Videoconferencing: The Best Way to Go
by Jim Hanks
When the economy slows, one of the first areas businesses mark for cutbacks is
travel. But since companies also know that people would rather give business to
a friend than to an e-mail correspondent, client meetings cannot be curtailed
completely. This is a large part of why the videoconferencing market is performing
so well today. Though you can't actually shake hands over a video connection,
conferencing devices still let you imbue professional relationships with some
Videoconferencing systems come in many shapes and formats. Some are inexpensive
and have choppier transmissions. Others use dedicated lines. And high-end equipment
can give you broadcasts that look no different from live news programs. In this
article, I'm going to talk about the different technologies on the market and
how each can help people with different needs.
have a teenager in the home, you probably already know a fair amount about these
cameras. Transmitting over the web, these devices are excellent for people with
limited budgets. Probably the easiest devices to set up, most web cams provide
streaming video at about 15 frames per second. Because the speed is rather slow,
you won't be able to see subtle changes in facial expressions, but you can definitely
converse on a more personable level than you could on a telephone. Additionally,
web cams often let you photograph and save snapshots. This allows you to e-mail
documents or drawings.
One such web camera is the Logitech
QuickCam Pro 3000. This fairly high-end web cam has a built-in microphone
and is excellent for the occasional videoconferencer. And with a maximum resolution
of 640x480 and a frame relay of up to 30 frames per second, PC and Mac owners
can have acceptable conversations with anyone connected to the internet. The
QuickCam also includes video and audio editing software that lets you create
small films or claymation-style animation.
The price of a web camera can be anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on frame
rate, features included, and on the manufacturer.
One main problem with web cams is that you are dependent on the internet and
if your connection is down or traffic is heavy, your conversation will be anything
but professional. It will surely be very, very frustrating.
Another option is to use a dedicated line for videoconferencing. The mm225
Videophone from Motion
Media transmits information across high-speed ISDN lines. So not only will
your connection be more reliable, the quality and speed of your video will be
better, too. The Motion Media supports both H.324 and H.320 standards, allowing
you to communicate with people using ISDN videophones.
While you are videoconferencing, the mm225 shows your participant as well as
your own transmission (in a smaller inset picture). If you do not like the framing
of either picture, you can adjust your cameras with keys on the videophone.
The mm225's best feature, though, is its ability to support a VCR. So not only
can you record phone conversations, you can also let others view videos without
having to send them the tape.
Unfortunately, ISDN can be finicky and isn't as cost-efficient as other broadband
options. As it stands, a large number of ISDN users are in areas where DSL or
cable modem is not available.
The best option for videoconferencing is to buy a videoconferencing unit. These
units generally sit atop a television monitor and deliver very high-resolution
pictures at real-time frame speeds.
Polycom manufactures an extensive array of videoconferencing units, and many
of them can be ordered from the Hello Direct web site, HelloDirect.com. I've
reviewed many of these Polycom videoconferencers for Hello Direct, from the
models suited for smaller offices (ViaVideo) to the more elaborate systems, as well.
TANDBERG is another very big name in video, and a few months back I reviewed
one of their systems for Hello Direct, as well, the TANDBERG
1000. Hello Direct offers a variety of models for different needs, and these
can be found in the Polycom
Online Store. Within these presentations, you will find systems that can accommodate
from 3 participants to more than 30.
A very important consideration that I haven't mentioned yet is price. Though
some of the models described above can be somewhat expensive, you should get
more than your money back once you start using them. Because not only will you
save on travel and hotel costs, if your videoconferencer is using your data
lines or the internet, you won't incur telephone charges.
With the technology out there today, there's no reason you should be relying
on just one of your senses for getting information across. Whatever your budget,
integrating an occasionalor frequentvideoconference into
your work week will improve internal and client relations.
Incidentally, videoconferencing is a lot more fun than gabbing on the phone.