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Secrets to Great Video Conferencing

You might expect us to say the secret behind great video conferencing is great technology. And you would be right.

But that’s not the whole secret.

You’ll find the rest of the secret in last month’s blog: Video Conference Setup Best Practices. In that blog, among other things, we mentioned video conference room lighting and the use of video conference room shades – but we didn’t say enough about either.

Now, this seems counter intuitive to just about everyone, but here’s the bottom line: when it comes to a video conference, daylight is not our friend. In fact, it’s the primary source of most image quality problems we come across.

Any sunlight entering the conference room can create color shifts for which your camera may not be able to compensate. As an example, viewers may see people nearest a window taking on a greenish-blue (cyan) tint. Far worse, a bright window can cause the camera iris to adjust, darkening the room and making silhouettes out of everything in front of the window. The hot spot and shadow challenges of natural daylight have no end.

Investing in the right type of video conference room shades or curtains can make a world of difference. If the sunlight is indirect, lightweight or even mesh shades/curtains can reduce daylight-related issues to a minimum. If you are dealing with direct sunlight entering the room, then you will likely need to use video conference room shades to eliminate ALL outside light from entering the room – sometimes called blackout shades.

Now, if that sounds like a lot hassle…just know, curtains and shades can all be motorized so COMPLETE blackout happens with the push of button. Just that alone is completely cool. Just sayin’.

So, while we’re sitting here in complete darkness, it may be a good time to talk about video conference room lighting. Color and direction are key here.

Every different light source emits a different color temperature. Fluorescent, LED, incandescent, metal halide – all different. When you’re sitting in the room, it’s kind of like, “whatever, it looks fine to me.” Not so if you are looking at the room through a camera…which the viewers of the teleconference will be doing. The resulting tints are not pretty.

In a series of pictures borrowed from Westinghouse  you can see the range of colors that could be at work and what it does to a room.

The solution is to dedicate a portion of the room’s lighting capability to video conferencing. On an everyday basis, it can be used in combination with any other lighting in the room. But, when it comes video conference time, just those dedicated lights are used. (And yes, this can be programmed to be push-button simple, just like your shades/curtains.)

The dedicated video conference room lighting will ideally put out a light color temperate of about 5,600K (Kelvin).

To eliminate shadows, a combined lighting arrangement ratio of 60/40 for ceiling and wall lighting (respectively) is often recommended. Wall lighting should be indirect and used to eliminate shadows, dark backgrounds and bright spots.

At the end of the day, you want the camera to provide viewers with good color and the ability to clearly see facial expressions…just as if they were in the room with you.

Which is exactly what you’ll get, once you understand the secrets behind a great video conference…which, I guess, aren’t all that secret any more. You’re welcome.


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