We are not a “Video Conferencing Company”

Welcome to our inaugural launch of the Sapphire Blog.  We tried this “blog thing” a few years ago… we think we pretty much figured it out now.  Cracking the champagne bottle on our proverbial “hull” is guest blogger, Rob Sheeley, President of Vaddio.

We are not a “Video Conferencing Company”

A funny thing has happened to Vaddio ever since we announced our EasyUSB products, people have started to call us a video conferencing company. We first started hearing it in Vegas at the “Future of Video Conferencing” seminar that Elliot Gold has done for years. Since then it has gone from a couple of comments to a daily occurrence. In fact, Sally Blank, our international channel manager, was in Australia at a show with our local distributor and the local Polycom rep called her a competitor and wanted her to compare specs. She was dumbfounded and didn’t even know how to address such a crazy idea that Vaddio could be a video conferencing vendor.

Well I am here to tell you that “We are not a Video Conferencing Company” Damn It!!! We have been called all kinds of sleazy, low down, nasty, dirty things over the course of Vaddio’s history, but a video conferencing manufacturer? Come on now, everyone knows that we are that cute little camera company in Minnesota that makes cameras and camera control systems. We believe in Peace & Love and a healthy serving of granola every day and as a result we play well with all manufacturers of PTZ cameras systems.  Our PTZ cameras are designed be used with any video conferencing system and we LOVE them all equally.

So here is my confusion, everyone knows that a video conferencing manufacturer sells codecs, you know those little black boxes that cost a pile of cash to purchase and then another pile of cash to maintain. The same black boxes that have a planned obsolescence life cycle that started the moment you bought yours and installed it.  And don’t get me started about integrating the black box because the black box does not play well with others, PERIOD. They would much rather have you use their control systems, their cameras, their microphones, carts, mixers, cables, batteries and any other office products that they can sell you in the room. For years now, since the early days of CLI and PictureTel video conferencing, manufacturers have been telling us that the black boxes rule and the rest of the AV industry should just drool over them. And if we are really lucky and willing to fork over bushels of hard cash they just might make us a dealer providing we pledge our first born child and all control over sales to our customers.

Well, if Vaddio really is a video conferencing company then show me the box, you know, that little black Vaddio codec box. I hate to disappoint you but you will not find one. Nope, there is not one to be found anywhere.  Ok, I have one disclaimer “I did own a black box in the 70’s that I used for rolling papers & a herbal substance but I didn’t inhale”. Outside of that we are clean, none to be found anywhere. So if we aren’t the “Next Big Thing” well then what is?  I think it is PC’s.

Personal Computers, you know those things we all love to hate but heaven help us if they ever go down. Computers are the “Next Big Thing” in AV, they create our content, their networks distribute that content, and we watch that content on them. Broadcasting has seen firsthand what the power of a PC can do to change a industry, from production to post everything, is designed for a PC work flow and what use to be very expensive black boxes are now a software applications running on PCs.  So if broadcasting changed to a PC centric world, what’s to say that AV doesn’t do the same. My friends, I believe that those tail lights that are passing us by right now as we breathe it’s green carbon neutral smoke are the PC applications that our customers are running and you know they will not slow down just because we don’t understand them.

Since the demise of film and the birth of Power Point our industry has always been driven by the content that our customers adopt and then want to present, Hardware video conferencing which at one time was very complex and difficult at best, is now being replaced by these warm, fuzzy, easy to use soft codecs that happen to be free in a lot of cases. Free has always had a big impact on customer adoption just ask YouTube what free has meant for web based video content.  In an interesting parallel between YouTube and soft codecs, the big dig on YouTube early on was that the video quality would never be good enough for corporate America.  Go ahead and try to find a US Corporation that is NOT on YouTube these days.

So let’s get back to talking about my favorite subject, Vaddio. We have always been a customer focused company that only builds what our customers want to buy. Our customers for the last two years have been asking us for a HD USB PTZ camera that they could use with these new soft codecs. They wanted it to be broadcast quality and have all of the normal inputs and outputs and control capabilities that a professional AV product would have. So we did just that, we built an HD USB PTZ camera that they integrate into their soft codec room designs. At the same time we were developing the camera we realized that the quality of USB microphones was ok for a desktop but not at all good enough for a room system. This led us to develop a true USB microphone system. Not a speakerphone with a USB jack, but a high quality WideBand echo cancelling microphone system that has discreet microphones and two twenty watt amps to drive whatever speakers the integrator desires for that project.

We also upped the ante with the AV Bridge, which was designed for those integrators that REALLY want to integrate. Now the integrator can choose all of the equipment they want to use from any manufacture they like. The AV Bridge takes the Video & Audio outputs of those glorious AV devices of your choosing and encodes them into a USB stream that you can plug into the computer of your choosing. And in addition to AV inputs there is a control port (both RS 232 & Ethernet) so you can use your favorite Crestron control system with it as well.

Well, I hope I have pleaded our case that Vaddio is not a video conferencing vendor, but we are still just that cute little camera company in Minnesota that makes cameras and camera control systems. And if you still don’t believe us, stop by the booth at InfoComm, we’ll be in Booth C8729 two halls away from those pesky video conferencing manufacturers.

Rob Sheeley