Video Conferencing in Hollywood

The power of video conferencing to enable true collaboration is something that is understood by everyone who uses the technology. When thinking about industries and occupations that rely on collaboration one has to look no further than film and television production. These are incredibly collaborative mediums that require the deep cooperation and team work of writers, producers, directors, editors, and many others.

Some of today’s biggest blockbusters have crews that number in the thousands. Coordinating that effort can be incredibly daunting, especially with many remote filming locations and production experts spread throughout the world. It’s no wonder that Hollywood has adopted video conferencing as key member of the production team. There are many different applications for video within a film and television production environment including:

Post Production
The editing and post production (sound, special effects, etc) of a film can take more than a year to complete, sometimes longer. Coordinating the director’s schedule with the editor to get a cut of the film completed can be challenging (in many cases the director has moved onto shooting their next film, while the current film is still being worked). Many production companies make use of video conferencing to connect the editor, the director, and other post production team members.

Perhaps what is most amazing about this is how long Hollywood has been utilizing this method. Back in the early 90s, Steven Spielberg had finished filming Jurassic Park in Hawaii and had moved on to shooting Schindler’s List in the middle of a harsh European winter. He would be out shooting the difficult subject matter of the Holocaust during the day and then during his down time he would be reviewing edits and special effects shots from Jurassic Park via video conferencing. This is now status quo in many productions and has allowed creative teams to hit their deadlines despite their location and demands of new projects.

On the television side I can provide a first-hand experience. In 2001 I worked as an intern on the NBC television series, Third Watch. We were shooting throughout New York City on location and in a small studio in Brooklyn. The post production of the show was handled back in Los Angeles. Many times throughout my internship I was able to participate in editing sessions with the director (in NY) and the editors and producers back in Los Angeles.

Production
A new trend has emerged with video and Hollywood and that is video conferencing to help direct during production. Steven Spielberg (our model example again!) and Peter Jackson worked very closely on the recently released Adventures of Tin Tin. This film was not shot in a traditional sense; it was actually actors on a motion capture stage. Cameras captured their movements and this was translated into 3D imagery that could then be manipulated. Spielberg and Jackson were able to “co-direct” several scenes over video and determine the best camera angle, movement, etc.

Casting
Casting for a film can take months or even years. The same challenges exist in getting producers, directors, casting agents, and talent in the same location. Using video, potential stars can do their auditions and readings via video, to be viewed by anyone on the production team anywhere in the world. This certainly doesn’t replace the face to face interaction needed between actor and director, but it provides a good first introduction to new talent.

With film budgets well over $200 million in some cases and schedules that can carry-on for years, video has provided a way to keep everyone connected and on schedule throughout the long process of producing a movie or television series.

Additional Resources:

Bad Robot Case Study from Polycom

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.

Related Articles:
Can You Hear Me Now?
Top 5 Conference Room Considerations

With collaboration becoming more and more social, we will be looking at the effect of social media on society, culture, and group dynamics. What better way than to start with the 2012 Olympics in London, a social media hot spot.

NBC’s coverage of the Olympics includes tape-delayed broadcasts of live events that are available in real-time to fans around the world via NBC’s live video streaming service and various social media web sites. It would seem that in the age of up-to-the-minute news and sports coverage, NBC may suffer a decline in TV viewers of the games.

Actually, social media’s influence may be helping the network earn higher ratings. Social media adds to the hype of Olympic competitions, drawing viewers in and giving them a forum to discuss and comment on the performances they have seen; the energy of enthusiastic sports fans is moving from the stadium to web sites.

The organizer of the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), recognizes the place social media now has at the Olympic games, and condones its (appropriate) use by athletes. The IOC encourages athletes and other accredited personnel to “take part in ‘social media’ and to post, blog and tweet their experiences,” according to its published guidelines. Facebook created a page for athletes to communicate with their fans called Explore London 2012. Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Instagram all have Olympic themes as well.

Social media allows fans to get into more detail of the games than the networks can provide. Users share stories, pictures, and videos. Sarah Hughes, an American figure skater and 2002 Olympic gold medalist, is attending the games in London this year. Ms. Hughes, who has a following of thousands on her blog and social media web sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, is chronicling her experience at the games. She gave IVCi a first-hand account of the influence that social media is having at the Olympics this year.

“Many athletes competing in London have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, which is letting them have a more direct connection to fans and supporters. Athletes are posting personal pictures and sending real-time updates, sometimes even from the warm-up area right before their competition. Social media has added a whole new dimension to the Olympic experience, making the games even more exciting,” said Ms. Hughes.

For example, those interested in gymnastics can follow USA Gymnastics on Twitter and receive updates on competitions, access instantaneous analysis by sports reporters, and read athletes’ commentaries. In addition to having her own web site, Gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is featured on several YouTube channels, has a Facebook page fans can ‘like’ and uses a Twitter account to communicate with fans.

We are just beginning to see the impact social media has on the Olympics and other major sporting events. Athletes like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Roger Federer all have major followings online. The Olympics is setting a powerful precedent: when it comes to sporting events, let the social media games begin.

Photo courtesy of www.icenetwork.com

The construction industry has been particularly hard hit by the recession in the last few years. First residential construction slowed then commercial projects started dropping off. Fortunately, like many other segments of the economy, the construction industry is beginning to recover, albeit slowly.

Construction can fall under many different categories. It can consist of building single-family homes one at a time or it could be building out huge housing developments with hundreds of units. On the commercial side, it could be a single office building or a skyscraper full of new offices. Whatever the project at hand is, the process requires many of the same steps. Initial drafting and design, client review, project management, construction, billing, punch lists and more.

Many construction organizations are turning to video conferencing and unified communications solutions to help streamline the process. For many of these organizations, this technology has become another tool in the overall construction of any new project. There are several key areas that are particularly helpful for a construction organization when using video conferencing:

Initial Project Design and Review
During the early phases of any construction project architectural blueprints are created to outline the overall project. These plans are extremely detailed and created by a highly skilled architect. Reviewing these documents used to require in-person meetings or expensive shipping of large document tubes around offices. Now, thanks to high-definition video and document cameras, these plans can no only be reviewed in-depth over video but annotated and revised.

Connect with Remote Construction Sites
It’s not abnormal for a company to have multiple projects in progress across the country and the world. Keeping in touch with multiple sites can become time consuming and cost prohibitive. Video, especially with smartphones and tablets, allows the main office to easily check in with remote teams. Additionally, thanks to the portability of these devices, it is possible to “walk” around a construction site with the PM to review progress and address any potential issues. Video can also be utilized to connect the architect back into the project for any revisions or clarification of a project design.

Customer Review
For home builders working directly with customers it is important to deliver a first class service experience. Customers who are building or renovating a home have a lot of decisions to make. Once they have decided on the layout of their home, they need decide on even the smallest of details like the door knobs! Video kiosks can be setup in model homes to provide customers with additional information and allow them to connect back to the home office as well as any vendors involved. Imagine how powerful it would be if your customer has questions about a particular countertop and you could connect them right to a product expert at the manufacturer!

Within any industry, video conferencing can provide many additional advantages. Travel cost reduction and increases in productivity can be realized across all areas of a construction organization. With a fragile recovery in place, providing the best customer experience and keeping costs down will result in projects that are on time and more profitable.

Additional Resources:
Portable Video Conferencing

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid now base a portion of hospital reimbursement on how well a hospital performs along with clinical and patient satisfaction measures. The Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program metrics are based on metrics from Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) metrics which are publicly available. In order to receive full Medicare funding, hospitals need to score in at least the 50th percentile in patient satisfaction scores.

One key area is ensuring the area around patient rooms is always quite at night which is challenge for most hospitals. Doctors and nurses who are constantly milling around, responding to calls or checking in on patients can easily disrupt neighboring patients at night. Not only is a lack of sleep frustrating for patients, it can actually prolong recuperation. According to Niklas Moeller, studies have shown that sleep deprivation can “weaken the immune system, impede the body’s ability to generate new cells, and decrease pain tolerance – all of which can lengthen hospital stays.”

So how do hospitals reduce noise in patient rooms and, more importantly, in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit? Forbidding doctors and nurses to talk during “quiet hours” is out of the question and noise-cancelling headphones are uncomfortable to sleep in plus present additional sanitary concerns.

Enter speech privacy, also known as sound masking, solutions for healthcare environments.

Essentially, a background noise similar to airflow is disseminated through ceiling mounted speakers which drowns out human speech and other distracting noises. So, when a patient has a revolving door of visitors; neighbors can easily relax, watch television or read without continued distractions. When a patient is screaming for the nurse, the nurse is paging the doctor and the doctor is running down the hall; neighbors can continue their restful sleep instead of being rudely awoken.

Day or night, the soothing noise allows patients to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer due to a quieter environment increasing patient recovery and hospital efficiency in addition to the VBP program benefits.  Additionally, speech privacy solutions also help doctors and nurses maintain patient confidentiality by masking their conversations from other patients.

We are nosy by nature and patients are curious as to what landed their neighboring counterparts in the hospital. Sometimes it’s casually overhearing the doctor speak in the hallway, other times it’s pressing an ear against the wall to hear what’s going on. Speech privacy solutions mask the intelligibility of speech so even the nosiest patient can’t distinguish exactly what is being said – unless of course they creep into the room and hide under the bed but that seems highly unlikely.

Additional Articles & Resources:
Sound Masking Solutions 
Telemedicine Reimbursement - The Time is Now!