Logitech’s New PTZ Pro Camera

astra-overview-main-imagePerhaps you recall last year when Logitech launched their CC3000e Conference Cam? We had them as a guest on VUC 490 to show off their new gadget. The entire audience was impressed with the device, most especially the camera portion. It seems that last month they launched the camera alone as a new product, calling it the PTZ Pro Camera.

With MSRP of $799 the PTZ Pro Camera delivers 1080P video over USB 2.0 using an onboard H.264 UVC encoder. It’s capable of SVC when used with a suitable capable client, like those from Cisco, Microsoft or Vidyo.

Apps not able to use the onboard encoder will be limited to accessing 720p30 over the USB 2.0 link. That includes Google’s Hangouts since they use VP8 instead of H.264.

Although the camera is exceptional in its price class, that class is rather limited. There quite a leap from the $100 USB webcams with a fixed lens to the entry level PTZ cameras from HuddleCamHD, Vaddio or VDO360. Things approach $1k very quickly, which makes their pricing strategy for the PTZ Pro Camera potentially quite sensible.

My own experience with the CC3000e shows that it can deliver excellent video, but it’s not without its quirks. The auto focus cannot be defeated, and occasionally hunts to find the focal plane. Also, the single preset camera position, basically a “Home” is limited. It would be nice to have a number of positional presets, as most other PTZ cameras provide.

Finally, I wish that there was more (ok, really…any!) support for remote control of the PTZ mount.

In a casual look around the web I see that many AV dealers are starting to list the PTZ Pro Camera. Prices listed vary widely, which suggests that it’s not yet shipping. Amazon has the PTZ Pro Camera listed at $978.  MacMall is the lowest at $681, but that could change once there’s real availability.

I really don’t mean to sound down on the PTZ Pro Camera. I actually like it a lot. I expect that Logitech will do quite well with this new offering.

Webcams 3: USB 2.0 Friend or Foe?

Logitech-C910-WebcamHave you ever noticed that basically all webcams are connected to the host computer using the USB 2.0 bus? The ubiquitous USB 2.0 bus is cheap and convenient for such purposes. Providing 480 Mbps it’s no slouch, but it’s not exactly state-of-the-art either. This has implications when webcams are reaching for HD resolutions at decent frame rates.

Until quite recently webcams always provided an uncompressed image stream to the host computer. USB 2.0 is a serial connection standard supporting up to 480 Mbps. That’s about one third of the data rate of the production HD-SDI standard, SMPTE-292M, which is 1.485 Gbps.

Let’s do a little math corresponding to a 720p video stream as related to uncompressed HDTV.

8 bit/pixel @ 1280 x 720 @ 59.94fps = 105 MB per/sec, or 370 GB per/hr.

105 MB/s = 840 mbps

…but a lot of video conferencing gear actually uses 30 frames/second instead of 59.94 or 60 frames/second…so half that value…

720p30 = 420 mbps!

There you have it! The mathematics supports the assertion that 720p30 uncompressed “HD” video stream can be passed across the USB 2.0 serial bus. This explains how Skype, Google, ooVoo, VSee and others have been able to offer HD video using common USB 2.0 connected webcams. Understanding the limit of the USB 2.0 connection also informs us why 1080-capable webcams have not become similarly commonplace.

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LifeSize On WebRTC

LifeSize_Icon_SeriesLast week LifeSize had a webinar on the topic of WebRTC. I took an hour to listen to what they had to say and pose a couple of questions. Their target audience appeared to be people who might have heard some of the hype about WebRTC, but were not otherwise familiar with this new phenomenon. Suffice it to say that the material covered was introductory.

The webinar started with a pre-recorded video of Casey King, LifeSize CTO and Simon Dudley, who is described as LifeSize video evangelist. Their pre-recorded conversation was followed by an audio-only live segment where they answered questions arising from the audience, which was reported to be over 1000 people.

If you care to view the event after the fact you’ll find a recording of the webinar here.

During the live event I posed a couple of questions in the text chat. I asked if they had any plans to support the Opus audio codec and VP8 video codec. These are core aspects of WebRTC, although the debate about whether VP8 or H.264 should be “mandatory” rages on.

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First Looks: Grandstream GXV-3175 Multi-Media Phone

Announced in December of last year, the GXV-3175 is Grandstream‘s latest entry into the multi-media phone arena. Reading the companies press release I thought the phone to be, in principle, a very ambitious undertaking.

The GXV-3175 is a kind of marriage of a desk phone and touch screen tablet. Perhaps most interestingly, it runs Google’s Android operating system.

On the basis of all this potential I reached out to Grandstream and requested a sample. Happily, after just a little consideration, they responded by sending me a pair of GXV-3175 for evaluation.

While I’ve had the samples a few weeks, and actually been using them, I’m one who likes to take my time forming an opinion about new hardware. A formal review will come eventually, but not for a bit.

In the mean time, the folks over at OnSIP have just posed their own review of the GXV-3175. Leo, who works in their phone lab, told me that they had some samples in-house. We had a short video call last week as he was experimenting with the phone. As we had not met previously, it was nice to see Leo, even if just on the 7″ LCD.

 

Experiments With Vidyo

In recent weeks and months I’ve been giving some thought to making greater use of video within the scope of my work life. In part this is what what motivated my ill-fated attempt to get LifeSize to appear on a VUC call. It happens that others VUC contributors are considering such things as well.

Last week Paul Warmbowski was completing a trial of the Vidyo personal telepresence server. He offered several VUC regulars a chance to connect for a test call. The experience was both welcome and very interesting.

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Video Calling: My Own Motivation

Video calling has been around for a long, long time. However, it’s yet to become commonplace. There have been studies, some very recent, that suggest that people really don’t want or need it. Yet Skype reports that a substantial amount, around 40% if I recall correctly, of their call traffic involves video. Of course, events like last years volcanic excitement in Iceland highlight how valuable video can be when travel is impossible.

Beyond the more general cases I have my own reasons why video could play an important part in my working life. It happens that I travel a lot in the course of my work. The scope of my working duties is divided three ways; pre-sales demonstrations of hardware/software systems, post-sales commissioning, installations & training, and finally end-user support activity. The demonstration aspect of my travel could be reduced significantly if I were able to deliver the demonstration via online means.

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