Tandberg Movi Review

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Tom Keating
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Tandberg Movi Review

Multi-party HD videoconferencing is often thought of as an expensive proposition that is restricted to special boardrooms with expensive video equipment and large monitor displays. One of the major driving forces behind videoconferencing is its ability to enable collaborative meetings across distances with multiple participants, so having multiple high-tech videoconferencing boardrooms can be cost prohibitive. Further, many employees work from home all or part of the week or travel, which would make attendance at a fixed videoconferencing boardroom impossible. Tandberg, now part of Cisco, aims to solve this problem by combining Mobility and Video, hence the name Movi, a new offering that enables high-definition 720p, 30fps video when used in conjunction with  the Cisco's Tandberg PrecisionHD USB camera.

Tandberg sent me the PrecisionHD USB camera to test along with Movi for the best experience, though any HD USB camera would work as well. Movi is much more than simply a video conferencing system - it's also a video collaboration tool allowing you to share applications, whiteboard, etc. Movi really gives you a true full-fledged telepresence experience without the need for huge TV screens and expensive video equipment.

tandberg-movi-recent-calls-tab.jpg Movi is standards compliant and is interoperable with H.323 and SIP endpoints enabling connectivity with other Movi users, personal desktop video, conference rooms and telepresence systems.  When utilizing standards-compliant Multipoint Control Units (MCUs), Movi allows you to simultaneously connect with multiple users on different devices. To use Movi you need Cisco's Tandberg Management Suite (v12.1 or later) and Cisco's Tandberg Video Communication Server (VCS v.4.1) (MCU) or later. Rather than deploying and setting these up, for my testing purposes, my Movi client was configured to logon to Tandberg's VCS MCU located across the Internet.

I launched the Movi application and it told me I need Open GL 1.2 video drivers. I won't get into a DirectX vs. OpenGL debate here, except to point out that Open GL has better performance and is cross-platform, unlike DirectX. The downside is that not all graphic card vendors update or include the latest Open GL drivers.

Fortunately, my nVidia GeForce 7300 LE card had Open GL 1.2 drivers available. After installing the driver, I relaunched Movi and then clicked the local video icon to see myself:
tandberg-movi-photo-of-tom-high-res.jpg
Click the image for the full 1586x1148 image. This isn't quite full-screen mode, since when I go full-screen and then use my screen capture utility, all I get is a white background. This is due to they way Open GL optimizes the video output by bypassing certain elements of the operating system to improve performance. Thus, I had to keep it in windowed mode and make the window as large as I could to capture the image.

Here's another image from another day:
tandberg-movi-photo-of-tom.jpg

I'd like to see a snapshot utility built into Movi for doing screen grabs in windowed or full-screen mode without relying on a third-party app. Similarly, I'd like to see a way of kicking off a recording for future playback.

Now the fun part - making a video call. After logging in I made a call to Tandberg's (now Cisco's) Jeannie McPherson. The video quality was superb and supports up to 8Mbps Kbps throughput .

During the video call, I was using the PrecisionHD camera's built-in microphone along with my desktop speakers, so I wasn't wearing a headset and yet there was no echo or speaker feedback. This is important, since most users prefer the freedom to move around without being tethered to a wired headset. Even if you have a wireless headset connected to your PC, that doesn't help if you have multiple people you want to participate in the video conference, since obviously headset mics are designed to only pick up audio from less than 5 inches away. I was amazed that I was in a HD video conference using just my PC and a USB-based camera with no fancy echo cancellation microphone pod with DSPs - yet the audio quality was crystal clear. The platform supports several key audio codecs, including some wideband ones. Audio codecs supported include MPEG4 AAC-LD 48 kHz, G.722.1 24 kbps, G.722.1 32 kbps, G.711 A-law, and G.711 μ-law.

For my next test, Jeannie and I participated in a multi-party (3-way) video conference with another Tandberg employee, Mike Roussey. I was using Movi, while Jeannie was using a Tandberg 1700and Mike was also using Movi from his home office. Once again, the audio and the video quality were superb. In this video conference session, which I really should call a 'telepresence session', Mike shared a Powerpoint presentation, which I was able to see in addition to the two video feeds of Jeannie and Mike.
tandberg-movi-4-way-call.jpg
Sample 4-way conference with Powerpoint presentation

We had about a 45 minute telepresence session and the video and audio quality were top-notch throughout. Within Movi I could change my view from seeing the presentation and the video participants to just viewing the presentation in a "larger mode". The larger mode is useful if I wanted to focus on just the presentation or if it was easier to read.I liked that I could easily toggle between the main screen and the picture-in-picture (PiP) with a simple double click. Also, the PiP is movable, which came in handy when I wanted to move one of the video windows out of the way of the presentation, but still see the other person.

Movi allows you to select and share content and presentations with any standards-compliant video device, so it isn't strictly other Movi clients or the various Tandberg video telepresence solutions. It's worth mentioning that the new version of Movi adds far-end camera control. There is also a DTMF keypad for sending touch tones.

You can dial an IP address of a H.323/SIP system simply by pre-pending '@', i.e. @45.234.55.101. Of course dialing by URI works, i.e. tom_keating@tandberg.com. The Movi client feature color-coded presence so you know when users are available. Currently, there is no chat built-in, since in many cases you are participating with users on other video telepresence systems that don't have a keyboard or mouse. However, Tandberg told me they are considering addressing this in a future release so at least Movi users can chat.

Here's a 6-way multi-party video conference on a MacBook Pro:
MoviMacwithMultiway.jpg

Cisco claims this solution is scalable to thousands of users. To achieve excellent audio and video quality, the company has some tricks up its sleeve. They utilize adaptive echo cancellation on the Movi client, endpoints, and on their MCU appliance, which explains why the audio quality was so good. Further, they have intelligent bandwidth distribution and dynamic bandwidth adaptation. Their ClearPath packet loss concealment technology, which they recently announced, also plays a big role in maintaining high quality.

Importantly, their new Multiway technology enables Movi users to initiate ad hoc multiparty telepresence calls with other standards-compliant devices. What's cool about this technology is that you can start with a 2 party telepresence call using direct peer-to-peer communication with no MCU required and then convert to a multi-party (>=3 people) telepresence session with a MCU. Since MCU resources are limited, this ensures the MCU isn't used for 2 party calls, but seamlessly converts to a MCU call "on the fly" (using VCS) if needed.

Features:
  • Supports Bandwidth from 24 kbps up to 8 Mbps
  • Initiate Ad hoc multi-party calls utilizing Multiway
  • Far End Camera Camera Control
  • Utilizes ClearPath packet loss protection technology
  • Support for ICE
  • Video Standards supported: H.264, H.263+, H.263
  • Select an application and share content and presentations with standards compliant devices on the far end
  • Resolution supported:
    • 400p (528 x 400 pixels)
    • 4SIF (704 x 480 pixels)
    • SIF (352 x 240 pixels)
    • 448p (576 x 448 pixels)
    • 4CIF (704 x 576 pixels)
    • CIF (352 x 288 pixels)
    • QCIF (256 x 144 pixels)
    • SQCIF (128 x 96 pixels)
    • XGA (1024 x 768 pixels)
    • VGA (640 x 480 pixels)
    • QVGA (256x144)
    • Wide Resolutions:
    • w720p (1280x720 pixels)
    • w576p (1024x576 pixels)
    • w448p (768x448 pixels)
    • w288p (512x288 pixels)
  • Audio Features:
    • 48 kHz wideband audio subsystem with compliance-grade, adaptive, acoustic echo cancellation
    • Audio mute
    • Speaker volume
    • Speaker mute
    • DTMF (in-band and out-of-band)
    • Privacy Features: Audio mute, Video mute
  • Content Sharing
    • H.239 (VCS H.323 Interworking)
    • BFCP Content Channel encoded w/H.264, H.263+, H.263 enabling wide range of interoperability
  • User Interface
    • Separate windows for phonebooks/presence and video calls
    • Address book search (from TMS directory and phone books)
    • Presence indication on contacts
    • Toggle video mute
    • Toggle audio mute
    • Toggle selfview
    • In-call Picture in Picture (PiP) Selfview
    • Flexible layout control and placement.
    • Toggle between main screen and PiP with double click
    • Automatic presentation sharing mode when using Microsoft Powerpoint
    • Switch to turn on Selfview at startup
    • My contacts
    • Call status dialogue
    • PiP to show far end video when receiving content
    • Recent calls with time, date and duration
    • Missed calls notification
    • Network quality meter
    • DTMF keypad
    • Select ring tones
    • Disable ring tones on busy/in call
  • Embedded Encryption
    • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)
    • Transport Layer Security (TLS)
  • IP Network Features
    • URI dialing
    • Support for ICE*
    • E.164 alias dialing supported through VCS
    • Adaptive jitter handling
    • Adaptive bandwidth management
    • DNS lookup for provisioning clustering
  • Protocols Supported
    • SIP
    • H.323 (via VCS interworking)
    • TCP/IP
    • TLS
    • RTP/RTCP
    • DTMF (in-band and out-of-band)
    • BFCP
    • H.239 (VCS H.323 Interworking)
    • H.281 (FECC)
    • ICE Support
  • Directory Services
    • Phone books from TMS
    • Provisioning directory phone books
    • Active Directory (LDAP) integration
Pricing:
Depending on the quantity purchased, Movi licenses range from $30 per license to $120. $30 per license is a pack of 2,000 licenses, $120 per license is a 25 pack of licenses.


Ratings
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Features
Usability
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Overall

Conclusion
Tandberg has done an excellent job of sticking to industry standards, which isn't exactly the reputation of their owner, Cisco. Fortunately, Tandberg's Movi when used in conjunction with Tandberg's Video Communications Server (VCS) ensures interoperability with other telepresence systems. The Tandberg PrecisionHD camera has a super-fast auto-focus. I could move my hand to an inch away from the camera and see my fingerprints, then move my hand away and the camera would re-focus on my face very quickly, making it a perfect complement to the Movi client. The cross-platform client support (Mac, Windows, Linux) is really key, especially in larger enterprises I really liked the high-definition multi-party conferencing with full collaboration capabilities all rolled-in-one.

The key factor is as the Movi name itself suggests - it enables mobile video for an increasingly mobile workforce. Tandberg's Movi leverages the power of the PC and the Internet to bring powerful HD video and telepresence capabilities to the mobile workforce. The ability to participate in a HD video telepresence session wherever you go will be a huge selling point for the Movi product. As the founder of TMC Labs I've tested many products in telecom/datacom over the years and I can say unequivocally this is one of the finest products I've tested. Well done Cisco & Tandberg!


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