Remote Conference Presentation via WebRTC

BlogGeekMe-ScreenshotCredit is due to Tsahi Levent-Levi of Amdocs, not only is he a leading voice in the evolution of WebRTC, but he’s eating that very dog food himself. It’s so great to see people walk-the-walk while giving-the-talk. That is in fact what he’s planning to do.

In a blog post today he put out a call for suggestion of WebRTC-based services to highlight in giving a presentation to a conference. His plans include giving the presentation remotely via a WebRTC connection. That’s awesome.

I’m not sufficiently wired into the WebRTC ecosphere to comment about services. However, the idea of making such a presentation via remote means raises in my mind some questions. While I think that this is a matter of common sense, my experience has been that these matters often get overlooked, even by people who in theory should know better.

Logitech-C910-Webcam1. The Webcam

To be blunt, not all webcams are created equally. Some produce decent pictures under ideal circumstances. Others are notable only for the convenience of being built into a laptop and the fact that they didn’t raise the price of said laptop. My experience has been that Logitech’s B910 /C920 /C930e and BCC950 Conference Camera are the current best-of-breed.

The position of the camera is also very important. A camera built into a laptop typically looks up at the user, offering the audience a rather unflattering view from below. An external webcam provides flexibility in defining the camera angle. The Logitech BCC950 Conference Camera is exceptional in that it has PTZ capability and a “neck” to conveniently place the camera at a better position.

ViewMeLight2. Lighting

No matter how good the webcam proper lighting is critical. Probably the best way to think about lighting is to consider the make-up mirror stereotypically found in a dressing room. It lights the person from the front, in a soft, consistent manner. It eliminates shadows cast on the face.

There are many approaches to achieve good lighting, some general purpose, and some more specialized. I’ve worked through my own solution once already.

3. Audio Handling

It’s surprising how often people engage video calling using just the built-in microphone and speakers of a laptop. While some laptops have decent audio hardware, like built-in webcams, most built-in speakers and microphones are simply cheap.

Quality of built-in transducers notwithstanding, the best experience requires the use of a headset.

There’s a substantial difference between “video chat” and “telepresence.” Video chat is a much more casual circumstance, likely subject to the whims of whatever is most convenient for all participants.

The various considerations that I’ve listed are matters that require only a little consideration and attention to detail. One must care enough to give it a little thought in advance, making the effort to ensure the best user experience. It’s certainly worth the effort in making such a public presentation.

Having spend years at Radvision Tsahi Levent-Levi has along history in video calling & conferencing. He surely knows how such a presentation can be done well using a more traditional approach. It will be interesting to find out how he manages to do it leveraging this new WebRTC realm.

  • tsahil

    Thanks for the kind words Michael.
    I probably won’t “splurge” on an external camrea or decent lighting – the main reason being that most users won’t and part of this “experiment” is setting the example of not needing to make it such a hassle.
    With the headset I believe I am covered decently already.
    The purpose of the session I plan on conducting is to show how WebRTC can be used today. Not next year. Not when Apple and/or Microsoft decide to take their finger out of their … well… you understand.

    I am using WebRTC already quite a lot. Happily using it. Might as well check to see how different WebRTC services can be used in large remote conferences as well.

    • mjgraves

      I certainly understand and appreciate what you’re trying to do. What I am thinking about isn’t so much about software or services as users. I appreciate convenience as much as anyone, but I also think that it’s worth a little effort to ensure that everyone has a great experience. To my mind, it’s about be thoughtful and considerate with respect to the audience.

      There’s a gap in thinking between those who use video in the corp realm and those who Skype/Facetime/Hangout. One group is too formal, the other too wholly ad hoc in their approach. There’s a happy middle where a little preparation leads to a better experience.