This is a guide outlining the points and factors you need to consider when designing your video conference room. Each room is different and most of us want to build the perfect video conference room. We are, however, confined to stay within our budget and this can limit some of our decisions.
This article will allow us to help you build your video conferencing room without going overboard. Regardless, if you want an extravagant looking room or if you are on a tight budget, the factors are the same. These factors include lighting conditions, room décor, and external factors like air vents and wall material. Again, this is just the starting point, so let’s begin.
As with most corporate office space, certain color schemes are conducive to the work environment and are visually ergonomic. Some color schemes, however, can impede visual perception of the room. This in turn can cause users to lose focus in the room, and some to have headaches and feel fatigue.
In selecting the color palette for your video conferencing room, neutral shades such as beige, tan, pale gray or a pale slate blue work best. These colors provide the best ergonomic background and reduce eye strain when viewing the video images. You should avoid stark whites and the darker palettes which do not provide optimum background for viewing. Whatever your color scheme, remember muted pale tones are best. Any vibrant color can reflect light and cast a hued pallor onto the individual’s video image.
Painted, papered or fabric walls can be acceptable wall finishes for your video conferencing room. They offer a calm atmosphere for all the participants. However, be sure the selected color falls within the parameters of the color palette mentioned previously.
Painted walls are best in a flat or semi-flat finish. Avoid gloss or enamel finishes as they reflect light. If you decide to use a paper or fabric finish, avoid tight, intricate patterns, such as striping, checks or tight swirls. These patterns can cause the video image to appear distorted and flicker rapidly. Users participating in your video conference will find this effect unpleasant to their eyes. As with paint finishes, shiny wall coverings are also problematic because they reflect light. Paper or fabric wall finishes in a muted, pale color palette with no texture or minimal tone-on-tone texture are optimum. Depending on the size of your conference room sound suppressing materials are crucial for proper sound quality.
Furnishing Acoustics: In addition to problematic reflection effects, large glassed-in paintings, glass tabletops, and windows also create acoustic reverberation and echo. These may degrade the audio quality of your conference, or require higher-end echo cancellation hardware to mitigate.
Furniture and decorating accessories should be kept to a minimum. Bear in mind wall hangings within range of the camera should not have reflective surfaces. Materials such as mirrors or glass fronted framed prints reflect light and may cause the camera to overcompensate the brightness in the room. This also holds true for credenzas with glass or mirror-fronted hutches, and glass-topped tables. Keep the accessories in the room at a minimum because they can be distracting; and in some cases, your system could use more bandwidth (due light changes).
When you select tables and chairs for the room, be sure to consider the functionality of each piece. A case in point would be smaller enterprises where the room may be multi-purpose. If the room is used solely for video conferencing, set the tables and chairs in a horseshoe or semi-circle configuration. In this arrangement, remote sites can view all your participants easily; an optimum setup for meetings and discussions.
Alternatively, you can arrange the tables and chairs in a rowed design, making the room appropriate for training, presentation, and discussion formats. Note: Your Company’s requirements will determine which seating arrangement is most appropriate.
Windows and Window Treatments
Selecting an interior room without windows for your video conferencing room is often a luxury that cannot be accommodated. Sunlight can disrupt the camera’s ability to capture a good image, and it can make viewing a conference difficult as glare may overcome the brightness on many display screens and monitors. If you have the option, take an interior room. For rooms with exterior windows, the window treatments such as vertical blinds or drapes should contain a solar-blocking or blackout to prevent glare. As with wall finishes, refrain from window treatments and fabrics that have patterns, and opt for finishes and fabrics in solid, muted pale tones.
Regardless of lighting fixtures selected, the goal is to use an evenly lit space with minimal shadowing. Additionally, there should be no direct lighting aimed in the direction of the camera lens. Diffused fluorescent fixtures work well, as do indirect candescent fixtures, which allow for a dimming feature. Stark, direct lighting, such as indoor spotlights, which cause heavy shadowing, do not work well in a video conferencing environment. Often a combination of indirect candescent and diffused fluorescent will offer the most lighting flexibility.
CONFERENCE ROOM EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS
Conference Room Audio Equipment
Reverberation and echo can distort audio signals. This is the main reason professional recording studios are designed with sound absorbing materials. Material such as carpet, draperies, fabric covered vertical blinds, and fabric wall coverings work best for video conference rooms. In addition, ceilings with sound-proofing tiles will lessen reverberation or acoustic echo effect.
Microphones specifically designed for video conferencing are highly sensitive. As long as the conference room microphones are centrally located, most microphones will capture sound within eight feet of the device.
Avoid moving the microphone while in the conference; doing so may defeat echo cancelation, resulting in reverberation or squawking, a major source of distraction during a productive meeting. While many video conference microphones are typically placed in the center of the conference table, some large rooms may require several inputs, including ceiling and/or wall mounted microphones. Microphones placed near speakers will result in feedback noise, and deliver an unpleasant experience.
There are two basic display types available for video conferencing, projectors or flat screens. Projectors can cover a larger view and cost less than a flat screen. There are, however, several issues to consider. Glare from windows, or overhead lighting may reduce the quality of the image being projected. In a room where the lights are too bright, the only solution for a projector is to use a model with very high lumens. Lumens are the ratio of lamp brightness against the ambient light in the room. Projectors with high lumens are expensive and may not be economical for some companies. In addition, some high-powered projectors have loud fans. While this type of noise is easily defeated by ClearOne’s audio equipment, the fan raises the ambient noise-level for your in-room participants.
The alternative to projectors is a flat screen, which can either be LCD or plasma. Both of these flat screen options operate in varied light conditions, and the impact of ambient light on image quality is minimal. They typically work well in any evenly lit rooms and provide a clarity that is not possible with mid-grade projectors. Additionally adding a touch screen Such as the Sharp Aquos White Board Display is a great way to may the room multifunctional and interactive.
Regardless of the display you select, the minimum screen size should be 52″, although larger screens of 60-80″ are preferable, especially for larger rooms. Most video conferences done today are displayed in standard resolution, but HD (high definition) screens are becoming more common. Investing in a higher quality screen now allows you to prepare for technical advancements without having to upgrade your components in the future.
Dual monitors are becoming as popular in conference rooms as they are in high-production desktops. Dual, or multiple monitors, are useful with good quality video conferencing applications because they allow the meeting host to put the agenda, items being shared, and one or more videos on separate monitors. In addition, the use of multiple monitors can also mimic an in-person meeting, or put more emphasis (e.g., full-screen) on the primary speaker.
There are many ways to achieve your video conference room design goals and stay within your budget. This article is just an overview and a starting point. The tips presented here should give you a good baseline for where to start, and it may have answered some of your questions. Every room has its own unique characteristics, but these general concepts should address the design challenges faced in most rooms.
Should you have any questions, or if you require any assistance with your Video Conferencing project, please contact us.
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