I recently took a first look at Xyvid Pro, a web broadcasting technology marketed by Xyvid Inc. I was not familiar with the product and wanted to learn more about it. The CEO, David Kovalcik, was kind enough to spend some time on the phone to tell me a bit about the company and the technology. This article does not include a product review, as I have not yet had a chance to test out Xyvid Pro firsthand.
David told me that the company's history with client events goes back several decades, with origins in audio/video staging for live conferences and shows. They went public in 1995. A few clients started asking for more formal webcasting capabilities, and Dave partnered up with existing third-party solutions available at the time. But he found them limited in capabilities and audience capacity.
Seeing a growth opportunity, David decided to create a new platform that he could use to satisfy client requests for large-scale web events. The first version of Xyvid Pro (pronounced "Zai-vid," to rhyme with "I did") used Adobe Flash as the underlying web communication layer. But the company recently completed a rewrite that discards all reliance on Flash and is 100% HTML5-based.
Xyvid's background in running A/V for shows was carried over to a focus on fully-managed web broadcasts for clients. Their sweet spot has been large enterprise clients delivering rich audio and video presentations to large audiences (anywhere from a few hundred to 10,000 participants). Now the company is starting to test the waters for Do-It-Yourself webcasts, where clients use the technology on their own, without complementary services from Xyvid. But this is never going to be a direct competitor to lower cost self-serve webinar products like GoToWebinar. They serve different needs for very different applications.
The basics of content delivery are fairly standard for this space… Xyvid Pro can accept Microsoft PowerPoint files, which are uploaded and converted into a proprietary internal format as a pre-webinar task. David says that the conversion process retains slide transitions and animation effects, but I have not yet validated it against my "Torture Test" file for conversion accuracy. Keynote presentations would have to go through an intermediate conversion to PowerPoint format.
Video can come from a direct computer-connected webcam, but the system is designed for optimal efficiency with professional video feeds coming from an external stream encoder.
Attendees can listen via computer speakers or telephone (with access options that are configurable based on the client's needs). Telephone audio is synchronized to the same broadcast delay as the video, so it should produce sound in sync with the image that each user sees.
For auditorium-style events, participants can log in to a simplified mobile device console that lets them respond and interact (such as typing questions), while eliminating the main content audio and video (which would come from the room's playback systems).
Network response and video performance are automatically monitored for each participant, and the system adjusts bandwidth and resolution of the broadcast stream to optimize performance per individual. This brings me to an innovative feature that caught my eye… "Feedback Loop monitoring." On a Xyvid-managed event, the technical support team monitors performance indicators for all participants and provides proactive support recommendations when they see problem spots. So an attendee can get help without having to call a support number or type a complaint to the event host. In a self-service web event, David says that the client can use the same monitoring features if they wish to take on this kind of proactive support role for attendees.
Another innovative aspect is something that Xyvid calls the "Engagement Tool Suite." This is a collection of one-way and two-way communication aids that clients can optionally add to their web broadcasts. Tools include some of the standard add-ons you might expect if you have explored other web conferencing products. For instance, you can run a group chat, or collect simple "set your status" response indicators from attendees, or conduct polls. Less common - but highly welcome - are text overlay options such as a scrolling text side panel or selectable presenter biographies that attendees can choose to read.
Then there are some fascinating and unexpected interactive features. One of these is "Word Clouding," where you ask attendees to type in words related to a topic and the system builds a graphic that highlights areas of commonality.
Another feature lets you hold an instant win contest, where the system randomly selects a winner from among the attendee list. And one of the most fun may be competitive gaming - which works a lot like the video trivia games you can find in many bars these days. Attendees see multiple-choice questions and have to click in their response. Correct responses are scored based on time taken to answer, and the system maintains a running leader board. You can group attendees into teams or let everyone compete as individuals.
When I tried to think of capabilities not addressed by Xyvid Pro, the main one was screen sharing. This is a common need in the webinar world, but David said it simply has not been requested by their large-scale event clients. I did note however that the Engagement Tools Suite includes a tool for displaying a web page to the audience, which is probably as much screen sharing as these types of events are likely to use.
I am looking forward to getting hands-on with the product and stress-testing some of the features. In the meantime, it's always nice to see examples of innovation and modern development in our industry!