Has a client or co-worker called recently with one of these questions:
- Can I connect my iPad (or Android tablet) into a company video conference?
- Is there a way to conference using our video camera instead of our webcam?
- Several presenters are coming in today; can we be sure their presentations will all play on our boardroom system?
If you haven’t heard these queries or similar variations, you can probably skip to the next story. Odds are you’ve heard these questions before and can expect to keep hearing them, especially in the collaborative, BYOD environment in which businesses and organizations operate.
Given the ubiquity of tablets, it seems like it should be a no-brainer for all video conferencing and boardroom systems to be tablet-ready for both iPad and Android, but most are not.
While plug-and-play video collaboration gets ample lip-service, AV and IT integrators know there are lots of factors that can complicate adding an outside video source to a video conference. Differences in hardware, operating systems, application software, video formats and file formats are some of the common reasons that problems arise. And while some dilemmas can be solved with a bit of sleuthing and technical know-how, neither clients nor integrators can afford time-sucking technical delays, especially when meetings, and meeting rooms, need to stay on schedule.
Epiphan Systems Inc. develops, markets and supports a leading-edge line of hardware, software, and cloud based audio‐video solutions to capture, record, stream and process multiple types of audio video events and transactions. Epiphan solutions are used by thousands of customers in a multitude of applications including education, video collaboration, healthcare, security and transportation. A leader in its field, Epiphan products have been selected by NASA for telemedicine applications and research. Founded in 2003, Epiphan is a private company based in Palo Alto, California, and Ottawa, Ontario, with regional offices and a network of authorized channel partners and OEMs throughout the world. To learn more visit www.epiphan.com.
Video quality is another important factor when integrating outside video sources with conferencing and boardroom systems. Challenges likely to become stumbling blocks include maintaining very high resolution (HD or above), high frame rates, color accuracy, and proper scale and proportion. For specialized applications such as tele-medicine, engineering, architecture, graphics, and film production, rendering images with high precision and fidelity to the original must be considered essential.
As road-warriors and integrators know, there’s usually no guarantee that audio and images will play on other systems as they do on their native device. But there is a way to provide one.
Formally known as video capture devices, “video grabbers” (a.k.a. frame grabbers) are a reliable and economical solution for adding outside video sources to a conferencing or other boardroom video system, irrespective of the video source. Video grabbers are compatible with a wide variety of 3rd party video and web conferencing systems. For example, a DVI video grabber, available as a small external USB peripheral or internal PCI card, is capable of accommodating all the most widely-used video interfaces and signal types, and it can be preconfigured into a video conferencing system so that presenters or guests need only connect a video cable to their equipment – be it a camera, video player, laptop, tablet, phone, etc. – to share their content with conference participants. It’s as simple as connecting to a projector.
Also important, using a video grabber as part of a video conferencing system precludes the need for a guest to connect to an in-house network or VPN to share content. This removes potential source of problems with firewalls and other security technology without jeopardizing a company’s network security in any way.
For offices with multiple conferencing systems, installing a frame grabber’s driver on multiple systems would allow one USB video grabber (or multiple units) to be moved between different rooms as needed, without any additional configuration needed when the device is being used. All that’s required is connecting the video source to the video grabber and connecting the video grabber (via USB) to the PC in your conferencing system.
Video grabbers are often the only practical solution for connecting specialized digital audio-video sources, such as 3G-SDI camera and other types of professional digital cameras, to a video conferencing or presentation system. While accommodating this level of pro gear will not be a requirement for most installations, integrators whose customers include broadcasters, film makers and other producers of professional video content can only stand to benefit by being prepared to offer or propose such high-grade solutions.
For companies that want or need to store video from an outside source, video grabbers may also be the most convenient and cost-effective solution, since there are several PC applications available (for Mac, Windows, and Linux) for storing captured video on a computer for later viewing, sharing, or streaming.
Though it has been in use for more than a decade, digital video capture is still a relatively new technology to many integrators and end-users, particularly with regard to its applications in video conferencing and video collaboration. One hopes this article offers a helpful introduction on its utility and value in corporate and other organizational communications.