Category Archives: Product

Manage Temporary Passwords for Video Encoder Access

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Manage Temporary Passwords for Video Encoder Access

Looking for a way to manage temporary passwords that could be used for live video encoder access? IBM Cloud Video and Ustream have rolled out a new feature that allows account managers to create passwords that can be used by encoding software, encoding hardware and mobile apps for the purpose of broadcasting. These passwords, which can be as permanent or temporary needed, are managed directly from the platform by account managers and access can be revoked at any time.

Please note, while this feature presents an alternative way to access these encoders from a Ustream account, it is mandatory for IBM Cloud Video accounts to access these encoders in this new way. This is because login details associated with an IBM Cloud Video account can not be used to directly login to an encoder. Consequently, these device passwords are required to login to compatible encoders and apps.

Creating Temporary Device Passwords

Creating and Managing Temporary PasswordsAfter logging into an IBM Cloud Video or Ustream account, a new feature has been added under the “Account” submenu. Named “Device Passwords”, this option allows account managers to both create and manage temporary passwords.

These passwords are used to broadcast content with using an encoder, which can be software, hardware or app based. These encoders, unless one is manually inputting the Stream URL and Stream Name, normally require input of the login and password combination associated with the IBM Cloud Video or Ustream account.

In order to create a new temporary password, an account manager simply has to click “Create Password” to launch the process. This will involve giving the new password login a name. This name will not be used or seen by the temporary password user. It is strictly for internal reference and often used to associate the login credentials with a specific use. Once created, a login and password will be automatically generated. Important to note is that, for security reasons, the password is only shown once here. As a result, it should be jotted down immediately after it is generated and given to the appropriate party. Afterwards, the username and the account manager created “Device Name” will be visible, but not the password. If the password is forgotten, it’s advisable to revoke the earlier access and create a new login and password for that user.

With the login details, the user can begin streaming using a variety of different encoders. These can range from software, to hardware to mobile apps as well. Once the user logs into the encoder they get to select what channel on the account they want to broadcast from. This approach opens the door to a lot more use cases, as new channels can be continually added and the initial set of login details will continue to stay relevant. If a content owner prefers to limit access to just a single channel, though, it’s recommended to instead click on the channel and go to “Broadcast Settings” and then “Encoder Settings” to get the RTMP URL and the Stream Key. These can be inputted in the encoder to achieve the same effect, although access can not be revoked in this way outside of deleting that channel.

Manage Temporary Passwords: Revoke Access

Passwords created through this feature can be as permanent or as temporary as needed.

Manage Temporary Passwords and Revoke Access

After a device is added, access can be revoked in two ways. The first is by highlighting that device and clicking the “Revoke” button. This will generate a popup to confirm that access is to be revoked and will then disable them from using that password for future app or encoder access.

The second method is to revoke all access. As implied, this removes access from all devices that were given previous authorization to broadcast. A perfect use case for this can be if access had been given to an entire team of contractors to do on premise streaming, and their assignment is over. Another, less pleasant scenario can be if someone inappropriately shared access and it’s not clear who was the leak, creating a scenario where it might be best to revoke all external access and start again.

Compatible Encoders for Device Passwords

To be compatible with this feature, the encoder must allow users to enter in a login and password directly to begin streaming. This ability is found in many different encoders, and a partial list is provided below:

Use Cases

Uses for this feature can range on both the internal and external side. Below are a few samples where this feature is very valuable.

UGC: User Generated Content
Have an internal facing Streaming Manager for Enterprise or Ustream Align account? The platform is great for managing a large library of content. However, while you might have 20 or even 40 people working on the account, there still might be a need to quickly add additional collaborators that will need to only live stream content. This feature lets account moderators quickly generate login details that these users can then input into an encoder, letting them easily live stream from a mobile app or software encoder to the required channel.

Executive Town Halls
Most CEOs don’t manage their company’s video account. They might, though, want to be able to quickly broadcast on their own. This still offers them the chance to do some town halls in a professional setting, possibly controlled by a video department. However, the CEO can also find themselves in a situation that doesn’t permit this, such as a business trip or the need to broadcast from home. Creating them a set of login details can be a great method to let them quickly broadcast as needed, while not having them worry about managing other aspects of the video account.

Contractors
Putting on a big product launch and working with contractors for the physical production component? Rather than giving over login details for the account, a device password would allow them to select a number of live channels and the ability to broadcast to them as needed. After they have finished, their access can then be quickly revoked.

Summary

This new feature presents an additional, more secure way to live stream content that incorporates a larger team. It empowers users and contractors to broadcast your content without the security concern of them using their login details to access an account directly. This avoids scenarios where someone who was given access to the account to stream might accidentally delete live channels, delete on-demand videos or in general modify settings they should not. It also gives an easy way to revoke access later, creating a situation where a contractor can broadcast to a channel and avoiding having to delete that live channel after they are done to prevent them from logging in again later.

Want to try out the device password feature to better control who has access to broadcast on your live channels?  Request a demo of Streaming Manager for Enterprise (also known as Ustream Align) to unlock an end-to-end solution for engaging and collaborative streaming video to internal audiences.

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eCDN Benefits, Deployment & System Configuration

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eCDN Benefits, Deployment & System Configuration

Ustream has improved its eCDN (Enterprise Content Delivery Network) technology through simplifying the initial deployment and configuration process. This includes a new, friendly UI and also easy ways to export this configuration for VMware® ESXi or Microsoft® Hyper-V™. This article explains the new process and also gives an overview of what an enterprise content delivery network is, eCDN benefits and use cases for the technology.

What is eCDN?

eCDN is a virtual appliance. It is installed on a server and allows caching and distribution of assets to large audiences without requiring each individual to take up connection resources to download that asset. For example, a high definition (HD) stream being watched by 1,000 might normally require 1.7 Gbps total. If a local download speed or ISP link, however, is only 1 Gbps that causes issues. With eCDN, that requirement is reduced to one stream (or a few so it can support adaptive streaming) rather than 1,000. As a result, in the example above that strain on the ISP link might only be 6.8 Mbps (3 Mbps for 1080p + 1.9 Mbps for 720p + 1 Mbps for 480p + .6 Mbps for 360p + .3 Mbps for 240p).

eCDN Benfits: Edge Server ReadoutTo execute this, there are four main components of the eCDN system:

  • The Ustream player
  • eCDN edge(s)
  • Backend infrastructure
  • eCDN admin portal

Aspects about the player and its quality of service (QoS) elements are found in our Live Video Delivery System Built for Scalability white paper. This includes explaining the SD-CDN (Software Defined Content Delivery Network) approach that can change between sources to deliver content to avoid congestion. When using eCDN, it joins as part of this solution. This is important as people outside of range of an eCDN edge can still access video assets, as long as they are authorized to do so. For example, employees working from home can access video streams from their mobile using a traditional CDN. The white paper discusses how the player makes these choices when a viewer connects to watch content, as the analytical performance data is sent back by the player that is used for quality of service to optimize for uptime.

The eCDN edges are virtual appliances that will scale and send the video assets to local viewers. The backend component has two main tasks. The first of these is to maintain an internal database with the information of the all eCDN Edges and provides a API for the user interface. The second function is that it enables users to choose where to store the DNS records of the eCDN Edges. Storing them on an external DNS server gives additional flexibility, while storing on internal DNS server gives higher security. Finally, the admin portal allows an organization to to both get a health check on eCDN edges and also see the amount of concurrent connections. Clicking further can even give a performance history for the edge, showing if traffic is peaking, consistent or declining.

eCDN Benefits

The enterprise content delivery network allows organizations to optimize internal video delivery without having to upgrade their own network. This is especially important once further upgrading a location’s connection is either too costly or not available from current providers.

Deployed as a virtualized appliance, the solution allows the delivery of video assets to scale as needed. For example, an office of 5,000 could all watch the same CEO town hall broadcast at the same time, even if the combined strain on the connection would normally create bottlenecks. This process also empowers viewers to be able to watch at the highest quality, ideally high definition, as opposed to a lower bitrate quality to reduce network strain. Furthermore, Ustream’s eCDN edges function as a fleet that can accommodate multiple offices or locations, on both a state or even country level.

Ideal installations involve more than one instance or edge of eCDN on premise for failover. This is done as the solution contains automatic routing logic to reduce strain on an instance and improve scalability on location.

eCDN Deployment Process: Edge Instances

Ustream’s eCDN is installed as a virtual server. Server platforms supported include VMware® ESXi or Microsoft® Hyper-V™ for Windows. This process has been improved, with the addition of a graphical interface that makes it easier to setup an edge instance.

The new initial eCDN configuration for an edge instance can be separated into four steps. The process before these steps includes establishing a range of IP addresses and also establishing initial locations.

  1. Set Location

The first part of the deployment process for adding a new eCDN edge is simply selecting a location for that edge. This will be used for the eCDN admin panel, as one option is to sort by locations.

For example, a multinational company might have offices in Budapest, Hungary and a US based San Francisco, California location. So there might be two locations for their configuration: a Budapest and San Francisco location. The naming conventions are up to the organization, though. For example, it can be done by function like “Engineering Office” and “Sales and Marketing Office”.

Note that setting a location can be changed in the future if needed. This is done by clicking on an edge server in the admin portal and doing “Change Configuration”.

  1. Set Domain Name

The second step involves designating a domain name for the new edge server. This can be through a custom host name (example: XXXX.mycompany.ecdn-ustream.com) or a fully configured domain name. Both have to create a valid URL, so alphanumeric characters are accepted along with other web friendly characters like “-” and “_”. As a result, a sample custom host name might be “sf_edge01.mycompany.ecdn-ustream.com”

eCDN Benefits and Deployment: Domains

Please note, though, that if your company has internal DNS server(s), the security settings of the internal DNS server(s) must allow the host name to be resolved to an internal IP address by external DNS servers.

On the fully configured domain name side, an example of this might be: sf_edge01.mycompany.com. In this case an A record needs to be manually added to the internal DNS server.

Another way that the host name or domain name comes into play is through the admin portal. These portals allow an organization to drill down to specific edge server instances, letting them get a health check on that node and also see the amount of concurrent connections. In this panel, these edges are denoted based on their host name and/or domain name. So being able to differentiate between edges at the same location comes down to the unique names given to them during this step.

  1. Configure Edge Server

The third step walks through selecting an IP address  and adding the optional DNS server and NTP server settings. IP address selection can be Dynamic (DHCP, aka Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) or Static (manual).

If Dynamic is selected as a method, only the optional DNS servers and NTP server fields are are shown. When Static is selected, three additional fields are added for Local IP, Netmask and Gateway.

  1. Download Configuration File

The final stretch of the configuration process. This involves selecting your server, either VMware® ESXi or Microsoft® Hyper-V™ for Windows, and downloading a virtual CD (ISO file) / VM image. After making this selection please note that it can take up to 30 seconds for the appropriate file to generate.

eCDN Benefits: VMWareOn the VMware® ESXi side, first ensure that the host is powered off. Next select a virtual machine from the group provided or search and select one. Now in the Virtual Machine (VM) Hardware panel, click “Edit Settings”. Go to the Virtual Hardware section and choose the “CD/DVD drive” option. Make sure the drop down is set to “Datastore ISO File” and not “Client Device” or “Host Device”. Following this, make sure that “Connected” and “Connect At Power On” are both selected. Finally, under the “CD/DVD Media” option, there will be a method that lets you browse your files. Use this to choose the ISO configuration file you downloaded earlier.

eCDN Benefits: Hyper-VFor Microsoft® Hyper-V™, after creating the virtual machine, access the “Settings” for the desired VM. This is done through starting the Hyper-V Manager, clicking on the virtual machine and in the bottom right frame clicking on Settings to launch a new window. Now change the location to boot from by selecting the “IDE Controller 1” option. Now choose “DVD Drive” and under the “Media” section change from “None” to “Image File”. This will let you browse your files to find the ISO configuration file you downloaded earlier.

Support for Citrix® XenServer™ through this method is upcoming.

eCDN Use Cases

Essentially, any organization with a large amount of on premise staff could benefit from eCDN. Specific use cases do benefit more than others, though. Below are some uses that are perfect matches for the eCDN functionality.

Enterprise: Corporate All Hands Meetings

The poster child use case: CEO town halls and other all hands meetings are a great way to engage a large employee base. A method to give a high ranking executive a voice and personalize both their passion and strategy for those who work at the company. Through an included Q&A module, participants can also give feedback that can either be addressed as part of the meeting or answered through text. Through utilizing eCDN, these all hands meetings can easily accommodate larger offices, empowering all employees to watch these assets in high definition. Through multiple instances of eCDN, multi-national companies don’t have to pick and choose between which office to prioritize but can cater to all of them to allow each to tune into the meeting simultaneously.

Enterprise: Training and Development Courses

Organizations looking to avoid costly travel can remotely train and educate a workforce to improve their understanding of their competitive space and better execute their jobs. Through eCDN, employees can all participate in live video training sessions. Furthermore, the solution gives them viewing flexibility. In fact, staff have a variety of viewing options ranging from their laptop to mobile device. Through delivery scale, employees are also not mandated to sit in a conference room crowded around the same screen to reduce WAN strain. With individual viewer tracking, managers can also see if employees watched and completed training assets. This same tracking can also be done on a content basis, highlighting those assets that are more successful at training or more widely used than others.

Enterprise: Offering Updates and Sales Enablement

eCDN Benefits: Edge ServerVideo is an engaging way of exchanging information. In fact, when Wainhouse surveyed 1,512 executives 81% felt that online video was an effective form of business communications. Consequently, it’s often used to convey important details about new offerings and products within an organization or updates to existing offerings. This can enable and empower a sales team to sell the product effectively. Travel costs can also be eliminated versus presenting this information in person, while eCDN can let the staff of multiple offices all virtually attend at the same time. Thanks to auto archiving, that same presentation is also available as an on-demand video asset as well. So employees who join the company later can still partake in the information provided.

Education: On Campus Lectures

Hoping to hit a large audience of students on campus? An eCDN instance on school grounds can be a great way to scale to reach a large student body with lectures. This can give them the freedom to attend remotely, on a mobile device or laptop, while also accommodating viewing by a large audience on campus as well. Through auto archiving, these lectures can also be available on-demand. This giving students flexibility in their learning choices, both from location and time perspectives.

Summary

eCDN is a powerful solution that enables organization to take advantage of some aspects inherit with an on premise video solution, but from the flexibility of a cloud based video platform. As a result, companies can scale video to reach their entire office or offices without impacting their WAN. Meanwhile, they can support remote employees or stakeholders, including on virtually any device.

This new update takes that product and makes it easier to configure. As a result, organizations can support even more offices with this solution while utilizing a faster and easier process to deploy additional eCDN edges.

Interested in learning more about eCDN and how it can be deployed as part of your internal video solution?

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Slack Chat Integration for Internal Video Channels

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Slack Chat Integration for Internal Video Channels

Looking for Slack Chat integration for your internal video channels? Ustream has added Slack integration to Align Secure Video Streaming channels, available to all Align users. This feature allows content owners to consolidate team communication, placing important information in a central, searchable location for cross functional application.

Slack Chat for Video Assets

When enabled, this feature adds a Slack Chat module to the right of the player for internal facing video assets. Content owners select which Slack channel, after connecting with their Slack account, will appear inside the chat module. This allows viewers to participate in the chat while that same conversation will appear in a channel on that Slack account. This process enables people not actively watching to answer questions as needed. For example, if a video asset is created around training for product support then it could be linked with a Slack channel like #product-support or #product-support-training.

This module can include just the Slack chat or be combined with an info column and a Q&A module, which would be a dedicated conversation for this asset.

The Benefit of Slack Chat Integration with Video

One of the primary benefits of Slack as a service is to consolidate team communication into one place. This means avoiding trying to get the full story by checking over email threads, Skype conversations, Google Hangout chats, and other venues where discussion is occurring.

In contrast, Slack communication happens all in one place. This makes it easy to follow these conversations on your desktop or mobile device. If you are new to Slack, these conversations can occur through direct messages or over channels. Channels are typically created around a topic of interest or a department.  For example, there might be an HR channel or a channel created around a specific product. Channels allow for segmenting conversations that might be most relevant to particular groups and also can help prevent messages from being lost in the shuffle, or stuck in the inbox of someone on vacation.

Bringing this functionality to video conversations creates a more responsive experience. As a use case, let’s say an HR department runs a variety of compliance training sessions for a global organization. Rather than having to check each video asset, a single Slack channel can be used for all of them, quickly notifying the team when a new question is asked. This can not only make the team faster to respond to inquiries, but also reduce the manual labor that was previously involved in checking each of those assets for new enquiries.

Slack Chat Integration with SearchOne of the immediate values of consolidating conversations is creating a searchable database. Did someone ask a really good question for the HR team, but not sure if that was asked over email or in response to an internal video?

By bringing in conversations done over video assets that’s one less place to search for answers. The built-in search functions of Slack make it easy to locate specific excerpts and then expand to read the entire conversation if needed. Some of the advantages of the built-in search include:

  • Various filter options that include letting you search by date range and other properties
  • The option to sort results by recency or relevancy
  • The ability to search all conversations at once
  • The way search results are in a compact list with highlighted areas with an option to expand to read the entire conversation

Accessible Anywhere

Today’s world is highly connected at all times. Slack taps into this by making it easy to check the chat application from a desktop and a variety of mobile devices. In fact, there are apps available for both Android and iOS that make it possible for a workforce to stay connected even when traveling or working remotely.

In this same vein, the Ustream player and chat module are both accessible over mobile devices as well. On the video site, this is done through taking the original source, ideally a high definition feed sent over as an RTMP, and doing live transcoding on the stream to make sure it’s accessible over virtually any device. This process also includes adaptive delivery, creating additional bitrates to serve optimal video quality dependent on their connection speed.

Setting Up Slack Chat Integration

Content owners can easily integrate a Slack channel on a Ustream Align account. Align channels are internal facing assets that require authenticating through Single Sign-On (SSO) or email verification. This same principal applies to Slack channels as well, so unauthorized viewers will not see Slack conversations until they correctly authenticate.

Slack Chat Integration Channel SelectionIn order to execute:

  1. An administrator logs into their Ustream Align account.
  2. The administrator goes to the Connections tab under Account. One of the connection options on this tab will be for Slack. Clicking the connect button will redirect to an authorization page, where authorize can be clicked to redirect back to the Connections tab.
  3. After connecting the account someone would click the Ustream channel they are interested in and go to Chat. This will bring up the ability to select the Slack channel they want to associate with that asset.

Administrators can change the Slack channel associated with the Ustream channel at any time. For example, maybe a video asset that covers sales training directs to a more general “#training” Slack channel up until someone else creates a more dedicated “#sales-training” channel. However, naturally, any conversations had prior to the channel switch would still be present in that original channel. As a result, it’s best to forecast in advance so that a Slack channel doesn’t have to change, in order to keep that particular conversation occurring in the same channel.

Slack Chat Integration and Slack Live Notifications

This feature joins the earlier released Slack integration for live notifications. That feature allowed content owners to notify others on Slack when a channel went live or when a new video asset was added. Sample messages would include “Live now [channel name]” and “New video on [channel name]”.

These two features can be used in tandem, allowing for notifications to be sent when a channel goes live while also integrating chat onto the same or a different Slack channel. The best use case for this can be a centralized Slack channel, be it #general or something like #company-broadcasts, which could be used to notify a workforce when a live stream starts while other channels would contain feedback and questions.

Slack Chat with Q&ACombining Modules

Presently there are three modules available for Align content. These include:

  • Info Tap (also contains chapter navigation)
  • Q&A Tap
  • Slack Chat Tap

All three of these modules can be used together, as seen in the image to the right. Doing this creates a tab navigation to the right of the player. Viewers can shift between all three, creating an oppurtinity to see more free flowing conversation through the Slack Chat module while also checking questions that come in directly related to the content through the Q&A module.

Summary

Slack chat integration brings another method for enterprises to help foster engagement from their workforce. It also offers another way to consolidate business conversations into a single, searchable medium that can help improve efficiency.

Want to try out Slack chat integration for internal video channels?  Request a demo of Ustream Align to unlock an end-to-end solution for engaging and collaborative streaming video to internal audiences.

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HTML5 Video Player vs. Flash: Support & Features

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HTML5 Video Player Facebook

In a broad sense, delivering video content over HTML5 is what many broadcasters strive for. A quick search engine query can back that up there is an assumption that HTML5 equates to being able to reach mobiles. This is at the base of the conversation, and most often stemming from Flash being incompatible over most mobile devices, but the answer is notably more complex.

This article talks about a recent shift at Ustream that adds HTML5 video player support on almost any device, not just mobiles. It then covers why this is the right choice through looking at the current landscape of HTML5 video and Flash on browsers.

Expanding HTML5 Playback At Ustream

This month, October of 2016, Ustream introduced expanded support for HTML5. This includes delivery at the desktop level, with the exception of those using 608 and 708 captions.

Through adding desktop support, video content over Ustream now has three ways that the content can render on the viewer’s side.

  • HTML5 HLS: For mobiles and tablets, they will continue to receive streams in HLS as they have before.
  • HTML5 MSE: For desktops using compatible browsers, they will receive an HTML5 based solution using mp4 chunks for delivery.
  • Flash: For desktops that aren’t using compatible browsers, they will a Flash based solution using FLV chunks.

Regardless of which way the content is being rendered, the same UI (user interface) and feature set is available.

Broadcaster Requirements

In order to playback HTML5 content, it requires that the video content be broadcasted with H.264 as the video codec and AAC as the audio codec. As part of this update, Ustream is expanding its adaptive streaming offering with more options, each of which is automatically transcoded with H.264 and AAC (read more on adaptive streaming at Ustream). So even if the source is not using the required codecs, the transcoded bitrates will and these will be used as a source for viewers using the new HTML5 player.

If a content owner wants to disable this feature, using the Flash player, this can be done under Player Settings for that channel by not enabling “HTML video playback”.

HTML5 Video Player Settings

Viewer Requirements

On the viewer’s side for desktops, it requires that the browser support HTML5 video and MSE. A few elements go into if a viewer can watch an HTML5 stream or if they will be served a Flash version. For a quick and constantly updated resource, this article will detect the active browser and if it’s compatible while also giving a quick list of supported browsers.

For a more complete story, read on for more details.

Note: This update does require a change to legacy embed codes in order to continue compatibility for fullscreen features. Check here for details on updating.

HTML5 Video Compatibility

All major desktop browsers support HTML5 video, in particular with support for the <video> tag. The browser version that brought that compatibility ranges a bit, here are the versions where HTML5 video first became supported:

Browser Version Release Date
Chrome 4.0 January 2010
Firefox 3.5 June 2009
Internet Explorer 9.0 March 2010
Opera 10.5 March 2010
Safari 4.0 June 2009

H.264 Compatibility

Support for HTML5 video is only part of the picture. In reality there are codecs involved in delivering that media content on both the video and audio side. One of the most popular video codecs is H.264, aka AVC, which is a codec defined in the MPEG-4 specification. Its popularity is due partially on its ability to produce what is often considered “better quality video” in contrast to other codecs like VP6, but also largely due to support from the iPhone early on.

Due to Apple and Microsoft being apart of MPEG LA group, which owns the patent on H.264, their browsers were early supporters. Below is a list of the first desktop browser versions that included support for H.264:

Browser Version Release Date
Chrome 4.0 January 2010
Firefox* 21.0 May 2014
Internet Explorer 9.0 March 2010
Opera 25.0 November 2014
Safari 3.2 November 2008

The big caveat to this list is Firefox, as noted with an asterix, as it depends on the OS that the browser is working on. Support for Windows was added with version 21.0, which requires Windows 7 or later. Support for Linux was added with version 26.0, which requires the appropriate gstreamer plug-ins to be installed. Mac was the last to get H.264 support through Firefox with version 35.0, which requires Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6) or later.

An individual list of browser support for H.264 is available here. This goes all the way to listing gaming console support. For example, the Nintendo Wii does not support H.264 through its Opera browser, but the Nintendo Wii U through its NetFront NX browser does.

H.264 Browser Penetration

With the exception of Opera and Firefox, H.264 has been available in most desktop browsers for the better half of a decade. Looking at a global view, across a multitude of devices and not just desktop, it is projected that at this time 91.09% of browser usage is done from those that support H.264.

The biggest hold outs, in terms of current market share, are Internet Explorer 8 (0.84% market share) and Opera Mini (4.73% market share). The latter is popular on devices like Blackberry, leading to its continued high use in contrast to other solutions that support H.264.

MSE Compatibility

Most broadcasters are likely to be familiar with H.264 as a video codec, due to being a requirement for mobile delivery. Media Source Extensions (MSE) is another piece of the puzzle, and one that might be new for some. MSE is a specification that allows JavaScript to send byte streams to media codecs, allowing for advanced implementation such as adaptive bitrates and live streaming entirely in JavaScript.

Unfortunately, MSE is where browser support starts to get a little dicey at current market shares. Below is a chart for when each browser introduced support for MSE:

Browser Version Release Date
Chrome 23.0 November 2012
Firefox 42.0 November 2015
Internet Explorer* 11.0 October 2013
Opera 15.0 July 2013
Safari 8.0 October 2014

The asterix here is on Internet Explorer 11, which only works in Windows 8.1 and above and is not supported on Windows 7.

MSE Browser Penetration

HTML5 Video Player ScreenshotIn contrast to support for HTML5 video or H.264, MSE is a much more recent phenomenon. The only major desktop browser to have supported MSE before H.264 is Opera. Many browsers, in particular Firefox, have only recently started to support this specification.

Taken as a ratio of market share, it’s projected that 67.35% of all browser usage supports MSE as of today. 6.07% of this, though, belongs to Internet Explorer 11, which requires being used on Windows 8.1 and above.

The plus side to this statistic is that many of those that don’t support MSE are mobile based browsers, like those found on iOS which thankfully has a fallback of Apple’s custom HLS streaming protocols. This changes the conversation, in context of streaming with Ustream, to just the desktop browsers. Of those, the pain points are Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 9 and Internet Explorer 10. For February of 2016, those browsers accounted for 16.46% of the total browser usage market for desktops.

The Case for Flash as a Fallback

16.46% of all desktops is not a small percentage. While that number continues to decline, it’s too large of a potential audience size for broadcasters to ignore. Consequently, it makes sense to continue to support Flash as a fallback solution for instances where a part of the HTML5 chain (be it MSE or another component) is not supported.

So in supporting legacy browsers, the logical choice is to utilize a technology which has been around long enough to be supported by them. In that context, it’s hard to find something more appropriate than Flash. The technology is already compatible with popular codecs as well, such as support for H.264 which was added after Adobe purchased the Flash technology from Macromedia.

The Controversy With Flash

For a long time, Flash technology was the standard for video delivery. That conversation has changed of late where some find it to be a less than desirable solution due to controversy surrounding it. To that point, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact date that Flash became controversial. The most famous incident is in relation to Steve Jobs and the iPhone, which blocked access to Flash technology on those devices. This came with it an open letter in 2010 from Jobs, which attacked several areas that included security and performance and how the latter would affect the battery life of a mobile device.

The letter and decision began to open a growing divide between supporters and critics of the technology. It took almost half a decade later, though, for the technology to suffer a huge, public facing blow in the form of a critical vulnerability, discussed in an open Adobe bulletin from July 10th of 2015. The vulnerability, which allowed an attacker to take control of the affected system, was patched four days after Adobe made its open statement.

Unfortunately, the incident left a real scar with rather large ramifications for the future of the technology. While critics will be quick to point out that other Flash exploits have been discovered in the past, rarely have they gained the mass attention from the media that the July exploit garnered. The issue became so hot that Mozilla Firefox temporarily blocked Flash by default.

Residual Impact on Flash

The lasting impact to Flash is a browser ecosystem in which not all viewers are likely to have a method to view Flash content. Unfortunately, finding Flash statistics are tricky. Adobe’s marketing department used to regularly publish reports touting it. The last such report was in 2011, claiming a 99% penetration rate for desktops while they were projecting about 65% market share by this time in the mobile space, a statistic that is likely far from the mark due to neither iPhone or Android supporting the technology now.

It’s hard to say where either statistic is now, although it’s generally assumed that mobile viewers have to have a non-Flash version of video content for viewing.

Even those that have Flash installed doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to be able to watch Flash content, though. Many browsers, such as Safari, have blocked versions of Flash surrounding the incidents in mid 2015. However, some browsers have taken it a step further like Firefox. Mozilla’s browser is, in fact, actively banning versions of Flash. As of this writing, they have banned at least one version of Flash every month since the exploit in July, with the exception of August and November. So even if a user has Flash, their browser might block it if they aren’t actively updating it. Here is a current list of plugins blocked by Firefox.

There is also the long standing issue of Flash being blocked on a network, be it by a corporate or school entity. Flash had long been the poster child for online games, and was blocked by many for this reason. The added security concerns during the July incident, however, gave yet another reason for entities to block it. This all leads up to Google announcing that Chrome, starting with Chrome 53, will begin to de-emphasize Flash content as it slowly marches toward blocking it in some instances in future updates. 

Twitter Inline Playback

One of the casualties of the Flash controversy was playback on Twitter. Video content on the social network has been a popular application, but the popular network cracked down on the type of content that could be played there. This includes mandating HTTPS URLs for the iframe embed codes, which Ustream supports, but also mandating that content must not require a plugin for playback. This includes Adobe Flash, which they reference by name on their developer site.

So the move away from Flash opens up being able to deliver video content, both live and on demand, directly on Twitter again.

Current State Of Video Streaming

Streaming is being pulled in two different directions due to events in the past few years. The tried and true approach used to be: Flash on desktops, HTML5 based solutions for mobiles. This offered maximum compatibility.

That conversation has changed due to browsers now actively blocking older versions of Flash; consequently, so has the solution changed, with a better approach being to utilize HTML5 methods first on desktops and fall back to Flash if this is not supported. This is an approach with longevity, as HTML5 video is all but guaranteed to increase in support in the near term while evidence points toward Flash having a bumpier road ahead.

Summary

Ustream is happy to release its new HTML5 video player, opening more opportunities for seamless playback to viewers. As demonstrated, the circumstances where a viewer will not have access to Flash will increase only time, and this update looks to address this on the desktop side of the equation. However, due to slow adoption cycles, there is liable to be a small but important segment of the market that will continue to use this technology. Consequently, Ustream continues to utilize methods to fallback to Flash based players to service these users.

Interested in checking out the new HTML5 video player for yourself? Request a demo of Pro Broadcasting to unlock an end-to-end solution for engaging virtually any audience with streaming video.

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HTML5 Video Player

Secure Video App for Enterprise Streaming & Comms

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Secure Video App for Enterprise Streaming & Comms

Ustream is launching its new Ustream Align secure video app. This mobile app offers a new, more convenient way for viewers to consume internal facing video assets. It greatly speeds up the time it takes for a viewer to access secure video content, letting them quickly dive in and start watching important training assets, executive communication or fulfill compliance training requirements.

Free to download and use, although requiring accessing content from an active Ustream Align account, the app is available from the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store. It makes viewing internal video content easy and is suited across a variety devices and connections. This includes support for adaptive bitrate delivery, automatically optimizing the quality based on the viewer’s connection speed.

The application is debuting under the name IBM Cloud Video for Enterprise app, and being fully usable as part of an enterprise’s Ustream Align account. Read on to learn more about the new mobile app and the advantages it brings for enterprise content owners.

Clean Interface

The app offers little to no branding, outside of the main app icon which features IBM on it. After booting up the app, a plain, green screen appears with limited messaging welcoming the viewer. The internal navigation features no overt mentions to IBM, Ustream or Align. The only exception to this is the help menu, which can be selected before logging in to help guide the viewer through accessing their portal. This page does mention possible URL scenarios, which will show https://align.ustream.tv/999999 for example.

After logging in, the portal can show available videos or channels, depending on what content is being watched. The name for this content will be decided based on what has been input under “Portal Name” inside the account, found through navigating to Portal>Info. So in the example below, the “Your Internal Video Portal” text would be replaced based on the portal name of the account.

Secure Video App Channel List

Convenient

One of the greatest benefits of the app is viewer convenience. Rather than having to login each time a viewer needs to access a video asset, the app will remember them for their next session. Please note, though, that login sessions are not kept indefinitely on mobile devices. By default the app will log a viewer out after 30 days. Other companies might set a smaller session timeframe. Regardless, the benefit of having to reduce how often a viewer needs to login is still very large and can increase the likelihood of viewers accessing internal facing content, like training material or executive addresses.

Individual Viewer Tracking

A primary component of Ustream Align accounts is the offered individual viewer tracking. This will inform account administrators who is utilizing video assets on a per viewer basis. This viewership is tied to an email address, which is a required element for access internal content. This same rule applies for the IBM Cloud Video for Enterprise app, mandating either login through a corporate directory or email verification. Details included with this range from how much of the content was viewed (as total seconds or a percentage), where the viewer watched it geographically, and also the dates the content was accessed.

This functionality extends to the new app as well. Viewers watching your content from the app will not just be tracked as well, but will be noted as coming from the application as compared to viewing from a browser on a mobile device or laptop. This maintains the ability for content owners to track usage for compliance training, making sure that employees are accessing content regardless of if they prefer to do that over the application, desktop or another means of viewing. As content owners, this also lets companies know which viewing experience is preferred, and cater internal messaging to be mindful of this.

App: Accessing Your Portal

Secure Video App loginAfter installing the app on a device, there are four ways to get access to your company’s portal of video content. This involves entering a:

  • Team ID
  • Channel ID
  • Link
  • Clicking a Portal URL

Team ID
The easiest of these to communicate is the Team ID, as this is a custom URL slug of the company’s choosing. This is managed under Portal and Info. It appears at the end of the URL for the main video portal. For example:
https://align.ustream.tv/mycompanyname

With “mycompanyname” being the custom Team ID. Since the Team ID can simply be your company name, this is often the easiest ID for team members to enter as it’s often relevant and quick to remember.

Channel ID
The channel ID is a randomly assigned to the channel upon creation. It is located at the end of a channel URL. For example:

https://align.ustream.tv/channel/00928255

With “00928255” being the custom channel ID.

Link
The last method requires typing out the full URL. So in the above two example this would require entering in “https://align.ustream.tv/mycompanyname” or “https://align.ustream.tv/channel/00928255”. This is generally the hardest of the three methods to communicate, but if the full URL is already copied in the device it can be easy to just paste without the need to remove any part of the URL.

Clicking a Portal URL
Another way to access a company’s portal is through clicking content that is secured as part of a Ustream Align account. Once the IBM Cloud Video for Enterprise app has been installed, these links will present the option to open the content directly in the app. These links can be found on a website or included as part of an email. As a result, there is a built-in component of the app that can send email reminders to facilitate this need.

App: Email Reminders

If a user is having issues accessing the portal, the app can also send email reminders about the teams that email has access to.

So if another user is having issues accessing it, either themselves or someone on their behalf can enter their email address into the reminders field. This will launch an email to their address that will contain a list of teams they have access, showing the portal name followed by the full URL. For most individuals, there will only be one team listed. However, an enterprise has multiple Ustream Align accounts and members who belong to multiple teams on different accounts they might see a list of several different teams to login to.

End users can then click on the links in the email, which will offer the option to open these directly inside the IBM Cloud Video for Enterprise app. If opened directly in the app, the viewer will be dropped at their respective login page.

Please note that the email entered must be precise. While other fields in the app will ignore spaces and character case, the email field will not. So those having trouble with entering an email should double check that an extra space is not being added in by accident.

App: Logging In

After attempting to access your portal, the app will ask you to login. The experience will vary based on how the content was secured.

If the content was secured through Google SSO, a prompt will appear asking you to “sign in with your company Google login”, which will then involve entering the email and password associated with your company email address.

If you are using a corporate directory, such as Okta or OneLogin, a prompt will appear asking you to login before you are dropped to a page inside the app where you can login with a LDAP username, email or another combination depending on the provider being utilized.

However, if the account was secured with email verification, it will give you the oppurtinity to enter the email address so it can send you a code or an oppurtinity to enter an access code if you have already been sent a code.

App Portal vs. Website Portal

One of the questions regarding this new feature is likely what differences exist versus this experience and the one viewers can achieve from the website. As touched on earlier, the primary difference is the convenience element. It’s easier for viewers to access your content thanks to storing sessions on your phone. The email reminder is also something unique to the app experience, although works as a way to key viewers into accessing the portal in the first place. Refreshing content on the app is also easy, if a viewer has remained with the page open for awhile. All this requires is either navigating to a different page to refresh or sliding up on the main portal page when at the top, which will force a refresh.

While the app contains a surprising amount of parallel features, including support for the channel About section all the way down to accessible links, there are some features that do not work directly in the app. These features include:

  • Chaptering
  • Live Channel Off Air Settings
  • Q&A/Chat
  • Channel Cover Images
  • Portal Logo
  • Support for eCDN

Right now when content is offline, a simple off-air message is played rather than video content or an image. Some of these other features will be introduced in time, such as the Q&A module, while the app will expand with some new features not found on the desktop experience as well.

Summary

The IBM Cloud Video for Enterprise app offers an easy to use method for your viewers to access secure, internal content. A way that makes it super fast to access live and on demand video assets as needed. It’s presented in a clean interface that can be accompanied with your brand name to not distract from your message.

Want to try out the app with a Ustream Align account? Request a demo to unlock the additional viewing option this app provides for your viewers.

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Enterprise Video Portal: Customizable Experience

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Enterprise Video Portal

Looking to offer a customized video experience for your employees? Ustream Align offers an internal facing enterprise video portal. This portal is secured, allowing companies to limit access to intended viewers. This audience can be a mix of employees, contractors and other stakeholders.

Ustream has recently improved portal features, adding more ways to customize the end user experience. This includes ways to brand the portal with cover images and also a feature video tool that allows enterprises to highlight selected material.

What Are Ustream Align Portals

A Ustream Align video portal is an enterprise managed hub that offers access to video assets. These assets, which can be live or on demand content, are accessible over virtually any device, from desktops to mobile phones. Assets can be professionally created or user generated content, done through giving others the ability to live stream content that is then automatically archived for later.

An Align portal is for internal use only. Security features to restrict access to intended parties are mandatory. Content can’t be shared in an unrestricted fashion. This ensures a manager doesn’t inadvertently share company assets with external audiences. Once viewers login, they can navigate through a library of video assets, which can aid in training, keeping staff on message, or personalize executive communication to global firms.

Accounts can be managed by a team of individuals, each with access to their own channel or have them set to have global access to all channels to manage.

Channel Experience

Enterprise Video Portal Channels

All Align portals are split into two content types: “videos” and “channels”. Videos are previously recorded content, while channels can be live content with accompanying video galleries and other assets such as an optional Q&A module for viewer engagement. These channels and their associated videos can be segmented in a variety of ways. This segmentation can include by departments (marketing, human resources, etc), content type (CEO town halls, user generated content, etc), or a variety of other appraoches.

This channel approach can be used to develop workflows, for example an engineering channel might be managed exclusively by the engineering team. Alternatively, a trade show channel might be managed by the marketing team and attendees, who can upload content from the venue.

The above image is a sample channel structure, which organizes content by category but can easily be segmented by department as well. This is a backend view, demonstrating what administrators and managers will see. It can be noted in the screenshot that each channel also has certain managers associated with it.

Customizing the Look

Enterprises can customize the look of their channel portal, branding it and controlling messaging as well.

By default, the portal has a very clean, simplistic appearance to it, as seen below.

Enterprise Video Portal Default

Elements of this can be altered, though. These modifications include the ability to add a cover image or company logo. When uploaded, the company logo will replace the channel portal name, which in the example above is “White Label Portal”. The cover image, a large image asset that is 2560 x 852 pixels in dimension, works to build both a graphically appealing portal while maintaining a bit more control on the messaging side.

Like other elements of the portal, the cover image can be easily swapped out. Because of this, the cover image can work as a way to highlight in the moment or upcoming activities. For example, if an organization is in the midst of a trade show this cover image could be used to highlight that. It could also be used to announce an upcoming CEO town hall to spread the word.

Below is an example of this, showing a stock company logo, cover image and also curated featured videos as well. The result is drastically different versus the default, simplistic appearance the portal started with.

Enterprise Video Portal Custom

Enterprises can choose to have curated video content appear immediately after someone logs in, drawing attention to desired videos.

Enterprise Video Portal Featured VideosBy default, the videos area of an account shows all previously recorded videos. These videos can be a mix of auto archived live streams or video files that were uploaded. To aid in quickly finding relevant content, there is also a search function integrated in all accounts. Managers can always unpublish video assets as well. These assets will remain on the account, for other managers to view, but will be unaccessible through the portal for end users. This can help in removing outdated content or hiding assets until others in the organization can review.

As libraries of video content grow, though, there can be the desire to also highlight specific videos. To facilitate this, account managers can select featured videos to associate with their Align portal. This can be a recent CEO town hall, important training material, or even a series of content to highlight. This is an optional feature, while content can be easily added and removed from the featured area.

As with all video assets, a thumbnail is automatically generated to represent the content. This image can be customized, either through selecting a new one using the video thumbnail generator or uploading a new image.

Enterprise Video Portal Security

All Ustream Align portals are secured to ensure that content is internal facing only. Security types can range from integrations with corporate directories that use Single Sign On (SSO) methodology, such as Okta or OneLogin, to email verification.

Integration with existing corporate directories simplifies access to internal content. It’s one less login and password for an employee to remember, and creates a more seamless experience for employees, keeping in tune with the white label aspects of the portal. To simplify creation, there are numerous turnkey solutions available for integrating these. Below is a list of a few different providers and how to quickly integrate them:

This list is far from inclusive, though. This help page works as a general explanation on how to setup SSO on an Align account, which would include other methods like Microsoft Active Directory.

Alternatively, email verification is another option to secure internal video content. This approach requires viewers to check their email for an access code before being able to watch content. Consequently, this security method is slower from an end user perspective compared to SSO. From a management perspective, though, this method is easy to setup. The simplest approach with email verification involves selecting a corporate email domain. For example, managers can allow everyone from @mycompany.com to be able to enter their email to be sent an access code. This approach is not limited to a domain, though. Exceptions can be entered as well who can access the content. This makes it easy to add in outside stakeholders and contractors.

Summary

Enterprises can customize and evolve their video portal. This allows them to manage represented content, brand the portal experience and highlight videos or events.

Want to try out the customization features for the internal video portal?  Request a demo of Ustream Align to unlock an end-to-end solution for creating white label portal experience.

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Video Broadcasting Software: The New Producer 7

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Video Broadcasting Software Producer 7

Ustream is happy to announce the launch of Ustream Producer 7, the latest version of our robust video broadcasting software. The program is a full featured encoder that offers virtually everything you need for a professional live production while offering an ease of use interface. Functionality includes multi-camera switching, the ability to manage layers (overlaying text or graphics), social feeds, chroma key capabilities, screen share options, and the ability to broadcast in high definition.

The latest version of the encoder offers both new functionality and the feature set of past iterations, but with improved stability. Part of this includes reduced CPU usage from the program, reducing the need to upgrade equipment and offering enhanced performance on existing setups. New functions introduced to the encoder include ISO recording and alternative workflow solutions. Read on for highlights on these features and release notes to track all the changes compared to the prior iteration of the encoder.

New Feature: ISO Recording

Video Broadcasting Software Lower ThirdsOne of the more exciting new features from Ustream Producer 7 is the addition of ISO recording. This feature, an abbreviation of isolated recording, creates clean versions from your video workflow. For example, if you are adding lower thirds to a video to denote the name and title of someone, as being done in the image to the right, the ISO recording could save a version without the text overlaid.  The feature gives editors two versions to work with, and the ability to go back and manage the clean version. Use cases could be as simple as:

  • wanting to improve the aesthetics
  • correcting errors, such as an incorrect title
  • utilizing clean video as part of highlight reels

This feature is only available from Ustream Producer Pro. It is not available in the Studio edition.

New Feature: Shot Editor Panel

Ustream Producer 7 also includes with it an easy way to manage shot editor panel. This is used in conjuncture with the normal shot and layer process inside the software encoder.

Located on the left side of the encoder, the shot editor panel allows broadcasters to order layers within a shot. More powerfully, though, the feature lets broadcasters make visible or hide layers within a shot on the fly. For example, someone can overlay a transparent png image that would contain a graphic relevant to the topic being discussed. This shot layer could be quickly toggled off or another toggled on if, for example, there are a series of png images with each to represent a topic being discussed. The main benefit is through introducing another method to manage the video content, aiding in speeding up the workflow depending on the type of content being created.

Please note that keying up these layer changes is done through pushing the preview area to the live area. This accommodates minor editing before end viewers can detect the changes through seeing a staging shot. It also allows for smooth or abrupt transitions between alterations as well.

Video Broadcasting Software Shot Editor Panel

New Feature: Text Tool

Video Broadcasting Software Text ToolProducer 7 also greatly expands upon the text options available to content creators. This includes robust edit options for sources that can be live based, file based (.txt files supported), or rss based.

Broadcasters can add a single or multiple text sources to a single layer inside the encoder. Transition effects, such as fade or drop in/out, are available along with ways to control the speed of the transition. Text can also be set to scroll, either all the time or just if the text is too long for the available box size. Content owners can manage both the speed of the scrolling text, direction and also if they want it to “auto reverse” back and forth.

Rich text editing options are also available that include being able to manage:

  • Font selection
  • Font size (in points or using pre-selected sizes)
  • Font weight (100-900 scale)
  • Font style (italic or oblique options)
  • Font variant (small caps option)

The text box utilized can be managed as well, including setting the dimensions to scale with the text (default) or be fixed. The background color on the box can be edited through a color wheel or through entering in a RGB value, while text inside can be aligned or justified.

Release Notes: New Enhancements

Below is a full list of the new enhancements that were added to Ustream Producer 7 versus prior versions of the video broadcasting software. This release note list is all encompassing. It covers major feature additions like ISO recording to alterations to the available hot key functionality.

  • ISO recording from live capture sources – Ustream Producer Pro only (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Shot Editor Panel workflow (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • New Text tool featuring live text, RSS feeds and reading from text files, scrolling text (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • General stability improvements and decreased CPU usage (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • All sources use “Scale To Fit” by default (Mac & Windows)
  • Added additional default encoder presets (Mac and Windows)
  • Incremental numbers added for all “Text” sources (Mac and Windows)
  • Added tooltip that displays full source name in the “Audio Mixer”(Mac and Windows)
  • Added ability to update a single Replay Shot OR create new Replay Shots.
  • UI enhancements including Edit­In­Preview with integrated Shot Inspector (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Playlist changed to a new tabbed interface (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Shots inside of a Playlist now display a progress bar (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Added Shuffle Playlist functionality (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Added the ability to apply duration changes to all Shots within a Playlist Shot (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Added “.” and “,” hotkeys for moving between Shots within a Playlist (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Added default duration setting for Shots added to a Playlist Shot (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Global Hotkey Manager (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Video delay for individual live video sources (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Audio delay for individual live audio sources (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Re­designed Audio Mixer user interface (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Added Panning to Audio Mixer (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Selective audio monitor toggle for individual live audio sources (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Source channel selection for live audio sources (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Audio output interface selection (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • GPU accelerated color correction (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Re­designed title system (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Customizable Social Media Shot (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Broadcast and recording statistics overlay in Direct3D 9 games (Windows)
  • Solid Color source (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Toggle to display System CPU usage or Application CPU usage (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Added support for RGB video input from BlackMagic capture cards (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Added 24 FPS Canvas Frame Rate option (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Added support for Animated GIF playback (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • GPU accelerated H.264 encoder via Intel® QuickSync Video, NVIDIA® NVENC and Apple® Video Toolbox H.264 (Mac OS X & Windows)

For specifics on the GPU accelerated encoding:

  • Intel QuickSync Video encoding requires an Intel CPU with an Intel® QuickSync Video core, with a full list available here.
  • NVIDIA NVENC encoding requires an Nvidia GPU with Kepler architecture or newer.
  • Apple Hardware Accelerated H.264 encoding requires a Mac with an integrated Intel GPU.

Release Notes: Fixes

The following issues have been fixed between the previous version of Ustream Producer and version 7. In many instances, these issues relate to inconsistent problems, such as the fix for crashing that would sometimes occur when using Mac Screen Capture.

  • Fixed an issue where a stream may not start if the initial source was a still video frame (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Fixed an issue where transitions may not be triggered properly (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Fixed an issue where sending a DirectShow source to Preview and Live simultaneously could result in popping audio (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Fixed a crash that could occur when using Mac Screen Capture (Mac OS X)
  • Fixed an issue where audio output device sample rate changes were not handled properly (Mac OS X)
  • Fixed a crash that could occur when using Local Desktop Presenter on systems with multiple monitors or GPUs (Windows)
  • Fixed wide character display issues with Social Media Shot (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Fixed a possible crash when selecting a BlackMagic capture card source (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Fixed an issue where searching Twitter with hashtag could fail (Mac OS X & Windows)
  • Added true cross dissolve transition on Windows

Supported Operating Systems

The following operating systems are supported by the software encoder:

  • Windows 7 SP1 64­bit
  • Windows 8.1 64­bit
  • Windows 10 64­bit
  • Mac OS X Yosemite
  • Mac OS X El Capitan

Summary

The new Ustream Producer 7 video broadcasting software provides virtually everything needed for a professional live production. The encoder offers powerful new features to empower broadcasters to improve their workflow, both during a live production and post through ISO recording. Faster performance with reduced CPU usage also makes this the best version of the encoder yet across numerous setups and without the need to upgrade internal equipment.

Want to take the new Ustream Producer for a test drive? Download a free trial and begin trying out the many professional features and looks you can add to your live content.

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Live Q&A with Moderation for Streaming Video

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Live Q&A for Video Playback

Live Q&A for streaming video is a highly engaging, interactive and effective way to educate an internal workforce or promote your brand to external audiences. With Ustream, this feature is accessible as a module and can easily be synced with video content through a combined embed code or accessed directly from a channel page.

Ustream continues to expand on this feature, introducing both a private mode and external functionality. These combine with an already existing, internal based solution and rich, ease of use moderation tools that allow content owners to cater the module to their specific application. This article goes over possible use cases for the feature before talking functionality and finally tips to be more successful in executing content with a Q&A component.

Live Q&A: Internal and External Use Cases

The Q&A module is a powerful collaboration tool that can add both additional insight to video assets and foster engagement from participants.

The Ustream Q&A, through a recent update, can now be used for internal and external streaming content. Consequently, the module can be used for a variety of use cases on both sides of the spectrum, helping to increase engagement, interest and also allow participants to give future content ideas.

Webinars (External) – The go-to use case, webinars consistently have a question and answer session. A live Q&A segment in a webinar is a great way to increase interest and cast a wider net than your original outline might have offered you. For example, if someone is doing a presentation on sales enablement and they haven’t outlined a viewer’s area of interest, a Q&A session can motivate that viewer to attend knowing they can still ask questions relevant to them.

Interactive Interviews (External) – Make an interview with a thought leader or celebrity more memorable by opening up the floor to viewer questions. The Ustream Q&A module can totally mitigate undesired questions during this process, either setting enquiries to private (viewable by the question asker only) or under an approve only visibility setting. For those seeking brand awareness, this can also help the venue go viral, with viewers passing along the link to get others involved in hopes their question might be answered and viewed by others.

Learning Sessions (Internal) – Companies can run learning sessions, going into more depth on a topic for sales enablement or to help out the company as a whole in product messaging. The module offers a perfect oppurtinity for employees and stake holders to ask questions as well. For example, if something was glossed over that is seen as important, participants can chime in. In fact, not only can they ask and vote on that question, but the answer and original enquiry can live with the resource to help educate future viewers of the on demand version.

Training (Internal) – Adding a Q&A segment to training material creates an easy way to involve a workforce while also aiding in the educational value of the content. For example, it can allow participants to go into a desired depth on a topic, helping out the presenter to get a feeling for how detailed the training needs to go.

While a popular use case for Q&A is attendance related, the Ustream platform has individual viewer tracking. This tracking is tied to an email address for the Ustream Align internal video platform and also those who registered through the external facing Marketing Module video registration form. Due to the fact that viewing is tied to a completion rate, this makes individual viewer tracking a much more effective way to monitor attendance.

Live Q&A Viewer Experience

Live Q&A Module on MobilesUstream offers a clean interface for the module. This includes grayed questions from participants with bolded answers from account administrators. To keep the view as relevant as possible, longer answers will be truncated and can be expanded on by clicking to read the full answer.

For the viewing experience, on desktop environments the Q&A lives to the right of the player while a button allows the module to be popped out. Through this feature a viewer can use a multi-screen setup to watch the content while participating in the Q&A session on another screen. The module is also mobile compatible, although rather than placed next to the player the module appears directly below the player, as seen on the image to the right. The pop-out feature presents the perfect method for viewers to be watching full screen on a large monitor while navigating the Q&A module on their mobile phone screen to participate.

Account managers have full control over the module as well. This includes optional approval steps, the ability to remove undesired questions and also controlling view settings. Content owners can modify the settings to the Q&A module directly from their account. It should be noted that the module can be enabled in conjuncture with the social stream feature, which offers real-time chat functionality through Ustream accounts or social network handles. The module can be embedded onto a website as well through using a combined embed that will house both the player and Q&A component.

Question View Settings

Content owners can modify how questions are seen by other viewers, including open visibility and a private mode as well.

  • Q&A Module SettingsAll questions
    An open question session where anyone can ask, although only account managers can answer as with all settings
  • Only approved questions
    Before being visible, questions have to be approved by an account manager through checking an “approve” option
  • Only questions that are answered
    Only enquiries that have been answered are visible, and as question can only be answered by an account manager it’s similar in function to approval
  • Private mode
    A new feature that creates a private experience where question askers can only see their own enquiries and not those of other participants

View settings are unique to each Ustream channel. So an organization can set one channel to all questions, to foster full collaboration, while setting a more sensitive channel to private mode to protect the identity of those asking enquiries from being seen by other viewers.

Question Voting

Voting can be enabled for questions, allowing participants to single out enquiries in order to bring attention to ones that are most relevant to them. This adds a number field to the left of the question, highlighted in red when it has been voted on or showing a gray 0 if no votes have been registered for it.

Live Q&A Module on Desktop

Tips to Improve Q&A Response

While most of this article has covered use cases and feature functionality, let’s examine how an organization can improve their Q&A module response to get the most value.

  • Verbally mention the Q&A
    It can help to draw attention to the module. This will not just educate first timers, who may not realize they can ask questions, but also make it clear that their participation is appreciated.
  • Place Q&A as an agenda item
    If you are doing a webinar, or really any presentation that is going to involve an agenda, spell out the question and answer session in your agenda. This can give viewers an idea of when the Q&A will take place, if the plan is to verbally answer the questions being asked, and also motive individuals to stay toward the end.
  • Feed the module a question
    Regardless of the level of coaxing for an audience, sometimes a presenter will be stuck in a situation where no one is participating or the participation starts too late. To help the process along, key up an individual to ask a question during the webinar, ideally early on. This can nudge some on the fence to participate as well, removing the feeling of being “the only one with a question”.
  • Restate and rephrase when necessary
    Don’t feel shy to restate a question before verbally answering it, either making it more relevant or more focused if the original wording was slightly scattershot. With the Q&A module, administrators can also edit the original questions as well. This can help in a scenario where someone asked a valid question but mentioned something they shouldn’t have at the end, which can then be edited out.
  • Prepare an exit strategy
    While content owners will often be presented in scenarios where the Q&A session is not as active as desired, the inverse can also happen. There will be occasions where the Q&A session is too active, threatening the length of the archived version of the presentation later on. Consequently, it pays to plan an exit strategy. This can take shape in the form of giving the Q&A session a specific length, stated before it starts, or offering to take more questions offline. Due to the way the module is setup, administrators can easily keep answering questions through text responses long after the broadcast is over.

Summary

The Q&A module adds powerful engagement to your video content. The feature works with both Pro Broadcasting, as an external solution, or Align, as an internal solution with specific controls for administrators as well. This includes on the setup side and also management, from approving to editing or removing questions.

Want to try out the Q&A module for yourself?  Request a demo of Pro Broadcasting or Align to unlock an end-to-end solution for delivering engaging video to external or internal audiences.

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Ustream Broadcaster Software for Mac

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Ustream Software Broadcaster for Mac

Looking for some live encoding software? The Ustream Broadcaster software for Mac allows content owners to quickly stream to a live channel or record video content for later use. The desktop application includes additional features to aid the presentation of your video content as well, including screen sharing capabilities, camera switching and being able to broadcast in high definition.

Webcam Broadcasting and Recording

Ustream Software Broadcaster Channel SelectionThe broadcaster software for Mac offers a quick way to begin streaming from a webcam. This can include built-in webcams, on laptops, or external webcams. It can be linked to a Ustream account as well, allowing content creators to choose between available channels.

The program is quick to launch, and offers an immediate prompt asking if you would like to START A BROADCASTER or START A RECORD. Selecting either option will begin a process that will allow a selection for which channel on the account the content should live on.

It should be noted, all Ustream accounts include auto archiving. So doing a normal broadcast will still save a recorded version to the account afterwards. The advantage of doing the recording option is the ability to pre-screen the content before publishing. Content owners can even download the asset, edit it through another program, and upload it again to the Ustream platform if they prefer.

Screen Sharing

Although the encoder is ease of use based, it offers some cool features not found in some alternatives such as Ustream’s web broadcaster. One of these features is the ability to easily and quickly share your screen. The software contains an easy way to switch back and forth between broadcasting from a webcam to showing what’s on your screen.

Use cases for this can be many. These can include sharing presentation decks to enabling effective platform demos for cloud based services. Be mindful, though, that the encoder will share the entire screen. As a result, be conscious of background applications, like software chat programs, that might pop up while you are sharing your screen.

Screen Sharing Broadcaster Software for Mac

Camera Switching and Source Switching

Content creators quickly switch between cameras and sources using the encoder. This functionality is done through using the two action buttons contained to the right of start. Clicking between the webcam icon to the monitor icon will enable screen sharing. Selecting the webcam icon, though, can be used to switch between multiple cameras if available. This can range from external webcams to those built right into a laptop. Broadcasters can also select from as many different, attached webcam cameras as their operating system will support as well.

Content creators can also select an audio source or adjust volume levels. This is done from the Preferences area of the desktop application, though, and therefore it’s recommended to test these settings to the desired levels and sources before starting.

High Definition Broadcasting

Ustream Broadcaster Software for MacThe Ustream broadcaster can live stream at three resolutions:

  • 360p (Low)
  • 480p (SD)
  • 720p (HD)

It’s recommended to broadcast in high definition, at 720p, if your upload speed can support it. The reason for this is the adaptive bitrate streaming technology that Ustream utilizes will automatically create lower bitrates and serve the most appropriate one to your viewers based on a few factors, such as if they have the download speed to support it. The goal here is to avoid buffering while giving those with a faster connection improved video quality. In terms of making a judgement call on if your upload speed can support it, it’s recommended to not broadcast at more than half of your upload speed. As a result, to do 720p, it’s recommended to have an upload speed of at least 3mbps. To learn more about the relationship between your connection speed and streaming, please consult this support article. That said, the application adapts the bitrate to provide the highest quality streaming experience possible on the connection the user has, within sensible limits.

If you want higher video quality than 720p, check out Ustream Producer that can broadcast at 1080p.

Summary

The software version of the Ustream Broadcaster brings with it some powerful features not seen in the web version. This includes higher quality streaming and key features like screen sharing. Just like the web version, this encoder is free as well.

The Mac version of this software launched this week, on August 2nd. Stay tuned for the PC version, which is coming soon. The Mac streaming software can be downloaded now and allows login with Ustream accounts.

Interested in experimenting with this new software encoder? Try out Pro Broadcasting and empower your whole team from a range of ease-of-use applicants, like this broadcaster software for Mac, all the way up to professional encoders.

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Individual Viewership Data & Audience Metrics

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Individual Viewership Data & Audience MetricsHow well do you know your viewing audience? Are you handing your sales team a list of prospects, but want to offer more insight about how interested these leads are? Ustream provides robust individual viewership data and audience metrics to inform marketers and live event producers on the effectiveness of their video content while enabling sales through being able to more intelligently identify highly engaged prospects.

Individual Viewership Data

Ustream has offered individual viewer tracking for internal audiences through Ustream Align, giving organizations an opportunity to track the use of internal video assets. This functionality is now available for external use cases as well, giving marketers and event organizers additional methods to track engagement down to a per user level.

Found under Tracking, this tool can sort by video or by user. For example, a content owner can see all users that watched a specific live stream, or alternatively can select an individual user and see their viewing history. From the platform, account administrators can quickly see how much of the content (as a %) each viewer watched and the date that the video was accessed. These metrics only skim the surface, though. Through downloading a full report as a CSV, administrations get access to rich, extremely detailed viewership data. A partial list of metrics in the full report include:

  • Type of content (live or recorded)
  • View type (if they watched it on Ustream or on your site)
  • When they started watching (time stamp that is down to the minute)
  • When they stopped watching (time stamp that is down to the minute)
  • Country viewed from
  • Region viewed from (States for inside the United States)
  • City viewed from
  • Device and browser used
  • Time spent watching content (in seconds)

This data is presented either through anonymous logs, with each anonymous user being given an identifier number, or by associating access to an email address. In order for the email address to be listed, this requires adding a registration form to the video player, which is done through the Video Marketing Module.

Video Marketing Module and Tracking

The most powerful use case with the individual viewership tracking is through combining it with the Video Marketing Module. When activated, this module adds a registration form inside a video player. This allows content owners to place required or optional fields for a viewer to fill out before getting access. Doing a product launch? This tool offers a great lead generation opportunity, granting actionable insights like not just emails for follow up, but also the ability to get further details like the industry of those interested in the product.

When paired with individual viewership tracking, this module adds powerful insight through replacing “anonymous” users with the actual email of the viewer, enabling lead qualification through seeing metrics related to interest in the content and also demographic data. Content owners can choose to have any number of fields before the video, although the email field will always be included. As a result, any viewer navigating through the registration gate will have their viewing data associated with their email.

Registration Gate for Viewership DataFields a content owner can request to be filled out as part of the registration form include:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Company
  • Job Title
  • Country
  • Zip
  • State
  • City
  • Address
  • Industry
  • Company Size

Available options are updated, so when requesting a demo be sure to ask if a desired field is not listed as it might have been added.

Assessing Lead Quality Through Audience Metrics

The Video Marketing Module gives an effective way to transform a video project into a more direct lead generation effort. Individual viewership tracking takes that data and presents insights to better inform sales teams or aid nurture campaigns to convert these users into paying customers. The most immediate benefit is simply being able to see how interested the user was in the actual content. If someone registered and only watched a few seconds before leaving, this might be a sign they were expecting something else. Another useful metric is seeing when a user stopped watching, using the specific time stamp metric. If the video content in question was a live stream of the product launch and the viewer stopped watching before the product was unveiled, that’s likely a sign of weak interest.

While the data can be used to sniff out uninterested viewers, it can also be a powerful way to inform a sales team which prospects could be more likely to convert. For example, back to the product launch, if a viewer watched the full live stream that would be an extremely positive indication they are interested in the final product. Organizations can also mine geographic data, knowing areas that are more likely to convert and targeting viewers who are watching from those regions. Similarly, this data, along with the device used, can help power more targeted nurture campaigns. For example, knowing someone watched from an iPhone might aid in messaging more directly targeted to this audience, especially if the product functions with this device.

Video Registration Form Tips

It’s no industry secret: the fewer fields that are required of a user on a form, the more likely they are to fill out that form. Many studies have been conducted to confirm this. Thanks to the addition of individual tracking, content owners can remove certain fields while still getting access to that data. This information includes: Country, State and City, which is passed through automatically with viewer tracking. The data for these fields will populate based on their IP address from where they are accessing the content. Because of this, the data might not always be 100% accurate at the city level, due to how the ISP was set up, but should be accurate at the country level.

Summary

Individual viewership tracking offers an extremely robust way to gauge lead interest, along with rich, highly detailed demographic and user data. Better inform your sales team or better segment your audience for nurture campaigns, enabling quicker paths to prospect conversion.

Want to start gathering more informed engagement metrics around your leads? Try out the Video Marketing Module and starting adding a more easily visible lead gen method to your video projects.

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