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FAQs

General

Streaming Video Viewing Troubleshooting

Distance Education/Video Conferencing

Streaming Media

Telespresence and the Access Grid

General

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AMPS and A/V?

At AMPS we focus on video recording and video conferencing in the classrooms. However many Institute rooms also have integrated AV systems which are managed by MIT A/V. If you are having an event that will need support of the audio/visual system, please contact MIT A/V to schedule a technician in addition to AMPS for recording your event.

Streaming Video Viewing Troubleshooting

I am trying to watch a live streaming video but don't see the player. What do I try first?

Adobe's Flash Player is required, at this time, to view most live video streams offered by AMPS services. To download this free application, go to http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/ download, install and restart your browser and access the video.

Distance Education/Video Conferencing

What is Distance Education/ Video conferencing?

Distance education (DE) is when your class, course or lecture is transmitted outside of the MIT campus. For MIT, these sessions are usually synchronous classes via video conferencing to partner universities and businesses that are part of a distance education program on campus. You can also webcast your classes without live interaction from viewers, too.

What are some examples of DE programs?

Some examples are the Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA,) System Design & Management (SDM) program and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute classes.

How does Distance Education work?

Distance education classes take place in classrooms that have been modified to accommodate video conferencing technology. This could be as simple as a video conferencing system in a classroom that is then connected to the existing audio/visual equipment in the room, or what we refer to as a Level V classroom on campus. The Level V classroom has multiple cameras, displays and accompanying technology which allow for an interactive session between the distance location (known as the far end,) and local audience.

Where are the Level V classrooms on campus?

There are three classrooms booked by AMPS in Building 9, andone Registrar controlled classroom, 1-390.

What is Video Conferencing?

Video conferencing is when two or more endpoints connect to one another in a conference. It can be either through IP video conferencing (H.323 standard) or ISDN (point to point phone call using 3 128k data lines known as the H.320 standard.) Given a good connection over the internet, it can be as simple as using a web camera and a software on your computer, or a dedicated hardware system known as a video codec.

What are the advantages of using a hardware codec over my computer and a webcam?

A computer using a webcam and software may be good for one individual, but the quality will not be as good when more than one person needs to see the screen. Additionally, when you are video conferencing with a personal computer, you are tying up the processor on the computer and won't be able to multitask without causing some quality issues with the video conference. With a hardware based system, the processor in the codec is dedicated to just the video conference, allowing you to use your computer for other tasks during the session. Additionally, personal video conferencing is limited to just IP video conferencing.

Can someone use Skype to connect to my classroom for a video conference?

At this time, a Skype user can not connect to a video conferencing codec without going through a gateway. We do not recommend using Skype as an endpoint for video conferencing.

Can I use iChat to connect to a classroom for a video conference?

At the present time, iChat is not compatible with H.323 video conferencing. There is an open source program called xMeeting which you can use, however.

What happens in a video conference?

When you schedule a video conference for your class, our technicians will work with the far end technicians, exchanging information and setting up a test prior to your class. That way, we can be relatively sure that the call will be able to connect and your class go ahead without any technical difficulties. Normally, the technicians will do a test connection where they check the video, audio and data connections. .On the day of your class, the technicians will normally connect 10-15 minutes prior to the class start time so that everything is up and running when you want to start your class.

Can I connect to multiple locations at the same time?

When using our Level V classrooms, it is possible to connect to up to 4 other sites simultaneously. If all of the sites are over IP, then they will be able to connect at whatever data rate that they have the capability of connecting at (usually 384k.) If the sites only have ISDN conferencing, then the call quality will be limited to the amount of phone lines that we have available. For instance, a single call over ISDN uses 3 128K lines for a 384k call. If you have two sites connecting over ISDN, each site can only connect at 128k. While you will be able to connect to multiple sites, the quality will be reduced unless you use an external videobridge service.

What is bridging?

When you need to connect many sites at the same time, you can contract an external videobridge, such as Intercall. A videobridge will allow all sites to connect to one central location with the same quality.

What rooms have distance education capabilities?

There are 5 classrooms on campus that are equipped with technology for distance education that you can book for your class. Please note that the largest room (1-390) is scheduled by the Registrar's office, so if you have a course that will seat more than 40-45 students, you will need to schedule that well in advance with the Registrar in order to reserve the room for your course. Please see the link for the list of our classrooms and their capabilities.

Someone asked me if we can do H.320 conferencing. What is it?

H.320 is a telecommunications standard for ISDN based networks. What this means is that the person requesting a video conference would like to connect over an ISDN phone connection. All of our video conferencing capable rooms handle H.320 conferencing. We refer to this as ISDN video conferencing.

Someone asked me if we can do H.323 conferencing. What is it?

H.323 is the international standard of protocols for software and equipment that interacts over the Internet using packets. Most video conferencing done today uses H.323 since it is less expensive and can be better quality than H.320 ISDN conferencing. We refer to it as IP based video conferencing.

Can we do H.239?

Yes, our distance education classrooms and video conferencing system have H.239 capability, which allows you to share your presentation via a PC or document camera to the far end while still showing the room camera. The video conferencing systems on both sides need to have this capability on their systems for it to work.

Why do I have to connect to someone with ISDN?

Often companies or institutions dealing with sensitive data or security will restrict IP access to their network. This will often necessitate the use of ISDN video conferencing instead of IP conferencing.

Can I do a distance education class from a regular classroom?

While it is possible to do a distance class in a regular MIT classroom, there will be some limitations to the conference. Our staff will use a portable video conferencing codec that we will connect to the existing A/V hardware in the room. Normally, this system only has one camera, which is usually pointed at the audience so that the distance site can see whom they are talking to.

There may also be decreased quality for audio as well, since the system does not have the sophisticated echo cancellation equipment necessary for a fully interactive session. Additionally, the lighting in the room may not be suitable for conferencing and you may need to make some concessions to either quality or local viewing in order accommodate the conferencing system.

Last, there needs to be an available Ethernet drop in the room and our staff would need enough advance notice to request an IP address from IS&T and to do a test with the far end prior to your class session. If your classroom is heavily booked with courses, this may be difficult to do.

If you would like to book an AMPS room, please contact our staff and let us know what you are looking to do, when the events are, and whom you will be connecting to for a conference. It is helpful to know whether the class will be an individual session, or a repeating event.

Additionally, it is good to have a contact name for the technical staff at the distance location so we can work out the details and make sure that we can have a viable connection for your class.

What do I need to do to book a DE classroom?

Preferably, the more advance notice, the better in terms of finding an available room that will suit your needs. Since we have such a limited inventory of rooms, we often book them on a first come, first serve basis. There are also clients who have repeating classes over several years who may have times booked when you may want to do a class.

How soon should I contact the AMPS staff for scheduling a course?

If you are thinking of recording, webcasting or video conferencing in a course, the sooner we know, the better we can assist you.

I would like to record my sessions and make them available for the class to watch afterward. How can I do this?

If you have a Stellar or course website, we have the ability to capture your lecture and can post a link to the streaming media file for your students to watch. We can provide a variety of formats, depending on your needs. We also usually record on videotape as a back up as well, or provide you with a DVD copy of your sessions.

What kind of formats can my students view?

We offer a variety of formats, from Real Media, Windows Media and Quicktime to a rich media capture solution which will capture the desktop of your computer and video at the same time. This then creates a synchronized file which allows students to navigate through the lecture and to watch the video, the slides or a combination of the two.

Can I show my course on OCW?

We would be happy to work with the OCW staff and supply them with copies of the files for a release on the OCW site.

Who can see the files on my course site?

It is totally up to you who can see the files from your course. They can be restricted to just registered class members, or opened to the MIT community. The choice is up to you.

Can I webcast my course?

Yes, it is possible to webcast your course. Formats are similar to the archived on demand lectures, and usually are in either Real Media, Windows Media or Flash formats. Depending on where your class is held on campus, we may need to work with AV or MIT Cable to get the video signal from your classroom to our video encoders.

Can webcast viewers interact with my class?

It may be possible to create an interactive text session with webcast viewers, where they can email or text someone in the room with their questions. If this is an option that you would like to use, you will need someone in the room with a laptop and an email address or chat client who will be able to interface with the webcast viewers and pass along their questions to you. It is recommended that you test this before your actual webcast session.

Why is there a charge for AMPS' services?

AMPS is a cost recovery department, and so must charge a fee to recover costs. These fees are below market rate and cover the AMPS operational costs.

What is H.323 or IP video conferencing and why would I want to use it instead of Skype or other software out there?">What is H.323 or IP video conferencing and why would I want to use it instead of Skype or other software out there?

H.323 or IP video conferencing over the Internet is an internationally recognized standard for video conferencing that allows for a great flexibility in conferencing, because the end user can be on a computer with a web camera or in a dedicated hardware system designed specifically for video conferencing.

Skype, on the other hand, is proprietary software that does not use this standard, so it can only talk to another person on a computer using Skype. iChat on the Mac is a similar program that will only talk to other people using iChat. Therefore these systems are not compatible with the H.323 conferencing software and systems that are available here at the Institute.

Can I use Skype to conference into one of your systems?

No, Skype uses a proprietary SIP protocol that is not compatible with hardware based video conferencing systems. If someone would like to conference with you in a regular video conference with their computer, they will need to have a PC or Mac based software that allows them to conference using the H.323 protocol. Some examples of PC based video conferencing software are Polycom PVX, Mirial, Microsoft NetMeeting/MSN. For Mac based video conferencing, the open source program xMeeting is software Mac owners can use to conference into our systems.

Can I use iChat to conference into one of your systems?

No, iChat uses a proprietary protocol that can only talk to other Mac users. They can download the open source program known as xMeeting and use that, however.

Streaming Media

What is Streaming Media?

Streaming media is video and/or audio which is shown over the internet to your computer. The stream consists of the transmission of the file over the internet, and the media is the particular file format used.

What types of streaming media can I use?

There are several standards, and we can offer one or several, depending on your viewers and what you would like to offer. The different types of media we can deliver are Real Media, Windows Media, Quicktime and Flash.

Which streaming format should I use?

It's up to you what type of media you would like to use. It is usually dependent upon your audience and what you know about them. If, for instance, you are showing a course that will only be watched via an Athena workstation, the Real Media would be sufficient. If you would like to offer a wider variety of streams, then you can choose one or more of the other formats available. Our staff will work with you to find the best format that works for your needs. You should also think about where your audience will be viewing the files from - if they are on campus, we can do a high quality encode. If you have someone in a foreign country who may want to watch the file on a lower bandwidth connection, then you may need to provide a lower quality file option as well.

How is on-demand streaming media different from a webcast?

We consider a webcast to be a live event which is transmitted at the same time the event occurs. Streaming media is the file that can be viewed after an event has occurred, and can be viewed at any time.

How does it work?

If you have an event that you want to make available to the MIT community or beyond, you first need to have it recorded. You will need to contact the Video Production group to have them record your lecture or event. Our staff will work with them to encode the recording from tape. Once it has been encoded, we will then create the streaming media file. Once the file ahs been created, we will provide you a link that you can post on your website. If you have a Stellar course website, we can post the link on the site for you.

What is encoding?

Encoding is the term we use to ingest the information from a video tape, or other recorded media, onto our computers. The video file is compressed into a selected delivery format through encoding. Once a file has been encoded, we then place it on a video server for viewing.

How do I know what type of files my computer can play?

Most computers (both Mac and PC) can play Real Media files using RealPlayer, a free media player which can be downloaded from Real.com. Windows Media is included in Windows, or can be downloaded from Microsoft.com. QuickTime can be played on either system as well, if you have downloaded the QuickTime player from the Apple site. Flash video can be played on either system as well, if you have downloaded the Flash plug in for your browser. To test what formats your computer can play, click the links below for those formats.

Video Player Test Links:
RealPlayer
| Windows Media Player | QuickTime Player | Flash Player

Who can see my encoded files?

It is up to you who can see these files. It can be restricted to your course website, to the MIT community, or open to the world to view.

How big are the streaming files?

If the file is an on demand stream, the file size itself is not as important as the bandwidth it takes to view it. For instance, you could have a 90 minute lecture that streams at 220k. Most people with a broadband connection will be able to view the file, but someone with a dial up connection would not. Hosting your video files in streaming format with AMPS reduces overall traffic to your website as well as saving file storage space.

Why can't I create my own streaming media?

You can create your own videos and upload them to a share site such as MIT TechTV. There are software programs that will allow you to create your own video for the web. The quality may not be as good as what we can do on our dedicated encoders, or you may not be able to have a lot of control over the way the video once it is compressed. Additional many of these formats have a free player, but charge for the encoding and hosting software in order to post the video on the web. With our equipment, we can provide the video files for you using dedicated computers and staff that are knowledgeable, thus saving you time and effort to do it on your own.

Someone mentioned a rich media capture to me. What is it?

A rich media capture is when we record both the video of the presenter and the VGA from the presenter's PC. This can be either a live webcast event or an on demand stream which will let viewers navigate through at their leisure. They also have the ability to view each of the rich media streams independently, watching them together, or individually full size on their computer.

Why would I want to use a rich media capture of my course?

In a traditional videotaped recording, our technicians are making decisions on what to show the viewer, either via a live, switched recording of cameras and a scan conversion of the PC image, or in a single camera production, they move the camera between the presenter and the presentation displayed on a local projection screen. A rich media capture will record both simultaneously and give the viewer the ability to choose what they want to see by providing an index into the presentation.

Telespresence and the Access Grid

What is a Telespresence system and where can I find one on campus?

Telepresence is a new type of conferencing offered by multiple vendors which is designed to give you the experience of being in the same room with the person at another location. Cisco has donated a smaller Telepresence system to MIT for collaboration with other universities and to Cisco. The Libraries Cisco Telepresence has been relocated to the Hayden Library E14-311 Group Study Room and is a self-service room. The room is bookable during regular Library hours. More information can be found here. Requests for actual conferences should go to telepresence@mit.edu

A special note about the Cisco Telepresence system is that it will only communicate with another Cisco system.

What is the Access Grid and how is it different from Telepresence or video conferencing?

The Access Grid is a collection of resources (known as nodes) that allow for collaboration between different universities on Internet2.

What makes it different from traditional video conferencing is that it uses multiple displays with simultaneous camera feeds from each location, in addition to data. Telepresence or video conferencing usually shows one camera source from a location, with the possibility of showing two sources, one camera, one data signal. It is ideally designed to be a group to group collaboration tool and is located in one of the AMPS distance education classrooms.