Video Conferencing – The Basics

The basics of Video ConferencingThis article will cover the basics of video conferencing; sections covered include the components of video conferencing, its potential benefits and drawbacks and Video as a Service. As always, feel free to like, share or comment after reading.Video Conferencing is the act of multi-way, simultaneous video and audio communication through telecommunications technology. Video conferencing enables individuals from across the globe to communicate effortlessly.There are a number of key components required in order to successfully hold or participate in a video conference. These are:Video Input – Video Conferencing by definition requires a video input. This is usually done through a webcam or, less commonly, a video camera.Audio Input – In order for video to accompany sound there also needs to be an audio input. This is most commonly done through a microphone although DVD/CD players are also a source of audioVideo Output – In order for the video to be interpreted, there needs to be a platform to output the video on to; this can be done through a number of items but is most commonly done through a computer monitor, television or projectorAudio Output – Similar to the video output but for sound. Audio output is usually run through loudspeakers.Data Transfer – The video/audio data is commonly transferred across a telephone network (analog or digital), the internet or LAN (when the conference is local)Computer – A computer is needed to tie together the other components of the conference. The computer also compresses and decompresses the data using a codec and maintains the data linkage over the network.When put together, these are the components that form a video conferencing system. There are 2 types of system; dedicated and desktop. A dedicated system is a device that has all the required components built into it and is purpose built. A desktop video conferencing system is an add-on to a regular computer desktop that turns it into a video conferencing system.If used correctly, video conferencing offers a great potential benefit to businesses.This benefit is saving time and money on travel costs. Travel is an integral part of business activity and face to face meetings have long been the custom when engaging in commercial endeavours.Business has been affected by globalisation though and travelling to distant parts of the world is expensive and is certainly not time efficient. While it is unlikely that face to face meetings will ever be replaced, video conferences can be a great aid when it comes to less important or routine business and can eliminate travel expenses as well as increasing productivity through decreased travel time.Advances is technology mean that video conferencing is better, easier and more readily available than ever and gets you as close to ‘being there’ as can be without physically making the trip.It is also important to remember that video conferencing now goes far beyond ‘talking heads’ on a screen; it is now possible to share all kinds of information and documents instantly and easily that may not have even been available at face to face meetings; the result of this again, efficiency.The knock on effect of reducing travel is reducing the carbon footprint of the company. The environment is a major talking point when it comes to business and even more so when it comes to international or global business. By reducing travel to only particularly important or essential trips a business can reduce its carbon emissions greatly. To put this into perspective, a 2000 mile flight (London to Nicosia, Cyprus) on a Boeing 747 produces around 200 kilograms of carbon dioxide per seat whereas a video conference produces roughly 7 grams in total.Video conferencing also improves the work-life balance of employees by reducing the time they spend away from home.Drawbacks of video conferencing are few and far between however some noted issues have been:Concern of appearance – being on camera can trigger a psychological problem in some people where the burden of presenting an acceptable appearance on screen can impair communication. It is argued that this is a temporary concern and can be rectified with regular participation.Eye-contact – Eye-contact subconsciously plays an important part in conversations; they give signals indicating attention, intent and turn taking. Video conferencing has been known to give false representations of this and giving negative impressions. Recent technology has been developed to counteract this however.Some companies now offer Video as a Service (VaaS). In its most basic form VaaS is when a company supplies a client with video conferencing services; this goes beyond merely supplying them with the required hardware – VaaS ensures that all the IT concerns are also taken care of and maintained. VaaS is also heightening the formality and quality of video conference meetings by offering unique services such as virtual receptionists, meeting secretaries (to record meeting minutes) and real time IT support to ensure important meetings run without a hitch.Some other benefits include conference recording with simple and instant viewing through a clickable link, increased conference formality and increased conference efficiency.