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Episode 12: How To Choose a VTC Camera. Harder Than You Think

Cameras are an integral part of the corporate and education technology experience in today’s world. While this is something most of us can agree on, the challenge becomes what type of camera and set up is best for each unique space’s technology needs? To make the most of camera views, microphone reach, and production capabilities, one of the smartest things a client can do to enhance the experience is work with a professional integrator.

What Types of Cameras Are Used Today for Audiovisual?

Decades ago, most people considered camera usage for audiovisual to be primarily camcorders, which eventually progressed to phones. Technically, these two types of cameras play into the broadcast news arena, but not so much in commercial AV.

In commercial AV, the following types of cameras are the most commonly used for audiovisual purposes:

  • When it comes to audiovisual for education K-12, camcorders and phones tend not to be the primary go-to for technology. In this scenario, the main type of camera used is one that is installed and mounted on a wall, ceiling, or tripod as a fixed installation that does not move around.
  • PTZ, or pan-tilt-zoom cameras, are sometimes used because of their ability to zoom in and back out, and also shift from left to right.
  • All-in-one cameras have a sound bar camera and microphone. It can look similar to the sound bar that many of us have at home for our TVs.
  • Document cameras are used to put a picture of a document onto a screen. These types of cameras are typically used in classrooms or courtrooms.

The bottom line is that a camera used in commercial AV today is one that offers multiple types of connectivity.

The Best Types of Cameras for Optimum Connectivity

When it comes to technology today, the two primary types of cameras used are:

  1. HDMI
  2. USB

HDMI cameras generally feature better methods of transporting data longer distances. Particularly if there is more than one camera in a given room or space, integrators prefer these cameras because it more easily transports data over long distances and it more seamlessly switches between multiple cameras.

USB cameras offer software driven features and flexibility that HDMI does not. If utilizing only a single camera or if a specific type of smart technology is needed for the space, integrators may recommend USB camera usage.

Because HDMI and USB cameras are used for different needs, it is not unusual for both technologies to be used. For example, if a space utilizes an HDMI camera, it may eventually be needed to convert to USB so that it can be used on a person’s laptop or be used on a video conferencing platform. So why use HDMI if you may have to convert it? The primary reason is versatility.

An integrator can break out HDMI into multiple signals. This allows one signal to be sent to USB devices for video conferencing and the overflow to be sent to the lobby or even another conference room. This capability only works for spaces that use multiple cameras.

The key to finding the best type of camera for optimum connectivity in your space is to work with a professional AV integrator to help you create the specific kind of experience you want, whether that be strictly for video conferencing or for a grander production scale.

Controlling a PTZ Camera to Offer Different Viewpoints Within a Space

PTZ cameras typically work off of a manufacturer remote to move it up, down, left, right, and preset or fixed positions. Sometimes it may be possible to do a wide angle shot of a room that captures the audience or participants and another camera that focuses on the presenter. If using an HDMI camera, these images can then be stitched together.

In addition to showing two different viewpoints at one time, HDMI cameras will allow an integrator to manipulate the sizes of the images to perhaps make the footage of the presenter larger than that of their audience, if the client so desires.

The best way to know what viewpoints a client will need with a PTZ camera is by having them work with the integrator to discuss what kind of footage they envision of an event. It could be:

  • Presenter only
  • Classroom only
  • Picture in picture
  • Moving the camera
  • Stitching two images together

This information gives an integrator the data they need to set up the right type of technology within a space.

Usually, cameras look to see if someone is within a preset area or a digitally drawn space in the camera. Programmers can set an area to pick up movement without producing a terribly jerky motion. Microphones can trigger a signal to cameras that there is sound-based movement there and to catch that area. Most soundbars look for a person being in a physical area and then if they are talking, they can zoom in on them.

Each client has to decide if they want stationary presets or a production that requires a program operator.

How to Create a Pleasant Camera Experience for the Far End User

In conference and boardrooms, the main goal is to frame the picture so the far side can see the entire group and be able to focus on specific people who are talking. This can sometimes create a dizzying effect for some viewers, and to help mitigate that, AV integrators:

  • encourage clients to review demos before installing the technology
  • ensure the client is comfortable with the technology, which increases proficiency
  • review the space and environment to address any problems that could hinder the picture, such as sunlight from windows

Part of creating a more pleasant camera experience is to know when it is time to trade from a true PTZ camera to a sound bar. To make the best choice, it comes down to the physical size of the room. All-in-one cameras can be better for small and narrow spaces, and they are USB devices.

The breakover is deciding if a client wants more than one camera and the size of the physical room. Often the room dimensions will lead the way as to where to start in terms of valid camera choices for the effect a client wants to achieve.

If you are interested in evaluating what type of camera technology would be best for your classroom, boardroom, or corporate area, it is highly recommended to work with a reputable AV integrator. The professionals have the capacity to give life to your vision with the ideal camera setup.