Review: Aver Information VC520 All-in-One USB Conference Camera System – Part 2

I presume you recall where left off in this little adventure. I had just finished my initial allocation of 1000 words in a general description of the AVER Information VC520. Let that be the foundation upon which you add the following observations of its use. And use it I did.

Unboxing & Installation

Once unboxed and setup I connected the VC520 to my desktop computer. As a generic UVC device there was no device specific driver to install, although I did install the PTZ remote application and update utility.

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Observations of the vMix 17 Public Beta

Last week saw the release of the vMix Fun Time Live Show for March which was punctuated by the public release of a beta preview of vMix 17. The official release of vMix is being timed to coincide with the annual NAB Convention, which is April 16-21 in Las Vegas.

In the middle of 2015 vMix replaced Wirecast as my preferred desktop video production software. vMix is effectively a production switcher. It allows me to combine various audio and video sources in real-time, the results being sent to a Hangout-On-Air or recorded to disk. It handles webcams, graphics, animations, video capture cards, live desktop capture and even PowerPoint files with ease. Further, it does so while being less hardware intensive than its competition.

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Webcams 8: Vaddio RoboSHOT 12 – A USB 3.0 Webcam

roboshot-12-usb-front-300pxVaddio has today announced that their RoboSHOT 12 camera is now shipping. This device is notable for supporting both streaming H.264 over IP and delivering uncompressed 1080p60 over a USB 3.0 interface. It also has an HDMI output. All three output methods are simultaneously live.

The various specifications of the RobotShot 12 are all top-of-the line. The camera is aimed at enterprise installations. It will surely find it’s way into video conference suites, surveillance/monitoring, and even tele-production.

It was a couple of years ago that I set out to find a USB 3.0 webcam. At the time there basically none to be found, so little reason to consider their merits. Now that there are a few such cameras on the market, you may be asking, “what does it get me, exactly?” Good question.

Remember that to deliver 1080p video* any USB 2.0 attached webcam must compress the video using either MJPEG or H.264. Only by compressing the stream in-camera can it deliver the that resolution over the 480 Mbps USB 2.0 connection. Once the video is delivered cross the USB link, in many cases it must be decompressed to allow further manipulation before final delivery to it’s ultimate destination.

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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.

Grandstream On SIP For Surveillance

VUC529-promoVUC529 on Friday, February 20th will feature Grandstream Networks addressing issues of security and surveillance. Phil Bowers, Global Marketing Communications Manager, will be discussing their range of security cameras and new NVR-3550 network video recorder. One of the key things he will highlight is the natural synergy between SIP telephony and the video surveillance requirements common to business installations.

This appearance arises in part from my own recent effort to install a couple of surveillance cameras on our property. We now have several of their GXV3672-FHD “bullet” cameras monitoring the area around our home & office. Our goal in this effort was primarily to keep watch on our vehicles, which are typically parked on the street.

We have had the cameras installed for several weeks, but very recently deployed the new Grandstream GVR3550 Network Video Recorder (NVR). It replaced a Windows PC as the means of recording and managing the camera feeds.

This is the start of a series of posts that I’ll be crafting documenting how we came to select the gear deployed in our installation. If all goes as planned the collection will comprise a “SOHO/SMB Guide to Video Surveillance.”

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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