Due to the recent pandemic, more people and corporations than ever are a part of the hybrid environment. This dynamic allows people to connect, collaborate, and communicate regardless of their location or geography and feel like they are in the same room with others. With the right hardware and software in place from an AV integrator, it enables employees to join a video call from a boardroom, the home office, a coffee shop, or wherever work takes them.
While the benefits of a hybrid work environment are more readily apparent, how to achieve success in this area can be confusing for those unfamiliar with newer technology that lends itself to this specific type of situation. A professional AV integrator can be integral in setting up and installing the right elements to yield optimal success.
Frequently Asked Questions About Establishing a Successful Hybrid Environment
Across much of the nation and even the world, people are working at least part-time in a hybrid environment. Although many have been doing this for the past year or so, technology continues to evolve and is finding ways to enhance and clarify audiovisual communication.
To help you better navigate the hybrid environment, we are sharing some of the most frequently asked questions about this type of setup:
- When working from home, what are some key elements needed to enhance video conferencing capabilities?
- Is a laptop or webcam feasible for a video conference for two or more people?
- Is it possible to get rid of background noise such as a dog barking on a video conference call?
- Why can I not hear others on Zoom calls sometimes or the sound quality is poor?
- What is needed to host a successful hybrid networking event?
- Are there portable video conferencing solutions?
- What are the pros and cons of different platforms?
Key Elements Needed to Enhance Video Conferencing Capabilities When Working from Home
The corporate sector is seeing an increasing number of employees either working from home fulltime or limiting their time in the office to only a few days a week. With this change comes the need for a good home office set up for video conferencing which will require a device that can handle a camera, microphone, and speaker all in one. The camera can adjust the video when needed due to lighting changes to yield a clearer picture.
Audio is the most important element of collaboration on a video conferencing call because without it, there is limited communication. For this reason, a microphone or microphone array will be essential in capturing good audio quality. A camera and audio solution should be a USB peripheral which allows user-friendly plug and play.
Laptop Webcams and Video Conferencing for Two or More People
It is not recommended to use laptop webcams for video conferencing for two or more people. Fitting two people in the view of a built-in laptop camera requires people to be literally squished side by side and does not allow for social distancing.
In addition to personal space issues, it can also create lighting challenges. A laptop’s onboard camera may also not have the capability to work with dynamic light settings. If the light in front of the person speaking is not as bright as the light behind them it can create shadows, making visual clarity difficult.
Getting Rid of Background Noise on a Video Conference Call
With so many of us working away from the office in some capacity, there are many enterprise and consumer level options that offer noise cancellation. For example, Polycom provides a sound package in which algorithms can identify noises that are repetitive, like a pen tapping or papers rustling, and then eliminates them from the audio feed to make the audio clearer.
Platforms such as Zoom and Teams already have an auto cancellation built-in which helps with feedback and echoing, but the cancellation of background noise is somewhat limited and usually requires the aid of a digital signal processing system such as Biamp.
Acoustic fencing is an excellent tool for setting the parameters of a specific area you want the microphone to cover. If in a space flanked by open areas busy with chatter, it is possible to set the fence of the microphone to capture only the immediate area of the speaker and not pick up any additional chatter from outlying areas. This component can also be useful in the boardroom of a busy office that keeps the door open. Acoustic fencing can capture the sounds within the boardroom minus what is happening outside the doorway.
Issues with Poor Sound Quality on Video Conferencing Platforms
There are multiple reasons sound quality issues with some platforms can occur. If there are issues with a computer’s camera or microphone, it can be hardware related. If people are joining the call from a location that does not have enough bandwidth, it may impact the quality of audio and video.
Platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams feature analytical tools to aid IT departments with a log that may point to where the error is occurring, be it software, hardware, or bandwidth errors. Although possible, it is typically rare for platforms such as these to have an issue with poor sound quality that is on their side.
Hosting a Successful Hybrid Networking Event
The key to a successful hybrid networking event is making sure the right things can be seen and heard by participants. It is recommended to have a camera that captures presenters and people in the front of the room as well as another camera to capture mainly the participants in the room.
When it comes to a camera for a presenter, it should have audio tracking capabilities so it can track a presenter that is moving around by their voice and still keep them in focus. Cameras for participants should both be able to focus on a participant that is speaking as well as pan out to the larger audience.
Audio for the event should be able to capture presenters as well as participants when warranted. This can be accomplished via a wireless handheld microphone used by the audience or ceiling microphones located throughout the space.
Having the right audio package and determining what is suitable for your particular space is where the help from an AV integrator is key. They can purchase the right kind of package, install it, and calibrate it in a way that makes it optimal for your hybrid networking event.
Portable Video Conferencing Solutions
There are a number of video conferencing options that do not require a big investment, such as the Poly Studio X Series. This video conferencing bar features a camera, speakers, and microphone array all integrated together which can be connected to a display. Set up is relatively quick.
To make this option portable so it can be used in different rooms of a business or corporation, it can simply be loaded onto a mobile cart. The cart will have the video conferencing bar and the display and will only require an outlet to plug into. It can be set up to connect wirelessly or via a network.
This flexibility is essential for businesses that do not have the budget to put video conferencing technology in every room. An AV integrator can set it up to connect to multiple platforms to increase its versatility.
The Pros and Cons of Different Platforms as They Relate to Video Conferencing
Platforms will vary and generally include some tradeoffs, such as if it is strong in quality, it may be more prone to failure, or vice versa.
Microsoft Teams is popular with many companies because it is a sunk cost in their business. If they already have a larger enterprise investment with Microsoft, they are essentially already paying for Teams, making it an obvious solution.
Zoom is also popular with businesses because it is reliable, cost-effective, and allows video as a service. It can be an operational expense instead of a capital expense.
Webex may be good for people invested specifically in Cisco hardware, and there are many other options available to consumers as well.
Each of these platforms will have minimum hardware requirements, but these are generally closer to the status quo than they are the unusual. Still, the requirements must be met for the platform to function properly on the computer. In addition, it is imperative to have proper bandwidth and a reliable connection to facilitate use.
With the number of people working in a hybrid environment and the ever-growing number of video conferencing platforms, it is best to choose what works best for your setup specifically. A professional AV integrator can help your company find the right solution for the budget and tailor it to the company’s needs to ensure visual and audio communication is clear and productive.