Read on for lots more information about videoconferencing.
1. Some background
In its most basic form videoconferencing is the transmission of synchronized image (video) and speech (audio) back and forth between two or more physically separate locations, simulating an exchange as if the two (or more) participants were in the same physical conversation.
The first public videoconference was held in April 1930, between AT&T headquarters and their Bell Laboratory in New York City; microphones and loud speakers transferred the audio, while, under a blue light, the images were captured and transmitted as the participants looked into photoelectric cells. This pioneering event emphasised the benefits of face-to-face conversation at a distance.
Any videoconferencing installation must have a few basic components to succeed:
In addition to these more obvious components, a videoconferencing suite generally includes a codec ("COmpressor/DECompressor"), a user interface, a computer system to run on, and a network connection.
There is a Video conferencing service, suitable for interviews and meetings based at the University Media Production Unit, 5 Worcester Street. Tel 01865 289980. See Media Production Video Conference service. Various departments also have suitable video conference facilities. See here
2. Types of videoconferencing
Videoconferences can be:
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:
The disadvantages are:
Examples of IP based conferencing include:
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)
3. Standalone videoconferencing systems
Standalone videoconferencing systems, where the camera and audio are built-in to a small console that sits on a monitor or TV, now use standard IP network connections and offer a high quality, simple to use service. They allow monitors and extra cameras, microphones and PC equipment to be connected and controlled very easily. They are very easy to set-up, reliable, with no specialist knowledge need to use and are controlled via a simple handheld pad. There is a Video conferencing service, suitable for interviews and meetings based at the University Media Production Unit, 5 Worcester Street. Tel 01865 289980.
The advantages are:
Widely available in Higher Education Institutions and Worldwide. ( see http://www.ja.net/services/video/ High quality sound and vision, as built-in electronics cancel any audio echo. Smaller systems can be used as a portable "box" which can be used in any room with an IP connection and TV monitor or video projector. Suitable for meetings with many people due to the high quality video and cameras
The disadvantages are:
Equipment can be expensive, starting around two thousands pounds for a basic system. Often have to travel to a room where the system is based Difficult to share PC material
In addition, dedicated departmental or institutional videoconferencing suites in HEIs are likely to have some or all of the following:
The following Oxford University departments are equipped with room based video-conferencing:
Contact an IT officer in the department for further details.
Manufacturers of standalone conference systems used at Oxford:
4.1. General Overview