omNovia put out a press release today announcing the official release of their Recast record/playback technology. I say “official” because I have been using this feature as my exclusive recording methodology for the past year or two on client webinars that use omNovia. Quite honestly, I wasn’t too happy with their standard “flat file” approach to webinar recordings, and Recast offered far greater capabilities.
The basic recording functionality is the same as you would expect in any high-end web conferencing tool. It captures everything presented during the session, along with any computer audio (whether that comes from computer microphones, video clips played during the session, or audio bridged from an audioconference into the webcast). The recording is available immediately upon exiting the web conference, with no lag time for conversion or processing. It is stored on the omNovia servers with a direct playback link for sharing.
What gets interesting is how you can use the recording. Sure, people can just watch the on-demand playback as a passive experience. But the playback also allows the same interactivity that was permitted during the live session. So if you presented a poll, people can click their answers. If you shared documents or included a live web hyperlink on your slides, archive viewers have full click-through use of those resources. I know of one or maybe two competitors who can do that (at least on a limited basis).
But the really nifty part is that you can schedule a new live webinar and play back the recording inside the session. Now your live guests truly get the full psychological feel of being involved in a live session, never knowing that they are watching recorded content. They can answer the polls that are shown, type questions into the chat area, and interact as they normally would. “But Ken!” I hear you cry, “They’ll realize it’s a fake out when nobody addresses their questions.” Not so fast… omNovia lets presenters/moderators continue to interact with the console and the audience even while the recorded content is playing. So I can type answers to new questions in the chat area that supplement the recorded content.
If you really want to tempt fate, you can even change the display configuration or start and stop the recording to interject live content mixed in with the recording. I say “tempt fate” because Recast is most reliable when playing back in an unbroken stream from start to end of the recording. The time slider and pause/continue controls have given me problems in the past during its long Beta period. These might be worked out now… I haven’t done a stress test lately.
And if you want to go all the way to automating your repeat sessions, you can schedule an upcoming event and tell it to just play back the recording at the start time. You don’t have to be present at all. omNovia even gives you options to start the playback a specified number of minutes after the scheduled start time (to allow for latecomers) and to display a fake name for the supposed “live moderator” introducing the content. The session runs as a live event and when the recording stops, it shuts down the session. This could be great for businesses that want to run regular weekly (or even daily) lead generation webinars but don’t want to devote presenter time to it every day or week.
Since I have am starting 2011 with recaps of some web conferencing technologies, I might as well mention a few other things going on with omNovia.
2010 saw them introduce a payment processing option (you pay for the functionality) so you can charge attendees to attend webinars (okay, this was slipped in at the very end of 2009, but we’ll allow it in the list).
They came up with an option to let attendees join a webinar with an audio channel dedicated to a particular language. So you might give the live webcast in English for English-speaking attendees, while letting a simultaneous interpreter translate into Spanish and webcast his audio into the Spanish channel for anybody who wants to listen to that. Unfortunately there is only a single slide show, so you can’t have two different visual displays for the multiple languages.
Possibly at my request (I like to think so anyway), they let administrators resend registration confirmation emails to any registrant for an event. You can even send it to an alternate email address if it looks like the primary is blocking receipt.
They added the ability for moderators/presenters to highlight chat messages in a choice of colors. This has made it much easier to flag questions we want to address or skip during a Q&A session. You can even use different colors to indicate who gets the question – very nice for moderators.
They added an option to let an individual register a set of people for an event. This is nice if your target audience typically has secretaries or admins register several people at their firm.
Movie clips can now be uploaded in .avi, .wmv, .mov, or .flv format. They are automatically converted to Flash for playback, since omNovia is a 100% Flash application.
omniTweet was added as an option to display a Twitter feed (based on a search phrase or hash tag). It shows up as an additional tab in the chat area. Users can update a Twitter status while still in the event as well.
If you have multiple events open for registration, you can direct potential attendees to a page that shows all events in either a list format or on a calendar. Nice for easily spotting days of the week for different webinars.
They added a “Presentation Manager” that lets presenters pre-load a sequence of content items (such as multiple slide decks, video clips, or polls). During the session, the presenter can just click a Go button to move to the next item in sequence.
Presenters can now see a set of thumbnail images of their slides for look-ahead reference or easy direct access to a particular slide out of sequence. Audience members do not see the thumbnail display.
They added additional music options to their music player and now give you the option to upload your own mp3 file for playback. This can be used for lobby music before you begin or for playback as part of your session content.
They added limited ability to link two-way audio between computer and telephone conference. A presenter speaking into a computer microphone can have the audio fed into the audioconference for people listening by telephone. Unfortunately audio from a video clip playback is not supported in the bidirectional mode.
As I said, I have used omNovia quite a bit for client events as it offers a very full set of features with more being added on a regular basis (that should be apparent from my 2010 recap!). I like the fact that it supports PowerPoint slide transition effects and animations, although I have to say that I have been tripped up several times by misconversion of fonts and embedded graphics in source PowerPoint files.
There is also a separate mode for true live video webcasting (called StageToWeb) that adds high performance full screen video or a combination of video with other resources.