2. Types of videoconferencing

Videoconferences can be:

  1. Point to point (directly linking two sites).
  2. Multi-site (three or more sites).

These refer to the number of sites linked by the conference, not to the number of people participating. Multi-point conferences can link all sites equally, or can be a main site linked to remote sites. The type of link used can affect the efficiency and therefore quality of sound and vision.

There are two main types of videoconference:

Desktop PC conferencing using a software package over the Internet (IP) network and Webcam. Standalone systems with built in camera, designed for room based meetings using the Internet (IP) or ISDN network

Desktop IP videoconferencing

Desktop IP videoconferencing uses the Internet to link desktop computers running videoconferencing software. The advantages are:

  • It is cheap. You need any PC, an Internet link, a USB video camera and microphone, and special videoconferencing software (also fairly cheap).
  • It is accessible: you can videoconference from your own desk, at any time.

The disadvantages are:

  1. Sound is usually acceptable (often best with headphones ) but the picture is often poor quality.
  2. Time needs to be spent setting up the correct settings, particularly audio
  3. You are dependent on an Internet connection, which can be slow.
  4. It is not suitable for medium or large groups of people to use, gathered round a PC, say a panel of people in a job interview situation.

Examples of IP based conferencing include:

Skype ( PC/Mac)
http://www.skype.com/

Skype is a popular package for keeping in touch with international colleagues. It needs to be configured to disable peer to peer sharing of files and to minimise disruption to the University network. (Skype policy)

WebEx
OUCS is trialing a web conferencing service for large online meetings - see http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/webex/ for more information
Ichat AV
http://www.apple.com/ichat/ Ichat is bundled with MacOSX . It requires registering a .Mac or AIM account

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