Video conferencing is a system where participants in different locations are joined via video and audio to share information. The word “conference” implies that this process happens with more than one person at each location, but it can occur between two people using webcams or projection screens.
Some possible applications of video conferencing systems include business meetings, distance learning, broadcast news conferences, videoconferences (e.g., science calls), consultations (e.g., doctors and patients), court proceedings (e.g., virtual law courts), and in medicine.
What are the Basic Components of a Video Conferencing System?
Video conferencing systems typically include some combination of five basic components:
- Video cameras
- Video monitors
- Audio speakers and microphones
- Network connectivity hardware such as routers, switches, and cabling
- Computers run the supporting conference call software applications together with specialized control devices such as touch screens, keyboards, voice recognition modules, etc.
Some of these components may be located at all sites, while others may be found only at one location or several but not all sites.
The following are some of the critical functions found among components of a video conferencing system.
Audio & Video compression: This function is used to reduce the size or resolution of audio and video signals to take up less capacity when being transmitted, stored, or displayed for later playback. The reduced data volume allows faster data transmission rates, reduces storage capacity requirements, and permits more efficient displays on smaller screens.
Digital compression formats: Are defined by standards organizations such as SMPTE (the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) in their specification, known as SMPTE 259M or ITU-T H.261, which is an example of a standard format for compressing digital signals between two endpoints.
Computer-based video capture, compression, and digital storage: This function is used to capture the images of participants, compress them using data compression techniques like MPEG-4 or H.264 then store them for later playback either locally or remotely over a network.
Digital networking hardware: Supports high-speed bidirectional communication links between sites, usually in Ethernet connections that are widely employed across campus and metropolitan area networks where bandwidth needs are not as great as those needed for broadcast-quality video transmission over distance via satellite systems.
Multiway audio capability: The ability to establish audio communication between multiple sites so that participants at each location can hear what others are saying rather than requiring everyone to speak one at a time to individual microphones attached to their respective endpoints.
Multi-user video conferencing: The ability to establish video communication between multiple sites so that participants can see what others are seeing rather than requiring everyone to view the same image on a common display device at one site or duplicate screens across several displays at different locations.
Network connectivity protocols: Such as SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) or H.323 are IETF standards for initiating audio/video sessions over IP networks.
Public switched telephone network (PSTN): An international linked circuit-switched telephony network that provides interoperability with other landline-based telephone systems and is used by organizations that have not yet adopted Internet-based telephony protocols for their primary telephone network.
Streaming media: A technology that allows video, audio, or other content to be viewed by an end-user while being delivered over the digital network rather than requiring the entire file to be downloaded before playback can begin.
Video conferencing appliances: Specialised hardware designed to perform some of these key functions on behalf of participants using web browser software installed on their personal computer or mobile phone to enable them access to collaborative interactions available via the internet.
Video encoding/decoding technologies: H.264, which reduces bandwidth requirements without sacrificing image quality, and MPEG, which is more suitable for applications with higher data rates, larger screen sizes, or desired higher compression.
Types of Video Conferencing
Different types of video conferencing include:
In a point-to-point configuration, two people communicate using one device that displays both images on the same screen.
In a multipoint configuration, multiple parties communicate using several different devices that display images separately to distinguish between participants.
Differences of Point-to-Point and Multipoint Conferencing
- Point-to-point conferencing can be used to engage in a direct dialogue between two individuals or small groups at a time. Multipoint conferencing is usually considered more effective for large groups or conferences because it allows more people to connect simultaneously without losing any information during the conference call.
- Point-to-point conferencing is more effective than multipoint conferencing in terms of audio and video quality. However, point-to-point does not allow for easy participation. This is because the video images of multiple participants must be displayed on split screens, which can be challenging to follow without proper training. Multipoint conferencing allows more than one person to participate at a time while maintaining visual contact with everyone else within range of the system.
- The main difference between point-to-point and multipoint configurations is the number of participants actively involved in the conference call. A typical point-to-point configuration limits each call to two people in dialogue at any given time, whereas in a multipoint configuration, all parties are included in real-time conversations. A multipoint configuration is more effective for conferences with a large number of participants. In the interest of saving time, it also allows for multiple discussions to be held simultaneously.
Video Conferencing Benefits
Video conferencing is a communications technology that enables people to interact in real-time using two-way video and audio links. The use of this technology has practical benefits for both employees and business managers.
- Enhanced collaboration among different workgroups because team members feel like they’re working together in the same building.
- People tend to communicate better when they feel like their counterpart cares about what they have to say. Video conference platforms allow managers to share information effectively with employees who are even located abroad.
- Managers can keep an eye on their teams without having them report back every hour, which means both sides will save time and money in the long run.
- Employees get paid for the work they’re doing, not the time they spend in an office. Employees who are tasked with working during odd hours or from home can stay focused on their daily tasks without worrying about showing up for work.
- Remote workforce support is the next significant benefit of implementing a video conferencing solution in your company. It allows everyone to be on the same page even when they’re not physically located within the office premises. This aspect makes people feel like they truly belong to one team no matter where they are at any given time of the day.
- This technology also provides managers with additional insight into activities around their company. It lets them send messages to employees even when managers themselves aren’t in the office, which helps them be more aware of the day-to-day challenges that might arise. This means that managers will have a clearer picture of what’s going on and address issues before they become serious problems for their teams.
- Finally, these solutions provide additional perks, such as conducting interviews with job candidates while simultaneously getting a video conference set up! This is genuinely one modern perk everyone involved stands to benefit from.
In all seriousness, though, video conferencing solutions are the future of modern-day communications—and one that makes everyone involved feel like they’re truly there, even if they’re not.