Video Communication

Learning Outcomes

  • Compare and contrast common tools for video communication

The tools and platforms available to you for video communication generally work in more or less the same ways, though the details of features and benefits will vary somewhat.

To conduct a call or meeting by video, first you must make sure you have the necessary equipment.

  • A camera.
    • Most newer computers (post-2010) have cameras built in. On laptops, the camera is usually in the center at the top of the screen.
    • You can also purchase a separate webcam. Webcams vary widely in price, from about $20 to a couple hundred dollars. For video conferencing under normal indoor lighting conditions, a camera from the middle of the pack will do. There are lots of online reviews of webcams to help you make a choice.
  • Audio input and output. You should make sure the computer you plan to use has a working speaker, so you can hear others, and a working microphone, so others can hear you.

Videoconferencing is generally accomplished using a third-party application such as Skype, Zoom, WebEx or video features in a multi-featured platform like Slack or Amazon Chime.

A video conference.

Figure 1. Example of an ooVoo call.

Each offers slightly different features or different ways of accessing common features. That said, when you are choosing a platform, consider the following parameters:

  • Is this a presentation mostly led by one person or a collaborative meeting? If attention is going to be on mostly one person, consider how the video windows are arranged. Figure 1 shows a collaborative meeting with all of the participants’ images the same size. Figure 2 shows a meeting in which the dark haired woman is leading and therefore has the largest picture.
  • Will the video be used only to see each other’s faces or to show products, samples, or demos? If you’re just looking at faces, most platforms will work just fine. If you are showing or demonstrating products, you may want to seek out the platform with the highest resolution image so that participants can follow without any pixelation or loss of sharpness.
  • Does the audio sync well with the image? Some older platforms can have issues with the image getting ahead of the sound. This is distracting to watch and can lead to people unintentionally interrupting or talking over each other.
  • Does it work well on tablets and smartphones as well as on computers? Can participants switch among devices if needed?
A laptop showing a video conference going on.

Figure 2. Video conferencing with a lead.

Practice Question