Confused about all the different options for integrating live video into your events? The number of options out there is staggering and growing every day, everything from video streaming to video conferencing. But as long as you are clear about what you are trying to accomplish, and what features are essential for you, it is not that hard to find the right fit for your needs at the right price.
To begin with, it is essential to distinguish the differences between video streaming or ‘webcasting’ and video conferencing. The most important distinction to get is that video conferencing happens in real-time, and is capable of real-time interactions. Just like on a conference call, all participants are able to interact as though they are sitting in the same room.
On the other hand, video streaming is essentially a broadcast platform. Consequently is some delay between what is happening and what the viewer is seeing. This delay can vary greatly between different platforms, and according to many other factors. For example, the viewer’s location, internet speed, etc. Typical delays can range from 30 seconds up to 2 minutes or more in some situations. There is some interactivity available, but due to the delay, this is usually limited to Q & A via a chat room, often integrated into the streaming platform.
The main advantages to streaming are:
- Potentially higher video quality, and MUCH better audio quality
- The ability to reach a virtually unlimited audience at a very low-cost
- Simplicity of access for viewers.
- Full control of what the audience is seeing and hearing
The main advantages of video conferencing are:
- Live, real-time interactivity between participants and presenters
Most video conferencing platforms are a bit more complex to deal with, due to many interactivity options. Most cloud-based video conferencing platforms these days can be accessed from laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Some are browser-based, but most have greater functionality with a downloaded app.
Most video conferencing platforms are very finite in terms of video production. They tend to orient towards using built in cameras or simple USB cameras. It is imperative to make sure the video conferencing platform you intend to use is compatible with your hardware. Especially if your hosting location has a more sophisticated video production setup, incorporating multiple cameras and a switcher.
Other features that various platforms offer include such things as screen sharing. A shareable whiteboard for collaborative creativity, and different levels of control by the host, including switching hosting to another participant.
Most video conferencing platforms are geared mainly towards small group meetings and collaborations. Often, these platforms are limited to 10 – 25 concurrent participants. However, many of these are scalable to include larger audiences in a ‘webinar’ type of structure.
In a ‘webinar’ there are usually a small number of presenters that can have full interactivity. Then a larger number with more limited interactivity. For example, a webinar platform may allow up to 25 presenters who can all be live at the same time. Another 1000 participants can watch and listen, but the host has to recognize them before they could actively share. This is usually accomplished by some type of electronic ‘hand raise’ available to the participants.
These platforms generally have built-in chat rooms, as well as various kinds of screen sharing and media sharing options. Some even allow real-time sharing from a live internet feed. For instance, if a presenter wants to share a YouTube video, or is using Prezi online. Some also include built-in integrated audience response on questions or quizzes. Since the participants are already participating via some type of device with a number keypad, there is no need for an additional ‘audience response’ device . Many of these platforms allow for sharing multiple screens. Like if you wanted to present a slide show while still being visible on camera.
Naturally, these webinar systems are much more expensive than basic internet video conferencing due to the large number of potential participants.
Most all current video conferencing and webinar platforms also provide a call-in number for participants to connect to audio-only via their phone. These connections are lower quality than a data connection but can be useful if a participant is in a location without internet access.
There is starting to be more crossover to using live streaming technologies for webinar type situations. There are numerous ways for a host location to have presenters connect in via a live video conference platform, and then integrate that with an outgoing video stream. Again, the viewers of the stream will always have a delay in time, and have much less potential interactivity. Some streaming companies, such as Live Stream, are beginning to integrate these capabilities right into their platforms. Then it is not necessary to figure out the complex integration of different platforms into a single live production.
Some good providers to check out:
Cloud Based Video Conferencing:
Lynx | Digital Media Producers creates results-driven content and strategies to enhance your customer’s experience of your brand. Contact us today to see how we can increase the value of your next event through video.t