Tag: PanaCast

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.

PanaCast Whiteboard voted Number One by rAVe publications!

We are really pleased to announce Altia System’s newest product – PanaCast Whiteboard – has been voted Number One by rAVe publications.   rAVe reviewed 90 new products, 10 of which were nominated for the Top 10 ‘must see’ innovative products at the InfoComm 2017 event in Florida last week.  PanaCast Whiteboard was then selected for “best of show” award by rAVe.

rAVE commented, “PanaCast Whiteboard will get you hooked!”   To read why rAVe chose our product as their Number One product please click here.

PanaCast 2 is the world’s first Panoramic 180° 4K plug-and-play video camera system.  Now Altia Systems has worked with Intel® to launch PanaCast Whiteboard, a computer vision software that detects content on an existing whiteboard and displays it as an individual screen within a video conference. The software automatically improves image quality and corrects distortion to produce a clear whiteboard image, enhancing the video collaboration experience for remote participants in various business and education settings.

To watch this outstanding product in action, please play the video.

For more details about the fantastic PanaCast 2 Camera, to watch a video of the camera in action or to contact us, please click here.



Last day to see the PanaCast in action at InfoComm 2017

If you are at InfoComm 2017 or thinking of heading there, then today is the last day of this fantastic event.

The Exhibition Hall closes at 4pm today, so there is still time to pop along to the Altia Systems Stand – Booth No.3770 and watch the PanaCast team demonstrate the PanaCast camera.

You can also take part in a live webinar from the InfoComm show floor, which starts at 1pm local time. Altia Systems CEO, Aurangzeb Khan, will be providing an update and new announcements using and demonstrating the outstanding PanaCast 2 Panoramic-4K,180 degree USB camera.

But, if you can’t make it to InfoComm 2017 for the last day, then you can still join the webinar via the details below – registration is not required.

  • 1pm Eastern Time (US and Canada)
  • 6pm BST (London/Edinburgh)
  • 7pm CEST (Paris/Amsterdam)

Join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device:

Please click this URL to join. http://go.getpanacast.com/e/311861/s-926601416/cmc4/16051449

Join by phone: +1 408 638 0968 (US Toll) or +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll)

Webinar ID: 926 601 416

Join by H.323/SIP room system: Dial: (US West) or (US East)

Webinar ID: 926 601 416

For a list of the events where Altia Systems will be at for the rest of this year,  please click here.

If you can’t get to the show but would like to see this unique camera in action or for a personal demonstration please click here.

PanaCast 2 demonstrated at the Royal Society of Medicine Technology Showcase

This week, I was delighted to be asked by the Royal Society of Medicine in central London to demonstrate the PanaCast 2 camera system with Intelligent Zoom.

The Technology Showcase Day was organised by Kevin McLoughlin, Audio Visual Manager at the Royal Society of Medicine, who invited 13 companies to demonstrate and present their emerging, innovative technologies. Presentations included new solutions in virtual reality, digital signage, lecture capture and new products aimed at the burgeoning huddle room market including audio, video and innovative furniture designs.

The audience included representatives and senior stakeholders from the Royal Society of Medicine itself plus a number of London-area universities including Greenwich, Hertfordshire and the London College of Fashion.

I received great feedback following my presentation and significant interest in the PanaCast 2 camera system and its ground-breaking features and benefits.

For more details regarding the PanaCast 2, to watch a video of the camera in action or to contact me, please click here.

I would also like to thank Kevin McLoughlin for his invitation and the opportunity to present the PanaCast 2 camera on the day. The Royal Society of Medicine is one of the UK’s major providers of postgraduate medical education and a non-profit organisation. For more details please click here.

Doug Pidduck, CEO, Intermedia.

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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.”

    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.”

    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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