Document cameras are amazingly useful devices that allow you to share all kinds of images, objects, and projects to a large audience. You can view an object from various angles, you can connect your document camera to a computer or whiteboard, and you don’t need to turn off the lights to do so.
Document cameras are also called visualizers, docucams, digital overheads, or visual presenters. They are essentially composed of a camera which is on a stand or in the ceiling and is pointing towards the desk or other work surface.
These devices are also referred to as digital overheads, docucams, visualisers (in the UK), and visual presenters.
Document cameras have added an exciting dimension to presentations, classes, video conferences, boardroom meetings, and even courtrooms and medical centers. The camera shows whatever is placed beneath the lens for all to see, and the zoom feature means that you can show very small details – even connected to a microscope – to your audience.
Any 2D or 3D objects can be displayed in detail that otherwise would be very difficult to see. Group participants can take in information visually in a way that wasn’t possible with overhead projectors and transparencies.
Let’s take a look at some of the settings where document cameras are used so that we can see the many applications of these brilliant devices.
In schools and other educational institutions
Teachers and educators are able to present students’ work and mark it in real time for everyone to see. Students are more likely to be engaged and interested when viewing the work of another student as an example of what to do (or what not to do), rather than an anonymous extract from a textbook.
Document cameras can be linked to interactive whiteboards to enhance the many ways in which students can participate.
Some document cameras come with a remote, so teachers can hand over control to a student for student-led presentations.
A lot of document cameras can also send a video signal to a computer via USB, so you can edit a piece of work on your computer in real time and in presentation mode, which is useful in all kinds of settings (see below).
For companies who provide training
These companies often use portable models of document cameras to make their presentations and deliver their training ‘on the go’. In-house, ceiling-mounted models are also available to enable participants to experience the benefits of real-time display with a professional look and feel.
Companies can provide training around anything from medicine to mechanics, as engines, models and other objects can be shown in great detail. Repairs or adjustments can be made ‘live’ for all to see.
Meetings can encourage group participation through real-time analysis and demonstrations. Remote access can be easily added, since some models of document cameras connect with computers and monitors and can enable live streaming.
Document cameras allow two or more people in multiple locations to interact using live video, audio and the feed from the document camera at the same time. This makes collaboration between groups of people who are spread over various locations worldwide much easier.
For newscasters, journalists and other broadcasters
Document cameras are excellent for making visible documents that otherwise might be difficult to see. Documents can be broadcast in HDTV (high-definition television) instead of other, lower-resolution formats such as PAL or SECAM.
YouTubers can also use this feature as part of how-to videos.
In fact, anyone presenting online can use a document camera as part of their setup.
For scientists and researchers
Some document cameras can be hooked up to a microscope, enabling everyone to see an experiment clearly. Other items that are often difficult to see in a group such as test tubes or petri dishes are suddenly highly visible.
A touch screen overlay could be connected to the document camera to make the image easier to manipulate.
For medical settings
Not only are experiments easily shared, but documents such as x-rays can be shared, annotated and commented on in real time. Perfect for showing large groups of medical students even very small details of x-rays, scans and other images.
Progressive scanning (the scanning of moving images) is also possible here, with all kinds of applications for the medical field. Telemedicine is more and more prevalent, e.g., hospitals broadcasting an operation for training purposes.
Document cameras allow for easy presentation of 2 or 3D evidence in court cases.
With resolution as high as 1080pHD (1920×1080 pixels), everyone can present the tiniest details to a large audience.
What are the features of a document camera?
Document cameras can be as simple or as complex as you like. Here are some things you may want to include if you get your own.
Connection to a computer or monitor. If you want to make edits to what you are projecting on your computer, you can do that with this feature.
A zoom lens. Zooming in will allow you to take the tiny details of whatever you wish to show and project it for everyone to be able to see easily. Those cells in the petri dish, those cracks in a bone on an x-ray, or those tiny holes that need fixing on a piece of machinery.
A remote. This enables you to have complete freedom of movement as you make your presentation. You can also easily involve others by handing over the remote to them.
A scanner. A scanner allows you to take pictures and store them on your computer, so you can do ‘before and after’ presentations. You can also provide evidence-based writeups of your work as a group by including the pictures that show what you have done over time.
Split screen. You can show two sides to any topic with this feature.
There you have it, you now know exactly all of the incredible applications for a document camera.