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ClearOne Launches UNITE PTZ Camera with USB 3.0 & DVI Connectivity

ClearOne-UNITE-100-PTZ-Camera-300pxA year ago I was looking around for signs of webcams that leveraged the faster USB 3.0 connection to a host computer. They seemed to be strange and rare items at the time. We had Vaddio appear on VUC472 to present their Huddlestation product. They hinted at a coming wave of USB 3.0 cameras, expecting to see them in the summer of 2014.

It wasn’t until Q4 that I found a USB 3.0 capable webcam-ish thing trumpeted as available. In a press release issued December 9, 2014 ClearOne announced that its new Unite 100 PTZ camera was shipping.

I say webcam-ish as the UNITE 100 isn’t directly comparable to a common webcam, like my tiny-but-trusty Logitech C920. With a 12x optical zoom lens and PTZ mount, it’s something more akin to the CC3000e. In fact, it’s probably better.

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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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Review: The Logitech CC3000e Conference Cam – Part 2

Logithec CC3000e Conference Cam KitIn part one of this little adventure I introduced you to Logitech’s new CC3000e Conference Cam, a webcam like no other in my experience.

Audio Performance

The audio playback performance of the CC3000e was decent. I have used the device to listen to streaming radio & some podcasts while it was USB attached to my desktop. It’s obviously much too large for my desk. Then again, that’s not the target role for the device.

Logitech has a long history as a manufacturer of PC speakers, with products ranging from cheesy to thunderous, so it’s no surprise that the CC3000e sounds quite good. Given my prior experience with the BCC950, I was more curious about the performance of the microphones.

I put the CC3000e along side a couple of reference devices for comparison. When compared to the Clear One Chat 160 I found that the CC3000e played louder, no doubt bit benefits from deriving more power than a single USB connection can provide.

In the way of a simple audio test I recorded some speech into Adobe Audition using the CC3000e as the source device. With the sample rate set for 48 KHz the resulting recording showed vocal energy present up to around 8 KHz.

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Review: The Logitech CC3000e Conference Cam – Part 1

logitech-video-conferencing-kit-cc3000e (300px)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
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New Tools In My Home Office: More Webcams!

Faced with this tweet by Randi Harper my head rang with the sound of “More Cowbell!” Although in this case the memory of the old SNL skit skews to more webcams! Her tweet shared an Amazon offer of the Logitech C920 for just $59.99, where it normally sells for $89.99.

Webcam Grouping

A C920 has been my primary webcam for the past year or more. I’ve been considering the purchase of a second. Given the sale pricing I could not resist. In fact, I ordered three different webcams, and to my surprise the Amazon order placed on Thursday, arrived on Sunday. That’s our first experience with their Sunday delivery.

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Surround Sound Bars & DIY Video Conference Systems: Vidyo or Vaddio?

Sharp-LCD42D62U-HDTVIt’s come to my attention that in recent times “Surround Sound Bars” have exploded in popularity. That’s “sound bar” as in a form of home-theatre-sound-in-a-box, not a smoky dive where musicians perform strange music. Sound bars are now so popular that they are impacting sales of more traditional HTIB solutions. I’ve come to see some parallels between surround sound bars and DIY video conference room systems, an idea that first came up earlier this year.

As I have mentioned previously, we don’t have a traditional surround-sound system in support of our HDTV. Our 42” Sharp Aquos HDTV was the largest that they offered with built-in speakers…which is all that we felt we required at the time.

In truth, it was the display size and resolution that mattered most when we made the purchase decision. In the middle of the last decade most 40”-ish HDTVs still only resolved 720p. Since my Mrs tended to watch more CBS than the other networks it made sense to get a HDTV capable of resolving 1080i.

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