The Basics of Video Conferencing – Part I: The Equipment
May 13, 2008 @ 06:00 AM | By Brian Trampler & Sara O'Rourke
So, you’ve decided to look at videoconferencing because everyone is talking about Telepresence, HD, travel restrictions, and lower corporate budgets. And just to throw one more in, don’t forget the person who mentioned that “green” videoconferencing will allow you to track your carbon offset. But the information out there is daunting. How do you cut through the mix? Have no fear; some basic info about the equipment, the technology, and the terminology will help you wade through the sea of information out there.
This time around for the blog, let’s start with the equipment you need. There are really 3 categories of video gear. They are:
• Desktop systems: Desktop video can mean software that can be installed on your laptop or desktop and used in conjunction with a high-quality webcam, but it can also be a separate piece of hardware that uses a flat screen with a built-in camera for display. The price range can be anywhere from $250 for the software plus webcam to $8,000 for an HD quality unit. And if you want to step up to an even higher level, there is a new class of personal telepresence units that take both quality and price to a new level.
• Small group systems: This type of system usually allows for 1 to 3 participants to be comfortably viewed on each end of the video conference. These systems are usually an all-in-one type of system that includes the video hardware, a built in camera, and a display that comes in a slim form factor. They are typically a single screen display, and the view is split on the screen to allow multiple locations to show. The price ranges start lower than the hardware based desktop systems, around $3,000 to $5,000 at the low end, but can be around $20,000.00 at the high end. It all depends on the quality of cameras, resolution and size of displays you choose. .
• Large group/boardroom systems: Provide the highest-quality video, typically 2 42” or higher flat screen or projection screen displays are installed to allow for “life-size” views and multiple locations on the screens, but they also come with the highest price tag, with systems starting at $10,000. High end telepresence suites that covers entire walls in the room, with all the bells and whistles, can run upwards of $300,000. These systems must be seen to be believed, as the quality really does allow you to feel like you could reach out and shake hands at the end of your meeting.
Telepresence can be counted as either a high end solution or a solution in each category. Some people classify these systems in a different category due to the special high end type of white-glove service that is bundled in, but in reality they are coming out with very high quality video conferencing solutions at all ends of the spectrum.
One last thing to think about while you’re doing your research – Is there anything out there that would allow someone that is just entering the videoconferencing market to get a taste for the technology without that size investment?
Yes! Look for a virtual or shared office space that has a videoconferencing room and equipment for rent. These rooms are available globally in most major metropolitan areas and even in some smaller cities as well – InterCall’s network covers about 9,000 locations, so there is likely one near you. They are typically able to be rented by the hour, and it may just be the way to get a taste for video conferencing. After a few meetings, you’ll see the value and will know whether it will help your project or initiative. And that might be just what it takes to make that move to purchase a reality for your organization.
So how do you explain the technology behind videoconferencing to the folks that pay the bills at your organization? Let me know what questions you might have on that subject and we’ll discuss them the next time around on the InterCall Blog!
Brian Trampler is the Sr. Product Manager of Strategic Video Solutions & the "Video Conferencing" blogger. Throughout his 10 years in the conferencing industry, he has successfully launched numerous web, streaming, and video services. Prior to making the jump to conferencing, Brian was involved in gymnastics both as a competitor and coach. If you’re lucky, you might also find Brian performing musical theatre throughout the Denver metro area.