Oh my Llog! – Alberto Ramírez Martinell

March 11, 2006

Videoconference – first attempt

Filed under: Research, Video — armartinell @ 9:38 pm


After 7 weeks of setting everything up for a videoconference that I arranged with the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana, in Mexico, today it took place.

Before the Videoconference

First of all, in December 2005, I contacted one of my two home universities, and told them that I was looking for an opportunity in which I could gain experience in a transatlantic videoconference. After a couple of weeks they contacted me back saying that they would like to present the videoconference in the auditorium to all the current students of the academic programme I studied. The topic was purely motivational, they wanted me to narrate my experiences as an alumnus of the university.

I prepared my presentation in PowerPoint and I saved it as a website. Then I created a master document in HTML with three frames, inspired in the work of Mike O’Donoghue, I located the video in the upper left corner with the slides to the right. Below I put a writeboard that updates and refreshes automatically as a synchronous way of communication. Once I had the environment ready I contacted the people in charge of the video server privileges at Lancaster University to get what I needed. They gave me space in the Videostreaming server, and opened a port for streaming the video from my flat in the University.

The coordinator of the department of distance education in the Mexican university assigned me a technician to work with. They had no way of streaming their video over the web and since I wanted to use a web-based environment to make it easy-to-access, I did not want to use a messenger or a VoIP application. I suggested camstreams, a free service to stream webcam-video over the net. After some configurations we managed to stream the video in Mexico. Then I added a discussion section in the environment in which both videos were embedded.

Three weeks before the videoconference, we had our first technical test. We checked audio, video and delay in the delivery of my video. We found out that audio was not good and the delay was a bit problematic to enhance real time discussion.

The following week we had our second technical test, the former audio issues were improved, however the delay was still there. Two days before the videoconference, we did our third and last technical test, but this time we did it in the Auditorium, We realized that we needed a microphone for the auditorium, because I could not listen the audio in México. They also realized that the sound of the laptop was not enough for the Auditorium. They solved the problem using the projector, the local sound system and a multidirectional microphone for the audience.

During the Videoconference

I set everything up in my flat one hour before the conference started, I checked sound, encoding system, and video. I displayed in one monitor my script, and in the other the encoder (Windows media encoder) and the website with the environment. The technical support in Mexico did not arrive on time, they said they were going to meet me 30 minutes before the start, but they arrived 45 minutes later, therefore people entered the auditorium late (around 30 people) and we could not do a final check.

The Videoconference started without problems, the audience was showing interest despite the delay (in starting and in the delivery of the video), but after 4 minutes the video started to freeze, audio was not clear, and one minute later I decided to stop it. We turned to using skype as a last resource (we previously had decided to have skype as a plan B, in case something would fail). I stopped sending the video and the videoconference turned into a audiographics conference, without the sound delay that was expected for the VC. At the end one of the purposes was reached, I could share my experiences as an alumnus with the audience in Mexico, however, pitifully I could not accomplish the videoconference.

The audience did not notice as a major failure the switch of technology and they still were asked to complete a feedback form that I sent them. The writeboard was not used, and the people that were not in the Auditorium and were invited to see the videoconferencing did not have access to the presentation.

Show must go on even when technology fails.



  1. Hi Alberto

    Glad the Video conference went kind of well!

    I’m on the ALT course by the way. Was having a wander round Google for some inspiration and came by your site.

    I’m off to check out camstreams now.


    Comment by Philip Blake — March 15, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

  2. Glad you found it, 😀 and very happy to read my very first comment 😀 😀 😀

    You read it, it went sort of good, but I could not see what I wanted to see.

    Technology is sooooo good when it works.

    Comment by armartinell — March 15, 2006 @ 6:17 pm

  3. Hola Alberto
    found your blog and will come by once a time 🙂 Had to smile about your comment “but they arrived 45 minutes later” Some experience I make once in a while over here in Mexico and sometimes no easy for to understand for me as foreigner if things are important. Well not all clocks ticking like the big Kuckuck Clock in Schönwald 😉 Keep going the good work Saludos Sven

    Comment by sven — March 23, 2006 @ 8:32 pm

  4. Glad to read you Sven. I am sure you know what I ment by saying that I waited 45 minutes, and then being said that there was no problem at all, they just arrived a bit late. Anyway a parallel lesson learnt was “Being punctual may give you an extra opportunity to solve the problem before resorting to the Plan B”

    Schöne Grüße

    Comment by Alberto — March 27, 2006 @ 7:49 pm

  5. Hello

    Great book. I just want to say what a fantastic thing you are doing! Good luck!


    Comment by tovorinok — July 5, 2007 @ 2:09 pm

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