Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Thursday, 6 October 2022

Zoom: Final Check on the New Set-Up

 Yesterday Jon was kind enough to join me for a final test of my redesigned Zoom system. What I needed was confirmation that the video looks good enough at his end for a game to be practical, and I'm delighted to report that we have a thumbs-up.

I set up a WSS battlefield, for something to look at (boards with hex side up, to give some more detail to check on), placed one of my new StreamCams at each end of the table (that would normally mean one camera on each flank, since my games are normally played across the table). I hosted the "meeting" on my desktop iMac, connected to Cam1, and my laptop was a guest, connected to Cam2. It may be possible to use camera sharing to simplify this further, but the length of the cable runs is problematic, so the "one computer at each end of the table" works nicely for the present. Remote generals may select ("pin" in Zoom-speak) either of the two table views at will, without affecting anyone else.


This table is 8ft x 5ft, and the auto-focus is switched off on each camera. Here's a screenshot of the host's Gallery view of the test - click on the image to enlarge it. The picture on the right is Cam1 (looking from the Garden Room end!), so this view is direct from Cam1, as received, and should be as perfect as the camera and the computer's HD handling can produce; on the left is Cam2 (looking from the Hallway end), and this picture has been received by the host via broadband, courtesy of Zoom's server. Thus comparison of the quality of the two pictures gives a direct assessment of the resolution loss caused by the trip to Zoom and back.

Things to note here are:

(1) There is obviously a slight degradation between right and left, but it isn't bad at all, is it? The loss is less than I expected.

(2) For a remote attendee, both views would be of the quality of the left hand picture, since (obviously) all video is coming from Zoom.

(3) We agreed that some supporting maps and documentation would be necessary, since you really can't identify a unit completely from the view on screen, but Jon feels that this set-up would handle a game with no problems. 

Good - I'm ready to get back to this stuff now. I shall not be listing my webcams on eBay! Interested guest generals please form an orderly queue. Thanks again, Jon.

10 comments:

  1. Yep. You present a perfectly playable set up. From my viewing perspective, there was very difference between the video quality from either camera. I would have no trouble commanding an army from either end of the table. Very fun session.

    Next, you may want to begin occasionally monitoring statistics to keep an eye on latency/jitter/FPS/etc. during your sessions. The more participants, the more likely you will experience some of these degradations.

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    1. Yes - good advice. As you have suggested previously, it might be a smart idea to get remote players to switch off their own video, once we have said hello. That would keep the overall traffic down a little. I'm not sure where to find some of these stats, but will check it out.

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    2. Next time we meet, I will show where the stats are located and how to monitor them.

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    3. Thank you - that's great.

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  2. Not much degradation there! The left picture is a tad darker, but that might be the fact it's further from the window (assuming you haven't got a window at the hallway end).

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    1. The left picture is maybe affected by the fact that there is daylight visible in the next room, and some sneaking round the curtains next to that far end of the table. On serious game days, I would usually shut the curtains in that next room. The daylight in there doesn't help a lot, and can confuse the cameras. Illumination has been very much a matter of trial and error - sometimes, adding more light results in the camera adjusting itself so that you gain nothing, in fact sometimes it seems darker on the screen!

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  3. Fascinating stuff Tony, the images look very good indeed but the tech is a bit much for my peanut sized brain this time of morning so I will have another go later!

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    1. Hi Lee - sorry - this is a bit of a nerd topic; such technology as I got into here was kind of forced on me by the need to get everything working! Cable lengths are a bit of a beggar with USB webcams - over 10 feet or so and it doesn't work any more. I may purchase some active cables (with a built-in signal booster), but haven't been pushed down that road yet. The screenshot image in this post was the critical test - if the pictures that the remote players see are too fuzzy to work with then the whole idea doesn't fly. Happily, the screenshot seems to show that the quality loss through Zoom is not a show-stopper, though remote players will need proper maps and info sheets to understand things they can't see on-screen, and be able to ask the host/umpire for explanation of anything they can't see. If the players can see OK, the most successful arrangement I've used in the past is for me to umpire the game on-site, and remote generals to play against each other. Good fun, in fact - the technology is only a problem when it stops working (in my case, out in the Sticks, this could mean one of the hamsters has fallen off the generator treadmill!).

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    2. USB extension cables with built-in signal booster? This is news to me!

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    3. Jon - this link is to amazon.uk site - I intend to borrow one from one of my sons before I start spending actual money on one!

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07X56YJC6/ref=syn_sd_onsite_desktop_311?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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