A few weeks ago RADVISION released version 5.7 of its desktop video conferencing, extending its long time vision of bringing high definition to the desktop. As we are well-aware that many consider video conferencing to be technically challenging, we offered a free trial of the client.
We got some good feedback on “Try Scopia“, but I have to admit that when I saw that Mike Pihlman’s, “Technology and Product Reviews For Everyone” blog was planning to review SCOPIA Desktop, it interested me the most.
Mike, who I have been following for a while, writes a technical blog on technology and product reviews specializing in video conferencing and other “green” technologies. Mike knows video conferencing, and so his feedback in the form of a product review, I assumed, would be something to look forward to.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Last week he posted “Radvision Scopia Desktop Review“, where he carefully reviews EVERYTHING about the product, from download and installation to video conferencing participation and recording. Bottom line – Mike says:
“The ability to instant collaborate is extremely valuable…
I see the SCOPIA Desktop as the culmination of years of effort to introduce a standard-base desktop product that can be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Radvision has succeeded…
I would install the SCOPIA Desktop in a heartbeat…”
A Video Capture of Mike’s Video Review of SCOPIA Desktop.
In his post Mike was asking some good questions regarding SCOPIA Desktop, and it is my pleasure to assist with some good answers, which I gathered from the SCOPIA Desktop team. I thought it would be great to share them here as well:
[remarks and clarifications for Mike's answers in brackets]
How many people can view the stream [of a real-time video conference] at the same time?
SCOPIA Desktop’s integrated streaming experience, which includes audio, video and the presentation (with annotations), supports both unicast (1 to 1) and multicast (1 too many) streaming.
There is no limit on the number of clients that can simultaneously view such a stream (multicast), and the number of clients who can view different streams (unicast) at the same time is limited by the number of servers you get (of course you can deploy multiple servers).
In order to maximize capacity and optimize bandwidth utilization, an administrator can determine which users will view the stream in unicast and which users will see the stream in multicast.
Do all viewers need the Rad app [SCOPIA Desktop, that is], or can we also view it via REAL, QT, WM [popular video players] Or via an H.323 [video conferencing] client?
The SCOPIA Desktop web plug-in is needed for a full interactive experience. This plug-in is free to download “on demand” from the server when a user connects.
However, any standards based H.323 or SIP client can also connect to a meeting.
For a “view only” experience, participants can use the SCOPIA Desktop portal which embeds QuickTime’s streaming components.
When recording a meeting, is the “data” presentation also recorded?
Yes. And since SCOPIA Desktop records the data presentation in H.264 and in 720p, you can enjoy a great meeting experience, even when it is “just” a playback.
Is the desktop VC app H.323?
Not entirely. The media, RTP and SRTP are fully standard. Signaling is different because of the difficulty H.323 has with firewalls. This is especially true with remote users, and so we use a proprietary SIP-like protocol that is firewall and NAT friendly with HTTPS tunneling capabilities. Everything is, of course, automatic and transparent to the end user.
If not, where is the translating completed to connect to an H.323 MCU?
Translation is done on the SCOPIA Desktop Server that connects to the MCU via H.323. Therefore, you can conduct a meeting using a mix of desktop clients, room systems (SIP & H.323), mobile phones, and fixed phones.
Do the [virtual] meeting rooms have to be set up in advance, or are they pure “ad-hoc” needing only a set prefix?
Virtual rooms are set up in advance by the administrator to control the corporate use (define passwords, maximum allowed bandwidth, etc.).
A typical deployment will provide everyone in the organization with a virtual room number, similar to providing a personal phone extension.
Resources are not used unless someone is actually in the virtual room.
Ad-hoc meetings, where you can specify a prefix and a meeting ID, are also supported.
When I connect can I choose a meeting “location” of my choice? For example: 56123679 rather than 56666
Can I hold meetings in two or three or four different virtual rooms? For example: 542345, 678456, and 1234?
Yes, you can have as many virtual rooms as you want.
Can a gateway be included to receive telephone or cell phone calls in meeting?
Absolutely. You can even include 3G phones in a meeting with the RADVISION 3G gateway. In that case, you will be able to send and receive video to/from a 3G phone just as easily.
If I were an enterprise buying this, what do I get? MCU? Server? GK? GW? What is essential and what is optional?
What you get is a bundled solution.
The SCOPIA solution includes SCOPIA Desktop, iVIEW (our management system), an integrated Gatekeeper, and the SCOPIA MCU.
This package includes unlimited client distribution, firewall traversal, streaming, H.323 & SIP connectivity to room systems. You designate a package with the appropriate number of concurrent users that you wish to support.
Conference recording and Gateways to ISDN, PSTN and 3G are optional.
I see you use IE to fully connect. Will you be supporting Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc in the future?
Yes, support for more browsers as well as other platforms for the interactive experience is in the works.
Note that to view a stream of the meeting (Audio, Video and Presentation) you can use any of these, as all web browsers are supported, on both Windows and Mac.
How many people can meet in a live videoconference at one time?
Up to 200 interactive participants
I want to gather usage statistics such as: hours used per month per person, utilization, total hours used, etc. What do I need? Will that cost extra?
Call Detail Records (CDRs) are available from the iVIEW management suite, which is included in the bundle.
I hope that following Mike’s excellent review and the answers above, you will give SCOPIA Desktop a test drive, if you haven’t done so already. Just like Mike, I believe that this is THE way to communicate, from your desktop and to anyone, anywhere. I’m glad to see that others outside RADVISION share our enthusiasm and accomplishment.