There are several components that go into designing an optimal collaboration: space, displays, speakers, microphones, video switching, control systems, the list goes on. But what about the lighting; how does it fit into the mix? Believe it or not, room lighting plays a dramatic role in the image quality being displayed to remote conference participants.

Amount of Light:

Remember, there is such a thing as too much light. Meeting participants do not want to feel like they stepped into an operating room any more than stepping into a romantic restaurant. In addition to being uncomfortable for local participants, too much light can leave remote participants communicating with washed out, ghost-like figures. Conversely, not enough light can cause dark shadows and possibly distorted images for remote viewers. Finding the perfect balance of lights is imperative for displaying crisp, clear images over video.

Direct vs. Indirect Light:

Simply put, direct lighting is where camera can see a hotspot or the light causes sharp shadows or highlights, is directed toward the participants. Indirect lighting will fill or flood the space with light, prevents excessive brightness or contrast and prevents casting shadows on the participants. Indirect lighting is often configured with reflectors that direct the light toward participants faces creating a more natural appearance by defining facial features.

While indirect lighting simulates a more natural view, it can be problematic when projected displays are used in the video conferencing environment as it may put too much light on the display if not configured correctly. In these instances more controlled, direct lighting fixtures should be used.

Other Tips:

  1. All lamps should be changed at the same time for even light color distribution and to maintain consistency
  2. Down can lighting should be avoided as it causes shadows on participants’ faces.
  3. Recessed lighting on walls within camera view can help differentiate between the participant and the background.
  4. Use neutral non-white wall colors, such as light blues or grays, with a satin or flat finish to disperse the light evenly.
  5. If there are windows in the background use vertical blinds over horizontal blinds as they have a lesser effect on the transmitted camera image.

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

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It’s Friday, you’re sitting at work and realize this Sunday is Mother’s Day.  You forgot to get a card but no big deal you’ll swing by the store on your way home tonight.  Only problem is, your mom lives 1200 miles away.   Not exactly within driving distance and, short of overnighting a card (which will be totally obvious you forgot), there is no way a card will get there on time.

Alright Plan B.  You’ll order some flowers and have them delivered on Sunday, but that just seems so…generic.  I mean this woman raised you and, more importantly, put up with you during those rebellious years.

So, how can you let your mom know just how awesome she is without purchasing the moon?

Then it hits you.

Plan C – VIDEO!  You installed Skype on her computer the last time you were in town.  Your dad is pretty technical savvy and he can make sure it’s set up properly.  So you call your dad to scheme and, all of a sudden, the most amazing plan emerges.   You’re going to deliver the flowers “in person.”

Step 1: Dad is going to head off the delivery guy and sneak the flowers into the office.
Step 2: You connect the video call with Dad while your spouse rallies the troops.
Step 3: Cram everyone in front of the webcam while Dad gets Mom.
Step 4: Mom walks into the room and you all shout HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
Step 5: Mom is so overwhelmed she starts crying tears of joy saying this is the best present she ever received.
Step 6: You and Dad make eye contact and celebrate with a little smile and wink.

Yes, the plan is all starting to come together.  This is going to be the best Mother’s Day by far because, let’s face it, your mom is awesome and she deserves the best of the best!

The social era has had a dramatic impact on the way customers purchase and companies promote their products.  Customer feedback is becoming ever important and now is critical to an organization’s long term success.  We’ve seen many organizations stray farther and farther away from customer needs as they fail to adapt to the changing competitive landscape.  So how can companies ensure they stay in touch with customer needs and ahead of future competitors?

Simple:  Listen to your customers and then listen some more.

Your best customers are a great source of information.  Account representatives and sales managers and even marketing managers should pause before focusing on the next sale and examine customer satisfaction.  Start by asking why your customers selected your organization and what the major benefits are.  Then distinguish if there are any products or services that are unavailable but would make their job easier.   Above all, organizations need to ensure their products and services are perfectly aligned with their customers’ needs.   If there is any doubt, it’s time to hit the drawing board.

Customers love to share their thoughts and options; but often times, they are hesitant because they are unsure how their feedback will be received or if it will simply fall upon deaf ears.   Connecting over video not only shows the customer you are interested in what they have to say, but the face-to-face interaction helps establish trust.   With trust, comes more candid feedback that could potentially reveal a product flaw or, even better, an untapped market need.

As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change itself and organizations need to stay flexible in order to survive. Collaborating with customers not only provides visibility into future trends but helps create a sustainable competitive advantage.  Technological advances now make it possible to connect to any customer with a webcam; so pick up the camera and give your customers a video call.

Power to the People! 

In a world where instant messaging, email and online audio meetings reign supreme; shifting an organization’s culture to adopt visual collaboration or unified communication solutions can be extremely challenging.  Implementing a new technology is a significant organizational change that, if underestimated, can produce disappointing results.  There are several key steps an organization must take in order to effectively drive adoption throughout the organization – including proper communication and training. This is the fourth post in a five-part series covering the successful development of a video culture within an organization.  Read part one here.

People are inherently resistant to any major change; they take comfort in the status quo because of fear associated with the uncertainty of something new.  A major organizational change, such as the implementation of a visual collaboration solution, changes the way colleagues interact with each other and perform their daily tasks.  This shift in the daily routine moves users out of their comfort zone by expecting them to learn something new; which if not addressed, can produce significant resistance. 

It is imperative for senior management to address the impact that visual collaboration has on their employees.  Frequent and open communications regarding the reasons for change and expected benefits for both the organization and the end user are a necessity. If organizations do not address the uncertainty around a new technology the resulting resistance can be insurmountable, leading to an abandoned solution. 

Those familiar with video conferencing applications, such as Skype or Face Time, are more apt to accept enterprise video than people who have never used video before.  Many people take comfort in security of email and phone calls because others cannot read their facial expressions.  Therefore, new users can initially become overwhelmed by the face-to-face exposure video provides.  Proper training along with open dialogue can help address some of the uncertainty associated with switching to video communications.  Training should include several different topics; such as operational procedures, best practices and video etiquette. 

While most users understand basic functionality of video equipment; they lack the expertise to manage the infrastructure required for effective visual collaboration.  A team of video professionals, who operate the back-end video environment and provide technical support when needed, is crucial to any video environment.  Advanced video operators should proactively monitor video meetings to allow participants to focus on the matters at hand rather than the collaboration technology.  Therefore, organizations must either locate the right technical support staff or partner with a video services provider for access to advanced technical support. 

This post is part of a five-part series covering the successful development of a video culture within an organization.

Part One: Because the boss said so is not enough!
Part Two: It’s more than just bits and bytes
Part Three: P is for Process, that’s good enough for me
Part Five: Driving Usage & Adoption

Many people take for granted the ease of which they collaborate in a conference room.  With the touch of a button participants can switch between content from a PC, projector or interactive whiteboard; mute and unmute microphones; and pan, tilt, or zoom the camera on a video conferencing system.  The technology simply fades into the background while meeting participants focus on the business matters at hand.  Thinking about all of the different components required for effective collaboration can be exhausting; so, how is it that collaboration can be so easy and so effortless?

Simple:  the room’s control system programming.  The backbone of any audio visual integrated room, the control system provides an easy to use interface to manage the room’s functionality.   Instead of having one remote to operate the telepresence system, one to operate the plasma display and yet another remote to operate the projector or interactive whiteboard; organizations can simply invest in a Crestron or AMX Control System.

Gone are the days where participants have to spend fifteen minutes prior to a meeting figuring out how everything works.  With the help of expert programmers, organizations can create a standardized user interface to operate all of their conference rooms in all of their locations.  From a small room with a projector to an immersive telepresence room with three cameras and five displays; the control system ensures participants can collaborate effortlessly.

Advanced programming also allows organizations to push technology boundaries by customizing the video experience to fit their unique requirements.   A custom control program can be designed to display content from multiple different sources, arrange participants in a particular order on screen or manage the speaking privileges of numerous participants.   Essentially, an organization can use a control system to create a visual collaboration solution that is perfectly aligned with its needs.

So, the next time you have an effective collaboration session; give your control system a slight nod, a high five or even a fist bump – just show the little guy some love, he deserves it.