A guest post from Cas Chong, Briefing Manager of the Polycom Singapore Executive Experience Centre:
Proliferation of personal mobile/desktop video solutions has changed the landscape of group video collaboration. It has driven growth in the deployment of room-based group videoconferencing solutions. According to Wainhouse Research “Video Conferencing Endpoints, Infrastructure and Services Market Sizing & 5-Year Forecast”, single codec room-based videoconferencing solutions will see a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.8% in Asia Pacific.
Customers considering deploying room-based video conferencing solutions have been looking up to video conferencing vendors like Polycom, and their trusted audio/video integrators for advice. This article will look at key considerations in three areas, namely audio, video and content for a small huddle room to medium-size conference room around 250-300sq feet seating up to 10 people. I will also highlight some solutions which are ideal for this type of deployment. While these three areas of consideration remain valid for a large conference room, the setup of that type of room tends to be more complex, and will not be covered here.
Enabling clear conversations with HD sound is key for any meeting space, and is an important point to factor even in smaller rooms. Polycom is renowned for the HD (High Definition) audio quality of the iconic triangular conference phones, the Polycom SoundStation® (image below left) – a long-established solution which has become a meeting room staple. In addition, the Polycom RealPresence Group Series suite (image below right) leverages Polycom’s renowned HD audio technology, delivering twice the clarity of ordinary telephone calls for life-like, and natural conversation. The Group Series range of solutions delivers Polycom Constant Clarity™, a set of industry-leading audio technology that dramatically improves the sense of realism, resulting in more productive meetings.
The Polycom Table Microphone Array and Polycom Ceiling Microphone Array provide superior audio pickup for the RealPresence Group Series. Both the Polycom Table Microphone Array and Ceiling Microphone Array offer 360-degree voice pickup through three microphone elements, spaced 120 degrees apart, providing exceptional room coverage. RealPresence Group Series allows additional microphone arrays to be connected for larger rooms. As a rule of thumb, one table microphone is needed for 4-6 participants in an area around 400-500 square feet depending on the ambient noise. Acoustic paneling or some level of acoustic treatment is recommended to bring down the ambient noise level and avoid echo from the reflection of sound off the concrete surface/wall in the room. To ensure conducive meetings the ideal acoustic criteria of a conference room should be around 35-40 dB(A), similar to the noise level of a library.
In terms of the sound (audio output) of the remote meeting participants, the voice we hear should appear to come from the direction of the image of the person speaking. In a small and medium-sized video enabled room, speakers of the TV provide adequate coverage. Front-firing sound bar or stereo speakers can also be deployed for better coverage.
Any meeting experience immediately becomes more efficient and productive, when held face-to-face. Which is where high quality, enterprise-grade video further enhances the meeting experience. Polycom RealPresence Group Series delivers High Definition video up to 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second for life-like communication supported by the Polycom EagleEye IV 12 X camera that delivers a new level of realism. The Polycom EagleEye Director is a wonderful piece of collaboration technology – comprising a pair of cameras which automatically zoom in on the active speaker using patented voice triangulation and face-finding technologies – making a video conference a very realistic, personal experience, rather than just hearing or speaking to a face in the crowd at the far end. Polycom EagleEye Director ensures a high impact discussion because of this more personal interaction, and brings the telepresence experience to any room size at a fraction of the cost. For a huddle room deployment, the new Polycom EagleEye IV 4x (pictured), captures incredible detail, while the Polycom EagleEye Acoustic camera has a built in microphone and a lesser footprint, ideal for smaller spaces.
In a conference room setup, the placement of camera is important to ensure natural interaction and smooth-flow conversation. Meeting participants feel more engaged if there is eye contact throughout the meeting. One way to achieve that, is to place the camera at around 1.2 metres off the ground, which is eye level when seated in the room. Furthermore, the lighting of a video conferencing room has a direct and visible impact on the quality of the video being transmitted. It is important to make sure the room is evenly lit, with no backlighting. The recommended lighting colour temperature for video conferencing rooms range from 3000 to 3800 degree Kelvin with a luminance of 650-750 Lux.
Content is a key part of any collaboration experience, and , is shared in almost every meeting in various forms such as static documents or drawings, or more interactive presentations and videos. When it comes to content, the type of input and output are important factors to examine
Polycom RealPresence Group Series is designed with that in mind, providing up to six ways to allow users to share any content in a meeting.
- VGA Connection to Laptop
- Polycom People+Content™ IP
- Polycom Smart Pairing™
- Polycom Touch Control - USB Drive
- Polycom Touch Control – USB Connection to Laptop
- Third-party hardware – e.g. Wolfvision Visualiser
Most room-based video collaboration solutions enable users to share a presentation or other documents from a laptop through a VGA connection. In addition, content can be shared wirelessly from a laptop through Polycom People+Content™ IP application or from a tablet through Polycom SmartPairing™ technology. The introduction of Polycom Touch Control in a video-enabled room allows sharing of presentation material from a USB drive or USB connection to a laptop.
It is common to see dual screen deployments, where the second screen is used for content. The size of the content screen is typically the same as the primary screen used for people video. However it is not uncommon to see projectors deployed as the content screen. The size of the content screen will depend of size of the room and the viewing distance of the meeting participants seated furthest from the screen.
Polycom innovation doesn’t stop here. Whiteboard capability has been introduced to further enhance collaboration through Polycom UC Board and Visual Board Technology to allow bidirectional annotation. Whilst providing a more natural way to interact with content it also means that the cost of a purpose built whiteboard can be saved.
In summary the key things to consider when planning a room for video conferencing are as follows:-
- Look at the audio environment
- Is the room suitably treated to reduce noise levels?
- Will table microphones be suitable, or would ceiling microphones be a better choice?
- How big is the room? Plan your microphone coverage appropriately
2. Understand how to create a good video environment
- Make sure to make room size and room coverage with the appropriate camera technology
- Camera placement has a direct impact on the experience so plan its location wisely
- Balanced lighting is important so look at all aspects of how a room is lit – artificial and natural light.
3. Look at how people will use the room
- How will they share content?
- Will the room be multipurpose or dedicated to video?
- Make sure to match display size to the room size and number of expected participants.
Keeping these three topics of audio, video and content in mind when planning a video conferencing room should lead to a great end-user experience.
For additional technical information on room set up and configuration please reference to the Polycom RealPresence Group Series Integrator’s Reference Manual on the Polycom website.