Visualizers are awesome!
I won a visualizer several years ago on Facebook and I've been smitten with them ever since. On this page I'll show you the different ways I use it and provide tips on how to go about buying or making one for yourself. I'll keep adding to this page as I come up with new ways of using it. If you have a visualizer in your classroom we'd love to see how you use it. 

On this page I'll discuss:
      • What they are  
      • How to use them
      • Where to get them
So what's a Visualizer?
Well a visualizer is a camera that connects to your projector, screen or computer. They normally have a zoom, light, and microphone, so students can experience your practical demos like never before. The camera is mounted on a goose neck so it can get above your work or can be rotated around easily.

If you tire of having 32 year 9's crowding around an A4 piece of paper watching you bust a move with an HB, then a visualizer is for you!

There are a range of types and sizes available but I get the feeling they are not so prominent in NZ schools. There are a few suppliers of high end visualizers in Aotearoa but if you are more budget conscious (who isn't?) then you'll need to try Amazon or make one yourself. 

Visualizers in Action

There are loads of ways to use a visualizer. Here are my top 5 uses:

Projecting Demonstrations

High-end visualizers offer a high frame rate and good optical zoom. The visualizer lives on my desk and all demonstrations are done under it. Students can view the demonstration behind me on the projector screen without getting out of their seat. The easy zoom controls allow me to get in close to details such as brush work or hatching. 

In this picture you can see an A4 painting being projected 
onto the screen behind the teachers desk


Projecting Exemplars and Resources
Student work and books can be easily shown under the visualizer. This is great for sharing student work instead of just holding it up. I also find it useful for showing books to the whole class when I don't get around to scanning the pages. 

Projecting "Still Life" Props
This would not technically be called drawing from observation (?) but it does come in handy. We have some great still life props, only problem is its not easy for all students to see them from where they are sitting. The quick solution here is to bend the goose neck around and project the prop up onto the screen. 

Here a still life prop is projected on to the screen. 
We have very long classrooms so students at the back cannot see props.
Recording Demonstrations
Most visualizers allow you to capture stills or video. This means you can record your demos live or make a frame by frame sequence. This can be recorded and edited directly on your laptop and shared via YouTube and your class website. Students really appreciate being able to replay your demos on their personal devices at their leisure. 
Making Animations 
If you're doing stop frame animations then a visualizer can double as camera and tripod. Students can easily use the device for creating their animation projects. The stable base and extendable neck allows students to make silky smooth animations.

This year 10 whiteboard animation was
made using a visualizer


YouTube Video

Where To Get Them?
Here's a list of suppliers that I know of.

Sitech Systems
Sitech have a good range of cameras and I've found their customer support to be fine. They will come to your school and show you how to get started. There are a few options here so make sure you don't get something that can't keep up with your ninja drawing skills. 

Price Range:
$298 to $1070-ish  
They seem to only have one visualizer but may be worth checking out.

Price Range:
north of $1000 from memory 

Epson have three cameras. The two larger ones seem to have good capabilities while the portable one may be a bit limiting.

Price Range:
$600 to $950
I bought one through Amazon a few years ago and it's very rudimentary. However if you're on a small budget you could look through Amazon and see what's on offer. Not all suppliers will ship to NZ and you may not be able to get warranty either. 

Price Range: $60 to Heaps

How To Make One
I've never actually made one but I've seen a few webpages on how 'to do so. 
Check out these links below if your keen to do some DIY.

 The ipad Stand
This ipad stand looks pretty cool. Its made from piping and you'll need to have access to saws etc.

(scroll down the page to see the images)
  Document Camera Must Haves
The iPhone Stand
If you have a smart phone with a good camera, give something like this a shot. 
 $30 Gobo Arm: Mobile Document Camera Stand 
Simple Wooden Stand
This one looks fairly elegant. I made a similar set on the school laser cutter for students to make animations using their own phones. However, the small base will limit your arm movements while drawing and you may get shadows cast from the stand.