Lest you think I don’t support video collaboration in conference rooms, I actually love it! I just don’t think an expensive telepresence setup is needed for a successful conference. For a sliver of a fraction of a percentage of the cost, you can have a great conference room setup using a quality desktop collaboration solution (such as *ahem* VSee) and off-the-shelf equipment.
We plan to make a series of this with the future installments provided by fellow VSee employee Julio, who has experimented with many different trial-and-error configurations of room setups. Some should be pretty amusing, especially the failed experiments!
Here, however, I’ll present the basic setup for both rectangular and round tables.
Suggested Room Layouts
There are several solutions for camera and display placement. For the standard conference room layout, we suggest the following:
On a long table, whether a rectangle or oval, if possible, place the cameras on one narrow end, positioning each camera to view just over half the table (1). Allowing for some overlap ensures remote participants can see all room participants. Do not place chairs next to or behind the cameras. Do not worry if the angle of view doesn’t include everyone; the PTZ function of the cameras (see our camera recommendations below) will allow the remote participants to scan the entire table. Place the display on the wall or the end of the table behind the cameras.
For square or circular tables, you will want the participants to line up on the opposite side of the table from the cameras (2). Depending on the size of the table, it may be important to place the cameras on a surface some distance from the table to ensure everyone is within the field of vision. Whatever you use for the display, wall, screen, monitor or HDTV, attempt to place the cameras beside or along the sightlines between the seats and the image. Move cameras to the display edges if using a projector on the table. This way the cameras will not cast shadows onto the screen or wall. Whenever possible, use projectors that are mounted to ceilings or high places so the cameras may be placed more directly along sightlines.
We recommend for a display either an HDTV monitor or a ceiling/wall-mounted projector with a screen. Most HDTVs come with VGA and HDMI inputs, to which most desktops and laptops may connect with. For the screen resolution on your computer, use 1360 x 768 pixels. This will allow the projector or HDTV to resolve the picture at either 720p or 1080p in 16:9 aspect mode.
Either a laptop or desktop computer may be used to host room-based meetings. Netbooks are not recommended as room-based system hubs due to the likely number of video streams.
You’ll probably want to use two or more external USB pan/tilt/zoom (“PTZ”) enabled webcams. We recommend the Logitech Orbit or Sony EVI series cameras. PTZ will let the remote participants adjust who they’re looking at during the discussion.
We also recommend using an external USB speakerphone—our preference is the Phoenix Duet—to ensure echo cancellation and appropriate levels of gain and volume. If you have a larger area to cover, we recommend multiple Phoenix Duet Executives (not the MT202) or the Phoenix Quattro2. The Quattro2 is designed for larger conference table use and may be daisy chained (“ganged”). The Duet Executives are also capable of ganging to allow multipoint placement throughout a room without creating interference or echoes. Please note the Duet MT202 does not have ganging capability.