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iPad screencasting and more

March 12, 2012

Ever since I got an iPad, the one thing I’ve wanted is to be able to display the iPad screen on the projector so that the entire class could see it. I also wanted to have an easy way to make screencasts of various video games for analysis, and tutorials to show how to use different apps. About a year ago, Apple made this possible if you purchased a $99 AppleTV, which can use the AirPlay wireless networking protocol to wirelessly transmit the iPad video feed to the AppleTV for displaying on the projector. Still, this seemed unnecessary to me since I usually have a very powerful laptop connected to the projector. Why can’t I use that?

About a week ago, that very thing became possible, thanks to a new app, Reflection, which for $15 allows you to display your iPad’s audio and video on your mac.

Here’s a sample video showing the very cool Coster Physics App, streamed from my iPad to my MacBook Pro. As you can see, video is mostly smooth, though there are occasional moments of jerkiness when you change settings on the iPad.

When I tried to do this at school, it didn’t work, but I think that’s simply because my school hasn’t opened the necessary ports to allow AirPlay mirroring. I also don’t know how this works if you are want to switch to displaying a second iPad. It would be super cool if you had a class set of iPads just to be able to have students quickly display their work to the group on the projector. Since you can do this with an AppleTV, I imagine you can do it with Reflection, too, but I’m not sure what sort of management powers you get to be able to control who can display their iPad or switch between feeds.

Also just last week, the creators of the AirServer mac app just added mirroring to their AirPlay app (it previously only allowed you to display movies or listen to audio from an iPad). AirServer is the same price as Reflection, and it’s really hard to find much of a difference between them.

So how might you use this? I can think of a number of ways:

  • Displaying an iOS only app, like VideoPhysics or Coaster Physics for the entire class to see on the projector.
  • Recording screen captures of various video games so that you can later analyze them with video analysis.
  • Making screencasts to explain how to use different applications and features of iOS. Previously the only way to do this was with a very expensive box to directly from the HDMI output of the iPad. You could also use some screencasting software like ScreenFlow to go in and add markers to show where you touch the iPad to control the interface.

Perhaps most excitingly, you can use this for inking. One of the big problems many former tablet PC users face is the lack of a good way to do inking on the mac. You can work with a graphics input tablet, but writing on a blank slate when you are used to inking directly on a screen feels like a step back and is a big adjustment. Now, with Reflection, you can use an app like iAnnoatatePDF (one of the best PDF annotation apps I’ve found) and Sketchbook Pro to ink documents and make drawings. These apps are also fully integrated with dropbox, so it’s easy to pull up your files on the iPad. The only other thing you need is a good stylus (the best/most precise i’ve found is the Jot Calssic, from Adonit).

There are also a bunch of apps out there for doing screencasting on an iPad worth exploring, including ShowMe app, Educreations, ScreenChomp and Explain Everything. The main problem with each of these apps is that you can’t use them to make screencasts of any other apps on the iPad—they are self contained environments.

One last option are remote desktop apps that let you control your computer from your iPad. One standout is LogMein, which lets you control your laptop using your iPad. This tends to involve a bit of lag, but it does basically give you full control over your computer (even a PC) on your iPad. Few of these remote access allow you to use the iPad to draw annotations on the screen, but one that does is Spashtop Whiteboard.

This is a lot of trouble for something Windows tablets do out of the box, but now you’ve got a wireless inking solution, and you’re sure to come up with lots of other fun uses for an iPad.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2012 5:20 pm

    Reflection does look cool. I just downloaded it the other day, but I haven’t really used it other than to confirm that it works.

    We have some AppleTVs at school and we had problems with AirPlay. This forum was very useful when we were trying to figure out what to do:
    http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/1810880

    For inking on the screen I still use my bluetooth wacom tablet or I use AirSketch. AirSketch will work with any computer with a modern web browser (html5 support I think), even on networks where AirPlay does not. It is close enough to real time to be useful. However, it’s more useful as a direct teaching aid rather than for making screencasts.

  2. CJ Hausman permalink
    August 17, 2012 3:25 am

    Thanks for the great overview! My solution for making screencast tutorials of operations on the iPad is to use Reflection to mirror my iPad onto my MacBook screen. Then I open Camtasia 2 and size the recording window to match the iPad mirror and frame. Then I record the tutorial using Camtasia, because it will capture my audio (which Reflection cannot do; it can record, but without audio). It works great. As for creating screencast lessons on the iPad, my favorite app that you mentioned is Explain Everything. It’s exactly the tool I was hoping to find.

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