Personal and/or room-based collaboration systems are powerful tools that allow people who are separated by vast distances to work together as well as if they were in the same room. Unfortunately, when some basic rules of design and/or operation are not followed, the user experience is poor. We’ve come up with a list of the top 10 most ignored (yet very important) pieces of advice for professionals when designing, installing and/or using these systems. In this part, we offer commonly neglected advice for setting up collaboration systems. In part 2, we’ll tackle the most unheeded advice for users.
We know many of you will read these and continue to ignore them, but for those of you who don’t, you’re welcome.
1. The room video camera needs to be at eye level of the participants.
Best practices for effective videoconferencing requires placing the camera as close to eye level of the participant as possible. In a typical videoconference room, the participants are seated, making an ideal camera placement 132 cm off the floor. Field conditions sometime require a room designer to cheat a little higher or lower to make a system layout work, but the drastically high placement of the cameras in some videoconference rooms is appalling.
Anyone with any experience in visual communications understands that a camera placed at a high angle “looks down” at the subjects, “making the figure or object seem vulnerable or powerless” (see what Wikipedia says). One can’t trivialize the human mind and the way subconscious perceptions can influence the content and outcome of a videoconference.
2. Webcams don’t and will never make good room cameras.
A number of manufacturers have ported their perfectly fine desktop PC software apps to conference rooms, slapped a webcam on them, and called them videoconference room systems. Maybe they are using good webcams. Maybe they are the best webcams money can buy. Heck, maybe they even decide to include two of them for their device. But whatever the case, it is just not an appropriate solution for a videoconference room. The simple reason is that a webcam does a great job of capturing the face of one person sitting about 10 to 18 inches away, but a really lousy job pretending to be a room camera.