Super Video: HD Video Conferencing Cloud

High definition video conferencing for desktops and multipurpose conference rooms does not require a large capital outlay or dedicated telepresence studio. With Supernet, all you need is an HD-capable webcam (720p) or standard HD pan-tilt-zoom camera, and a computer. It’s that easy!

In business-to-business video conferencing, HD is a core component of high-end telepresence offerings. It is also finding its way into traditional boardroom systems, and — this is the interesting part — now available in desktop video conferencing software and online services too. In short, a good solution is high definition ready, boardroom to desktop, using widely available and cost-effective HD computer peripherals.

For most suppliers of video conferencing equipment, high definition requires a platform that is capable of encoding and decoding the HD video conferencing stream. Vendors such as Polycom developed a new line of codecs with greater processing power in order to support HD. In the case of Supernet, the ability to encode and decode HD video was simply a matter of the peripheral environment (camera and bandwidth). The main reason is that Supernet was originally designed to handle HD content and other compute intensive applications.

There was a time when standard PC’s lacked the processing power to handle a video conference. Companies, such as Polycom, Tandberg and Lifesize emerged with dedicated hardware or “box” solutions. This approach was the paradigm for video conferencing for the past two decades. When HD standards began to materialize, box vendors set about on new custom hardware designs to handle the additional load associated with HD content. Thus, perpetuating the cycle of dedicated boxes for each technological advancement.

But times have changed, the PC’s of today are powered by multi-core processors. Think of it as multiple processors on a single chip. Instead of a single processing core, there are now multiple cores working in unison to deliver a new standard of performance and power to the desktop.

Furthermore, digital video has permeated the consumer electronics and desktop computing industries. In addition to their multi-core capabilities, a typical desktop computer sold within the last four years also features extremely powerful video and multimedia processor extensions such as Intel® MMX and SSE. Indeed, the PC has become a common platform for watching HD movies, clips and films, dramatic proof that the PC is many times more powerful than box solutions of the past decade.

What is HD?
It is a variation of the term high definition television, also referred to as HDTV. Current HDTV standards are defined by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in terms of screen resolution, frame rate, and audio format.

In the context of business-to-business (B2B) video conferencing, the term HD generally refers to 720p or better. In boardroom systems, the audio component is often vague since most of the time only human voice is relevant, unlike consumer applications where sound and music are obviously very important in movies and broadcast TV.

Indeed, many business conferencing systems specifically filter out anything too high or too low to be human voice, this includes background traffic, air conditioners, PC fans, etc. Notable exceptions are HD tele-presence studios such as HP Halo, Cisco Telepresence, Tandberg Experia and others, which adhere to the complete HDTV specification and encode the full human-audible frequency spectrum and use physically rebuilt conference rooms to achieve high spatial quality and a “fully immersive” conferencing experience.

Most Standard Computer Monitors are HD or Better.
While the consumer and broadcast TV industries migrate from analog to digital video, back at the office computer graphic displays have been digital all along, and most desktops are already at high definition standards or better.

More specifically, PC monitors at WXGA (1280 x 800) and SXGA (1280×1024) already exceed HD 720p specifications; and WUXGA (1290×1200) or better monitors are a superset of HD 1080i in both horizontal and vertical dimensions. In other words, a WUXGA monitor can display HD video and still have room left over to display the system tray and perhaps other application controls.

Most likely, you already have a 720p or better high-definition monitor right on your desktop and you can certainly buy a high-quality, flat panel display for your conference room. But what about HD video capture and transmission?

Transmission Quality
Today, virtually all business video communication is digital via TCP/IP-based networks and the public Internet. The only major variables are connection quality (bandwidth, latency, internal QoS, etc.) and whether or not Internet access goes over a shared or dedicated route. Of course, telepresence studios use dedicated routes, usually DS-3 (44 mbits/second) or better, at each site, and often with strict quality of service agreements in place.

Conference rooms, once strictly the domain of dedicated routes, are increasingly using a mix of dedicated and shared network connections. In particular, small- to medium-sized businesses usually opt for shared connections as the expense and idle-time of dedicated routes do not pencil out. Desktop video conferencing products and services use standard (shared) network connections.

Cloud Computing & Superior Low-Latency Performance
Super Video was designed to support mixed-speed connections and auto-adjusts video on a per user basis, achieving excellent results over typical networks. It should be noted Supernet works perfectly well over dedicated routes too, at which point the video component can be compared “apples to apples” with pure hardware-based end-points (usually costing many times the price of Supernet and PC-based video peripherals). However, the use of a cloud computing architecture gives Supernet users a distinct, low-latency transmission performance advantage over fixed-site, dedicated hardware solutions.

Some products claiming to be a ‘cloud’ are really just a large centralized data center supplying a service, without any of the benefits of cloud-based service distribution. A true cloud, like Super Video, offloads and distributes the experience across the Web.

Super Video does this by using a massive network of distributed computers to ensure the highest quality video conferencing experience; minimizing latency while delivering all the benefits of load-balancing, fail over, and the scalability that true cloud architecture provides. Because low latency is so critical in video conferencing, the goal at Super Video is to provide sub-30ms response time for every conference participant by expanding our distributed network to the far reaches of the globe.

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