Using Multiple Cameras with Online Video Services

Conference Room Systems (CRS) is an aspect of Haverford Systems, a Philadelphia area A/V sales & integration company. I’ve been watching this company for some time as they seem to have a better than average grasp on USB attached webcams for applications beyond the desktop. Not too long ago one of their team posted an article on Using Multiple Cameras with GotoMeeting, Skype, Webex or Zoom.US.

This article, based upon a SlideShare document with a few additions, is a bit on the thin side. The author starts with the ultra-simple idea that a user with a laptop can select an internal or external webcam as the video source. This is a great point, and well worth noting since an internal webcam tends to be quite lame. A good quality, external webcam can provide much better quality video. My current favorite is the Logitech C920.

He then makes a great leap to using an external video switcher to allow live switching between multiple video sources. While both are valid options, what he describes represents a rather dramatic leap from $0 to thousands-of-dollars.

three video switching options

There is in fact a middle option, which is the approach that we’ve be using for the VoIP Users Conference. You can use a software-based production tool to handle a variety of video sources right within your computer. There are a few different programs that fit this role. Some are inexpensive, or even free. More professional tools of this sort may cost a few hundred dollars.

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VUC515 & A Couple of Observations About YouTube

Last week’s VUC515 with Tsahi Levent-Levi was a great call and a fine example of why the VUC continues to garner audience. Kudos to Randy, Tsahi, Tim, Emil at the cast of several who brought it about.

Dual-Dell-Monitor

The production of the call was a bit unusual. Further, it’s post-call existence is continuing that trend line. In the moments just before the call YouTube decided to ignore the video stream that I was sending from Wirecast. When this has happened in the past stopping & restarting the stream once or twice has resolved the matter.

On this occasion, nothing that I tried could make YouTube acknowledge the stream, so we resorted to abandoning the YouTube Live event, making a local recording instead. That local recording was later uploaded to YouTube.

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Why Create A Micro-USB Cable For DC Power Only?

micro-usb-cableOn a shelf in the garage that adjoins my home office there is a set of shelves with a number of boxes of cables. There are cables of various sorts; BNC type video, RCA audio leads, XLR audio cables, IEC power cords, IEEE-1394, Ethernet, RS-232 serial, USB, mini-USB, micro-USB, etc. I try to not discard anything that might still be useful. Call it recycling if you like. Perhaps hoarding if you’re in a less gracious frame-of-mind.

Recently, I went to the shelf to fetch a micro-USB cable with which to remove some files from my Nexus 4 cell phone. I just grabbed one of the 20 cables in the box, using it to connect the Nexus 4 to my laptop. The Nexus immediately indicated it was charging, but the laptop completely failed to acknowledge the attached device.

I found that to be odd. At first I poked at the laptop a little, but eventually fetched another micro-USB cable from the collection. Using the second cable the laptop issued forth the usual tone, indicating that a new device was attached. Evidently the first cable had only two of the four wires connected, so it provides only power.

That got me to thinking…how much did some manufacturer save by including a cable that was not pin-to-pin connected on a USB-to-micro-USB cable? It had to be a trivial sum, hardly worth considering. It’s certainly not worth having to track a different SKU for the charging cable vs the fully-functional cable that might also be used with products requiring real USB connectivity.

With a true commodity item like this kind of USB cable such a short-sighted approach just seems dumb.

Gigaset Pro Introduces Maxwell 10 Android Tablet & Phone

Gigaset Pro MaxwellEarlier this week Gigaset extended their Gigaset Pro line by adding a new 10” Android tablet they call Maxwell. I must say that at first glance the device looks VERY nice.

As just an Android tablet Maxwell is a little unremarkable. The display is 1280 x 800 pixels. It runs Android 4.2.2, aka Jelly Bean, which is a little old on the eve of widespread Lollipop rollout.

What makes Maxwell stand out from the crowded tablet marketplace are the customizations intended to make it a communication centerpiece. These include;

  • Ethernet interface with POE support
  • Ethernet pass-through
  • Wired handset (RJ9)
  • EHS & DHSG connectivity
  • Bluetooth & wired headset connectivity (RJ9)
  • Audio augmented by a large speaker in its back
  • Built-in DECT base radio
  • Optional DECT handset
  • Desk stand
  • Wall mount capability
  • Gigaset Pro telephone app
  • Micro-HDMI output for a larger monitor
  • 2x USB host ports (supports external camera, keyboard, mouse, etc)

Color me curious about this tablet. I’d simply love to lay hands on one. I suspect that won’t happen since their Gigaset Pro line has not been offered in North America. The only thing that made it to these shores was the Gigaset DX800A. Lacking for a well-developed retail channel I don’t think that it did very well.

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No Jitter: No HDVoice Either!

While I recently lamented the last UC Strategies podcast woefully narrowband presentation, in the interest of fairness I must today point out that they are not alone in this. Today the latest No Jitter Podcast, hosted by Guy Clinch, published an interview with Andrew Prokop of Arrow S3. It suffers a similar lack of lack of regard for HDVoice.

Mr Prokop’s SIP Adventures blog has proven interesting, so I thought the podcast worth a listen. Sadly, while the host is presented full bandwidth, as might be expected from a local recording, the guest is presented in narrowband. Given that the subject matter is WebRTC I think that this is more than a little anachronistic. WebRTC-based services are in fact a very easy way to enjoy wideband audio for the purposes of producing a podcast.

Dragging the podcast in my trusty editor I find it to the a definitive example of full-band audio vs narrowband. The file is sampled at 44.1 kHz, so the top of the vertical axis is 22 kHz. The guests audio is a good quality PSTN call, but even that is quite a contrast from the host. This contrast is very jarring to the listener.

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Opus Codec Appears in Broadcast STL System

Intraplex-IP-Link-100-and-200-angle-transparentToday’s news dump included an article on GatesAir, now a freestanding entity, it was once the transmission division of what was then known as Harris Broadcast. The company makes radio and TV transmitters, as well as related equipment, which includes studio-to-transmitter (aka STL) links. According to the Broadcast Beat article they have sold and installed one of their Intraplex IP STLs to WRLY-LP, a low power radio station in Raleigh, NC.

A broadcaster with a transmitter that is not located right at their main building (not co-sited) needs an extremely reliable means of sending their broadcast signal from the studio to the transmitter location. They also need some way to get some transmitter telemetry back from the remote location so that they can monitor the health of the transmitter. Their on-air presence via the transmitter is, after all, their bread and butter.

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