Video over IP

PC based personal Video Conferencing systems

This article looks at the alternatives available to web-conferences (video) to enable a more professional and quality video conferences right from your desktop via a software application. These PC based personal video conferencing solutions can also enable inter-office one to one or one-to-many video calling/ conferences. So, we look at the features, options, constraints and of course, why it is exciting.

Why are personal PC based Video conferencing systems exciting?

¤ Normally, if you use the web-cam to communicate to your colleague in the office via say an IM service, the quality of the video is very poor. This can be made better by a personal VC system.
¤ You cannot dial a multi-point call with an IM (for video). With personal video conferencing system, you can.
¤ You can join in a professional VC session or you can just listen to the VC session conducted by your board of directors, right from your PC.

The main advantage of many professional board room Video Conferencing solutions is its ability to run H.264 compression on video, which gives better quality in lower bandwidths. The same can be brought to your web-cam-headphone-based-PC’s too, by incorporating H.264 compression via a software for your video calls. They just give a much better quality and clarity to videos at lower bandwidth.

What do you need?

Obviously, you need a PC, Headphones with Mic, USB-based Camera, and the personal video conferencing system client software loaded on your PC. The camera needs to support high resolution video like 960 x 720 pixels or 640 x 480 pixels. If the headset supports 14 Khz frequency, the audio output would be better.

You can use this in your LAN, VPN, MPLS bandwidth and even broadband connectivity (for remote locations). But the broadband in your area should support minimum of 64 Kbps of Upload speed – for broadband, download speeds are higher). Yes, you need minimum 64 Kbps and you could connect up to speeds of 2 Mbps.

What can you do?

You can make a point to point video call (with any other system – PC that has this personal VC client installed) and you can also do a multi-point video calls with other systems. You get to see the video in flexible size windows that you can adjust. You can join in an existing video conferencing session happening in your corporate office from your PC and you can also just dial into a session and just listen(and see) the conversations. You can make a voice call to VOIP phones, if they are supported. You can show your desktop screen (if you have opened a PPT file etc) to the other participant so that along with the video they can also see the content for reference. A picture in picture mode would be ideal. Or, if the PC supports and has two monitors, the content could be seen in a separate screen and video in the primary screen. You can control the far end camera position, use text based chat, send and create a video mail. As you can see, a lot of features of professional video conferencing systems are supported in this and you get better video quality (Up to 30 frames per second) – much better than what you experience through an IM based video chat.

Optional Hands Free Speaker:

Some personal video conferencing systems also come with an optional hands free speaker + microphones set which would enable you to converse without the headset. Two or three participants can also add on in this mode. These are generally USB based systems and the power is also drawn from the USB cables. You can plug in the headphone in the 3.5mm jack provided in case you want privacy on certain calls. The advantage of this system is the wide band audio that you can enjoy.

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