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 16, 2016 at 10:01 am, by ClearOne
I hate wearing a tie! No…I REALLY hate wearing a tie. Recently I was getting dressed up for a wedding. My wife told me I had to wear a tie. I reminded her that I was not the one getting married. So who cares what I am wearing? I was comfortable. She reminded me that we don’t get dressed up for ourselves, but for those around us. What we wear sets the tone of the event, and reflects on ourselves. It actually does nothing for the individual, it’s for the others around us that we get dressed up.
The same holds true when we set up our conference rooms for video conferencing. Better audio and video does not just improve our experience. It improves the experience for the people on the other end. The meeting is so much more enjoyable and productive when everyone can see and hear.
The improvement in the hardware we use is in a state of accelerated evolution. Better cameras with HD resolution have become popular as bandwidth has expanded, allowing a better picture to be transmitted. Participants are demanding better audio, which has created a demand for better mics, and audio DSPs. As demand exploded, there was now a market for more expensive, and better hardware. Manufacturers started to design better cameras and microphones made specifically for video conferencing, because they could sell enough of them to justify the cost of research and development of targeted products. Video conferencing went from niche to widespread use almost overnight.
Adding video to our calls really touches the soul. It affects us in a way that audio calls never did. It is human nature to want to look at the person you are talking to. Seeing the person you are talking to makes that experience so much more powerful. And now, we can look at everyone on the call, regardless where they are located in the world. The desire to see someone when we talk to them is so powerful, we have been willing to spend extra time and money to fly someplace to see them in person. Audio just isn’t good enough for some conversations. Now that it is possible to hear, and see the person we are communicating with, without having to actually travel to see them, we want to improve that experience with better video and audio. The goal is to make the experience as close to an in-person visit as possible.
And that is why ClearOne is taking the position of industry leader in video conferencing. We recognize the importance of video conferencing in business. Creating products that transmit the best video with our unbeatable audio will improve the experience, which improves the overall results of those calls. Creating the best cloud-based conferencing system like Spontania gives participants a wide range of tools they can integrate into the call. Multiple cameras and shared whiteboard & documents allow the participants to collaborate in ways they could only previously do in person. It’s just like being in the same room with everyone, with the exception of the box of donuts!
That is why it is so important for companies that are just adding video calls to their communications to buy the best system they can. It reflects on their businesses, and shows that they care about the people they are communicating with. Imagine how great it will be when all sides of the video call has top quality equipment. Then, the only thing left to do is to put on that tie!
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.
The One Brand System – A Consumer Electronics Concept Makes Its Way To Video Conferencing and Media Collaboration
Written on June 30, 2016 at 9:30 am, by ClearOne
We are all familiar with the “Home Theater In A Box (HTIB)” product. Many of us own them ourselves. The idea was born of the desire to make it easier for the consumer to buy and operate a home theater system. In an HTIB, the components are prepackaged, which means they are all designed to work together and look the same. End users are confident in what they have purchased is the best system for the price.
The same concept has made its way to the pro AV industry, and is used for web and cloud videoconferencing and media collaboration systems. ClearOne has a line of prepackaged media collaboration solutions, called COLLABORATE®, which hits key price points. Each solution is designed for a specific size room, and application, from cloud videoconferencing and small huddle rooms to full media collaboration and presentation options with integrated pro audio and large conference rooms. From plug-and-play, to a more sophisticated system, there is something for every application.
The idea of a “Conference-Room-In-A-Box” makes a lot of sense in today’s business environment. Integrators are often busy with multiple jobs at one time. Buying a one-brand system rather than piecing something together for each job saves time. When installing it, they can go in, feeling confident that everything they will need is included, and will work perfectly together.
But the most important aspect of this concept addresses the end user – who is probably not the person who has made the actual decision and purchase. It is more likely an employee of the company who may not have the technical skills of an AV/IT manager. Many times it’s the administrative assistant or executive who will be operating the system. For them, the system has to be uncomplicated. I believe most of us have been on the receiving end of a video conference where it took the other side 20 minutes to get the system going. When the meeting is scheduled for 30 minutes, a 20 minute set-up time is a huge waste, and can cost the company dearly, in many ways. Just like with an HTIB, the consumers (or end users) do not need to spend a lot of time familiarizing themselves with various components from different companies. They will be operating a system in which each component works in concert with each other.
One-brand solutions are an excellent way to specify, purchase, install, and operate a conferencing system.
That is why ClearOne has created the COLLABORATE videoconferencing and media collaboration solutions. They are easy to understand, easy to order, cost-effective, and easy to operate. They have been carefully matched, and aggressively priced to fit most any conference room. And when Spontania Cloud-based media collaboration is a part of the system, the end user will be able to confidently walk into a room and quickly get the meeting started.
What Home-Theater-In-A-Box has done for home entertainment, ClearOne’s COLLABORATE has done for the conference room.
Written on June 22, 2016 at 10:39 am, by ClearOne
You voted and they listened….or at least tallied the votes. Either way, ClearOne is a 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards Winner!
Favorite Manufacturer-Based Training Program
Thank you to all the people who voted for us and a gargantuan, humongously colossal thank you to the valuable and wise ClearOne University trainers and staff.
Written on June 20, 2016 at 10:00 am, by ClearOne
When world class AV installations are executed correctly, this is what the final results look like; clean and seamless to the point in which it’s hard to tell that work was done.
ClearOne is proud to collaborate with our outstanding partners at Automation Arts in Madison, Wisconsin and would like to recognize a very impressive installation at an equally impressive facility.
Here is a brief summary of the job from Vice President, Shaun Trudell, CTS.
“This customer had a Conferencing Floor with 17 conference rooms that all needed different levels of integration. Some multi-purpose rooms had partition walls that could combine or close off other rooms. During those times we needed to separate or duplicate what was happening in the presenting room. There were needs for presentation microphones, and audience participation microphones in the multi-purpose rooms. We achieved this by blending wireless lavalier or handheld microphones for the presenter, and Beamforming microphones for audience participation to get the desired result. Rooms with video conferencing all had Beamforming microphones, which created a seamless, clean look by keeping the microphones off the tables. With as much glass, HVAC noise, and room size the Beamforming microphones performed exceptionally well and the client is happy and proud of the space they have.”
Take a look for yourselves and see just how brilliant this installation turned out.
ClearOne Products Used:
- 17 – Beamforming Microphones Arrays
- 8 – WS800 Wireless Microphones
- 6 – CONVERGE Pro 880’s
- 8 – CONVERGE Pro VH20’s
Automation Arts did a fantastic job on this enterprise level installation and we would like to thank them for choosing ClearOne for using our professional AV products in their installations. In the end, it’s really about providing the highest quality of products and services to not only meet the customer’s needs, but to go above and beyond their expectations.
Written on June 16, 2016 at 12:33 pm, by ClearOne
ClearOne CEO and Chairman, Zee Hakimoglu was recently discussing the direction of the AV industry with some colleagues and was asked an intriguing question that we felt should be shared with the AV community. Hopefully this sparks some positive dialogue between your own colleagues and is a catalyst for new ideas and innovative thinking that will lead to new opportunities.
What do you see as the biggest trends or challenges in the coming years for AV infrastructure?
“I think the greatest challenge is not the technology itself but the psychology of overcoming that AV and IT are really, Really, REALLY converging and going to continue to converge. The AV practitioner may no longer find himself or herself in a safe zone of pure AV without IT. Nor will the IT practitioner find himself or herself in a safe zone of pure IT without AV. The trend for even islands (rooms) of Audio or just Video are disappearing. Audio and Video systems are in themselves converging even tighter than ever thru cloud and other macro IT related systems.”
Zee Hakimoglu, President & CEO, ClearOne
The AV/IT practitioner now has more and more to choose from but most of it will be strung through standard Ethernet networks. Lots of fun and business growth ahead for those who are willing to learn and have the courage to take the leap!
Written on June 14, 2016 at 5:47 pm, by ClearOne
View our InfoComm video again, and Open Your World to New Solutions. ClearOne provides the full range of conferencing, collaboration, and network streaming & signage solutions for voice and visual communications.
It takes a mix of personalities to make a neighborhood, a city, a nation, a world…. And it takes this same mix of products to make your offering complete. Make your offering as rich and diverse as your environment. ClearOne is adding the vibrancy to this AV ecosystem, and we’re here to support your efforts as you expand your offerings and your sales.
Open Your World to New Solutions… (we’re here.)
Written on May 24, 2016 at 3:53 pm, by Tyler Becker
Quick Support Tip:
There is so much going on under the hood of all electronics we forget that even computers can get stuck and forget things.
One of the best places to start is with a quick power cycle. Typically when you power cycle, the device can re-initialize configuration parameters and recover from an unresponsive state such as a crash or hang situation.
This simple step can frequently save you a call to the support line!
Written on April 29, 2016 at 3:17 pm, by ClearOne
Sigma Chi Fraternity – Purdue University
Established in 1875, Sigma Chi is the one of the oldest Fraternities at Purdue University. With the expertise of The Premiere Group, the frat house solved their unique needs for flexibility and dependable video communications with two systems that fully support ad-hoc video and media collaboration meetings.
It was essential for the group to be able to host meetings where they could really connect with the audience. The fraternity needed to hold regular fireside chats with Alumni and provide mentoring to remote members. To achieve maximum impact it was clear that Sigma Chi required face-to-face communication, far beyond a simple teleconferencing system. To make these meetings truly effective, the audio needed to be crystal-clear. Moving from room to room, meant smart audio, with the ability to configure itself to ever-changing conditions without losing quality.
The solution consisted of two portable AV set-ups: a larger system for use in the Grand Hall, and a smaller, PC-based system for easier ad-hoc video conferencing.
The larger video collaboration system includes a 65” screen and ClearOne’s COLLABORATE Pro 900, which features the CONVERGE Pro DSP mixer, and the industry’s first professional Beamforming Microphone Array, in a sleek, black finish. The microphone is mounted on the cart, horizontally, just below the screen, and provides they clearest audio pickup possible with it’s 24 microphone elements, intelligently steering pickup patterns in real time. Set up in the presentation room, this system provided the most professional and natural interactions for remote, one-on-one meetings with potential employers, or with anyone requiring more information from the fraternity.
The second PC-based system utilizes Clear One Spontania cloud-based collaboration. This system is the ultimate in portability, usually seen in corporate “huddle room” settings for ad-hoc video conferencing meetings. The Spontania system includes a smaller 50” screen, camera, and microphone for those quick gatherings and more informal conferences.
‘There are challenges with all portable systems, due to the fact the environment in which they are used is variable” states Todd Walker from the Premier Group. “What was great for us was the consistent level of support from Clear One, especially when dealing with stakeholders. From an engineering perspective, Jim Mergens was always there to brainstorm and implement new solutions, for non-traditional applications, and that’s what really made all of the difference.”
Sigma Chi has already reported a positive return on investment following the implementation of the video collaboration systems, with greater participation from remote members at board meetings, increased donation support from benefactors following fireside chants and many of the Alumni utilizing the Spontania system for job interviews.
Collaborate 900 offers a complete media collaboration solution. It’s a great solution for multiple applications – videoconferencing, professional audio conferencing, wireless presentation and collaboration, capture and recording station, streaming and distribution, all from a single appliance.
Spontania is ClearOne’s cloud based software solution. It allows dozens to thousands of users to collaborate in real-time, sharing high-quality voice, video and data on any device they choose— from cell phones to standards-based group systems.