Web Based Video Conferencing for Larger Rooms (The Big Room Quandary): Cable Infrastructure

For the those working remotely, everything you need to accomplish your Zoom/Teams/Google meetings is right there on your laptop. Microphones, speakers, camera –it’s all right there. Sure, occasionally you have to deal with noisy lawn mowers, barking dogs or some other outside interference, so you go get yourself a headset and you are good to go. But people are starting to get back to conference rooms, board rooms and training rooms. In these types of spaces all of the pieces that make the conferencing system work are separated by some distance. You have a camera mounted above a display on a wall, speakers overhead, microphones laid out on a big table, and a PC that’s running it all in one corner or another.

The common thread that holds it all together are the wires that everything is hooked into and they aren’t all the same. Some common ones are USB, HDMI, Cat6, speaker and microphone cable. As soon as you try and hook up your USB camera into a PC that’s twenty feet away you realize there is a problem. With all the different connections and cable distance limitations, trying to connect it all and keep it out of site can be a real headache. One-hundred-foot HDMI cables do exist, but they are very thick and often a nightmare when you are trying to route them through a tiny box under a conference room table.

Fortunately, many manufacturers of commercial grade conferencing equipment have all kinds of solutions to this dilemma. For example, video extenders on a platform called HDBT that use standard network cable to get the output from your laptop to the big display on the wall are fairly inexpensive and can run distances up to330 feet on a pretty small cable. A bonus is that there are switchers using this protocol that can take in multiple inputs and feed multiple outputs. Say you have a training room that’s very wide, which requires a couple of projection screens so that everyone can see your content. No problem, just run your laptop into an HDBT transmitter, run from there to an HDBT splitter, and from there to a couple HDBT receivers next to the projectors.

Another option that is becoming the de facto standard is to use a data network. This can be a standalone network for the AV equipment only or even the facility network. There are huge advantages to this method. The cable can be installed for the AV equipment in all the right places at the same time as the data network, and with the same cable as the rest of the network infrastructure. Get the right endpoints for the AV gear (HDMI video, USB camera, etc.) and you are all set. This allows you to route cameras, microphones, speakers and video content using standard network switches. But there is a catch (there always is). Moving around this much data takes a pretty fast network which needs to be set up just right. This is why sometimes the IT folks would rather you keep all that AV stuff off their happy little system. No worries, you can do all this with a dedicated AV network just as well. You just have to remember to hire experts that know how to manage both the data and AV network pieces of the puzzle.

NEXT INSTALLMENT: Multiple Cameras