Written on September 23, 2016 at 5:59 pm, by ClearOne
We just wrapped up our first CONVERGE Pro CONSOLE 2 training this week and we had a great class.
Thank you to all that attended. We’re excited to launch this product and getting our most advanced Pro Audio technology and software into your hands and ultimately in your client’s space for superior audio conferencing experiences.
Join our next class and learn all of these exciting topics below:
• Learn about the new CONVERGE Pro 2 products
• Learn about the new CONVERGE Pro 2 Console software platform
• Learn about the new Beamforming Microphone Array 2 configuration
• Learn about the WS800 Digital Wireless Microphone System configuration
• Learn about the new DIALOG 20 Digital Wireless Microphone System configuration
• Learn major features and benefits of ClearOne’s installed products
• Get functional overviews and product application information
• Learn how to quickly and confidently install ClearOne equipment
• Learn how to get better performance from ClearOne systems
• Get hands on experience with the CONVERGE Pro 2 Console software
• Earn your ClearOne University Technical Specialist certificate for Professional
Audio Conferencing Products worth 8 RU’s for CTS, CTS-D, or CTS-I
Upcoming Pro Audio Technical Training Events:
- Sep 27-28 – Chicago, IL, USA
- Oct 4-5 – San Jose, CA, USA
- Oct 11-12 – Washington D.C., USA
- Oct 18-19 – Atlanta, GA., USA
- Oct 17-20 – Online (Spontania-hosted)
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be notified of upcoming classes.
Log into your ClearOne University training account (or create one) at www.clearone.com/training
See you there!
Written on September 22, 2016 at 9:43 am, by ClearOne
CONVERGE® Pro 2 CONSOLE® is about to release! It is the most ambitious software configuration tool that ClearOne has ever undertaken. It has been several years in development. So what does it take to develop good quality software?
The Software industry talks about methods, processes, development cycles and other standards. These are good, but they all fall short. There is no 100% guaranteed method, and I am not going to talk about any of them! I want to focus on the principles behind all of the methods.
Care about the user!
Ultimately, the software is going to be used by someone. Developers need to be reminded about this because we get so close to the GUI we quit seeing. It becomes difficult to see the “forest for the trees”.
Keep in mind, the end user changes the way you build software! You have to ask yourself “What does the user want to accomplish?” We set a goal for the CONVERGE CONSOLE program: to be able to configure a simple conference room in less than 10 minutes. The attitude of keeping the user first went very deep.
Another important concept that we embraced was educating and training the user on how the software functioned. This was reflected in many ways – multiple navigation menus, user-friendly error messages, and screen layouts.
The development team always started with a picture (or a mock up) of a screen, which were manipulated and drafted until they looked good. The mockups were even shown to a few select users. But once we had the screen functioning; sometimes it just simply did not work. Pictures are great because they save you time and can be used to work out many interface programs; but they are lifeless and static. When things started to move and function (became dynamic), many times they just did not get the job done. It’s all part of keeping the users’ needs in the foreground.
The software evolved through this process and went through many iterations.
Plan for the future
One thing that always happens in any project is change. Change is always knocking on the door. Instead of fighting change, we embraced it. CONVERGE CONSOLE software was designed to be adaptable. There are many ideas and features that we plan on adding in the future. The best is yet to come.
Communication is King!
Seriously, don’t underestimate the value of collaboration and communication! Communication needs to include all the “Stake Holders”. Everybody needs to help in order to make a product great. The users, administration, marketing, quality control, hardware engineers, and software engineers are some examples of “Stake Holders”. There were several times when the requirements changed, and the software development team had to start over.
Feedback is a Gift!
Feedback is something that is generally thought of as being negative. The development team instead embraced the concept of feedback as a gift. Feedback can be a gift! It lets you know when things are not working. The GUI might look like the greatest thing in the universe; but if it does not make sense to the user, it’s just wrong (after all, who are we developing this for?).
We sought out feedback early and often from people. Many times this caused the need for the development team to rethink the software architecture. There are 2 main keys to receiving feedback:
- Listen without judgement, and
- Check your ego at the door.
Listening is key. You never know where a good idea can come from. But if you don’t listen and try to understand the feedback, you will miss the issue. We try to get to the heart of the problem. Many times we had people telling us how to code the GUI, but when the underlying issue was uncovered, there were better ways.
If we had not listened and sought the feedback (without judgement) the software would have not evolved as quickly.
If you don’t check your ego at door when receiving feedback, you will try to defend what is already established. This does no good for the giver nor the receiver of the feedback. It just turns into a contest of wills. The software suffers and bears the scar.
What’s the bottom line? If you want to be part of a software development team learn to communicate. You also need to learn to listen to the Users.
We’re excited to release the CONVERGE CONSOLE software. We’re putting it’s final touches on it so it’s not ready, but here’s a Sneak Peak of what’s coming your way. (Click Image to Enlarge)
Tell us your thoughts, ideas, and the methods you use to improve and maximize software development for the best possible experience an end-user can have.
Written on September 16, 2016 at 2:33 pm, by ClearOne
IT/AV’s latest issue (September 2016) has a great article written by Shonan Noronha, EdD and titled, “Viewpoint: Security and Privacy Concerns. How do you ensure data security and user privacy?”
The increased use of collaborative applications, mobile devices and IP-connected AV devices such as streaming appliances, along with the explosive growth of social media integration into applications such as digital signage has brought security and privacy concerns to the forefront…
ClearOne’s Senior Vice President, Michael Braithwaite, CTS shared his viewpoint on the topic and had this to say:
“…ClearOne is serious about state-of-the-art security and individual privacy for our largest, most demanding national security customers, as well as our smallest private enterprise users…”
READ HIS FULL RESPONSE HERE and the rest of the article for more detailed insight into this topic.
Let us know your thoughts on today’s network security as it pertains to streaming media.
Written on September 14, 2016 at 10:02 am, by Dennis Dyer
Video conferencing technology has been around for many years, yet many organizations have not adopted this tool for daily use. Some organizations may have the technology available, but users are finding it either unreliable or difficult to use.
What are the common issues that have prevented the masses from adopting video conferencing and collaboration?
- Cost – Traditional H.323/SIP video conferencing & collaboration has been expensive to design and scale.
The average cost for a point-to-point video codec is approximately $4500 USD. Multipoint MCUs for 6 to 9 participants can cost more than $16,000 USD without installation and additional room integration. Many cloud-based services require a minimum 1-year contract and as much as a $10k USD minimum investment. All cloud services require additional room-based integration, including professional-grade cameras and professional sound to provide an immersive, room-based video conferencing experience.
- Complexity – Traditional conferencing & collaboration is difficult to use, requiring IT support to place a call.
Traditional H.323/SIP systems require you to “aggregate” bandwidth for each participant to host an H.323 video call. To make matters more complex, they usually require additional firewall configuration and bandwidth provisioning.
- Interoperability – Traditional conferencing & collaboration lacks features & interoperability with other video conferencing platforms.
Users want to migrate from traditional H.323/SIP to cloud-based services with one platform; leveraging the existing video conferencing equipment in a conference room or huddle space. Traditional systems have proprietary (dedicated) PTZ cameras and conference phone connectivity; meaning users can’t simply connect to a PC with proprietary system peripherals to place Skype for Business, Google Hangouts, WebEx or any other cloud-based calls. This limits the use of a very large investment if users can’t repurpose the existing PTZ cameras and professional sound already in the room.
The problem with legacy video conferencing systems is that there will always be a need for individual user flexibility. No matter what features and functionality a vendor aspires to provide, each user may have a different demand. Users want to walk into a conference room or huddle space, simply connect their own devices right at the conference table, and the existing TV monitor, PTZ camera and audio input to place the cloud call of their choice.
The ad-hoc nature of huddle rooms and on-demand video conferencing and collaboration – including local, wireless presentation and sharing – can greatly enhance quick meetings to the benefit of all participants.
ClearOne’s hybrid video collaboration platform integrates legacy H.323/SIP interoperability with our Spontania cloud-based service. We also leverage our USB PTZ cameras and USB conference phone connectivity along with wireless presentation, recording, & streaming to provide “any to any” device connectivity. We can connect USB PTZ cameras and audio right to our COLLABORATE® Pro multi-purpose appliance; then connect directly to any PC in the room with the click of a button it’s that easy!
Written on September 8, 2016 at 10:35 am, by ClearOne
Take a quick view of CONVERGE Pro 2, the Beamforming Microphone Array 2, and DIALOG 20 Two-Channel Wireless Microphone System, all which were on display at the PDAT stand at Integrate 2016.
Learn more about these new products here:
These are the cutting edge of Pro Audio technology. Ask us how we can help your customers get the latest products for their audio needs.
Written on September 1, 2016 at 3:00 pm, by John Nygren
What’s a “bad room?” Bad rooms are spaces in which an organization’s business is impeded by the space itself. This could be because of poor lighting, uncomfortable seating, inadequate climate control, the wrong room size, or even poor housekeeping.
But those of us in the AV community often encounter rooms where the biggest obstacle to clear communication is simply the room’s acoustic properties. Often the acoustics are a challenge when the surfaces reflect too much sound or the space resonates for a long time. Sometimes the worst scenario is an HVAC system which drowns out conversations and adds a high noise content to audio picked up by the microphone system which feeds sound reinforcement loudspeakers and far-end audio for video and audio conferences.
Sometimes clients don’t consider their room to be “bad” because they are accustomed to its properties. But whether you notice it or not, the room is taking a toll on your team. Some rooms are so reflective and reverberant that it is difficult to understand speech between two people on the opposite sides of a conference table (“aquarium” rooms seem to be some architect’s masterpieces). Bad rooms make normal work much more difficult; both for the presenter and the listener. Add the additional challenges of BYOD video/audio conferencing, and these bad rooms eat up employee energy and make completing projects more expensive by slowing them down. And today more and more lofts, hallways, and cafeterias are masquerading as conference rooms.
Sometimes clients approach us to “fix” the room with electronics—AV systems; but this should really be the second step after everything that can reasonably be done to correct the root causes of the room issues have been addressed. Why doesn’t the client want to fix the room itself?
One reason is that in most organizations, no one “owns” the acoustics of the building. If the original building design didn’t make provision for acoustic construction, the addition of acoustic treatments is seldom in any department’s budget. Does the IT department “own” acoustics? Do the end users’ departments own it? How about the facilities management group? It is likely acoustic treatment will not be a budgeted item unless you or some other knowledgeable human can get the attention of a high-ranking person in the organization who realizes the impact of the problem and the value of resolving the root cause. Unfortunately this does not occur nearly often enough.
So what can we do? We should always identify the root causes and the impact of the acoustic issues with the room. This both gives the client an opportunity to make the changes needed, and, perhaps most importantly, states the limitations of what our electronic systems can do to overcome a room-physics-based problem. The client needs to understand that they will not harvest the full benefit of money spent of even the best audio technology if the room remains “bad” acoustically.
So what do we do if the client won’t fix the root causes? There are some possibilities. As a product leader for wireless at ClearOne, I will focus on how microphone systems can help make the best of a “bad” room.
Microphones, whether wired or wireless, have different characteristics. One of the most important factors with microphone design and use in room environments has to do with how much of the voice content is mixed with the “room content.” By room content, we mean the reflections, noises, and resonances of the space where the presenter is located. Obviously in a “bad” environment we want maximum voice content and minimum room content.
The simplest way to maximize voice content is by locating the presenter’s mouth close to the microphone element. According to the inverse-square-law and industry PAG/NAG calculators; a presenter at a given distance from a mic has almost four times the voice energy of a presenter twice as far away (the farther presenter’s voice energy is seen as 1/4 of the closer presenter’s voice energy). So if we look at the common microphone types (wired or wireless) Handhelds, Lavalier/Headsets, and Gooseneck microphone designs offer the presenter the best opportunity of speaking near the microphone capsule to keep the voice-to-space ratio high. Unfortunately, presenters in many organizations are not trained on how to properly use a microphone. So even with these microphone types, the ideal ratio can be missed if the presenter does not use recommended microphone techniques. Many large projects specifications include a provision for user training; however you may never get the majority of the organization (or its guests) to your class.
The best strategies that your fellow AV advocates use is to do what may be effective most of the time. This translates to several best practices:
- If the presenters are seated at tables, Gooseneck mics are superior as they get the microphone element close presenters’ mouths. Do not use boundary technology microphones in a “bad” room as the room defects will be much more apparent—boundary mics gather all the sound on the room in phase (additively) at the surface boundary on which they are placed.
- If presenters are roaming around the space, give them headset/lavalier or directional hand-held microphones. Hopefully someone will get a chance to coach the hand-held users in keeping the mic capsule 4 to 8 inches from their mouths in a challenging space. One idea is to make laminated “job aid” cards for handheld use and lav placement and keep them on the top of lecterns and where the mics are stored for use.
- Gooseneck mics also work well on lecterns—if the presenter stays relatively in place, or “on mic.” If not ,they should use the Beltpack or Handheld options.
- Room DSP that limits the number of open mics and filters out resonate frequencies (and some other cool tricks) can also be very helpful in addition to the mic techniques above.
Most of you reading this are already aware of our collective challenges with poorly performing rooms. But maybe you can pass this on to a colleague; or even a client that needs to know that even the most outstanding AV gear cannot totally overcome the curse of the “Bad Room.”
Written on August 9, 2016 at 11:46 am, by Michael BraithWaite
Many of you reading this ClearOne blog today may have worked on conferencing rooms with our award-winning Pro Audio solutions over the past 35 years. So it may be safe to say that you would never design a commercial conferencing room without an Audio DSP right? Why is that? Couldn’t you just connect a series of microphones to a pre amplifier or cross bar switcher, connect your speakers to an amplifier, and then just switch to your desired source and sum all the microphones into your codec?
Oh my, no way could you do that! At a minimum, you’d need acoustic echo cancellation, you would want first-microphone priority, perhaps some filtering, some noise reduction, some equalization, and so on.
However, the most important reason for using an audio DSP such as our CONVERGE® Pro line is for what you don’t know: such as an air handler (not part of the original design) that is now right next to your microphone array; or a large projector that, when hot, turns on some loud fans three feet from one of your microphones.
Most AV professionals would not design a conference room without an audio DSP, however these same professionals deploy AVoIP every day without any “Video DSP” and this is a shame. To be honest most AV designers would not know what a video DSP even is; the explanation being the goal of this post.
Video DSP is the ability to modify, change, and mix the video imaging in many ways:
- Modifing the color space of an image
- Chroma subsampling or compressing to save bandwidth
- Scaling the image from one resolution to another, removing lines or pixels from the image
- Changing the orientation of the image, frame rate
- Mixing multiple images together or layering the video
- and many more
You may know that ClearOne has a line of AVoIP products called VIEW® Pro and all of these devices contain video DSP that allow you to manipulate the video depending on the end-user requirements. Some of these video DSP features require an option license to be applied to the device; but many others are available with the free software from our website. One valuable example is the multi-image feature, in which you can blend any number of video sources together into a single video output even if all of these are different source types, video types, resolutions, or frame rates.
Competing brands of AVoIP do not have video DSP in the devices (encoders and decoders) and instead require you to purchase another black box that connects to the network and take up rack space, switch ports and power for multi-imaging.
Video DSP can also help you to build video walls, and remove scrolling text from sources, or remove channel logo’s from the image just by creating video layouts with our free VIEW® Pro PANORAMA™ software.
If your project has requirements for multi-imaging, or video walls, then the built in video DSP features from the ClearOne VIEW Pro system will save you money on the system and provide more capabilities that any other AVoIP or matrix type system on the market today.
Please contact your local ClearOne sales or send us an email to VIEWPRO@CLEARONE.COM and we will be happy to help assist you with any designs or to provide any demo equipment to test your video DSP needs.
Written on August 1, 2016 at 12:09 pm, by Greg Westiner
As an AV products manufacturer we are asked by end-users and AV Integrators to help provide input and design assist the best audio conferencing solution for conference rooms. Of course there could be more than one individual solution or several options, depending upon certain preferences (e.g. wired vs. wireless mics, etc.) and budget considerations. But, let’s put budget aside for now and assume the user simply wants the best possible audio experience for a conference room.
The next course of action is to gather pertinent information about the room. There are the basics – room dimensions, ceiling height, wall materials, floor materials, acoustic ceiling tiles or drywall, etc. – in other words learning about the acoustic properties of the room. We are then provided some additional information such as: “we only need mics to cover the conference room table, we will have remote callers in home offices and using cell phones, and we have an analog phone system in the conference room.” At this point some folks may think this is enough information to make recommendations based on the basic data gathered.
However, some additional information will help to truly provide the best solution. What is the functionality of the room? How many people will be in the room? Consider the popular, ever-changing, multi-purpose conference rooms today…is it possible that the table layout of the room could change? With the additional particulars the ClearOne University Calculator can be utilized to calculate Reverb Time, Critical Distance, Signal to Noise and Mic Placement, etc. Now we have a much clearer picture of the audio requirements for the room and the ability to provide possible solutions.
But there is one extra question that could be asked:
“has it ever happened, as folks are sitting around the conference room table, that the door suddenly opens and an executive, temporarily, but actively, joins the meeting while standing by the door just inside the room? ”
At that point, the executive is one of the more important speakers in the room and needs to be heard by all. And many times this is when you’ll see the proverbial light bulb go on and the response is, “oh sure that happens… great point… So maybe we should consider full-room coverage as opposed to just table coverage!”
Sometimes there’s that one extra question to ask that can help provide the right solution for a conference room’s audio conferencing requirements.
Written on July 25, 2016 at 3:03 pm, by Lewis Eig
A lot can be said for standards. For instance, could you imagine how difficult it would be if the gas pedal wasn’t always on the right? Look at the recent troubles several car manufacturers have had, including lost lives over messing around with how an automatic transmission’s shift level works.
Standards work in all parts of life. So, as AV professionals, why have we had a variety of non-standard ways of delivering content?
The excitement of AV over IP products implies that maybe we will start using standards to replace balun and HDBaseT products for a more standards-based approach. But the more IP products that come to market, the more proprietary streaming products that emerge. The trouble with a proprietary stream is it locks the end user into a single solution, with limited expansion capabilities.
With a true standards-based solution, you can build an eco-system of devices, but are not tied to a single manufacturer, you can mix and match based on budget, features and the architecture of the system. ClearOne’s VIEW® Pro streaming solution leverages the power of H.264 streaming, thereby using visually Loss-Less streaming algorithms, to allow crystal-clear, ultra-high-quality audio and video at very low latency, all at a very low overall bandwidth (typically 8MBb/s). Additionally, based on what the clients’ needs are, we can control and manipulate streams that we don’t even encode, such as those natively streamed from an IP security or PTZ camera, or a conferencing codec with H.264 capabilities or from a computer on the network. Similarly, if perfect frame synchronization is not required, or the need for video windowing, or other advanced features is not required at some displays, there are many, easy, low-cost ways to decode the stream, such as Apple® TV or other H.264 stream viewers, or simply watch the stream on a PC, MAC, IOS or Android device.
By leveraging the power of Standards, we open the client to an eco-system of devices that will be a viable signal distribution infrastructure that will stand the test of time. To take this one step farther, ClearOne’s VIEW® Pro solution leverages H.264 streams, yet provides ULTRA low latency, low bandwidth and the best possible image quality, yet provides advanced capabilities like Video Wall processing, windowing processing and other neat features like USB HID and native RTSP and UDP streaming.
If you haven’t tried VIEW® Pro yet, why not? I’m sure it will exceed you current standard.
Written on July 5, 2016 at 8:00 am, by ClearOne
It seems that every few years, there is a new “Word” that makes its way into our vocabulary. Back in the 1970s, it was the word “Disco”. Every nightclub and bar suddenly became a Disco. In the 1980s, it was “Camcorder”. Everyone was talking about buying and using a camcorder to document their lives’ events. These “Words” seemingly come out of nowhere, and suddenly explode into our lives. You see and hear them everywhere, on the TV news, in advertisements, at parties.
This year’s word is “Streaming”. It’s everywhere. Coming from the tech industry, “Streaming” means something very specific to me. But, to the average person, it means something else entirely. In fact, most people don’t know exactly what it means. I did a quick (and very unscientific) survey among my non-tech friends. We played a quick game of Word Association. When I said “Streaming,” they all said “Netflix.” In other words, they look at Streaming as an inexpensive method of entertainment, allowing them to “cut the cable” (everyone’s fantasy).
To industry insiders, it is more specific. But, it still has many meanings. Is it a point-to-point delivery of a camera into a command center for security? Or how about bringing a remote camera source into a video switcher for a TV broadcast? What about point-to-multipoint streaming, as in content delivery, such as a church service via a web site?
How people define “Streaming” depends on the side of the electronics industry they are in. To make the categorization easier, I like to break it out into four distinct trade shows: ISC (International Security Conference), NAB (National Association Of Broadcasters), CES (Consumer Electronics Show), and Infocomm (Pro Audio/Video).
In the Pro AV industry, it’s not as much as a camera feed (though that can be a component of the content); it’s a replacement for a point-to-point hard connection, kind of like a long extension chord. It is generally an efficient, and versatile way to move content. In some cases, it is just a lower-cost way to move content. In other cases, it enhances the experience by adding graphics and effects that were difficult to accomplish in the past. And in other cases, it ties in content from far-off places that could previously not be reached.
ClearOne VIEW® Pro streaming solutions sit squarely in the Infocomm world, Pro Audio/Video applications. It is more commonly called “AV over IP.” By running content over the network, it eliminates the need to run multiple cables over a long distance to get content to monitors, in a point-to-point connection. Think digital signage and video walls. It is a combination of cost saving, convenience, and experience enhancement. A great example is in the case of a sports bar. With so many monitors placed in such a wide proximity to the source, AV over IP saves time, money, and complicated installs. Direct connections are no longer needed. Everything is delivered through the network.
In addition to content delivery, VIEW® Pro products are actually more than encoders and decoders. They are video Digital Signal Processors (DSP). When audio DSPs were invented, they did so much for live audio. The VIEW® Pro products do the same for video walls and digital signage. Not only do they distribute the content, but they add effects to make the content more interesting and attention-getting.
Streaming serves many purposes. It touches everyone’s lives in so many ways of which we are not even aware. There is a reason it is the “Word” of the year. It enhances our visual experiences in so many ways. The age of streaming has arrived.