Video Conferencing Ideas

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by topgunn, May 10, 2006.

  1. topgunn macrumors 65816

    topgunn

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    Location:
    Texas
    #1
    So, my boss wants me to look into video conferencing for our three office locations. My predecesor got a quote from Polycom a couple of years ago and it was crazy expensive ($50,000). Of course, that didn't get approved. At my company, we are all about getting the job done for as little as possible. By the way, Polycom is now down to $30,000 for the same thing.

    When I saw the quote from Polycom, I started thinking about other ways to do things. I suggested getting three Mac minis and three iSights. We would use iChat to get all three locations conferenced in for our weekly meetings and everyone would be happy. With H.264, the resolution should be sufficient to have a good image up to about 10 feet away from the camera. What do you guys think about this as a possibility? See any massive holes in my logic here?

    Our main person at one of the other branches doesn't think we need all new equipment. He says that he can video chat with his friend in the UK with a $20 camera and AIM. I tried to explain the benefits of H.264 to them. Also, I don't know if you can have more than two people in a video chat at a time in AIM.

    Other than the Mac minis, I have basically two other options. Windows based hardware/software or stand-alone video conference units. The Windows software I found online is laughable. The mest seems to be Marratech but if you watch the demo of this thing, you will see the direct correlation to the new "I'm a Mac. I'm a PC" ads. This paid software can't hold a candle to iChat. The other option I found is a stand-alone Sony unit that sells for close to $3,000. Of course, we would need three of them. Basically it is an LCD that also has a camera and a mic and hard encoding features to use H.264. But, why buy that when you can get an iMac with a bigger screen and it is actually a computer too for $1000+ less.

    Anyway, what do you guys think about all of this?
     
  2. FFTT macrumors 68030

    FFTT

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Location:
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    #2
    As long as you have the bandwidth at your offices, the iMacs with core duo
    and the ability to dual boot should make a fantastic impression.

    It will also give your office a totally modern look and impress clients.

    You should consult a networking pro at the Apple Store or get a good
    reference as far as setting up the iMacs to your companies servers.

    Then ask for a raise. :D
     
  3. ero87 macrumors 65816

    ero87

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2006
    Location:
    New York City
    #3
    i've NEVER been able to successfully iChat with 3 people, my max is 1. I don't know what the issue is- my iMac G5 is powerful, and the internet connection (at college) is really really fast. And yet, it always says "not enough bandwidth."

    Just a warning, cuz my 4-way chats have been oft-attempted and never realized.
     
  4. topgunn thread starter macrumors 65816

    topgunn

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    Location:
    Texas
    #4
    My boss is a big WSJ guy and has been reading Walt Mossberg's articles for years. So, he is becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of having Macs in the workplace. In fact, he told me that the next time we need to bring in some new computers, he would like to pursue the idea of getting the heads of each location iMacs in part because conferencing with iChat is so easy. It also doesnt hurt that with virtualization, we can run our companies proprietary Windows apps on the new Intel Macs.

    The icing on the cake is he has offered to replace my one year old Gateway laptop with a new MBP. Happy day.
     
  5. topgunn thread starter macrumors 65816

    topgunn

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    Location:
    Texas
    #5
    I will keep that in mind. Our locations each have a minimum of 1 T1 and we are all using the same provider through a VPN. Each location is only one hop away. Hopefully, our pipe is big enough to do a 3-way chat.
     
  6. rjphoto macrumors 6502a

    rjphoto

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2005
    #6
    I'm looking at Polycom as an upgrade to a distance learning system.

    We have 3 facilities in our hub city with 3-5 (2 are being sold off) facilities located 40-90 miles away.

    Right now I'm using 2 VTEL propietary boxes for the main 2 sites and the others are using antique Sony boxes. My VTELs are pushing 4 years old and running Windows 98. They still work, but that's about it.

    I also have 2 seperate IBM PCs that I use at the same time to send PowerPoint slides via NetMeeting.

    I have experimented with using just NetMeeting, but the video and sound are not reliable. There is too much lag time and even with just PowerPoint running and being shared there is a major lag. Transitions in slide shows are horrible. It could jsut be a bandwidth problem, but I'm running on a fast intranet. iChat on the same network doesn't have the same video and audio lag.

    I'm hoping the next version of iChat will have the ability to share an on slide show.

    Keep us informed of how your situation works out.
     
  7. rjphoto macrumors 6502a

    rjphoto

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2005
    #7
    My VTELs (mentioned above) can support ISDN or internet calls.

    However, with our current technology, we can only do multi-party ISDN connections and that runs through a bridge called and MCU (BIG BUCKS).

    I don't hold the purse strings so we been using the same MCU for over 10 years.

    And those ISDN lines cost a ton a month...
     
  8. emw macrumors G4

    emw

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    #8
    You may need to look into ways to augment the audio if you're doing large conferences. The iSight is designed more for one-on-one interaction, vs. group interaction. You may want to consider making a small investment (2 minis, 2 iSights, and maybe a couple of better conference microphones) to test in a single location for video and audio performance before rolling out.

    I think in general the iChat/Mac mini combo will be fantastic - as long as you have a reasonable monitor or projector setup with which to use them.
     
  9. FFTT macrumors 68030

    FFTT

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Location:
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    #9
    You may also want to check into PGP Desktop for encrypted iChat, mail etc.
     
  10. timswim78 macrumors 6502a

    timswim78

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD
    #10
    Here are my three thoughts/questions.

    What are you going to do about audio? The iSight's built-in microphone will be less than adequate for conferencing multiple people. If you have conference-calling features on your telephone system, perhaps they could supplement your video with better audio.


    If you are enthusiastic about using Apple technologies, why not call Apple and ask them what solutions they would suggest using for a professional video conferencing system. The idea of using three consumer solutions, mac mini's or iMac's, might not be the best and may make your company look like the "amateur hour" when you run into problems. Then your boss may not be so keen on the money he threw down for the mac's and the iSights.
     
  11. topgunn thread starter macrumors 65816

    topgunn

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    Location:
    Texas
    #11
    I didn't want to use the telephone for audio because the audio and video would be out of sync. I think a third party microphone would be a good idea for audio. I honestly hadn't thougt about the iSight's audio being a limiting factor.

    One thing I did not want to do was to spend thousands on something that only does video conferencing. I like the idea of using Mac minis because if it doesn't work out, I can still use them as computers. And with the Intel Mac minis, you could even run them as Windows PC's if it was required. I hate unitaskers.
     
  12. ero87 macrumors 65816

    ero87

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2006
    Location:
    New York City
    #12
    hmm isight's microphone is insufficient? Mine works great.
     
  13. rjphoto macrumors 6502a

    rjphoto

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2005
    #13
    For a room full of people around a conference room table?

    topgunn,

    you may want to look at a small sound mixer and a couple of PZM table top mics.
     
  14. FFTT macrumors 68030

    FFTT

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Location:
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    #14
    There are several affordable USB mics available that should not add too much
    to your budget.
     

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