Ours is a visual culture. Or so you would think if you look out the window of KUDO’s office in midtown Manhattan.

Turn your head all you wish and you can’t miss the colorful moving images that envelop every building as your glance swings upwards to Times Square. There, bathed in broad daylight, regardless of the time, immersed in a festival of shapes and fast flickering photons, you wonder whether anything other than images exist.

Until a blaring firetruck zips past and jolts you off your daydream and onto more immediate needs, that is. You then realize that images — as ubiquitous as they are — do comparatively less than audio to communicate priorities. Where images spell comfort, audio yells ‘ATTENTION’! Hear that? Well, we do.

Much of KUDO’s uniqueness as a cloud-based collaboration platform rests on its ability to stream HD video along with crisp audio under most circumstances. We also pride ourselves on understanding how critical body language and lip-syncing are in helping interpreters get the full picture (pun intended). Yet, in KUDO — as in Times Square — image and sound compete incessantly for attention and bandwidth, as is the case with any other cloud-based solution.

Fortunately, their demands are not unreasonable, and with as little as 350 Kb/s of speed we manage to keep audio and image in perfect cohabitation. And that is not a lot of speed. I’d be surprised if your smartphone doesn’t reach at least 1 Mb/s even under 3G. Then again, we know circumstances on the remote end may change or fluctuate occasionally, sometimes without warning. And should the bandwidth become limited, sound and images may grow estranged.

At that point someone’s gotta give. And the firetruck — i.e. audio — takes priority. On KUDO, a feature called Audio Fallback ensures that this happens automatically. The minute the network conditions deteriorate below a certain threshold, KUDO imposes a gradual, temporary limitation on the video while keeping audio intact. The video will continue to be visible, but the frame per second (FPS) count will be reduced somewhat, lowering the image resolution for a couple of seconds.

As satisfactory conditions are restored, so is the ideal FPS. In most cases, the audio-video syncing will not be affected. In rare, extreme situations, the video be slowed momentarily to ensure audio integrity. But once it resumes, full lip-syncing will be reinstated, as before. You can learn more about audio fallback and other tech features of KUDO on our website.

In any event, it is very unusual for such disturbances to last more than a couple of seconds, and with video playing a supporting role, rather than a core role, it will go mostly unnoticed to users — or interpreters for that matter.

So the next time you experience an occasional flickering of the video — if you ever do — rest in the knowledge that help is on its way. Just step up the curb for a second and let that truck go by. Look again, and it will feel like nothing ever happened. Audio will sound as it always has. And the images will regain their usual allure over you.

Have you experienced audio problems during an interpretation event?
How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below.