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Friday, 28 September 2012

Videoconferencing Technology

The core technology used in a videoconferencing system is digital compression of audio and video streams in real time. The hardware or software that performs compression is called a codec (coder/decoder). Compression rates of up to 1:500 can be achieved. The resulting digital stream of 1s and 0s is subdivided into labeled packets, which are then transmitted through a digital network of some kind (usually ISDN or IP). The use of audio modems in the transmission line allow for the use of POTS, or the Plain Old Telephone System, in some low-speed applications, such as videotelephony, because they convert the digital pulses to/from analog waves in the audio spectrum range.
The other components required for a videoconferencing system include:
  • Video input : video camera or webcam
  • Video output: computer monitor, television or projector
  • Audio input: microphones, CD/DVD player, cassette player, or any other source of PreAmp audio outlet.
  • Audio output: usually loudspeakers associated with the display device or telephone
  • Data transfer: analog or digital telephone network, LAN or Internet
  • Computer: a data processing unit that ties together the other components, does the compressing and decompressing, and initiates and maintains the data linkage via the network.
There are basically two kinds of videoconferencing systems:
  1. Dedicated systems have all required components packaged into a single piece of equipment, usually a console with a high quality remote controlled video camera. These cameras can be controlled at a distance to pan left and right, tilt up and down, and zoom. They became known as PTZ cameras. The console contains all electrical interfaces, the control computer, and the software or hardware-based codec. Omnidirectional microphones are connected to the console, as well as a TV monitor with loudspeakers and/or a video projector. There are several types of dedicated videoconferencing devices:
    1. Large group videoconferencing are non-portable, large, more expensive devices used for large rooms and auditoriums.
    2. Small group videoconferencing are non-portable or portable, smaller, less expensive devices used for small meeting rooms.
    3. Individual videoconferencing are usually portable devices, meant for single users, have fixed cameras, microphones and loudspeakers integrated into the console.
  2. Desktop systems are add-ons (hardware boards, usually) to normal PCs, transforming them into videoconferencing devices. A range of different cameras and microphones can be used with the board, which contains the necessary codec and transmission interfaces. Most of the desktops systems work with the H.323 standard. Videoconferences carried out via dispersed PCs are also known as e-meetings.

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