I’ve used a number of Logitech products over the years. Their business class headsets have been consistently improving in recent years. Their webcams have been best-in-class as long as I can remember. While the BCC950 Conference Cam is a great value in a webcam/speakerphone aimed at an office or small meeting room, their new Logitech CC3000e Conference Cam is without a doubt their most ambitious effort yet. It’s a PTZ webcam & conference phone aimed at larger meeting rooms.
As opposed to a dedicated SIP or H.323 end-point appliance, the CC3000e, like the BCC950 before it, is just a USB-attached audio/video I/O device. Requiring no special drivers it is automatically configured when connected to a host PC.
Unlike the BCC905, it’s not an all-in-one unit. The device has several components;
- Conference phone module
- PTZ camera module with mounting bracket
- Powered USB hub device
- IR cordless remote control
The hub device connects to the host PC with an 8 foot long USB cable. The of the hub has a blue LED that indicates the device is powered. The system requires more power than a standard USB port can provide, so an AC adapter (12VDC 1A) is connected to the hub to power the system as a whole.
The conference phone and camera modules are connected to the USB hub with PS/2-like cables. Each is around 15 feet, allowing for around 30 feet between the camera module and the conference phone.
The bottom of the hub is grooved such that when it is attached to a surface it can act as a clamp to hold the various cable secure.
The camera features a PTZ mount, with an auto-focusing 10x optical zoom lens featuring real glass elements from Carl Zeiss. The less provides a 90 degree field of view, which is quite wide for cameras of this sort.
The PTZ mount swings +/- 130 degrees, resulting in 260 degrees of horizontal coverage of the room. It also has 130 degrees of vertical movement.
Like its more recent Logitech brethren, the C920, C930e & BCC950 models, it has an onboard video encoder allowing it support output resolutions of up to 1080p30 if the host application is capable of initializing the camera in an appropriate manner. It supports H.264 AVC and SVC video encoding via the UVC 1.5 command set.
Applications that are unaware of the encoder hardware will be limited to 720p30. As discussed previously, this is the upper limit of what can be achieved using a USB 2.0 connection to the host PC when transferring an uncompressed video stream.
The hardware included with the camera includes a novel multi-mode mounting bracket. It can be attached to a wall to create a camera mounting shelf, or used as a small quadru-pod for the camera, raising up off the table around 5 inches. In both orientations the USB hub can also be connected to the little mounting bracket, if that’s physically convenient.
The camera has a standard threaded mounting hole in the bottom which accommodates a standard tripod. In my office I had it mounted to a heavy Manfrotto tripod with a portrait head. The Manfrotto kit was a gift from my wife long ago. It’s massive overkill for my usual Canon DSLR. That said, it’s heavy enough to avoid being accidentally knocked over, and the portrait head makes leveling the camera super-easy.
The Conference Phone
The conference phone component is the heart of the system. Measuring just under 9.5” square and 2” tall, it’s substantial in size. In the following gallery of images you’ll find an image comparing it to a couple of similar devices from my office inventory.
The top surface features an LCD display and capacitive touch control surface. The controls on the conference phone duplicate the buttons found on the wireless remote control. In addition, there’s a Bluetooth button used to setup pairing to a mobile device, although it also supports NFC-based touch-pairing with suitably capable mobile devices.
The IR wireless remote control nests neatly into the control panel recess on the top of the conference phone, making it less likely to be lost in the chaos of the meeting room activities.
From an audio perspective it features two omnidirectional microphones; one on each side of the saucer. Logitech claims that it can accommodate participants as far as 10 feet away. That suggests that it’s well suited to a mid-sized meeting space, capable of a group of 6-10 people. This is not unlike my 400 square foot home office.
Both the conference phone and the camera have a Kensington security slot, allowing them to be secured in the meeting space.
Upon connecting the system to my host PC the operating system automatically recognized the device and installed the appropriate generic driver. There is no device specific driver as the CC3000e is basic UVC compliant device.
It’s also worth noting that the CC3000e did not leverage the driver that was already installed for my existing C920 webcam. That software, which includes various controls for auto vs manual color balance, exposure and focus, had no impact at all on the CC3000e.
Call Control & Plug-ins
As a generic USB audio/video device the CC3000e has limited integration with any soft clients. Only the volume control functions work immediately. The buttons for call start & end rely upon plug-ins to provide integration with the host application. Logitech offers plug-ins for Cisco’s Jabber client, WebEx, Microsoft Lync 2010/2013 and Skype.
With the Skype PC Plug-in installed I was able to use the call control button on the CC3000e to answer an incoming call. I also had mute & unmute control that was integrated with the Skype client.
Far-end camera control is supposedly supported for those using Microsoft Lync 2010/2013. It relies upon the one of the aforementioned plug-ins. Lacking for access to a Lync installation I was unable to try the far-end cameras control for myself.
Logitech has a small test application, available from the web site, useful in exercising the core functions of the CC3000e independent of the client application. This application makes it simple to verify microphone & speaker functionality. It also provides a simple, manual way to control the PTZ function of the camera.
I presume that this app arises in part from their desire to be able to offer an example of how to third-party developers can take advantage of the CC3000e from within their software. Ziva Nissan, Sr. B2B Video Product Manager at Logitech, made the offer of such sample code when she appeared on VUC 490 to present the CC3000e.
The Cordless Remote Control
The cordless remote control includes all of the buttons on the speakerphone, except the Bluetooth pairing button. An IR type remote control, it must have a clear path to the IR receiver.
Logitech thoughtfully placed IR receivers at all four corners of the speakerphone, as well as on the front of the camera module. Thus the remote can be aimed at the speakerphone, which is likely to be centrally located on a conference room table. and still control the camera. It need not be pointed directly at the camera.
Bluetooth & Mobile Devices
I was able to use the NFC pairing function to establish pairing between the CC3000e and my Nexus 4 cell phone. There after the CC3000e became the speakerphone for my mobile phone. This is handy since the speakerphone on most mobile handsets are beyond dreadful.
According to Logitech the call control buttons of the conference phone act to adjust the volume and answer or end a call made via a mobile phone. This is done via the AVRCP aspect of Bluetooth. I was able to verify this behavior with my Nexus 4 when using the built-in dialer.
Further, I was able to use a SIP soft client on my cell phone to make a wideband call to the ZipDX conference server. The G.722-based wideband audio was successfully passed to/from the CC3000e speakerphone.
While BT paired to my Android cell phone I found that the CC3000e was only useful as a hands-free telephony device. I could not use it to listen to a streaming music service like Pandora. However, when I paired the CC3000e to an iPod Touch I was able to listen to the NPR feed from iTunes Radio, and it sounded good.
So ends my introduction to the Logitech CC3000e. In part 2 I’ll detail it’s observed performance, including offering some sample media.