I’d like to talk about webcasting vendors and technology in this post. This is a bit of a departure from my usual concentration on webinars, so let’s define the major differences.
Live webinars tend to most commonly (but not always) have the following characteristics:
- Audience sizes of 20-400
- Heavy reliance on PowerPoint materials
- Limited reliance on video, whether live or prerecorded
- Audio that may be delivered over computer, phone, or both
- Audience interaction through polls, typed chat, and/or voice
- Speakers presenting from computer workstations
- Audience members watching individually at their own computers
Live webcasts often demonstrate different trends:
- Audience sizes ranging into many hundreds or thousands.
- Heavy reliance on video – either live or prerecorded
- Audio delivered exclusively over computer speakers
- More limited audience interaction, especially for typed chat and voice
- Speakers presenting in front of a local audience or in a studio setting
- Audience members who may be watching a projected screen together in a room
Before you start writing angry comments, please note that these are very broad generalizations and an individual webinar or webcast can easily cross the line on any of these characteristics. But looking at the generalities shows why most web collaboration vendors concentrate on one or the other of these specializations. There are different priorities and requirements for satisfying webinar and webcast customers.
I have been speaking with and working with a few webcasting vendors lately and I thought it would be interesting to review what they are concentrating on.
IVT announced last week that they have changed their company name to MediaPlatform, which they previously used as a product name. The primary webcasting platform has been relaunched as WebCaster, which comes in a “Pro” version as well. Greg Pulier, the founder and CTO of the company, told me that their recent focus has been on simplifying the process of setting up and running an event. They have added more analytics and graphical reports to help organizers study an event and they have made their archive recordings instantly available upon event completion and editable on the web to remove unwanted sections. WebCaster delivers content in Flash (a common trend now) and Greg says that WebCaster is already enabled for the new Flash 10.1 multicast capability that Adobe has announced.
omNovia has introduced a new option for their webinar technology that optimizes the experience for webcasting. Called StageToWeb, the product allows easier integration and broadcast of full size streaming video along with the usual webinar capabilities. I had the chance to use StageToWeb on a large client project recently. omNovia has given viewers the ability to select from different video stream rates and quality, and lets them view the video in a windowed format or expanded to full screen. This helps different sites optimize their local experience to match available bandwidth and processing power. We also took advantage of omNovia’s Recast capability to schedule and run rebroadcasts of the full interactive content as if they were live events.
Netbriefings has had large group webcasting available for some time with their eConference Enterprise product. Their latest focus is on Proclaim, a self-service way to quickly record an audio/video message and embed it in an email message, web page, or blog. What makes this product interesting is that it is a hybrid of live and recording technologies. You can use it in full stand-alone mode to record a simple video message, but you can also use it to run a live collaboration session. A “Director” function lets an organizer switch camera views between different feeds and choose which feed should show up in the live or recorded content.
Altus has created an interesting niche application. They synchronize the audio and video of a recorded webcast with a transcript of the narration. On playback, you can see the transcript scrolling to match the speaker’s pacing. But the cool part is that you can search on a word or phrase. The player jumps you forward to that point in the webcast, so you don’t have to play “guess and seek” with a time bar or high level table of contents. They can even scan a PowerPoint used with a recorded presentation and take you to the point in the presentation where your search term showed up on a slide.
I invite you to use the search box on The Webinar Blog website to look up recent mentions of other webcasting companies such as ConnectSolutions, Stream57, TalkPoint, and Vivu. There are quite a few companies concentrating on creating powerful and innovative webcasting solutions and it’s worth your time to examine the differentiators.