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The secret of the left-handed presenters

Created on Fri, 11/10/2013 - 13:43 by Jason White 

If you’re a regular visitor to Open2Study’s classrooms, you may have noticed an odd thing: almost all of our presenters are left-handed and able to write backwards, and in mid-air!

Writing in mid-air? Magic. 
Image via Flickr

You may have asked yourself, ‘What are the chances of so many southpaws finding jobs in the same industry?’

Good question! The answer, of course, is, ‘Slim!’

Writing left-handed in mid-air

Floating words at Open2Study

What you see on screen is the result of one of Open2Study’s most dynamic features – the acrylic screen. This ingenious piece of gadgetry, designed and produced by Open Universities Australia and Pips N Pixels production house, enables the presenters to write or illustrate without having to turn their backs on the audience. The bonus is that, to the viewer, it looks like they’re writing in mid-air!

Reading when it’s written backwards

Amir's flipped fin

In developing this process, the Open2Study production team had to overcome a few technical challenges. One of these was how to create dynamic text on screen – text that an audience could read in real time even though it was written backwards.

Fortunately, the world of post-production makes this possible. We just record the vision, then flip the final image. Of course, the side effect of this is that our presenters appear left-handed. As you can see with Amir, his haircut is actually reversed; his fin bends to the right and not the left.

*Please note: no hair follicles were damaged during the making of this film.

Avoiding the distraction of reflections

Reflections are distracting when you're learning 
Image via Flickr

Another issue to overcome when using a giant sheet of plastic is reflections. The acrylic screen acts like a mirror and reflects everything in front of it. This means that the production team has to effectively black out everything in the studio, including cameras, walls, lighting stands and people. To achieve this, large camera hides had to be designed and built to allow the cameras to move but not be reflected – even the studio walls had to be completely blacked out.

The results are convincing and the feedback from our students has been great. But the next time you watch one of the presentations, do spare a thought for our presenters who deliver their subjects to this strange, two eyed beast.

Ah, the lengths we go to, to make learning easy.

The lengths we go to, to film online education 
Image via Flickr


And I was wondering why Haldor takes his glasses off for most of his comments after you answer a question correctly - in the first 2 modules of Management for the Competitive Edge.....?

I appreciate the innovative technology! We have an inspiring Associate Prof. Greg Downey teaching us but 'the writing on the wall' had me intrigued .......

That is a wonderful system. Even I spent quite some time thinking about how this effect is achieved in practice. :-)

I figured this out some time ago but still have one question: who is the young lady who acts as real-time illustrator in so many of the courses? It seems a little unfair to fail to acknowledge her contribution. Actually, I did have a second question: how come her pens always seem to work perfectly while, despite occasional vigorous shaking, the instructors' pens often seem to be running dry!

A nice, effective and relatively low-tech approach that actually works. It must be a nightmare keeping the panel clean and free of scratches.

Hi Paul, great questions! We currently have 2 illustrators working with our acrylic screen. The blonde lady is Cat Mcinnes and the brunette is Andrea Innocent. They are both professional illustrators and have a great body of work between them. Their pens dont go dry because this is what they are great at doing. Our poor presenters are very skilled at delivering engaging content but perhaps not so skilled when is comes to writing or perspex! It's a lot to remember and they have to imagine they are talking to an audience that isn't actually there when we are shooting.
Google our illustrators so you can check out some more of their work.
Thanks for your comments and questions. Glad you have enjoyed the courses.

Yes the cleaning of the screen can take it's toll after a week of shooting!

All the best,
Content Editor Lead - Open2Study

At long last the secret has been revealed. Apparently in line with other students I have been wondering how it was done. The mind boggles. Very clever manipulation of our senses.

Ah! That's so cool. In fact I am quite sure that most viewers will have this question and it might well be a good idea to link this blog as an FAQ!

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I spotted this on Chinese Culture, I realised how it was done but think it's an absolutely brilliant presentation trick.

The Shirts were all buttoned the wrong way too,


I could not focus on my studies without finding the secret of this mid-air- left-handed-mirror image writing happening during my Open2Study training videos! Searched on net and could not find anything, finally found this blog! What a relief! And it is surprising that other than open2study, I could not find any other training websites using this technic! Proud to be a student in Open2Study! I'm so glad I am a student here.

Thanks for sharing information.
Is it necessary to make the studio walls completely blacked out including camera. I have checked youtube video (video id ZIwmZ9m0byI) but I did not see any black colour around the presenter.
Hence need expert opinion to maintain white background.

Photography contents...stress management...very useful in our lives...thanks for uploading information of so many articles...which we even didn't know...

Being a member for the first time on this site is exciting...but getting to know more about this site by going through it is a main thing n makes you feel comfortable with the rules laid down by the organisation...thank you for this site open2study...feels amazing and satisfied being a member student of O2S

I wondered how it was possible to write mid air. But I thought there has to be a transparent piece of glass to write on, that is stationed in front of the camera.

Thanks for the clarification.

Grateful to learn with Open2Study.

Thanks for the revelation! I was wondering all the time how you achieve this 'mid-air-left-hand-back to forth-writing'. My guess was that there are mirrors involved. Now I can sleep better :)

You have NO IDEA how much this bugged me! :) Thank you for sharing this with us... and thank you for your efforts!

(I specifically loved the "*Please note: no hair follicles were damaged during the making of this film." disclaimer!)

I think I'm going to like it here...

Good trick!
I had also noticed the shirt buttoning flip.
Good clear artwork from Cat Mcinnes and Andrea Innocent.
Thank you

It's a bit like revealing how magic is done... Sad to know but as others have said will help focus on the content rather than the mystery.

I'm glad to see that the film work has improved in recent courses. Some of the early work had some very odd camera work focusing on presenters mid sections or zooming at odd times or angles causing lots of distraction.

And it was nice to find out about the illustrators, they have some awesome skills that help make the courses interesting with their drawings.

I've done 29 courses so far and am mostly enjoying the experience.

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