Tag: Death of the ptz


DEATH of the PTZ?

The pan, tilt and zoom or PTZ electromechanical videoconferencing camera was introduced so far back in the mists of time, almost everyone has forgotten, or never knew, why it was necessary in the first place.  Has it had its day?

A quick bit of VC history…..

Viva La Resolution!

Modern video camera resolutions are typically measured in megapixels or millions of pixels.  Even smartphone cameras now exceed 33 megapixels but, back in the day, videoconferencing video resolution was limited to about 100,000 pixels (no, really, just 352 x 288) and these had to stretch across large display screens (usually from projectors) so that those seated furthest away could see a usable image.  So the video images weren’t great and the rooms had to be carefully designed to get the best from the limited quality.

In order for the far end to make out who was actually speaking, the PTZ camera was introduced so that you could zoom in and devote those 100,000 pixels to the current speaker.  Of course, someone had to ensure that the camera was pointing in the right direction at the right time.  In other words, someone had to “direct” or operate the camera and, in the days of the half million-pound video room, there was often a technician around tasked to do this.


Want to learn about the modern alternative to three decades old technology? – click on this image of the future, today

Jabra PanaCast from Intermedia
Jabra PanaCast from Intermedia

When systems became lower cost and more numerous, user interfaces were created to allow the participants to control their own calls and it was at this point that PTZ control really became a pain.


Users were not interested in controlling the camera


Users were not interested in controlling the camera.  It was a distraction from the meeting and too demeaning for a senior executive to get involved with the technology.  It was also an opportunity to screw up in front of one’s peers when the technology did something unexpected (like focus on the ceiling).

So what did they do?  They set the zoom to fully wide and left it there demoting the expensive PTZ to a fixed camera, making it irrelevant and degrading the experience for the far end users – and they are still doing it.

Sure, there were attempts to resolve this using push-to-talk microphones that forced the camera to the current live mike and voice-tracking cameras which were supposed to move automatically to the current speaker.  Apart from causing sea-sickness in the viewer from rapidly-tracking images, these voice-tracking cameras were pretty bad at finding the speaker unless the whole room was set up in something akin to an anechoic chamber because the audio tracking system would often mistake a reflected audio path as the direction of the speaker and focus on the source of the reflection from, for example, an adjacent wall.  Not very helpful and, if an animated discussion broke out with multiple participants speaking at the same time, video pandemonium could ensue.

Move forward 30 years.  The big difference is the video resolution of current systems.  Most enterprise-grade videoconferencing systems can deliver at least 1920 x 1080 pixels or full HD with some capable of 4K, or Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 or around 8 megapixels).

Add to this the vast improvement in display technology and the early problems around being able to discern who was speaking due to poor resolution have gone; in most rooms, everyone can now be seen clearly so why are we still deploying PTZ cameras?  In fact they are now not only redundant, they are becoming a major problem.

Huddle Rooms

This term has been adopted to mean small rooms that have not previously been considered viable for video capability due to cost. Three big factors are coming into play to change things significantly:

  • User demand: for more video collaboration facilities in the workplace.
  • Cloud video services: where the large cost of the video network infrastructure is being picked up by a Videoconferencing as a Service (VCaaS) operator and clients need only pay a low subscription fee for access and
  • Dramatically falling room hardware costs: It’s now possible to deploy professional-quality video into a huddle room for less than $2,000 including a large format display and these costs are continuing to fall.

It’s now possible to deploy video into a huddle room for less than US$2,000


Under pressure from their users for more readily-available visual collaboration facilities, organisations are pressing these Huddle Rooms into video service at a time when the above factors are combining to take away a lot of the pain.

But there is a problem with these legacy PTZs when you start to use small rooms that only seat a few people; the participants are all very close to the display and, consequently, very close to the camera.

Legacy conferencing cameras will not see the closest participants at the table

A typical PTZ camera has a field-of-view (FoV) of just 70-90 degrees. When placed in a small room, this will mean that some of the participants closest to the camera will be partially or completely excluded or it forces everyone to huddle closer than they may have anticipated around the furthest end of the table.

A Modern Solution – No Mechanical PTZ and a 180° Field-of-View

In both the security and conferencing markets (the two biggest markets for PTZ cameras) the trend today is away from electro-mechanical cameras that physically move, toward fixed, high-resolution cameras.  This is becoming possible because the resolution of low-cost cameras is becoming so large that the camera can remain static and the panning, tilting and zooming can be achieved by using software to move around the fixed image from the camera sensor.


Jabra has come up with the first new approach to the videoconferencing camera in three decades


The Jabra PanaCast is an industry-leading example of this move towards “soft” PTZs.  Jabra has come up with the first new approach to the videoconferencing camera in three decades and it’s both obvious in hindsight and a radical departure.

The Jabra PanaCast camera is three cameras in one with a total native resolution of close to 40 megapixels.  This provides a highly detailed image much larger than that needed in a standard video call and can support a lossless zoom of 6 times.  Meaning that the soft PTZ action can easily be accomplished within the camera’s captured image without any apparent degradation in the quality received at the far end.

In the PanaCast, Jabra has also produced the world’s first 180° 4K panoramic camera designed to cover the entire room in a single, ultra-high-definition video image.

Now, while wide-angle or wide field-of-view cameras have been around for a long time, unless you spend a huge amount of money on special lenses, they produce significant spacial and radial distortion (the so-called fisheye effect) causing the apparent size of people at the edge of the lens to be exaggerated and adding an unrealistic curve to their image while participants furthest from the camera appear diminutive in comparison.  This creates a very unnatural image unsuitable for professional videoconferencing.

Intermedia for PanaCast 3

Jabra took a different approach. They took three ultra-high-resolution cameras each of a more modest field-of-view and stitched the three images together dynamically in the camera while also adding image correction to produce a single video stream that can cover up to 180° with virtually zero distortion.

The result is a very clear view from even the smallest Huddle Space in which every person, whiteboard or flip-chart is clearly visible within a naturalistic image which belies the closeness of the participants to the camera.

.

PanaCast 180 degree field of view
Using the Jabra PanaCast, all participants at the table will be clearly visible to the far end

Intermedia for PanaCast 3A Typical View from the Jabra PanaCast Camera


Jabra PanaCast’s field-of-view is up to 180 degrees


And, because the image is in high definition, individual viewers or sites can pan and zoom using touch screen devices into the part of the transmitted scene that interests them most without impacting the view of any other site.  So, if I want to see the presenter or the whiteboard while you prefer to watch the reaction of others in the room, we can both do so using our own devices with no conflict.

By banishing the PTZ camera to history, one big intimidating factor in the video meeting room may be removed.  In these days of self-service visual collaboration, the technology needs to be as transparent to the user as we can make it.  The Jabra PanaCast camera is a game-changer in the video meeting room and allows organisations to expand their use of video especially into smaller rooms or Huddle Rooms and, at the same time, delivering a much-improved user experience.

For more information on the Jabra PanaCast camera, visit intermedia-cs.co.uk, call us on +44 (0)1992 878312, or fill out the form on our contact page and we will call you.


Turbo-Charge your Huddle Room Video Meetings

Collaboration is key to success in today’s competitive landscape.  The easier it is for team members from every background to work seamlessly together in an enhanced collaborative space, the quicker you’ll achieve incredible results with every meeting and conference.

New, innovative technologies are being created for small or “huddle” rooms at an astonishing rate and these cost-effective solutions are making it simpler for organisations to bring the right team together for the most creative brainstorming and meeting sessions possible.  Huddle Rooms allow users to redefine their meeting experience by introducing next-level collaboration where attendees can design, sketch and share their ideas.

The question is can you take your Huddle Room video meetings experience to the next level?

Download our latest tips and ideas guide containing a few key steps that you can take to enhance the video meeting room experience and unlock your team’s true potential.

Download the guide now by filling in your details in the form on our contact page.

For more great blogs click here.

To learn more about huddle rooms click here. 


Altia Systems Appoints Intermedia Communication Solutions as EMEA Distributor for the Revolutionary Panacast 2® Video Camera

INTERMEDIA COMMUNICATION SOLUTIONS ENTERS INTO AN AGREEMENT WITH ALTIA SYSTEMS AS EMEA DISTRIBUTOR FOR THE REVOLUTIONARY PANACAST 2® VIDEO CAMERA

PanaCast 2 –  The world’s first 180° Panoramic-4k plug-and-play USB video camera now ships from Europe following distribution agreement

London, England, January 06, 2017 – Intermedia Communication Solutions, specialist supplier of video equipment for the small videoconferencing room or Huddle Room, today announced that it had completed a distribution agreement with Altia Systems or Cupertino, California, USA, makers of the PanaCast 2® 180° Panoramic, 4k plug-and-play USB video camera.

The highly disruptive PanaCast 2 video camera is transforming the way people engage and collaborate over video.  The many features include:

  • An ultra-wide, natural looking field-of-view with unparalleled visual clarity and immediate control over direct interaction
  • A camera that delivers a 180º wide by 54º tall field-of-view with 3840 x 1080 pixels per frame
  • The ability to greatly reduce the optical distortion normally associated with such a wide field which makes it a natural choice for small, so-called Huddle Rooms with no participants remaining out-of-shot
  • Being able to virtually ‘look around’ the room by navigating through video stream with familiar multi-touch gestures on personal devices, creating individual views instantaneously from anywhere, and without disturbing other participants

The PanaCast 2 camera works plug-and-play with popular collaboration services such as Microsoft® and Skype®for Business without requiring any driver or software installs.

Javed Tufail, Director Sales and Business Development says, “We welcome Intermedia as a Distributor of PanaCast Cameras and are delighted that a company with Intermedia’s experience has joined the rapidly-expanding PanaCast channel community to represent the product in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I am pleased that Intermedia will now be able to provide the product in EMEA along with the strong regional support that this remarkable camera deserves.”

Doug Pidduck, founder and CEO of Intermedia Communication Solutions added, “From first sight, I knew that the PanaCast 2 would fill a much needed gap in the fast-growing Huddle Room segment of the video collaboration marketplace.  The trick to successful video meetings has always been to create an outstanding user experience and a big part of that is to make the technology transparent.

The PanaCast 2 frees the user from the tyranny of the much-disliked Pan, Tilt, Zoom or PTZ camera removing one big inhibiting factor to a relaxed and productive video meeting”.

~ Ends ~

PanaCast® and Altia Systems® are trademarks of Altia Systems®, Inc. All other trademarks trade names, brand names, company names and/or logos appearing in this news announcement are the property of their respective owners.

For further information, or to make an enquiry, call us on+44 (0)1992 878312, or please fill in the form on our contact page and we will call you.


DEATH of the PTZ

The original reason the PTZ or pan, tilt, zoom camera was introduced is so far back in the mists of time, almost everyone has forgotten what it was.

Actually, the PTZ was always an irrelevance or, at the very least, a poor use of funds so why, in this modern age, do we keep buying them? Habit mainly, because the original need has long gone and, with the use of new technology, the tyranny of the PTZ may be happily consigned to history where it belongs.

So when and why did we start using them and what’s the modern alternative?

When videoconferencing was new and very, very expensive, rooms were sometimes custom-built but, more often, existing boardrooms and directors’ meeting rooms had video added to any existing audio-visual capability. A videoconferencing fit-out could easily cost upwards of $500,000 per room or more.

Meeting participants would have been mainly C-level management and the meetings quite formal with pre-prepared agenda because the cost of connection was significant, particularly for international calls.

boardroom

Many of these rooms used the typical boardroom layout with long tables often seating over 20 people. The video camera was mounted above or below the display so the distance of the furthest participant could be several metres.

These days, camera resolution in a modern smartphone is measured in megapixels or millions of pixels. Early videoconferencing systems were limited to just 92,000 pixels and these had to stretch across large video displays (usually from projectors). So the video images weren’t great and the rooms had to be carefully designed to get the best from the limited quality.

In order that the far end could make out who was speaking to them, the PTZ camera was introduced so that you could zoom in and devote those 92,000 pixels to the current speaker. Of course, someone had to ensure that the camera was pointing in the right direction at the right time. In other words, someone had to “direct” the camera and, in the days of the half a million dollar video room, there was generally a technician on standby throughout the meeting to establish the call and monitor the connection so this person was generally pressed into controlling the camera when required. Most PTZs had a number of preset camera positions programmed in so the technician just needed to select the appropriate preset that covered the current speaker.

When systems became lower cost and more numerous, user interfaces were created to allow the participants to make their own calls (or VC administration personnel set up calls remotely and/or automatically) and it was at this point that PTZ control really became a pain.

Users were not interested in controlling the camera. It was a distraction from the meeting and demeaning for a senior executive to get involved with the technology. It was also an opportunity to screw up in front of one’s peers when the technology did something unexpected (like focus on the ceiling).

So what did they do? They set the zoom to fully wide and left it there demoting the expensive PTZ to a fixed camera, making it irrelevant and degrading the experience for the far end users.

Sure, there were attempts to resolve this using push-to-talk microphones that forced the camera to the current live mike and voice-tracking cameras which were supposed to move automatically to the current speaker. Apart from causing sea-sickness in the viewer from rapidly-tracking images, these auto-tracking cameras were pretty bad at finding the speaker unless the whole room was set up in something akin to an anechoic chamber because the audio tracking system would often mistake a reflected audio path as the direction of the speaker and focus on the source of the reflection from, for example, an adjacent wall. Not very helpful and, if an animated discussion broke out with multiple participants speaking at the same time, video chaos ensued.

Move forward 25 years. The big difference is the video resolution of current systems. Most enterprise-grade videoconferencing systems can deliver at least 1920 x 1080 pixels or full HD with some new products now emerging with 4K, or Ultra HD, capability (3840 x 2160 or around 8 megapixels).

The early problems around being able to discern who was speaking due to poor resolution have gone; every one can be seen clearly so why are we still deploying PTZ cameras? In fact they are now not only redundant, they are becoming a major problem.

Huddle Rooms

This term has been adopted to mean small rooms that have not previously been considered viable for video capability due to cost. Two big factors are coming into play to change things significantly:

  • Cloud video services where the large cost of the video network infrastructure is being picked up by a Videoconferencing as a Service (VCaaS) operator and clients need only pay a low subscription fee for access and
  • Dramatically falling room hardware costs. It’s now possible to deploy video into a huddle room for less than US$5,000 including a large format display.

Under pressure from their users for more readily available visual collaboration facilities, organisations are pressing these Huddle Rooms into video service at a time when the above factors are combining to take a lot of the pain away.

But there is a problem when you start to use small rooms that only seat a few people; the participants are all very close to the display and, consequently, very close to the camera.

A typical, modern PTZ camera has a field-of-view (FoV) of just 70-90 degrees. When placed in a small room, this will mean that some of the participants will be partially or completely out-of-frame or will force everyone to huddle closer than they may have expected in one place around the table.

Typical camera view

A Modern Solution

One company that has recognised this peculiar anachronism is Altia Systems in Cupertino in California.

Altia has come up with the first new approach to the videoconferencing camera in three decades and it’s both obvious in hindsight and a radical departure.

Altia have produced PanaCast 2, the world’s first 180° 4K panoramic camera designed to cover the entire room in a single, ultra high definition video image.

PanaCast 2 camera

Now, while wide-angle or wide field-of-view cameras have been around for a long time, unless you spend a huge amount of money on special lenses, they produce significant distortion causing horizontal and vertical lines to bend (so-called barrel distortion) and form a very unnatural image unusable for videoconferencing.

Altia took a different approach. They took three HD cameras each of more modest field-of-view and stitched the three images together dynamically in the camera while also adding image correction to produce a single video stream that can cover up to 180° with very little distortion.

PanaCast 2 field of view up to 180 degrees.

PanaCast 2 field of view

The result is a very clear view of any room from the smallest Huddle Space to the largest boardroom or classroom in which every person, whiteboard or flip-chart is clearly visible.

And, because the image is in high definition, individual viewers or sites can pan and zoom into the part of the transmitted scene that interests them most without impacting the view of any other site. So, if I want to see the presenter or the whiteboard while you prefer to watch the reaction of others in the room, we can both do so using our own devices with no conflict.

By banishing the PTZ camera to history, one big intimidating factor in the video meeting room can be removed. In these days of self-service visual collaboration, the technology has to be as transparent to the user as we can make it. The PanaCast 2 camera is a game-changer in the video room and will allow organisations to expand their use of video especially into smaller rooms or Huddle Rooms and, at the same time, delivering a much-improved user experience.

For more information on the PanaCast 2 camera, visit intermedia-cs.co.uk, call us on+44 (0)1992 878312, or fill out the form on our contact page and we will call you.



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"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."

What our clients say!


  • “(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.”

    Robert
    ScobleFuturist / Rackspace

  • “PanaCast…actually seems like something that would be both fun and exceedingly useful.”

    Michael
    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.”

    Geoff Lambert
    Sr. Project Manager of IT & Digital Services / University of Western Sydney

  • “… a great improvement over standard video chat experiences.” Read article

    Michael Gorman
    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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