Video Quality: Optimizing your video experience Bandwidth

While you probably already know that you need a broadband connection to use ooVoo, did you know that not all broadband is created equal? Even on the same connection, your bandwidth (the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time) may vary based on factors such as the amount of traffic on the network, the number of people using your Internet connection, and whether you are downloading or streaming something else. Below are three measurements of your connection speed that will influence your video quality.

  • Downstream - This is the amount of bandwidth you have coming to your computer from the Internet. Think of this as how wide the road is coming to your house. The more downstream bandwidth you have, the wider the road and the more traffic that you can accept. You should have a minimum of 180kbps downstream bandwidth for the a one-on-one video call. For each additional call participant you need an additional 130Kbs (i.e. for a 6 way call you need 700Kbs). For viewing High Resolution video that you need a minimum of 310 Kbps download speed and to view HD video, you need a minimum of 435Kbs. If you have more available bandwidth, ooVoo will automatically use additional bandwidth up to a certain amount to increase the video quality for the best possible user experience.
  • Upstream - This is the amount of bandwidth you have going from your computer to the Internet. Think of this as how wide the road is going from your house. The more upstream bandwidth you have, the wider the road and the more traffic that you can send. You should have a minimum of 180kbps upstream bandwidth. In order to send your video in High Resolution you need a 310 Kbps upload speed and to send HD video, you need 435Kbs. The upstream requirements remain the same regardless of the amount of call participants. If you have more available bandwidth, ooVoo will automatically use additional bandwidth up to a certain amount to increase the video quality for the best possible user experience.
  • Latency (delay) - This is the amount of time it takes for the traffic you send to reach its destination. To use the previous analogy, even if you have a wide road going to and from your house, if your car is moving slowly on the road, it will take a lot longer to get where you are going. If you notice it is taking a long time for your friend to respond, or that you are talking over each other, this is probably being caused by high latency. Your latency should be below 250ms. Latency problems are often caused by network congestion, if you experience problems, try ending the video conversation and starting it again.
To test your bandwidth, you can visit one of the sites below:
  1. DSL Reports
  2. Speakeasy - Speed Test

Equipment

  • Webcam - While a webcam is not necessary to run ooVoo, your friends will not be able to see you during your conversation if you don't have a webcam. If you want to send high resolution video, you need a webcam which supports 640x480 resolution and if you want to send in HD, you need an HD webcam. Click here to view webcams which are available in the ooVoo store.
  • Headset - Although ooVoo uses echo cancellation software to improve the sound quality of your conversation, the built-in speakers and microphone on your computer may still cause some echo. We therefore recommend using a headset (headphones with a microphone) for the best audio quality. Tip: If you have a microphone built into your computer or laptop, just plug in a set of regular headphones to get rid of any echo.
  • Computer - Even if your computer meets the system requirements for using ooVoo, you may notice problems with the video if you are on an older computer, or have a lot of programs running at one time. Tip: Close all unnecessary applications you may be running and if you are using a laptop, make sure it is plugged into a power outlet. A computer with a dual core processor is required to send high resolution and HD video.

Lighting

Because cameras are less sensitive to light than the human eye, it is important to have good lighting when you are using ooVoo. If your video looks dim, grainy or washed out, try adjusting the location and brightness of your lighting. Below are some common problems caused by lighting and some suggestions to fix them:
Dim video - There isn't enough light in your room. Try turning on more lights, or move to an area where there is more light.
The room is bright but your image is dim - This could be caused by having a bright light source behind you. The camera adjusts it's sensitivity to the background instead of you. Try positioning yourself so the light source is in front of you.
Grainy video - While this could be caused by a low quality camera, it can also be caused (or made worse) by not having enough light. To compensate for the lack of light, camera's often adjust their sensitivity which creates more grain or "noise" in the image. Try turning another light on, or sitting closer to and facing the light source.
Video looks choppy - This can be caused by not having enough light in your room, but can also be caused by not having enough bandwidth. Try turning on more lights and if you still have the problem, read the section above called "Bandwidth".
Your image looks washed out - This is usually caused by a light that is too intense (example: having a light shine directly at your face). Try dimming the light, or reflecting the light off a light colored surface, like a white piece of paper on your desk.