The HD Video Collaboration Myth

By Kevin Glass - March 29, 2016

There are many myths around video use in collaboration, but the biggest is probably about the need for high-definition (HD) video. Let's frame the use of video (excuse the pun) by listing the main reasons why we use video in collaboration at all.

Screenshot of Chime Interface

1) Video helps collaborating teams bond - seeing a face helps us remember that we're talking to real people. We get to know team members better if we can see them.

2) Video helps us interpret body language and facial expressions - collaboration is all about understanding each other. Without video we miss many of the visual cues we're used to when interacting in the real world.

3) Video can improve participation - with audio only, the mute button is always there and we are often free to shut off and do something else; whereas with video conferencing it is far more obvious to everyone if we are distracted or multi-tasking.

4) Video allows us to show rather than tell - in some cases it is really useful to be able to display an item or artefact to collaborating team members. 

Assuming these are the key reasons why we use video for collaboration, for which of them is HD video necessary? It seems that the only time HD video really helps is if I'm trying to show you something detailed through a video feed. For the rest, it is likely more important that the remote person "feels" real; in these cases, most likely high frame rate is more important than definition.

In fact, when you think about it, do you really want a high definition video stream of your face in front of other people? It might be great for prepared meetings where you're trying to impress, but for collaboration, for day-to-day true collaboration, that’s not want we want.

Can we do high definition video? Well, yes we can, everyone can, but it takes more bandwidth and it's more expensive in CPU. So why do we implement it? Because we've all learnt through consumer and business related advertising that more pixels is better. We've been told the latest and greatest new thing is higher definition, but it actually doesn't improve our experience in most cases. 

 So what is it that we do want in video collaboration?

1) Make it work the first time every time - I want to collaborate without friction.

2) Make it easy and quick - I want to start collaborating without delay.

3) Make it available to everyone - I want to be able to collaborate with whomever I need to.

4) Most importantly - Let me use video but don't compromise any of the above.

At least that’s what I think. Feel free to comment and let us know what you think.