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Videoconferencing at UVa

VCR/DVD Players

Since use of a videotape or DVD player is accomplished via connection of additional equipment to the videoconference device, variations in the capabilities of the device itself dictate ultimately what can be done. The general answer is "yes, that can be done" but there may be a bit of experimentation that needs to happen with the specific equipment. That takes time and communication between the presenter and whoever is managing the equipment.

Polycom ViewStation (Appliance)

ITS has The Polycom ViewStation SP, which has a bare minimum of additional inputs and outputs. Higher priced models have more inputs/outputs, so there may be equipment configurations possible with those that are not possible with the lower-cost model.

The Polycom ViewStation SP has an additional input for a device such as a VCR or DVD player. The two audio channels are carried on cables with standard RCA jacks. The video is carried on an S-Video cable (4 pins). Your VCR may not have an S-Video connection. If it does not, it is cheaper to buy one that does than to get a converter box to transduce the signal!

To transmit from the VCR or DVD player to other participants in the conference, press the NEAR button on the remote twice to get an on-screen display of the two video inputs. Choose the second input, shown as a document camera. Start the VCR or DVD player. The remote sites will receive the taped signal instead of your camera signal. The taped signal will be shown in the Picture-in-Picture display on the near ViewStation (if you have it enabled). Audio from the tape will be transmitted, but if someone speaks at the near or far sites, that will also be transmitted. The ViewStation microphone pod should not be muted -- that will cause the taped signal to also be muted.

You might also want to split the signal going to the S-Video input to add an external monitor if you wish to view an image larger than the PIP (Picture-in-Picture) display.

VCON Armada Escort Pro (PC-based)

The computer card that is part of the VCON Escort system has 5 connectors. Many installations already use the Audio IN and Speaker inputs to add a Polycom Speakerphone as the audio device, or use some other type of arrangement to be able to use a microphone and speakers rather than the handset, which is only appropriate for a single user.

Diagram: VCON Armada board inputs

A good AV support technician may be of more use in this situation than a videoconference advisor. However, it is possible to use an external device like a VCR. There are limitations (beyond the input problem) that need to be planned for.

The audio signal from the VCR or DVD payer is transmitted to the remote site. However, it is not passed into the local site's audio channel. Provision must be made to have external speakers that either play directly from the VCR or DVD player, or that use a signal split from the one carried from the player to the VCON's input. Since this will be a local signal but the image in the videoconference window goes through that system, there will be lag between the video image and the audio channel. This will be similar to the lag experienced at the remote site(s).

The audio channel needs to be configured to allow the audio input to switch to the Audio IN jack. This is done via System Properties for Hardware. Choose the Audio tab, set the default to Speaker to enable the set of choices in the lower half of the display, then choose Switch audio. Click on Apply.

Graphic: VCON Properties Window

Use the Private audio setting to talk into the handset, then choose the Public setting when the VCR/DVD player is started to enable transmission of the recorded audio. Note that the presenter is not able to "talk over" the audio signal, but could switch between Public and Private audio settings to interject comments via the handset. Use of this system will require practice. Testing with a colleague at another site is highly recommended.

Origin: PC-based Client Origin: Appliance Origin: Netmeeting
Destination: PC-based Client Need external speakers for local audio; use handset to interject comments Relatively easy; can even have voice-over Not possible
Destination: Appliance Need external speakers for local audio; use handset to interject comments Relatively easy; can even have voice-over Not possible
Destination: Netmeeting Need external speakers for local audio; use handset to interject comments Relatively easy; can even have voice-over Not possible


Someone originating a videoconference with a NetMeeting client will probably not be able to add a VCR or DVD player. Even if the host PC is able to access the signal and show it in a window on its own screen, it probably cannot share that window for the same reason that a streaming media window cannot be shared. This is untested due to lack of suitable equipment, so if someone has evidence to the contrary, please contact us about it.

Page Updated: 2012-02-16