When an AV designer sits down to create a video conferencing room from scratch, the first things she or he will need to know is 1) how many seats at the table and 2) the field (or angle) of view of the room camera.
Why? Because the table size is set by the number of chairs round the table (plus the minimum space around them) and is pretty much a fixed standard, while the field-of-view (FOV) of the camera will set the minimum distance between the display/camera and the nearest participant's chair at the table. So, together, these two parameters will determine the minimum size of the room.
In the graphic below, you can see why FOV of the camera needs to be considered. A standard pan, tilt, zoom (PTZ) camera might have a FOV of 72° so, in our example, the nearest table edge will need to be set 1.2 meters from the camera/display to ensure that the nearest participants are in shot when the camera zoom is set at its widest.
In the example above, this camera-to-table distance leads to an area of dead space of 3.75 m2 or about 40 square feet. How much are you paying in rent and rates for your for floor-space? If you’re in the City of London, that number would be about £83 per sq.ft. or around £3,320 per room per year in wasted rent. How many huddle rooms are you considering?
Now it follows that, if the camera has a wider FOV, this distance can be reduced but there’s a problem. As you increase the camera’s FOV, you introduce picture distortion commonly called the “fisheye” effect. Verticals and horizontals start to bow (barrel distortion) and the apparent size of the objects and people in the shot will vary considerably depending on where in the field of view they are sitting. They will appear taller (and more distorted) at the extremes and shorter towards the middle. The results are unusable in a professional video meeting.
This can be corrected by the use of a very complex lens system but these kind of lenses are far to expensive for a camera that will cost less that £1,000. So what to do?
Altia Systems took a different approach with their PanaCast intelligent camera system. They gave the camera three in-line sensors each with a much more modest FOV and stitched the three video streams together in the camera to form one, low distortion, 4K (UHD) video image.
In fact, allowing for a little overlap in the three fields, the PanaCast camera provides a horizontal coverage of 180° which means that camera-to-table distance can be reduced to zero while still ensuring that everyone at the table is always in shot.
"More than 2500 organisations in 38+ countries are using the PanaCast daily to improve their communication and productivity.
Over 200 universities are now adopting the PanaCast for lecture capture and huddle room deployments."
“(PanaCast 2) is a very different form factor than the usual 1080p camera that we are using elsewhere in the lab. You can see it has no seams and it’s a very good picture quality.”
ScobleFuturist / Rackspace
“PanaCast…actually seems like something that would be both fun and exceedingly useful.”
SeoWriter / TechCrunch
“The actual image captured by the camera when we tried it in a lecture theatre (300+ seat) was perfect. Every seat in the frame, handled the lighting conditions well, good focus, seamlessly stitched. Very impressed.”
Sr. Project Manager of IT & Digital Services / University of Western Sydney
“… a great improvement over standard video chat experiences.” Read article
Editor-in-Chief / Engadget
“The panoramic view allowed me to see all five remote participants at the same time, and the 4k resolution provided great visual detail – allowing me to feel ‘connected’ to everyone in the meeting.”
What Ira M. Weinstein thinks about the PanaCast 2
Senior Analyst & Partner / Wainhouse Research
“We chose the PanaCast 2 video camera because it gives an immersive sense of participation to remote meeting participants. With PanaCast 2, there is no need to squeeze together to get into the scene or waste time panning and zooming like with a typical conference room camera.”
Jolean De KortJolean De Kort
Director Employee Technology / GoDaddy
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