How to videoconference two labs + slides on one piece of software?
March 8, 2010 3:47 PM   Subscribe

We are trying to have lab meetings over video-conferencing and no matter how much preparation, we always seem to eat 30 minutes of time fiddling with the setup. We've tried various iChat/Skype/gchat combinations and nothing has really stuck so far. What I really want to do is have one computer on each end video conferencing and sharing a powerpoint presentation.

The Screen Sharing Issue:

At this point, we always end up doing a plain videoconferencing Skype session with both parties having a personal copy of the slides. The presenter has to say 'next slide' when they want to move on, or the listeners on the other end just have to guess which slide is being shown. This is obviously not ideal.

In lab A, we've typically been connecting via a Mac laptop which also holds the presentation. The problem is if the computer in lab B tries to VNC in to see the presentation, PowerPoint freezes after three slides or so and doesn't revert until the vnc server is stopped (interestingly, the people in lab B can't control it either). In lab B, we've classically been using an iMac in someone's office, but the lab is growing and we need to move to the common space. Right now, we've got several very decent PCs, a PC laptop, and a really old blue and white mac G3.

I've attempted doing this between two macs with iChat only, and I can share powerpoint files just fine that way in the same video conferencing window, but I think that old G3 is too slow to run the oldest OS that would support iChat. So, if I want to do that I need to buy another mac.

I would like to have a videoconferencing solution here that works across both platforms and is contained all in one package. I don't want two programs running at the same time since that seems to cause problems. I (the lab) would be willing to pay for this software. Suggestions?

The Audio Issue:

We have some big problems hearing people in the back (maybe 10 feet away). What are some omnidirectional USB microphones that people could recommend?
posted by scrutiny to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite - I get no commission, just a happy customer.

Works on Mac :) Maybe not the Mac G3 as presenter, maybe as a user.
posted by tilde at 3:55 PM on March 8, 2010

Do you think the computers would be able to handle Skype and a web browser at the same time? If so, you can do the PowerPoint via a presentation (here's one you can play with). If Lab A is sharing a powerpoint (or any other type of file they upload to, all Lab B has to do is visit the same URL as Lab A, and they'll see everything Lab A does with those files (slideshow, play audio, video, etc.). has conference calling built in, but not videoconferencing, so you'd have to use Skype or something similar alongside it for that.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:32 PM on March 8, 2010

Adobe Acrobat Connect does this very well. I arguably do get a commission, as I work with an Adobe partner, but I'm also a happy customer. Either Mac could act as the presenter, but you'd need an Intel Mac to upload files prior to the meeting.

On the lower-tech end, you could simply use Google Presentation:
posted by me & my monkey at 4:36 PM on March 8, 2010

When we were looking at very, very expensive business software packages, every firm pitched us via GoToMeeting. It seems pretty basic, but it gets the Screen Sharing stuff done right
posted by GilloD at 4:59 PM on March 8, 2010

This is pretty much exactly what gotomeeting and webex are designed for. I don't know which one I prefer more -- whoever will give you a better deal. I don't know if either of those support webcams, but for meetings with screen sharing, it works great. I spend a lot of time in these types of apps getting pitched one IT product or another.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 6:30 PM on March 8, 2010

Just repeating what other people said. Adobe Connect (you can get it for $50 a month),, or webex all provide unified solutions for video, audio, and screen sharing.
I recently tried out VSee, but that doesn't work on mac's yet. It looks promising, but not much out of school project yet. I'm not positive that gotomeeting does video sharing, but i think it does. I've seen it more used as one to many, than one-to-one.
I'm still waiting for Skype to come out with screen sharing and multi-video screen sharing. Perhaps with all of their internal company issues behind them, they'll find a solution. Because for voip, multi-user chat, and user-to-user video, they are the best in field that I've found.
posted by superchris at 6:48 PM on March 8, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions everyone, I'll check them out and see what works best for us!
posted by scrutiny at 7:50 AM on March 9, 2010


Just used it last night for the first time - first time for about 5 of us on this start-up I'm part of. Pretty bug-free.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:36 AM on March 9, 2010

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