When you’re first starting out with video conferencing, if you’re just using it for informal purposes like communicating with colleagues every now and then, you might not need anything more complex than a webcam and a video-enabled instant messaging system like Skype. These basic video conferencing tools will not offer the professional feel that may be desired for communications with critical customers or other parties, but it will allow you to see the person you’re speaking with.
Webcams range from built-in cameras in laptops to high-definition video conferencing cameras with a 1280×720 pixel resolution and 30 frames per second, like the FREETALK by Everyman HD. Many webcams have built-in microphones, but you can always purchase a headset to improve sound quality.
Video Conferencing for Small Businesses
Recent advances in technology have dramatically improved image quality, and modern video conferencing cameras make virtual meetings an efficient option for small groups and crucial communications. These group video conferencing solutions go beyond consumer-level video-calling services to offer HD-quality video, desktop views, whiteboard sharing, slideshows and other options that enable all the same interactions as a face-to-face conference.
For small-group interactions, video conferencing cameras used in conjunction with desktop computers may be enough. PGi’s iMeet lets you connect with up to 15 other people at a time.
Digital video cameras offer sharper, faster images than webcams, and can be set up on tripods to capture a group. Video conferencing kits can be purchased which include high quality multi-point cameras, microphones, remote controls, camera mounts for LCD televisions and computer software. These kits can range from $500 to $10,000.
Broadcast-Quality for Bigger Groups
Large-group video conferencing often requires more complicated equipment, particularly if you want the best quality video and audio. Such a setup can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost, but offer broadcast-quality results that can make it seem as if all conference participants are in the same room, even if they’re located all over the globe.
Professional-quality, large-group video conferencing requires several high-quality cameras, multi-directional microphones and projection screens. They use a lot of bandwidth, and can require dedicated servers in some cases. Typically non-portable, they are often set up permanently in a boardroom.