SUPA video conferencing rooms to be upgraded

Many of us are familiar with the SUPA video conferencing (VC) rooms in each of our institutions.  They are used predominantly to provide the Graduate School courses for SUPA students, but also provide a useful meeting resource for research activities in the less busy times between semesters.

When they were originally set up around a decade ago these rooms were a cutting-edge tool for SUPA – and they are still the envy of other research pools.  Only SUPA has managed to secure and maintain such a prized asset thanks to the continued support of the Heads of Schools/Departments.
It is testament to the good choices made a decade ago that the VC rooms are still usable, but ten years is a long time in technology development, and audio visual capabilities have improved markedly.  Technological advances and improvements in available bandwidth has led to video conversations now being commonplace, possibly even more so in our home lives than in our professional endeavours.
These factors, and the impending end of maintenance agreements for the current hardware, resulted in SUPA taking a fresh look at how we could best provide VC facilities for our members.  A recommendation was put the SUPA Executive Committee, who agreed with the proposal, and we are now working hard to implement this as quickly as possible – in time for the start of the next semester for most, if not all, VC rooms.
The upgrades will centre around the use of the Vscene service – which is already used to perform the behind-the-scenes dialling and recording of current VC lectures – and the VidyoRoom HD-230.  Many of the particle physicists among us are already very familiar with Vidyo, who provide the video conferencing meeting software of choice for CERN.  Vscene is provided by Jisc, who also provide the Janet network that we benefit from in the higher education sector.
Added to these components will be upgraded display and audio technology that will result in a crisper, higher resolution experience for VC room users, including a much higher content channel frame rate.  SUPA Graduate School HD is on its way!
Our initial goal is to roll-out the upgrade across eight SUPA VC rooms, but the increasing capability of Jisc’s Vscene will give us new options.  We plan to extend our offerings to other rooms and beyond fixed rooms altogether – to PCs, tablets and smartphones.  Watch this space for more information.
We will be running training sessions for SUPA Graduate School lecturers on the new set up in the last two weeks of August, so please look out for emails inviting you to attend these at your local institution.