Dec 8, 2010 10:58 AM, By Russ Berger
Considerations for successful teleconferencing.
Photos: © Russ Berger 2010
With the evolution of technology, the conferencing concept has gone from people interacting face to face in the same room to an experience that no longer requires participants to be in close proximity for effective dialogue and communication. Using telephone equipment, microphones, cameras, projection screens, computers, and cables, almost any room can become a conference room. In the case of a facility purpose-built for teleconferencing, however, it is important to address several acoustical design considerations to help ensure a successful audio and visual experience.
Today’s teleconferencing facilities have specialized functions and unique technical requirements that make them fundamentally different from other types of presentation or technical spaces. Audio performance is critical, and the floor area, height, geometry, and finishes of a room all affect the interior acoustical environment. A metric of success is the ability to accurately capture and reproduce sound inside a conference room, to provide an environment for its occupants that sounds and feels natural, and to then communicate that experience effectively to remote participants.
When the talker and the listener are separated by physical or acoustical distance, or (as oftentimes is the case with conferencing) by great distances and signal latency, advanced electronics are employed in an effort to overcome these significant obstacles. Sophisticated echo-canceling techniques are implemented in DSP to counteract physical displacement, echoes, and acoustical anomalies from returning signals. Noise is a common enemy in this fight for intelligibility and effective communication.
Unfortunately, in the architectural and interior design world, acoustics for conference rooms are most commonly thought of as the unattractive fuzzy panels put on the wall after it is discovered that the room is unacceptable for its intended use. A successful conferencing space is the result of many carefully considered factors, which should include acoustical issues relating to background noise. Beyond fuzzy panels, acoustical requirements extend to noise and vibration control&emdash;particularly in ensuring that the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are sufficiently quiet. It is also essential to provide adequate sound isolation to keep extraneous noise from hampering the ability to hear clearly&emdash;and to clearly be heard.
Because practical demonstrations are oftentimes the best tutor, a recent workshop sponsored by Synergetic Audio Concepts titled “Audio Acoustics for Conference Systems” that took place at the Sweetwater facilities in Fort Wayne, Ind., put these thoughts to the test. One-third of the workshop addressed the acoustic issues of teleconferencing spaces. Two mock conferencing rooms were created as an educational tool to present an organized method for the design and installation of intricate conferencing systems. A third area, the lecture theater, became a venue for far-end teleconferencing participants.
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