A confession before starting today: I'm guilty of the behavior that many of us have performed when a videoconferencing call goes bad: shutting off the video and going voice-only. It's a great way to save a lot of bandwidth quickly, and thus save a call from being lost outright. But new studies find there are perhaps better ways to go than this, and may ultimately help us get more out of video.
While shutting down the video is certainly an option, and one many of us use, there are other options, thanks to advances in Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) technology. The biggest of these is adjusting one of two points: video resolution or frame rate. Frame rate is the rate at which images are presented on screen, and the higher the frame rate, the smoother the images appear to move. Resolution is a sort of overall image quality, and the better quality image, the clearer it looks. High frame rates and high resolution mean a better experience, but require a lot of bandwidth to produce.
While many video applications handle the heavy lifting of what resolution to present in and what frame rate to use, some allow for adjustments. Users can therefore take the option of reducing one side or the other, or both at once, to produce a net decrease in bandwidth use and get video that way. This is welcome news, as a recent study from Wainhouse Research notes that videoconferencing in general is not only being more widely used, but is also easier and more reliable to use than it was even two years ago. Ninety five percent—nearly everyone—believed that videoconferencing is more reliable than it was two years ago, and 92 percent called it easier as well.
Couple these numbers together with the idea of modifying bandwidth consumption and suddenly it all makes sense. The more that users can adjust settings, the better; it allows those users to match conditions on the ground, and thus have a better overall experience. Adjustment abilities are coming more into play, and the more we see these abilities, the more likely we'll be to see video in WebRTC as part of the mix. It would be easy to think of video as extraneous, as a Gordian knot of bandwidth consumption to be chopped clean through when the call starts stuttering. But it's also one of the best reasons to have conferencing at all, as it provides a kind of face-to-face contact that engenders trust and good will.
So next time the temptation to cut video in a lagging conference comes around, check for some options to reduce the video quality first. It may not be ideal, but it's better than ditching video altogether.