For my final post of 2014, I bring you a short clip I found on YouTube. This is less than two minutes long and quickly illustrates a fundamental error made by many web conferencing vendors:
[If the embedded clip does not display in your reader, you can watch it at this link: http://youtu.be/-PLMiA18tBc]
Ideally we would always have high quality audio and video in all webcasts and recordings. But there are practical limits on things such as file sizes and internet bandwidth. So vendors use standard tricks such as compressing data, lowering resolution, dropping frame rates, and decreasing audio bitrates to make the end result more universally consumable. That is unavoidable.
The question comes into play when deciding whether to favor the audio or video side of the webcast in the inevitable tradeoff battle between the two. As the preceding clip demonstrates, audio should get the nod. A viewer can get more content value from easily understandable audio than from high quality video with lousy (and lossy) audio.
Add the fact that far too many presenters start with poor source quality in their audio (echoing speakerphones, in-line cable microphones that scrape against their shirts, mobile phones with audio dropouts, built-in laptop microphones that pick up keyboard thumping, VoIP phone lines competing for bandwidth with the web conference, etc, etc, etc). When poor source audio is compressed and bitrates are reduced, the result is something that audiences don't want to spend their time with.
Remember, the presenter gives the presentation. Visuals are there to provide supplementary support, clarity, and engagement. They do matter, but they should always be secondary to what the presenter is saying. Otherwise the material is probably better suited to a SlideShare recording, eBook, blog post, or white paper that puts the visual information as the focus.
So if you are forced to compress your webinar recording, compress the video more than the audio in order to improve audience comprehension and retention.
And with that, I wish you a very happy new year and great webinar success in 2015!