VIDEO CONFERENCING

Teams and Zoom Products and Configurations
There is no denying that the video based meeting has grown to be a business staple – here we look at some of the solutions available.

Video Conferencing is not a new concept, but in these days, where we seek to reduce environmental impact, where we look to reduce costs and to minimise excessive personal contact it has leapt to the fore. To a large extent we have learnt via lockdowns and pandemic related issues that, in many situations it is very possible to stage multi person video conferences with ease. There are some who feel that video is overused at times ( we don’t always need to have ‘facetime’ ) but there is no denying that the concept, the hardware and the software has taken a strong hold in the arena of business communications.

Two major platforms have taken their places in the communal zeitgeist – namely Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Zoom made immediate inroads during the early days of lookdown, swiftly becoming a byword for video chats and meetings. Zoom prospered, in part as it is a good platform and easy to use. It also operated using a ‘freemium’ model which allowed limited entry to the full functionality for free. There were reported issues with regards to the security of Zoom which may have tarnished its initial attractiveness, but these appear to have been resolved and Zoom continues to engage both consumers and business alike.

Microsoft Teams ( Office 365 having come to dominate business email and document processing ) soon emerged as a first choice for the enterprise user, adding features and functionality at a rapid rate and can be seen to be a platform market leader in video conferencing.

The Hardware

To be succinct – video conferencing requires four pieces of hardware : camera/ screen and microphone/ speaker. These four elements will allow two way transmission of audio and video. Naturally there exists a myriad of combinations, varying in complexity and scale. We will start with the most basic set up.

Headsets & Webcams – the home office

For many of us, in the office or working from home a headset can provide all the audio I/O that is required. Whilst a webcam – integral to laptop or attached to PC can cover the minimal range required for a face half a meter from the camera. Many options exist for the headset – there are fantastic models from the likes of Jabra, EPOS | Sennheiser, Avalle and Poly/ Plantronics. Many users have upgraded their USB headsets to allow the freedom to wander from the desk during usage. Microsoft Teams certified headsets will allow one touch access to Teams meetings and carry certain guarantees with regards to quality and speed of data transmission.

Huddle Rooms

Of course, the solo person at their computer is not how business meetings traditionally take place. The small meeting room, or huddle room has emerged to fit the requirements of new practices and working habits.
The starting point for most meeting rooms has, to date, been the audio conference phone or speakerphone. These allow duplex ( two way ) speech and will cover an area comfortably with up to 6/8 participants. Whilst this is still a valid option for audio only, we like video nowadays so there are options now that surpass the functions of the webcam and bring a richer video experience to the small meeting room.
A good example of a higher end webcam is the Jabra PanaCast which, whilst looking like a simple webcam, brings some true intelligence to the party. It has a sweep of 180° and, via some sophisticatd AI, can follow participants, focus on speakers and even stitch together disparate attendees. The Panacast carries three 13 megapixel cameras – quite a leap in technology from the VGA webcam. Other ‘all in one’ solutions include Video Bars. These are soundbars which include integral webcams such as the Jabra PanaCast 50, the Poly Studio and the Yealink A30 Audio/ Video Sound Bars.
For those who have video covered there are many free standing audio solutions for smaller meeting rooms such as the EPOS EXPAND 80 and the Jabra Speak 810 – these are more than just speakerphones, having the power to cover a far larger area ( and pick up sound ) than the previous generation of portable speakerphones.

Medium Sized Meeting Rooms

Perhaps the most popular, or common of meeting room set up is what is termed the ‘medium sized room’. This is a staple in most offices and can be used for internal meetings as well as remote ones. With space for up to 6 or so participants one will not usually require a very sophisticated set up. As with the huddle room some will opt for a good quality webcam and a speakerphone but with so many people taking part in a meeting slightly more powerful products may be required.

Solutions such as the Yealink MVC 640 Video Conference System have been conceived with just such a meeting room in mind. The advantage of such a system is that all constituent parts will work ‘out of the box’

To taker a closer look at this product
The Yealink MVC 640 System comes with the following parts – making it an ideal solution for a mid sized meeting room :

  • USB CAMERA – with a 4K resolution and wide field of view and auto focussing
  • MINI PC – a small yet powerful PC to act as the driving force of the system, with Bluetooth, WiFi and HDMI x 2
  • TOUCH PANEL – a tablet based interface which includes headset jack and sophisticated motion sensors – supports full collaboration and content sharing
  • SPEAKERPHONE – clear sound with HD Voice, echo cancellation and a voice pick up range of 6 metres

The Yealink MVC640 for Teams or indeed the Yealink ZVC640 for Zoom, of course, are just two options – there are many variations and many ways to kit out your meting room. Some video conferencing products are platform specific – meaning that they can be only used with say Zoom or Microsoft Teams, whereas, of course, there are many ‘agnostic’ options out there as well as a multitude of combinations of differing products..

Larger Meeting Rooms

Some businesses will have large meeting rooms, also lecture theatres and auditoriums can be classified as such due to their nature and their requirements. Where one has multiple participants in a large area it is necessary to fully assess audio and visual set up.
As a single conference/ speaker unit will usually have a pick up range of 6 meters it will probably be necessary to add on to this with additional/ satellite microphones. Similarly a single webcam will not be enough so several cameras may be needed. Intelligent software – AI even – on many platforms is capable of not only focussing webcams on those speaking but also able to pinpoint the best direction for audio pick up. This Artificial Intelligence even can stretch to detailed reports of meeting room occupancy rates and even who has been in meetings with whom.

Naturally this may all be confusing – so many options and so many details to consider. Some products will require licences in order to use the platform they are designed for and some will not work on alternative platforms.

There is more information here, but feel free to give us a call or email us as we would be only too happy to suggest the best options for your video meetings.

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