Day 16: Top 10 Basic Audio and Video Troubleshooting Tips for Video Conferencing

This post continues our 20 Day Challenge to understand the technical aspects of videoconferencing, particularly the section on dialing.

Remember that there are four parts to a technically successful video conference: sending video, receiving video, sending audio, and receiving audio. Most of the common problems related to one of these four parts.

1. I See Black / I See Blue/ I Can’t See You

  • Check the TV/monitor/projector. Is it on and is it connected correctly?
  • Check the monitor. Is it on the right channel? Make a note on which channel it should be used.
  • Seeing blue? Check to see if your document camera is selected. If it is not turned on, you will see blue.
  • If you were able to see the dialing screen/menu before you connect, then it’s not your TV/monitor/projector. A blue or black screen is often a firewall problem on either end of the call. Try one of these test numbers to make sure you can connect outside your district on your own. Have the other site try connecting somewhere else too. If you can both connect to other places but not to each other, it’s probably a firewall problem. If you have access to someone with a bridge/MCU, ask them for help (usually at your educational service agency).
  • Once in a while flat screen TVs won’t cooperate. If so, unplug the power, wait for the electrons to drain, plug it in and try again.

2. Audio: I Can’t Hear

  • Check your TV/monitor volume. Check your videoconference system’s volume too. Both should be about in the middle (if your system uses both).
  • Have the other side check their microphone. If you see a Far End Mute icon, you know their microphone is muted. (This only shows up in point-to-point calls). Ask them to unmute. Tell them you can’t hear. Have them nod their head or wave if they can hear you. Use paper notes if necessary. Pick up the phone & call them even!

3. Audio: They Can’t Hear Me

  • Check your microphone. Are you muted? Check your screen – usually you’ll see an icon if it is muted. olycom microphones are muted when the light on the mic is red. Unmute so the far site can hear you.
  • Their TV volume might be turned down. You may have to write them notes on a sign to hold up in front of the camera or write on paper under the document camera. (Or call them on the phone.)

4. They Can’t See Me

  • Have them check their monitor/projector/TV. Is it on & on the right channel?
  • It may be a firewall problem on their end. See “I Can’t See” above. Have them try connecting to the one of these test numbers. They should determine if they get a picture and then call you back again and report. If they can’t see a picture on your system or the test site, they should talk to their tech person. If you can both connect to other places but not to each other, it’s probably a firewall problem. If you have access to someone with a bridge/MCU, ask them for help (usually at your educational service agency).

5. Call Rejected or Busy Signal or Call Rings & Rings

  • If you call and get a “call rejected” error, usually the other person is already in a call.
  • If the call rings & rings, usually something in the network between you & the other site is not allowing the call to negotiate. Both sides should try a test site. If your test call just rings & rings, then it’s not connecting through firewalls. If you have access to someone with a bridge/MCU, ask them for help (usually at your educational service agency).

6. Far Site Isn’t Registered to the Gatekeeper

  • You might get this error if your gatekeeper is set up only to dial out to other units that are registered to the gatekeeper. (Hopefully this isn’t the case, because you want to be able to call content providers and other schools!)
  • You might also get this error if your endpoint can’t interpret the dial string. You may have to have the other site call you.

7. Far Site is Unreachable

  • The other site may have their system off.
  • Your endpoint may not be able to interpret the dial string you entered. Try having the other site call you.
  • You or the other site may not have actual Internet connectivity. Try dialing out to a test site to see if either of you have a connectivity issue.

8. Alerts: What Do They Mean?

  • IP Network: If this is down, then you don’t have a live Internet connection. Try another Ethernet jack in the room. Using a spot where a computer was connected and working usually guarantees a good connection.

9. When All Else Fails, Reboot or Redial

  • If you have a lot of connection problems, sometimes redialing will help clear it up.
  • If nothing is working, reboot the camera. Turn the camera off (reach up!!), wait, turn it back on.

10. Polycom Specific: “Flippy-Do-Button”

  • Many of our schools have Polycom endpoints, and another common problem is when you accidentally get yourself in the big screen and the far site in the picture-in-picture. How do you switch it back?
  • This happens with the button that I call the “flippy-do-button”. I’m sure there’s a more technical term! :) On a VSX7000, if you press the Camera button while you are in a call, you’ll see an icon with two arrows pointing around. If you select it, you’ll swap the far and near pictures. It’s easy to change it accidentally by pressing the camera button and then 1 or the enter key. To get it back, just press Camera, 1. Whew!

Bonus: Cause Codes on your MCU

  • Do you see a number reported on your MCU when a call doesn’t connect? Look up what it means here. These were used for ISDN, but many of them are still used for IP calls as well.


Your Turn

  • What tips do you have to share for troubleshooting your videoconference?
  • Any other common problems you’ve run into? Please share!

Team-written by Janine Lim, Shane Howard, and Roxanne Glaser. The opinions expressed in these posts are based on our collective video conference experience connecting classes across multiple networks to connect them to zoos, museums, experts and other classes during the past 10 years. This series of posts reflects our usage and understanding, not that of any vendor or manufacturer. No one is paying us to write these. We are just sharing what we have learned.


About Janine Lim

Janine Lim, PhD, currently serves as associate dean for online higher education in the School of Distance Education at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, MI. She and her team support over 200 online courses, provide training for faculty teaching online, and work with the campus infrastructure support of online learning. Her department also provides educational technology and Moodle support for faculty and students. In addition, Janine is responsible for the faculty and courses of the Consortium of Adventist Colleges and Universities. Janine has taught over 15 unique graduate educational technology classes online numerous times over the past 15 years, with some classes attracting participants from all over the world. Her undergraduate teaching includes social media courses for communication and digital media majors. Janine has served on the board of the United States Distance Learning Association since April 2015. Prior to her work at Andrews University, Janine coordinated distance education for 22 K12 school districts in southwest Michigan for 14 years. In that position, as one of the co-founders of TWICE, Michigan’s K12 Videoconferencing Organization, Janine has spearheaded popular international K12 videoconference projects such as Read Around the Planet and MysteryQuest. While still serving on the board of TWICE, she was instrumental in designing and implementing the CAPspace website for collaborative videoconference projects. Janine also served on a team of Michigan educational technology trainers providing a workshop called ATA Technology Academy. Her current online learning research interests include successful teacher behaviors, quality online discussions, and student activity patterns in self-paced courses.
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