The latest newsletter emailing from ViVu mentioned a pair of enhancements I wanted to check out. I have written about ViVu’s video webcasting platform before: Once in 2009 for a general backgrounder and again in January of this year when they added VuRoom as a Skype extension.
In my tests of the latest version, I found that ViVu has changed several things that bothered me in my previous writeups. You no longer see identifier labels randomly flashing on top of the video windows. Using VuRoom with Skype is now easy and clear… You elect to start a video call as you normally would with Skype and if VuRoom is installed, it gives you a popup dialog window asking if you would like to use VuRoom for your video connection.
But the biggest changes were obvious performance improvements. Video windows were crisp and responsive. It was interesting to see via a status check functionality that ViVu starts the video quality fairly low and then gradually raises it as it tests your bandwidth performance. This is automatic and the user doesn’t need to adjust any settings, although there are more powerful controls over camera speed and image size for the inveterate tweakers out there. Even though I was using a webcam and ViVu for video, while using a headset and Skype for audio, the two streams were perfectly synchronized (which is no mean trick).
Desktop sharing has also undergone a massive enhancement. In my previous writeup I mentioned a lag time of 4 seconds on full screen shares. In my new testing, I saw full screen sharing with practically no lag time, even on full screen redraws. I watched the presenter display a web page full of dense text and smoothly scroll it up and down. I could see the scroll taking place, instead of successive redraws in jumps and starts. I had the presenter display a PowerPoint in full screen mode and go through large animation effects such as slide transitions. You could actually see the transitions taking place, which is almost unheard of in this functionality.
As a presenter, I found screen sharing to be very easy to initiate and control. Many products force you to select whether you plan to show your entire screen or a region. ViVu starts screen sharing in full screen mode and you can quickly and easily drag the borders of the sharing frame inward to share a smaller region of your screen. You can drag the sharing rectangle around your screen to show any desired section.
The new screen magnification feature is just as intuitive and easy. You click a “magnifying glass” icon and see a red rectangle. It is a fixed size that you can’t change. As you move the rectangle frame around your screen, anything within that frame is magnified on your attendees’ screens. Click the magnifying glass again and you’re back to the normal view of your desktop.
Yes, it is possible to get similar functionality by downloading and installing applications on your PC and then running them while inside a screen sharing session. But ViVu’s integration of the feature makes it easier to call up, makes it more intuitive for inexperienced presenters, and eliminates the need to manage multiple software programs to do the job. I really liked having this additional option, and as far as I can remember, it is unique to ViVu. Now if they can just add the same functionality to their display of uploaded PowerPoint slides, they will really satisfy my demands!
Although ViVu is scalable to handle very large audience sizes in meetings, it still doesn’t contain registration capabilities or attendee communications (confirmations, reminders, followup emails). Currently you need to create a universal login link and then use a third party service such as EventBrite to manage registrations and reminders. That’s a bit unfortunate for the formal webcast event space, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them address this functionality in the future. As it is, the video and screen sharing performance make it worth evaluating if those are priorities for you.