The term “audio visual integration” is used quite a bit by organizations (including IVCi!) to describe the work that they do. The term is well known within the “industry” and customers may even use the term to describe a potential project, but what does it really mean?

When thinking about the term, one has to look at the application of the technology within a particular business or organization. What are you attempting to accomplish within the room? It might be as simple as wanting to have a display that you can hook your laptop up to and present slides. Or maybe it’s a bit more involved where video conferencing, presentations, cable TV, Blu-ray players, and overall lighting and shading control are desired. With that level of complexity, it’s time to think integration.

The truth of the matter is that there is not one company that makes of all of these different technologies. If there was, it might be as simple as connecting all of them together and creating the final room. But, since different vendors are providing the technology, the challenge comes down to a couple areas:

  • How to get all of these technologies to work together
  • How to enable seamless control of all devices from a single interface

The answer to both is audio visual integration! The process of integration involves creating the connections between these devices (usually through a series of switchers or matrix devices) and then programming software that connects the devices and enables that seamless switching.

Creating an audio visual integrated room is a meld of art and science. The art is in the design of the room itself; the lighting, furniture, and the selection of the right technologies that will eventually come together. The science comes in with the building of those technology connections and making each device work together as if they were one. – Tim Hennen, SVP Audio Visual Integration Services at IVCi

Beyond the technology, it’s important to understand what these types of environments truly do. They provide a specific set of technologies, with specific customizations, to meet unique customer and business needs.  It’s about creating an environment conducive for collaboration and addressing the business needs at hand.

So when you look to find the right integrator for you project consider two things:

  • Do they have the technological expertise to meet the needs of the project
  • Do they take the time to really understand the application of the room and how it will impact users and the business

If the answer to both is yes, then that integrator is poised to give you exactly what you need.

And, when the room is complete, a few buttons can trigger complex interactions between video conferencing systems, laptop computers, shade control and much more. To the end-user the experience is seamless; but to the integrator, the process to get there was quite involved.

As we embark on another school year, many colleges and universities are working feverishly on an engaging curriculum that will prepare students for the fast paced and ever changing “real world” they will enter upon graduation.

With video conferencing becoming a staple in today’s business environment, it’s really no surprise that the country’s leading business schools are investing in the technology. Video-enabled classrooms not only introduce students to the technology but allow them to interact with people they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Remote campuses can connect two video enabled classrooms; allowing enhanced collaboration and group discussions. For example, a classroom in New York could connect with a classroom in India or Japan to discuss globalization or world economics creating a unique learning experience for all participants involved.

These classrooms also allow distinguished professors to reach a larger group of students. A leader in economics or biology can teach the same class at two locations without having to commute across the state or country. As a result, students have access to a wider range of classes that can contribute to a well-rounded education.

Additionally, many business leaders and subject matter experts are scattered around the globe making it difficult for colleges or universities to arrange guest lecturers or panel discussions. It can take up to two or three business days for guest speakers to travel to campus plus delays or last minute commitments can disrupt plans and potentially cancel the event.

A virtual lecture hall creates a forum for students to interact with presenters in a way similar to a traditional lecture hall. Question and answer sessions are seamless through push-to-talk microphones that zoom up on the speaker when activated. Remote participants are able to clearly see and hear the speaker, sometimes better than a traditional room due to the cameras.

The only difference is a guest lecturer can connect from a telepresence system anywhere in the world; whether it’s at their office, university or a public room near the last minute business meeting they had to travel to. Not only does this eliminate time consuming and expensive travel, it drastically reduces the potential of a last-minute cancellation.

See  a virtual lecture hall in action below!

Additional Resources:
Virtual Collaboration Room Brochure
Custom Telepresence Solutions

Video conferencing solutions are quickly replacing the frequent high-level meetings that are standard in most organizations. Executive teams typically meet with the managers of different business units or locations to discuss business strategy, profitability and other key deliverables. However, many times these managers are scattered across the globe making frequent in-person meetings costly and time consuming. While video is great for meetings with two to three sites it can be difficult to hold a group meeting with several worldwide sites over a video bridge.

In many instances, the active speaker view limits the continuous presence of the remote sites. When the CEO speaks he cannot gauge the reaction of the site he is addressing until they speak and the view shifts. Even more frustrating is when a member of the Executive team is speaking but the view keeps shifting between sites where participants are rustling papers or murmuring agreements. Despite all of the audio visual components, these meetings just don’t provide the same experience of having the meeting in-person at headquarters.

A global Real Estate firm faced similar challenges and wanted a solution that simulated their quarterly management meetings; from eye contact to speaker priority. They wanted the ability to customize the way remote sites were displayed in continuous presence views plus a concurrent view of the active speaker. Additionally, they wanted to give the CEO and other Executives speaker priority; whenever they spoke the active speaker would switch to them regardless of whichever site may be speaking.

Since a standard video bridge did not provide the flexible windowing capabilities, the ability to place sites in a specific location on screen, our engineering team created a bridgeless video bridge.

With the help of three displays, three Cisco C90s, an array of audio visual equipment and a lot of programming; a new Executive Boardroom was created. The left and right displays featured continuous presence of each site, unless content was being displayed, while the center display switched with the active speaker. Additional programming gave headquarters speaker priority; anytime the CEO spoke the active speaker would automatically revert back to him.

Since most of the remote sites did not have three displays, the continuous and active presence capabilities needed to be condensed into one video feed. A little extra programming created the layout below. This allowed remote sites to continuously and easily view the headquarters location while still having a larger view of the active speaker and the presence of all sites.

Watch the video below for a quick demonstration on how this amazing technology works!

There it is again, that unbelievably annoying high pitched sound. What is it? One person says it’s an echo, another person says it’s a reverberation and yet someone else is saying it’s feedback. All I know is it’s driving me absolutely crazy and somebody just needs to make it stop!

If you video conference on a regular basis, chances are you’ve been in a similar situation. People are throwing around different terms left and right then arguing over whose side is at fault. With all of this going on it can be difficult to determine exactly what the problem is let alone how to fix it.

Here’s a quick overview to help distinguish between echo, reverberation and feedback along with some tips to help reduce each one.

Echo, also known as reverberation, is almost always a problem on the far end of a video conference and is the result of a reflection of sound. When a participant speaks into a microphone, the audio gets transmitted to the other side through their speakers. Then, their microphone picks up the audio and sends it back to the speakers in the local room. Participants in the local room hear what was just said again since the speakers on the far end are not cancelling out the audio properly.

To minimize reverberations, an echo canceller or acoustical ceiling tiles can be installed. Additionally, minor adjustments to the type and placement of room furniture along with the installation of shades or a heavy rug can help improve acoustics in the room.

Audio feedback, on the other hand, is almost always an issue with the local room. It occurs when a sound loop exists between an audio input (microphone) and an audio output (speaker). Essentially, when a participant speaks the audio passes through a microphone to the speakers and gets amplified. The process continues to repeat as the microphone picks up the noise, amplifies it further, and passes it through the speaker. Eventually a sound, ranging from a low pitch to an extremely high pitch, is emitted which can disrupt the conference in addition to be extremely annoying.

To minimize feedback, microphones and speakers should be spaced appropriately and positioned so the speaker output isn’t feeding directly into the microphone. Additionally a digital feedback eliminator or noise filter can be installed to reduce feedback.

Audio quality plays a significant role in the video conferencing experience and should not be taken lightly. Poor audio can detract from the effectiveness of the meeting as participants are focused more on trying to hear speakers and tune out background noises than on the topics being discussed.

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There are several different components that go into designing an optimal collaboration space: displays, video switching, control system, lighting, the list goes on. But what about the acoustics, how do you ensure both local and remote participants can hear each other clearly?  Believe it or not, there are actually several factors that affect the sound quality in a room.

Speaker and Microphone Placement:
Room design and they way participants actually use the space must be considered when designing audio pickup and coverage in a room. The style of meetings, along with furniture placement (tables/chairs/displays/etc.), allows a design engineer to determine the best type of microphone and final microphone placement. Most audio visual rooms now perform multiple roles; a single room can be used as boardroom in the morning, then a training room with remote participants in the afternoon. Therefore, microphones may be placed in the ceiling with a wireless lapel and handheld support. This allows multiple room configurations while keeping the technology in the background; allowing the meeting in each scenario to take precedence. Additionally, the speakers selected should allow for full and even coverage of the space; supporting audio from participants, DVDs or PCs.

Room Acoustics:
The acoustics of a room are determined by the room environment; such as room size and shape, ceiling height, surface materials (wall/floor/ceiling) and participant seating locations. The microphones, speakers and screen surfaces may also add a positive or negative acoustical impact into the room. Additionally, noise generated from an HVAC system must be taken into consideration when designing a collaboration room. A noise diffuser can be used to minimize air handler noise in the room.

Reverberation:
Sound reflections can be attributed to the shape of the space, as well as, surfaces located in the room. Hard surfaces, such as paneling, concrete, doors and whiteboards can reflect sounds creating echo and secondary audio throughout the room. Small adjustments to room shape or absorptive surface treatments placed in strategic locations, along with an echo-canceller, can help eliminate reverberation and reflection issues in some of the more difficult spaces.

Windows and Doors:
Background noise can be extremely distracting to both remote and local participants. Selecting windows and doors that minimize outside sounds can help keep participants focused and ensure clear audio is delivered to remote participants. Wall and ceiling structure should also be considered during construction, this will ensue that the meeting stays in the room and does not “leak” in to the next meeting room or the hallway. Additional ceiling insulation, double walls, or specific sound absorbing material can be installed for corporate privacy or high noise areas.

Learn more about creating an optimal collaboration environment from our Audio Visual Buyers Guide.

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