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HD Video in Office Communicator 2007 R2

Communications Server 2007 R2

The video capabilities of Communications Server are enabling businesses to connect more people in many valuable use cases. This article will give you more information about selecting a device, setting it up, using tools for monitoring, and more.

Author: Clive Graven

Publication date: March 2010

Product version: Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2, Office Communicator 2007 R2

The video capabilities of Communications Server are enabling businesses to connect more people in many valuable use cases. My customers have been impressed with the high quality video, which extends all the way to HD 720p but more commonly in VGA (or standard definition as many people call it).

In this article I will share with you some best practices and tips for the following:

  • Selecting a device

  • Setting up the LifeCam Cinema

  • Verifying that you are seeing HD

  • Using tools to monitor and report

  • Enabling QoS

We recommend using a camera that is optimized for Communications Server. For a list of these cameras, see Phones and Devices Optimized for Microsoft Office Communicator at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=149031, and then click the Webcams tab. You’ll find many cameras that have 720p in their description to choose from.

The Microsoft LifeCam Cinema is my preferred camera. It’s very compact and versatile for portable computers or LCD monitors and has a remarkable price (especially in Enterprise Multipacks). Don’t be too concerned that buying webcams capable of HD will take down your network. The video negotiation and policies will keep everything under control.

For LifeCam Cinema to perform optimally with Office Communicator 2007 R2, the consumer installed driver needs to be updated to the operating system USB video driver that supports MJPEG. Make sure you are not running the consumer driver, which is the v3.x driver (Figure 1).The optimal driver matches your operating system version, for example, Windows XP SP3 is 5.1.2600.5512 and Windows 7 is 6.1.7600.16385 (Figure 2).

Install LifeCam software in one of the following ways:

The LiveCam Setup program will offer an option to Receive messages for LifeCam updates. Make sure that the check box is clear. Allow the installation to complete before proceeding.

It is highly recommended that you download and apply the latest firmware update for the camera from http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=186755.

To update the driver software in Device Manager (available through Control Panel):
  1. In Device Manager, expand the Imaging devices node, right-click Microsoft LifeCam Cinema, and then select Uninstall.

  2. When prompted to Confirm Device Uninstall, select the Delete the driver software for this device check box, and then click OK.

  3. Right-click Imaging devices, and then select Scan for hardware changes.

  4. Expand the Other devices node, right-click Microsoft LifeCam Cinema, and then select Update Driver Software.

  5. Select Browser my computer for driver software, select Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer, select Show All Devices, and then click Next.

  6. Select USB Video Device, click Next, and when the installation is complete, click Close.

Figures 1 and 2 display the driver properties pages.

Figure 1. This is the LifeCam software driver, which is limited to HD720P/15fps with Office Communicator

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Figure 2. This default operating system driver supports MJPEG and provides HD720P/25fps with Office Communicator

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To confirm that the camera is operating properly, perform a visual check of the image by looking for smooth lines compared to jagged edges. A partly open door is a good test subject; a business card is another test to show the clarity of the image. You should also ensure the following:

  • You are running Communicator 2007 R2 with a user homed on a Communications Server 2007 R2 front-end pool.

  • The Communications Server pool is configured for HD or unlimited. The default is VGA.

    noteNote:
    This setting is found in the Communications Server administrative console, by expanding the pool, opening the Front End Properties, and then clicking the Video tab.
  • The Communicator video window is set to Fullscreen (Figure 3).

    Figure 3 Video Size: Small = CIF (250 kbps), Large = VGA (600 kbps), Fullscreen = HD (1.5Mbps)

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  • Both computers have Quad Core capability if both users are using an HD camera. (If only one user is using an HD camera, the fallback is to VGA resolution. In any case, if you are using an HD camera, you should plan to use a Quad Core processor in your computer for the best experience.)

  • There are 1.5 Mbps of bandwidth available in the direction you need to receive it.

    noteNote:
    Even with less available bandwidth, for example home broadband (1 megabit or more), I’ve had excellent results.
  • The Communicator call is made between only two parties, and is not a conference call or Web conference.

You can use the following tools to help you monitor video performance:

  • DU Meter (http://www.dumeter.com) is a simple and popular utility that you can use to visualize the data flow and run on-screen during a demo.

  • Performace Monitor (Perfmon) is a tool that can be run locally or against a remote system. Add the counters Bytes Received/sec and Bytes Sent/sec for the Network Interace object for your network adapter (Figure 4).

    Figure 4. For maximum utilization, wave your hand infront of the lense as seen for the first minute

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    Take into account the following:

    • Measurements include all PC traffic. For example, 50 [Audio] + 600 [VGA] = 650 Kb/s (83200 bytes).

    • Calcluate bandwidth: (Measurement in bytes/1024) * 8 = Result Kb/s.

  • The Communications Server Monitoring Server records QoE metrics that you can query by using SQL, such as the following:

    # Save to text file and manipulate in Excel

    Select * from VideoStream

    # All video endpoints in a conversation at over 600000 bps

    Select COUNT (*) from VideoStream where VideoBitRateMax > 600000

    # All video endpoints in a conversation with average over 250000 bps (Potentially VGA or HD Conversations)

    Select COUNT (*) from VideoStream where VideoBitRateAvg > 250000

    # All video endpoints in a conversation which ended at HD

    Select COUNT (*) from VideoStream where VideoResolution = '1280x720'

    # All video endpoints in a conversation which ended at VGA

    Select COUNT (*) from VideoStream where VideoResolution = '640x480'

    noteNote:
    Reported QoE metrics for video resolution could be missed for HD calls. Because the metric is sampled at the end of the call, but end-users may exit full-screen screen mode before closing the call, the metric would not be recorded as 1280x720 for that endpoint. The VideoBitRateMax value maybe more reliable an indication of resolution.

To summarize, here are some additional tips:

  • If you want users to automatically use full screen when answering video calls, configure the Group Policy setting for EnableFullScreenVideoPreviewDisabled = 1 [Enabled].

  • A lot of the newer cameras have autofocus, which can lose focus and be distracting in certain conditions. If this is happening, you can disable autofocus and set it to the value 0 in the Setup Audio and Video Wizard.

  • Indirect lighting in the room works well; you need a lot of light or the camera will go to a lower frame rate.

  • Projectors can be difficult because they typically work best with low light levels in the room, which isn’t optimal for cameras. A large widescreen LCD TV screen is a cost effective solution and will look good because they are optimized for HD 720p resolution.

  • You can limit the bandwidth of Office Communicator by setting the MaxAudioVideoBitRate value to approximately 512000 (in bits) in Communicator.adm group policy template. For more information about group policy, see Group Policy for Unified Communications Clients at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=178987.

  • If available, use QoS with Office Communicator to prioritize the audio and also the video on the network. You can be very selective in how you do this and use it only for certain computers.

    Part of enabling QoS is to enable Communicator to mark the packets. For information about enabling DSCP marking, see Enabling DSCP Marking at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd441192(office.13).aspx. I’ve put together a group policy that can make it easier to deploy and manage QoS.

    To enable this QoS group policy
    1. Save the following as EnableQOS.adm.

      #if version <= 2
      #endif
      
      CLASS MACHINE
      CATEGORY !!OCQOS
      POLICY EnableQoS
      KEYNAME "Software\Microsoft\RTC\Transport"
      #if version >= 4
          SUPPORTED !!SUPPORTED_WindowXPSP2
      #endif
      
      #if version >= 3
          EXPLAIN !!EnableQoS_Help
      #endif
      
      VALUENAME "QoSEnabled" 
      VALUEOFF NUMERIC 0
      VALUEON NUMERIC 1
      END POLICY
      END CATEGORY
      
      CLASS USER
      
      [strings]
      OCQOS="Microsoft Office Communicator Policy QoS Settings"
      EnableQoS = "Enable QoS for OC"
      EnableQoS_Help = "Enables QoS for OC"
      
      SUPPORTED_WindowXPSP2="At least Windows XP SP2"
      
      ADM_TITLE="Group Policy settings for QoS Marking for Office Communicator"
      COMPUTER="Computer Configuration"
      COMPUTER_EXPLAIN="Contains settings that may only be used to configure Computers."
      
    2. Open the Group Policy Editor in the MMC. Under the View menu, select Filtering, and then clear the Only show policy settings that can be fully managed check box.

    3. Right-click Administrative Templates, click Add, and then select the file EnableQOS.adm that you just created.

    4. Expand Classic Administrative Templates (ADM), and expand Microsoft Office Communicator Policy QoS Settings, right-click EnableQoS, and then select Edit.

    5. Change the option selected from Not Configured to Enabled.

To learn more, check out the following:

 
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