right to Left or BiDirectional languages, or with alternate character sets such as Kanji, then edit your PPT file using Open Office Impress and save as an ODP file instead of a PPT file.  Correct any issues, then upload the corrected ODP file.

Live Screencasting

Screencasting captures the activity on your desktop and sends it to the other participants in the room. The participants see a real-time view of an application window or selected region of your desktop, and hear your voice if you happen to be speaking. Recorded archives will also include any screencast activity.

Screencasting is a broadcast solution, not a remote control solution. For security reasons, participants in the room have a read-only view of your desktop.

To begin a screencast, click the Live Screencasting button on the whiteboard toolbar. The screencast button is available only to participants who have Upload privileges on the whiteboard:

To the right of the Live Screencasting button is a down-arrow that selects the Screencast Mode:

Screencasting operates in one of two modes:

  1. Area of Screen : Choose a rectangular region of your desktop to share. This region need not correspond to the boundaries of any particular window. Whatever is visible on the desktop in the selected area is what will be sent out to the room.
  2. Window Selection : Choose a particular window from your desktop. The term “window” does not necessarily mean a top level application window — most applications have a series of smaller windows that make up the overall application. The selected window determines the Area of the Screen. Therefore, like the Area of Screen option, whatever is visible on the desktop in the selected area is what will be sent out to the room. That is, the selected window itself will be captured only if it happens to be topmost. This option is available on Windows only.

Area Selection

When starting a screencast in Area Selection mode, the web conference room is hidden, and a “light box” appears over the selected area.

The entire light box can be dragged to a different area of the screen, or it can be resized by dragging any of its edges.

Once your area selection is final, press the Enter key to begin the screencast, or press the Esc key to cancel.

Window Selection

When starting a screencast in Window Selection mode, the web conference room is hidden, and a Window Selection tool is shown.

Drag the selector over the window that you wish to screencast, then release the mouse button to start screencasting. Or, press the Esc key to cancel.

Screencast In Progress

Once a window or area selection is made, the web conference room re-appears. The area containing the browser/whiteboard is now hidden, and the presenter’s name appears with a screencasting icon beside it:

During the screencast, the presenter continues to work normally in the selected application or area of the screen. All other participants in the room see a real-time picture of the selected area of the presenter’s desktop.

As a reminder to the presenter that a screencast is ongoing, the application icon in the system tray alternates between the screencast icon and the icon for the conference room:


The presenter can end the screencast at any time by de-selecting the Screencasting button:

In addition, any moderator in the room can end the screencast by selecting Terminate Screencast from the Moderator menu:

Screencast Complete

Once the screencast has ended, the last view of the screencast region is uploaded to the whiteboard. At this point, the screencast picture can be annotated like any other whiteboard content.

If a slide presentation was in progress before the screencast, then the slide navigation buttons can be used to resume the slide show, or the browser tab can be selected to resume synchronized browsing.

Screencasting Best Practices, Tips and Pitfalls

Screencasting monitors an area of your screen for changes, then compresses any changed areas and sends them out to the room. In order to capture motion, this monitoring process happens many times each second and can be quite CPU intensive.

If your computer performance begins to lag while sending a screencast then you should choose a smaller area of your screen to broadcast. CPU resources required to screencast increase linearly with the area being screencast. You can monitor your CPU usage using Windows Task Manager (right click the Windows Task bar) or OS X Activity Monitor. If your average CPU usage is over 50% during a screencast, then you should choose a smaller screencast region.

Screencasting uses a special compression scheme optimized for software applications. It does not work well on photos or motion pictures such as DVDs in your media player. Attempting to stream a movie this way will result in blocky pictures and a very low frame rate, i.e. a jerky picture. A better solution for streaming movies is to use a dedicated streaming media server like Windows Media, Darwin or Helix. Alternately, upload a movie to one of the many streaming sites such as YouTube and use the Synchronized Browsing feature to direct everyone’s browser to the playback page for your uploaded movie.

Screencasting can also be very bandwidth intensive. The amount of bandwidth required depends on several factors: The size of the area being screencast, the amount of motion or change happening in this area, and the visual complexity of the contents of the screencast area.

For best results while screencasting:

  1. Use a second computer to receive the screencast so that you (the presenter) can see what everyone else in the room is seeing while you screencast.
  2. Use a high speed internet connection with upload speed > 500 Kbps.
  3. Limit the size of the screencast area to the minimum required area.
  4. Limit the changes in the screencast area — do not task-switch and bring other applications into the foreground in the screencast region as this causes bandwidth spikes.
  5. Do not screencast photos or movies. Use synchronized browsing to point to these resources on the web.
  6. Monitor your CPU usage and reduce the screencast area or upgrade your hardware if your CPU becomes overloaded.

Synchronized Browsing

The Synchronized Browsing feature allows the audience to follow along with a presenter’s web browser.

To begin a synchronized browsing presentation, log in with moderator or administrator privileges and select Synchronized Browsing under the moderator menu:

When Alice turns on synchronized browsing, the page that she is currently viewing is sent to all participants. If the whiteboard was active when Alice turned on sync browsing, then everyone is returned to the browser.

A moderator with synchronized browsing enabled appear italicized and in blue, as shown here. Note the tool tip showing that Alice is Presenting.

Now, when Alice the presenter pulls up a Google search, Bob’s browser will follow along.

As long as Alice has synchronized browsing turned on, Bob’s browser will navigate to the same pages, but he will not see the browser address bar, nor will he be able to switch back to the whiteboard:

Form Submissions, Frame Sets and Password Protected Websites

Form submissions and frame sets are not reliably synchronized.  For synchronizing content other than simple top-level navigations, use an external browser and the Live Screencasting feature.

With live screencasting, attendees receive a real-time picture of the browsing experience instead of receiving the actual URLs and data. This guarantees that they will see the same thing that the presenter sees.

Multiple Presenters

If multiple moderators enable synchronized browsing at the same time, they will not see each other’s synchronized content. For consistent results, only on presenter at a time should turn on synchronized browsing. The second presenter should turn on synchronized browsing only after the first presenter has turned it off.

Flash, Plugins and Applets

Web pages containing Flash, applets and other plugins will not display properly inside the web conference room.   Beginning with Java 7, the embedded browser no longer supports plugins such as Flash due to increased security.

The Java 7 embedded browser uses the same WebKit engine used in Safari and Chrome, and is HTML 5 compliant.  Slide content dependent on Flash or other plugins should be transitioned to use HTML 5 features instead.

Whiteboard

iVocalize features a shared whiteboard for the interactive display and annotation of image files, web pages, PowerPoint slides and application windows.

The first step in using the whiteboard is uploading a background picture to display and annotate. The simplest way to upload content is by using One-Click Web Page Annotation.

Beginning with a web page loaded in the embedded web browser, click on the Open Page in Whiteboard button on the browser’s toolbar:

A snapshot of the current web page is uploaded as the new whiteboard canvas. Now any of the whiteboard drawing tools may be used to mark up the page in real time. Below, the highlighter tool has been used to highlight first search result.

Another way to load a canvas onto the whiteboard is using the Open File toolbar button:

Standard image file types such as JPG, PNG and GIF are supported.

A third way to load a background canvas is by pasting an image from the system clipboard using the Paste toolbar button:

The Window Snapshot tool allows a presenter to capture the image of any window on the desktop using a window finder tool:

Clicking the Window Snapshot button hides the application and brings up a camera that can be dragged over any window to capture its contents to the whiteboard:


Drag and Drop may also be used to drop any image file onto the whiteboard:

The Live Screencasting button begins a screencast of your desktop. Click here for an overview of the Live Screencasting feature.

The Open Presentation button is used to upload a PowerPoint or OpenDocument slide show to the whiteboard. Click here for an overview of the PowerPoint and OpenDocument presentation feature.

Clear Button

The clear button works in two stages. The first click clears any annotations on the current image. The second click removes the background image entirely.

Undo Button

The Undo button removes the last drawing operation

Selective Undo

Clicking the selective undo button opens the undo menu and allows the operator to choose a specific drawing operation to undo:

Similarly, the Redo and Selective Redo buttons allow the operator to redo the last Undo operation, or to select which Undo operation to restore.

The Toggle Annotations feature allows a quick “before and after” view of the slide by hiding and showing annotations:

When annotations are toggled off, everyone’s drawing tools are disabled. This is an easy way for a moderator to lock down the whiteboard against changes.

Once an image is on the whiteboard, the following tools are available for annotation:

  • Thickness: Line thickness, size of checkmark, laser pointer.
  • Color: Drawing color, laser color.
  • Font: Text font and color.
  • Text Tool: Drag a rectangle in which to edit text.
  • Freehand Tool: Freeform input.
  • Highlighter Tool: Works on solid (not textured) backgrounds.
  • Checkmark Tool: Place a checkmark at the cursor position.
  • Line Tool: Holding the Alt key makes the line horizontal.
  • Shape Tool: Draw the selected solid or filled shapes.
  • Laser Pointer: Only one person’s laser is active at a time.

Whiteboard drawing permissions are configured globally in the room’s control panel, and individually from within iVocalize. By default, moderators have full permissions, and non-moderators have a read-only view of the whiteboard. When in read-only mode, the whiteboard toolbar is hidden, and only the canvas is visible.

By right-clicking a user’s name, the moderator may individually grant whiteboard permissions to specific users: