Lloyd Lively of Baytown, Texas, works on a video using a RUSHWORKS’ VDESK production system. Photo by Rush Beesley.
No longer the domain of the amateur videographer, webcasting solutions have burst away from their modest beginnings. From local governments to major universities, webcasting technologies are addressing live linear streaming, VOD, OTT services and myriad options in between.
And they’re doing so across multiple vertical markets.
“Different user types and market sectors see the increasing importance of live webcasting, whether they’re volunteer-based community agencies or broadcast professionals,” said Ellen Camloh, senior director of industry solutions for NewTek. “The features in [webcasting solutions need] to provide enough flexibility that people producing a webcast can select what they need in order to make a compelling web program, whether that’s a network television event, or a simpler presentation with a spokesperson and some titles and graphics.”
For NewTek, that capability is being fulfilled by the TriCaster web production solution, which in its simplest form can involve connecting a camera and Internet connection to begin streaming. The key benefit of the TriCaster system, Camloh said, is that it’s a turnkey production solution. Users are able to stream a webcast, but also mix cameras and other production elements in the same system.
One of the most important issues to take into account when considering a webcasting solution, she said, is that that viewers are sophisticated, highly selective, and sometimes, can be a little impatient.
“The Web production technology you choose has to satisfy your audience as much as it has to satisfy your communication needs,” Camloh said. “Can it reach viewers who are watching on different devices, or only on computer screens? Does it simply pass a camera signal through an encoder, or are you able to add more engaging elements to the production, such as graphics, titles, multimedia and mixed camera angles?”
Matrox Monarch HDX
Meeting those disparate market segments was the goal of the Monarch HD webcasting system from Matrox. The company recently added a dual-channel H.264 encoding appliance called the Monarch HDX that’s being used by broadcasters as well as PEG channels.
They are using it for archive and compliance recording, according to Matrox Media Relations Manager Janet Matey, or to take the output of a broadcast switcher and stream content to the web. The webcasting system has also found a market with universities as a lecture capture solution, with municipal governments to stream town hall meetings, and with amateur sports organizations it to stream events and to create high-quality highlight clips and reels. Two independent H.264 encoders provide redundancy or can be set to stream and record using individual settings, she said.
Building a holistic webcasting system results in a system that is easier to manage, more cost effective and scales more effectively.
That was exactly what Anvato was hoping to offer in its Media Content Platform, said Matt Smith, chief evangelist for Anvato.
“What we offer is an-end to-end solution for anyone who wants to bring either on-demand or live audio content to any stream anywhere,” he said. “We don’t require customers to buy a specialized hardware platform or go find a clipping solution to cut elements of their on-demand or live event.”
Most recently, the company introduced a new live-to-VOD capability that allows users to create VOD files from their live linear streams and syndicate those files to sites like Netflix in near real time.
More than 200 TV stations are using Anvato webcasting technology, and the company is now tackling the cable market and live communications companies: “Those that need a fully packaged solution because they don’t have the staff or the resources to build it,” Smith said.
Across the board, what seems to define webcasting technology is its lower cost and ease of use.
Webcasting systems have proven ideal for universities and their sports departments, such as Ryerson University in Toronto, which uses a PESA Live multichannel streaming video app to allow viewers to create a customizable video experience.
“New customers of ours tend to be very excited in not having to manage multiple vendors to put together a solution,” Smith said.
Webcasting systems have proven ideal for universities and their sports departments, including small colleges like Ryerson University in Toronto, which employs a PESA Live multichannel streaming video app to allow viewers to create a customizable video experience. The app is part of the new PESA Live Services system, which is built around the PESA Xstream streaming media appliance.
What’s ideal about today’s newest batch of webcasting systems is that they are beginning to incorporate more than just audio and video. In addition to providing access to up to four simultaneous video feeds and synchronized audio content, the PESA Live system has the option to live tweet during games. The app also allows content producers to add logos and other branding to the video, as well as insert revenue generating advertising.
“It’s important for us to provide in-depth sports coverage, and this app allows us to innovate the way our audiences engage with live broadcasts and with each other,” said Rick Grunberg, associate professor at the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University.
The Broadcast Pix Roadie mobile integrated production switcher has built-in HD streaming features.
A number of companies have also begun to build webcasting features directly into their professional systems. Broadcast Pix recently introduced the Roadie mobile integrated production switcher, which includes built-in HD streaming and recording and allows cloud-based content from Skype, Twitter and other resources to be included in live productions.
That’s because the goal is, at its simplest, to make the production of web media a combination that is simple and professional. Manufacturers like RUSHWORKS took this into account when designing its VDesk and Remo integrated production systems, which are touch-screen, single-operator, multicamera production systems that can be remotely controlled via a tablet and incorporate streaming options.
Providing that type of ease of use is now driving company’s R&D work.
The RUSHWORKS Remo Lite has a government template for covering legislative meetings.
“You can plug into Remo or VDesk, give a URL to the host provider, and you’re streaming,” said Rush Beesley, founder of RUSHWORKS.
Catering to the smaller end of the market means that some manufacturers are branching away from large-box equipment or software sales, and instead introducing subscription-type services like the StreamSource AnyScreen service. The company created the subscription service to provide live streaming and video on demand capabilities.
“That’s been getting more popular as traditional broadcast moves away,” Beesley said, adding that the next step is to create a management service for clients, as the company continues to tighten integration between its production, streaming and automation solutions.
That integration sometimes means phasing out the old and bringing in the new.
“What if you need to deliver HDMI or HD-SDI video into your encoder or switcher [when it comes to streaming]?” asked Scott Whitcomb, director of business development at Osprey. The company plans to release new versions of its Osprey Black converters, which are designed to work with streaming systems, including two new USB-powered analog-to-SDI and analog-to-HDMI converters.
“There are many different variables when it comes to live streaming events, both on the capture and delivery side,” Whitcomb said. “On the capture side, the output of the camera is a major variable, and in many instances these cameras have outdated analog outputs.”
Systems are also reaching out beyond streaming and into areas like digital signage. The Devos from Discover Video is an enterprise and Internet delivery platform that also serves as an on-demand streaming server and media management portal that streams on mobile devices, Roku players and smart-TVs.
The newest version of Devos includes Roku support for digital signage, said Mike Savic, vice president of business development for Discover Video. Other features include universal transcoding of video files, usage and real-time performance reports, and the addition of categories for organizing and searching for video content. These enhancements are designed to improve the streaming process for businesses, schools and government agencies, he said. The Devos allows content owners to organize live and VOD content using graphical drag-and-drop features. Other features include Streamsie encoder support for multiple video inputs as well as screen capture.
MORE INFO Anvato: www.anvato.com
Discover Video: www.discovervideo.com
The Rhode Island Legislature is one entity using such as the Devos Enterprise Video Platform. The state’s Capitol TV group can stream four live hearings and unlimited VOD to viewers via the Devos system. Two fixed live encoders and two laptop rover encoders allow the state house to produce live content as needed.
That type of live streaming is integral to a successful webcasting solution. The Video Cloud solution from Brightcove offers a live streaming capability that allows users to access a module known as Video Cloud Live to set up live streamed events for desktop or mobile devices.
Like many of the new webcasting solutions on the market, the system’s ease-of-use feature is proving ideal for non-technical users or for ad hoc live streaming, said DoShik Wood, director of corporate marketing for Brightcove.
“We have many customers who stream live events internally for town hall meetings, executive communications and corporate communications functions,” Wood said.
Companies also use the live capability externally, Wood said, pointing to Sotheby’s use of the Video Cloud for live auctions. Sotheby’s partnered with Brightcove this year to deliver a live streamed auction open to the public, giving lots of viewers a look at some of the unique items up for auction.
“In contrast to some webcasting events, events that our customers live stream may scale up to the more than 100,000 viewers.”
Regardless of the exact features within a webcasting solution, the market finds itself ideally placed: Smack in the middle of traditional video production on one end and contemporary digital media on the other.
“Now that people have access anytime and anywhere, it’s just amazing to see the explosion in technology that’s evolving to support that,” RUSHWORKS’ Beesley said.
One big question remains, however.
The biggest challenge is: How do we monetize how these new business models play into entertainment and content and distribution? It’s a bit like the Wild West.