Circles meets WebRTC
The Circles Video Meeting Room, meet.circl.es, uses ‘WebRTC’ - a very new standard for communicating using video and voice within a web browser window. Currently only certain browsers implement WebRTC and it is continuously evolving with every browser release. To put it another way, it can be a little unreliable at times!
The only widely used browsers that support WebRTC are the recent versions of Firefox and Chrome. If you do not have Firefox or Chrome installed on your computer, please download one or both:
Always keep the web browser up to date by installing any new versions when prompted. WebRTC support is constantly evolving and improving with performance enhancements, features and bug fixes.
While the video meeting room may work on the mobile version of Firefox or Chrome, it’s not recommended: We’re currently optimising for a desktop experience. In a conference with several participants, a mobile device may not have the processing power to provide a smooth video experience.
Poor networks and the impact on Video and Voice
Video conference and audio are constantly sending dozens of packets every second for each participant. If network packets are lost, or delayed, it can be very noticeable as choppy video, or muffled voice, or audio that cuts in and out. It is important that you're on a good quality internet connection with a strong WiFi signal (if on wireless.) Shared offices with many people using the same WiFi or internet connection can cause problems with video quality.For a decent experience, at least 350Kb/s is needed per video stream (or person) in a conference. That means that for a conference with 8 people, you’d need a minimum of a 3Mb/s internet connection. Keep in mind that anyone else in a shared office will also be consuming some of that precious bandwidth you need for the conference!
Firewalls and network security
Some network firewalls may limit traffic from a network in order to improve security. This can result in lower quality video or no video at all. TokBox has a tool that can often pick up connectivity problems caused by firewalls or network port blocking. It’s helpful to run this a few days before joining a circle from the location you'll will be joining the meeting or when they have trouble connecting. It can only be run in Firefox or Chrome.
WebRTC.org connectivity and camera testing tools
A great generic testing tool for connectivity, camera and microphone, that tests the browser, and is separate from our video providers (which makes it really useful.)
Video encoding and decoding is very computationally intensive, especially when you have many people in a conference. Browser support and performance is always improving, but a video call with seven members requires a reasonably recent computer - Netbooks and other small but highly portable laptops may not handle conferences with more than five or six members well.
In general, we recommend either mid range computer purchased in the past couple years, or a high end computer that is several years old. It’s hard to be more specific given the vast range of performance, number of CPU cores, chip manufacturers and CPU architectures involved.
A computer that doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, or is overloaded with other work and running applications will commonly result in video that is very choppy (like and old Charlie Chaplin movie!) or pauses a lot, with audio that is difficult to understand.
In any case, it often helps to do the following:
- Close other browser windows & restart the web browser before joining
- Close other applications
- Stop any downloads
If you commonly use Firefox, and DON’T want to close your open browser windows (I know I don’t!), it can be useful to download Chrome and use that instead for your Circles conference (or visa versa).
When something goes wrong, detailed logs about the your experience from the client browser are uploaded to the our logging services. It also doesn’t hurt to hit the ‘Report a problem’ button to force an event log upload to occur just in case it’s not an error we automatically detect and upload trace information for.
Common Problems and Troubleshooting
This section uses the material presented previously to suggest basic troubleshooting steps.
No Audio, But Video is Fine
I can’t be heard by anyone else
- Check microphone permissions
- Check that the microphone cable isn’t loose
- Check to ensure there’s not more than one microphone or that the wrong audio input source is selected in webRTC settings
- Check if I am muted
- Check the microphone in another program, like Skype
I can’t hear anyone else, but they can hear each other fine
- Check my headset - Is the cable loose?
- Check headset volume settings - Is it set low or muted?
No Video, But Audio is Fine
I can’t see anyone else's video stream, but they can see each other
- Check the ‘Switch Off Video button’
- Check camera permissions
No one (including me) can see my video stream, but I can see everyone else’s video.
- Check camera permissions
- On Chrome, it’s possible to switch off access to camera all together so that the permissions dialog never appears. Check Chrome 'Privacy: Content' advanced settings.
No Video Or Audio
- Check camera and microphone permissions
- Check for possible network/firewall limitations using the connectivity doctor test tool.
“Choppy” Video or Audio
This is normally indicative of either network or CPU performance issues.
- Check CPU specifications - Is it an older machine, or netbook?
- Close other browser windows and applications
- Check network speed/quality with tools such as http://speedtest.net/
- Check wireless signal strength
- Check whether many other people are using same network
- Check for background downloads.
- Check ‘signal strength’ indicator bars on the video stream - Do they show poor connectivity?
- Check whether all participants are using headsets. Using a laptops built in microphone can result in severe echo. Echo is also possible with some headsets if the microphone is too sensitive, or the volume is set too loud.
- Check which microphone is selected in the permissions dialog. Is it the headset microphone?
If all else fails...
Try the following one by one
- Refresh the page
- Restart the browser
- Close other browser windows and applications and restart the browser again
- Restart the computer
- Test video/audio in another app like Skype
- Check that the latest version of Firefox or Chrome is installed
- If using Firefox, try using Chrome instead (and visa versa)
- Throw the computer out the window (*this is unlikely to help, but you might feel better for a bit.)