Tips + Tricks

Using Zoom to Capture Family History in Ponga

Recordings of Zoom sessions can easily be added to Ponga pictures so you use pictures to trigger memories, then retell stories in context.

After months of the pandemic isolation of 2020, Zoom has become as familiar as the telephone in keeping families connected. Even our loved ones in care homes have learned to manage the buttons and dials of video conferencing. Vaccines now give us the courage to venture out, yet our newfound skills have created opportunities to share family stories in a way that can be passed on to new generations.

The record button available in any free or paid Zoom account captures video calls as they happen. When a call is over, the Zoom software converts that video for you into a file using the standard .mp4 format.

These recordings can easily be added to Ponga pictures. Here’s how.

Two Ways to Explore a Ponga Picture Over Zoom

Zoom is a great fit for sharing Ponga pictures because it so easily mirrors the experience of sharing a story in person. Zoom also makes recording the session super easy and once you’re done you can add the whole (or an edited version) quickly and easily.

The joy of meeting great-grandchildren can melt a fear of technology.

A little planning will ensure that your session captures the stories you expect. There are two fundamental ways to explore a Ponga picture over Zoom. Your choice between them is generally driven by the technology level and interests of your guests. In both cases, you’ll use the Zoom features to record the session for integration into the picture, or selections in the picture, later.

1. Share the Ponga picture from your screen

For those a little more fearful of technology, or too frail to handle nuanced computer settings, we recommend sharing a Ponga picture from your own screen.

2. Have Your Guest Open the Ponga Picture on Their Screen

For those who can handle initiating their own Zoom sessions on a computer and navigating around on a Ponga picture, invite them to your Ponga picture, have them open it, and share their screen. Alternatively, you can both be exploring the picture independently.

Tip: If you plan to edit your video (more on that below) and want to focus on the speaker, you can keep a view of your screen accessible in the Zoom screen while you enlarge the speaker views. This can help synchronize the storytelling to the individual features of the picture. You can use video cropping features to select only the face of the speaker.

Using Ponga with Zoom

The secret to using Ponga over Zoom is to be clear about which functions are local. Like any cloud-based software, both member and guest can see the same picture at the same time.

Functions like these occur locally and are attributed to the member or their guests:

  • the playback of audio or video
  • adding of any content to selections.

Once the content is added locally, it becomes available to everyone viewing the picture. (You may need to refresh the browser screen to see content that’s just been added.)

Speakers, headsets & microphones

Because you’re using Ponga to share the picture, and already have a microphone, headset or speaker hooked up and settings adjusted in Zoom.

When you share your screen, be sure the “Share Sound” check box is checked. This will ensure that any sound you have in your Ponga picture can be heard by your guest(s) on the far side of the Zoom connection.

The share panel in Zoom. You get here by clicking the green “Share Screen” button in the Zoom controls.

Sharing a selection in a picture

If you want your guest to view a particular selection in a picture, copy the link for the selection, and paste it into the chat window in Zoom. Your picture selection URL will be in this form (including the “www”):

  • www.ponga.com/…<16 characters>.…/<5 numbers>

When they click the link, they’ll go directly to the selection as long as they’re logged in and have been invited to the picture.

Tap Record to Capture the Zoomin’ Moment

The record button can be an especially useful feature of Zoom calls. If the organizer allows it, you can make a local recording of the conversation with the push of a button.

Zoom recording session controls (screenshot)
Record button on the Zoom console display when a recording is underway is just to the right of the Share Screen controls.

A red flashing light tells everyone on the call that it’s being recorded, but it’s best to explicitly ask permission. It’s not only polite, it also may be required by law in your local area. This recording convenience makes it super easy to use Zoom to capture family history interviews whether 1:1 or as a group.

In unpaid Zoom accounts, the recording is stored on your local drive. When the call is complete, Zoom converts the recording into a standard .mp4 format and adds it to your Zoom directory. You’ll find more about local recording and configurations here. Paid accounts allow the recordings to be stored in the cloud.

Connecting Zoom Recording to your Ponga Picture

Connecting that recording to your Ponga picture is easy. Depending on your interests and skills, you can edit the video or simply trim it down to the most important bits. Free tools like iMovie on the Macintosh or the online service, nchsoftware.com, make simple video editing accessible to anyone.

To actually post the video into a Ponga picture, there are just two key elements:

  1. Locating the .mp4 video file on your local drive (usually a search for a folder named “Zoom” in Documents or something similar will find it)
  2. Uploading that file to cloud-accessible storage or a video hosting service.

Once you’ve uploaded your video to the service you’ve selected, locate the share link (or URL), and paste it into the comment field of your Ponga picture. In order to be connected to a Ponga picture, your video has to be accessible to Ponga across the Internet. We refer to the two general options as cloud-accessible storage or video hosting.

Let’s take a moment to dive into each as they impact how your video will appear in Ponga a little differently.

Cloud-accessible Storage

Options for cloud-accessible storage include a wide array of tools that allow you to store documents so that they can be shared with anyone across the web. Options include Google Drive, iCloud, Permanent.org, and Dropbox as well as note-taking tools that allow for the integration of media and other file types like OneNote and Evernote.)

Whether you’re starting from scratch or working with an existing archive will typically be the most significant factor affecting your choice of tool. If you have an existing archive, you will probably prefer to work directly with that. If you’re starting from scratch you might want to explore options based on your current constraints like:

  • A need for long-term archival storage
  • High requirements for privacy
  • A priority on wide accessibility and visibility to new audiences

Play in the cloud, not in your picture: This cloud-accessible storage will ensure that your video is accessible from your picture, but in most cases it will not be playable from within the Ponga picture. Many services, Dropbox and Google Drive, for example, will allow you to play the video from the service in the cloud.

Video Hosting

Play in the cloud AND in your picture: In contrast, all video hosting services allow for the automatic embedding of the video so it’s playable while viewing your picture. Options for video hosting include sites like Vimeo (paid), Wistia (up to 3 videos for free), and YouTube (free with your Google account).

Keep in mind that in order to be embedded, the video site must be accessible to Ponga without a password. This is typically done with “unlisted” or so-called “private” links. These links aren’t password-protected, but they are also not submitted to search engines.

To see how it works for yourself, try copying the URL for any video at youtube.com/ponga, then pasting it into any selection of a picture of your own, or the example “Explore Features Here” that came with your Ponga account.

Summary

Our expectations for remote communications have been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Young and old, we’ve all learned to get comfortable with a video camera. This relatively new tool can also be your friend in telling stories that might be shared for generations by combining it with Ponga two ways:

  • Exploring pictures together over Zoom, selectively choosing whose screen to share.
  • Capturing stories told in a Zoom session as video and adding that video into a Ponga picture.

As you explore Ponga and come up with inventive new ways to use it, reach out, we’d love to hear about it. We welcome guest posts or we’ll interview you over Zoom and write it up for you. If you’d like to tell us about your approach over Zoom, feel free to schedule one of our free tours here. We also hold popular Zoomin’ sessions each month to share tips & tricks with members.

For further reading about oral history: You’ll find many superb resources for formally collecting family histories on the Internet including the Oral History Center at the University of California at Berkeley and the Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History at the University of Arkansas.


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