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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VUC500: A Special Event Featuring Dr. Henning Schulzrinne

Friday, August 1st will see Dr. Henning Schulzrinne appearing as our featured guest for the 500th(!) edition of the VoIP Users Conference. While presently the CTO of the FCC, Dr. Schulzrinne has along history as a pioneer in the field of real-time communications over IP networks. He is responsible for the creation of such protocols as RTP and RTSP, and co-creator of SIP. He is a co-chair of the Internet Technical Committee of the IEEE Communications Society. His name appears on numerous RFCs.

In 2013 Dr. Schulzrinne was inducted into the Internet Hall Of Fame. The following clip is his acceptance speech from that ceremony. I offer it in the hope that it will help inspire some good questions.

The technical part of this weeks exercise will involve the use of Jitsi Video Bridge (http://jitsi.org) to host the call instead of our usual G+ Hangout. Thus we’ll be taking a pure, open source, WebRTC approach to things. Given a limited number of seats on the Jitsi video bridge they are by invitation only.

To allow more people to watch the call the Jitsi Video Bridge feed will be live streamed to our YouTube channel*. http://youtu.be/-pfXBE2POxo

Jitsi Video Bridge has a newly implemented ability to dial out to a SIP URI. This is how we’ll be interconnecting with ZipDX. Since both JVB and ZipDX support  the Opus codec that will be a good quality connection.

Interactive, if audio-only, participation in the call will be possible by connecting to ZipDX via SIP URI (200901@conf.zipdx.com)

The audio will also be streamed live via Mixlr. http://mixlr.com/voipusers/

A big thank you goes out to Emil Ivov and the Jitsi team for setting this up!

*The mechanics of exactly how we’re feeding YouTube from JVB I will likely describe in a future post.

How To Connect A Google+ Hangout-On-Air To a Conference Bridge: Part 3 – VoiceMeeter

The prior two installments in this series dealt with interconnecting an audio conference bridge and a Google+ Hangout-On-Air. The Hangout-On-Air allows a limited number of interactive participants with no connectivity to the PSTN. The audio conference allows audio-only participants, including both access via the PSTN and direct SIP connections. The combination allows more people to participate, which is ideal. The fact that it supports HDVoice is also great.

Nice as that solution is, it hasn’t addressed another facet of how we’ve been doing VUC calls. I’ve been struggling with an arrangement for adding production audio to the call along with my own participation. By “production audio” I mean things like a pre-recorded opening or closing, or anything else that might enhance the presentation.

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#VUC477: Alan Smith Presents The Logitech Mobile Speakerphone P710e

Logitech P710e speakerphone 300pxFriday, February 21st the VUC will be host to Alan Smith, Senior Global Product Manager, Audio Products; Logitech for Business at Logitech. Alan will be introducing use to one of their newest audio tools, the Logitech Mobile Speakerphone P710e.

The P710e is a USB connected desktop speakerphone like many others before it. In addition to USB connectivity it sports a Bluetooth radio, allowing it to be paired to up to 8 different devices. It can act as a stand for a cell phone or tablet, so you can enjoy high-quality hands-free audio for video calls without your arm going numb or giving your partner shaky-cam inspired motion sickness.

I have had one of these devices for the past couple of months and found it very useful. So much so that I’m working on a full-length review, although that’s still likely a week or two down the road.

– Michael “End Point” Graves

P.S. – If you’re the sort who likes to be prepared you can check out my past experiences with portable speakerphones here:

Celebrating Five Years Of The VoIP Users Conference on ZipDX

VUC-ZIPDX-5th-AnniversaryNext week will mark five years of using ZipDX. In that time we have used ZipDX to host 318 VUC calls, each and every one in HDVoice.

My earliest experience with HDVoice arose from being asked to review the new Polycom SoundPoint IP650 and IP550 back in Q1/2008. That review first appeared at Small Net Builder in August 2008. The initial experience of using those desk phones inspired me to seek out ways of incorporating HDVoice into my daily life.

That summer someone at Polycom introduced me to David Frankel, CEO of ZipDX, quite likely the very first commercial HDVoice conference service. It was only natural that I would invite David to a guest appearance on a VoIP Users Conference call to talk about HDVoice.

David’s initial appearance on a VUC call was on November 7th, 2008. That first experience went so well that from January 23rd, 2009 ZipDX became the sole conference bridge used to host VUC calls.

In May 2009 I attended the first of Jeff Pulver’s HDVoice Summits in NYC. At that summit it was noted that the weekly VUC calls were likely the single most accessible public example of HDVoice in-use.

IMHO, HDVoice is an absolute must for anyone producing a podcast. It might have been avant-garde back in 2009. It’s basically mainstream in 2014. ZipDX provides a great toolset for such activities.

VUC #472: Vaddio’s Huddlestation

Vaddio Logo & HuddlestationWhile it’s true that I live in Texas where football is elevated in status beyond almost everything else, in this case the “huddle” is not about football. Vaddio is a manufacturer of audio & video conference hardware based in Minnetonka, MN. Best known for their range of PTZ cameras, they have a diverse product offering that addresses media applications from broadcast to places of worship and corporate meeting spaces.

This coming Friday, January 17th, Vaddio will be joining the VUC to introduce us to their new Huddlestation. The Huddlestation is a new product that aims to address the needs of smaller meeting rooms for video conference capability, while also tapping into the BYOD trend. It’s essentially a USB-attached camera+sound bar+microphone module for use with a HDTV. You may recall that I have mentioned it once before.

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