There is quite understandably a big buzz surrounding video in the UC industry at present. Much of it is to do with the sense that, a decade and a half after Skype first brought peer-to-peer video communication into the mainstream, we have finally cracked the quality issues that have long dogged video communication technology.
We’ve all experienced it – video calls which descend into a blurry pixelated mess. Live stream webinars where there is a latency gap of seconds between audio and video. Group video conferences which buffer endlessly.
Slowly but surely, with new standards like H.323, SIP and WebRTC, and better software codecs, we’ve got there, so you can now enjoy large-scale video meetings in HD quality without the need for hugely expensive specialist hardware.
But video conferencing is not just about visuals. The quality of audio matters just as much. Which is why VCaaS provider BlueJeans has gone as far as team up with audio specialist Dolby to ensure that its clients can hear as well as see what is going on in crystal clear quality.
BlueJeans points to research from Wainhouse which indicates that as many as 82 per cent of video conference participants say they have problems with audio during virtual meetings. More than a quarter pinpoint the problem as simultaneous talkers, while a similar proportion report issues with muted audio from mobile participants.
These problems with audio are enough to potentially undermine the whole point of holding video conferences. Poor audio can make it difficult to follow the thread of conversations and understand what is being discussed. Overlap between speakers makes interactions awkward and unnatural. And the sum of these issues is that people taking part either tune out of what is happening, or experience cognitive fatigue because of the extra concentration they need to put in.
In order to eliminate these problems from its own conferencing solutions, BlueJeans uses Dolby Voice technology across its entire product range. In this review, we will take a look at exactly how BlueJeans is pushing the envelope on HD audio in video conferencing.
What can it do?
BlueJeans offers three video conferencing products:
- BlueJeans Meetings: A flexible video collaboration platform which offers simple multi-participant video calls, screen and file sharing from any desktop, mobile and H.323 or SIP-compliant meeting room system. It can be accessed via a web browser as well as through a dedicated app.
- BlueJeans Events: A managed large-scale webinar and virtual conferencing solution for up to 15,000 global participants. Device agnostic, BlueJeans Events allows for live streaming via Facebook Live, audience participation tools, moderator controls and single-click access.
- BlueJeans Rooms: A conference room hardware system that can connect up to 100 remote participants and includes wireless screen sharing and integration with Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendars for scheduling.
BlueJeans’ work with Dolby Voice has resulted in two solutions. On its Meetings and Events services, Dolby has provided the expertise to develop best-in-class audio for all participants, no matter what device they are using to take part. This includes the latest noise cancelling and volume balancing technologies, so background interference from any microphone is removed from the signal, and differences in mic volumes are levelled out to provide a consistent, crystal clear signal.
But Dolby has also provided technology which achieves more natural results for audio reception and conversation flow. One of these solutions is spatial audio, which means the listener hears voices come from different directions, as you would do if you were sat in a room with a group of people. Not only does this make for a more immersive, realistic experience, it also aids comprehension, as it matches your brain’s expectations for how we receive audio in a natural environment.
BlueJeans Meetings and Events also benefit from innovations to allow conversations to flow more naturally. We are used to miscues and overlaps in natural conversation, but deal with them because they happen in real time. Part of the problem with video conferencing is that any delays in the signal can lead to different speakers being unsure of where the cues are to start speaking. So by eliminating lag, the chances of speakers stumbling over each other are reduced.
The second Dolby solution for BlueJeans is the Dolby Conference Phone included in the Rooms package. Designed to integrate seamlessly with the PC consoles, screens and cameras supplied by other big-name vendors and run on BlueJeans software, the Dolby conference phone is easy to set up and straightforward to use. The HD microphones provide long-range audio capture from all directions, picking up speakers from anywhere even in large rooms.
The Dolby conference phone is also the main console for managing meetings with BlueJeans Rooms systems. You can start or join a meeting with a single click, it offers meeting management options and provides the wireless hub for sharing content with other devices in the room.
What do we like?
The Dolby partnership is far from the only string to the BlueJeans bow. For its Rooms solution, it uses an Intel NUC Core i5 as the standard console, but also offers HP, Lenovo and Dell hardware. It suggests the Logitech BRIO web camera, but the solution can also be paired with Altla, Aver and Huddly products. It works with Symantec and Blue Coat on digital security for its Events, and makes its Meetings platform available through Skype for Business and Slack. There are many more to mention, all adding to the sense of BlueJeans offering premium quality video solutions across the board.
Who is it for?
With a cloud-based hosted video collaboration service, a large-scale webinar and virtual conference platform and a video conferencing room solution, BlueJeans has something for everyone.
How much does it cost?
BlueJeans Meetings has three subscription tiers:
- Me: An SME solution providing meetings for up to 50 participants, starting at £9.99 per month. It includes Microsoft Outlook, Office 365 and Google Calendar integration for scheduling and direct streaming to Facebook Live or Workspace.
- My Team: Mid-sized solution for up to 75 participants starting at £13.99 per month, with integration to HipChat, Skype for Business and Slack, plus historical meeting analytics.
- My Company: An enterprise package including compatibility with any H.323 or SIP room system, SIP trunking, unlimited meeting recording and up to 100 participants. Prices are quoted on application according to need.
Prices for BlueJeans Events and BlueJeans Rooms are also quoted on an individual basis.
BlueJeans is making a big impression in the video conferencing market and rightly so. The fact that it covers all bases – a VCaaS solution, managed virtual conferencing at an enormous scale and meeting room systems – is impressive enough. When you factor in the calibre of the partners the company is working with, and the extent of the features it includes, it all adds up to a premium quality offering.
Dolby is one of the world’s most recognised brands in audio technology and is renowned for outstanding innovation and quality. With Dolby on board, you know before you try it what the audio quality on BlueJeans products is going to be like – outstanding. While not exactly an overlooked area of video conferencing technology, it is good to see a vendor putting audio technology right at the top of its list of priorities, as it is a feature that makes all the difference for the experience of participants.
Look & Feel
Excellent HD quality audio and video across all video conferencing applications.