Video Thumbnail Generator & Editor Tool

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Video Thumbnail OptionsA video thumbnail is an important component of hosting video content online. In many instances, it will be the first thing people see related to the video asset. This can be for external facing assets from a simple Google search, where thumbnails appear in the Video results. It’s also important for internal facing assets using Ustream Align, where channels can be created with a supplemental video gallery with each additional on demand video represented by a thumbnail.

Consequently, a video thumbnail acts as not just a method to preview what the video is about, but also as a “mini-poster” to market that asset. As a result, it’s important to not just make sure a thumbnail is associated with each video, but also to make sure it’s the most relevant it can be. For those looking for a solution that offers greater control over their video thumbnails, Ustream has a suite of cloud based features that include thumbnail generation, selection and also methods to edit the video asset itself in the cloud, which have been recently updated.

Video Thumbnail Generator and Selector

Ustream has historically auto generated a thumbnail based on the video asset, which can be either a video file that is uploaded or an auto archive of a previously live stream. This auto generation aspect still exists, and allows for a large batch of video files to be uploaded and quickly utilized.

Video Thumbnail Selector SliderHowever, what if one of the generated thumbnails is not ideal? For these instances, the video, through the Video Manager, can be selected to bring up a series of thumbnail options. One option given is to pick a new video frame from the on demand content. Choosing this will launch a lightbox, seen to the left, that displays a slider. This setup offers content owners not just precise control over selecting a thumbnail, but also a very quick method to choose a better one.

In execution, the video can be watched and paused, through clicking the video window, when the desired image is onscreen. The user can also utilize the arrows to move, at 1-2 second intervals, to find that perfect still to represent the on demand video.

After being selected, the new thumbnail will automatically be used for that video asset. This can be changed at any time, going back and choosing a different frame from the video to represent the content.

Custom Image Uploader

Content owners aren’t locked into using a frame from the video either. Alternatively, they can select to upload an image file as well. Formats supported include GIF, JPEG or PNG files. Animated GIFs can be used, however, after being saved it will use the first frame as the image and not be animated. The recommended pixel size for the image is 1920 x 1080. Different sizes, both larger and smaller, can be used if desired though. It’s suggested to not use an image that is larger than 10MB in terms of the file size.

The final image will be presented in a 16×9 (traditional “widescreen”) aspect ratio. If the image being uploaded is a different aspect, the platform offers cloud based cropping capabilities.

Video Thumbnail Editor: Image Cropping Capabilities

Video Thumbnail Cloud CroppingContent owners don’t have to take a thumbnail image and tweak it to the right aspect in a program like Photoshop. Instead, they can speed up their content generation process through cropping the image directly on the Ustream platform.

This process is launched automatically after a video thumbnail image is upload. It includes a window used to crop the image and also a preview on the right of what the final image will look like. After setting the cropped version as the thumbnail, the image can be cropped again by uploading the file another time and going through the cropping process once more.

Cloud Video Trimming

The more robust thumbnail features join the previously launched video trimming tool found in the platform. This has also been updated to be HTML5 based, allowing for cloud based video editing through mobile phones and other devices that don’t support Flash technology.

This tool allows content owners to trim the video as needed, removing undesired footage at the start or end of the content. The cloud based video trimming is non-destructive, meaning the video can be edited later on to restore portions of the video that were previously trimmed.


Ustream offers an impressive array of cloud based features for managing video assets, expanding into rich functionality surrounding thumbnail generation.

Interested in using these thumbnail features on your video assets? Try out Pro Broadcasting and begin effectively promoting your video assets through highly relevant thumbnail images.

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Stream Analytics: Monitor Live Stream in Real-time

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Stream Analytics: Monitor Live Stream in Real-timeThe ability to monitor, in real time, stream analytics gives enterprises a way to extract business value from data that is effectively in motion. On external facing streams, this might mean using these metrics to help further bolster attendance through promoting real time statistics on social networks such as noting impressive viewership volume. Going beyond what historical analysis could offer, this gives organizations the ability to inspect and analyze data in order to quickly respond to enhance performance or “right the ship” if the video content is not performing to expectations.

While Ustream has always had an impressive array of real-time analytics, this week the cloud platform expands with a new console that allows enterprises to monitor live stream content to an incredibly granular degree. This includes tools to investigate issues to support real-time decision making, such as validating how widespread buffering issues might be and check the overall stream health. This use case can help determine if a report of a viewer experiencing buffering issues is an isolated problem associated with the viewer’s connection or if it points to a larger problem possibly due to connection issues at the broadcaster’s side. The new console offers a wealth of use cases and increased ways to understand stream performance, from the ingest to delivery side. It also includes a visual and user interface update to the live stream analytics console as well, marking an overall update to the live metric capabilities of the Ustream platform.

Read on to learn more about the real time monitoring and analytic features available to leverage live data regarding video channels.

Live Monitoring Console: Overview

ALive Monitoring Console: Overview completely new feature, the Live Monitoring Console offers an impressive suite of real time tracking metrics related to a channel. This includes an overview at the top, along with navigation options to see the Stream Monitor, Stream Setup, Channel Setup and Performance Metrics.

For the overview portion, these metrics show at a glance some of the key details regarding the channel.

Channel is…
The first of these displays not just if the channel is live, but also offers a counter to note how long the channel has been live for. As seen in the example to the right, this particular channel has been active for over 602 hours.

Recording is…
The next metric is related to auto archiving, and notes if the channel is setup to record the content automatically into the account. If set to on, then previously recorded video assets will be auto added to the Video Manager, where they can be published, and tied to that channel.

Stream health
This relates to the health of the connection between the encoder being used and our ingest servers. In the example shown, the health is good. If it was denoted as poor, though, the broadcaster should check if they can improve the connection speed or connection stability of their Internet source.

Buffering ratio
The buffering ratio displayed here relates to both the broadcaster and viewer side, while showing a constantly updated snapshot of the last 30 seconds. Three stats are also displayed below which show the average buffering across all viewers, the maximum buffering someone is experiencing and the minimum amount. Of these stats, the average is the most powerful, allowing the content owner to quickly see if the buffering is something that is global or isolated.


These stats provide a quick summary of real time channel traffic. It includes a total number of current active viewers, top 3 domains (where the content is embed and being watched) and the top 3 countries that are contributing to the viewing traffic. A point of reference is also provided for the amount of viewer hours available on the account. If the plan is Align based, however, it will instead show the amount of available seats on the plan.

Live Monitoring Console: Stream Monitor

Live Monitoring Console: Stream MonitorThis tool offers a way to see, in real time, what is being sent to the Ustream servers and also what Ustream is sending to the player.

Server viewer

For content owners wanting to see exactly what they are sending to Ustream, this view shows the video content being sent directly to the ingest servers. The top option will be the original stream that is being sent via the encoder, while options below will be the encoded versions that are being created for adaptive delivery. An exception to this can be if the content owner is sending multiple streams with differing bitrates through the encoder.

Embed viewer

This option shows a sample of the experience found inside the embedded player. Combined with the server viewer, this gives content owners a quick method to compare what is being sent to the ingest servers and how this compares to the quality found inside the player.

Live Monitoring Console: Stream Setup

Live Monitoring Console: Steam SetupContent owners wanting to get more granular into the details being sent to the ingest servers can use the stream setup portion of the monitoring console. The stream key relates to the unique ID for the broadcast, which with the Stream URL is what’s entered manually into professional encoders like the Teradek or NewTek products.

The location denotes the geographic area where the broadcaster is, while the server location is the point of presence server being used by Ustream. The device listing gives details on the encoding source being utilized.

Below this are details on the Video and Audio sources. For video, this includes the codec, resolution, ratio, bitrate and codec details such as the profile and level. On the audio side, this denotes the codec and bitrate as well, but also includes the sample size, sample rate and channels (2 channels for stereo, 1 channel for mono, etc).

Live Monitoring Console: Channel Setup

Live Monitoring Console: Channel Setup

The channel setup gives an info dump on the settings and security enabled for the channel. This includes some information such as the title and channel ID (CID) along with the URL and vanity URL.

Transcoding and feature settings are also specified here. This includes auto-record (auto archiving), Q&A module, captions, inline playback (over social networks like Facebook and Twitter) and if the live playlist functionality is enabled.

At a glance, content owners can also see the security settings for the content, giving quick peace of mind if the content is secured in the desired way. This includes if password protection is turned on, if the channel is hidden on the domain, if the embed URL is being restricted (controlling approved URLs for where the content can be embed), restricting viewing locations (geo-blocking), and finally also if the content is setup to restrict based on IP address (controlling distribution to only pre-approved IP addresses). If a setting is not set to the desired status, scrolling over the setting will give a link to where this feature can be changed in the dashboard.

Live Monitoring Console: Performance Metrics

Live Console Monitoring: Performance MetricsThe final area of the monitoring console denotes the performance of the stream in terms of how many viewers are experiencing buffering down to a per-source view.

Chart View
This display is similar to the buffering ratio data contained in the overview area. In fact, it contains the same information, just presented in a larger display.

Table View
On the flip side, the table view is a new, very granular way of looking at this data.

With this tool set to the “Top ISPs” view, content owners can see how many viewers on a given ISP are experiencing buffering during a broadcast. For example, if a report comes in of just one viewer having issues with the content buffering, this panel allows an opportunity to learn a bit more about this user from the ISP side and also how serious the buffering is for them. Content owners can also see, under the Playing category, if the issue might be due to local congestion caused by too many viewers all trying to use the same network connection to watch with possibly insufficient download speed.

The view can be changed to “Top CDNs” to get an idea of what content delivery networks are being used to distribute this stream. “ucdn” is the Ustream CDN, while third party delivery networks will likely fill out the other delivery sources. Each is denoted with buffering information as well. If the content owner is using eCDN, the nodes will be listed here as well.

For a constantly updated rundown of everything related to the Live Monitoring Console, be sure to check out our Support Center article.

Live Broadcast Console: Real-Time Stream Analytics

Live Broadcast Console: Real-Time Stream AnalyticsWith the addition of the Live Monitoring Console, the live analytics console has been updated as well. This includes a user experience update to match the look of the monitoring console. Functionality has remained the same, but let’s refresh on what the Live Broadcast Console is capable of.

This console is broken into four sections and includes real time data in all categories. It offers content owners a powerful way to get second-by-second updates on their channel’s performance.

Active viewers

The viewers section not only presents a quick snapshot of total viewers in the upper right, but also offers currently active viewers on the stream. The “now active” metric tracks those only presently watching the broadcast, while the 30 second chart gives insight into how this number is either rising or falling.

Geographic distribution

A heat map allows content owners to see where their current viewers are located. This includes both a world map for global traffic and also an alternate view of just the United States, to segment viewership at a state level. This view can be toggled between a map view, which is the default, and a table view, to make it easier to see a list of all the countries or states where there is currently activity.

Embedding domains

A chart view can show presently where on the web people are viewing the streaming content. For example, if content was embed on that would show as a result for any active viewers watching from that page. Up to 25 domains can be listed here. The view can also be shifted from the chart view to a table view. If viewers are watching from the Ustream Mobile App this will show as a source here as well.


The last section of the broadcast analytics displays the device makeup of viewers. This can be broken up by desktop and mobile application. So for example, a stream might have 6 desktops users (5 Windows, 1 Mac OS X) and 1 mobile user (1 iOS). This view displays a pie chart on the right and a table with device details on the left.


The new live monitoring console is a powerful, real-time analytic tool for professionals to keep their thumb on the video quality that Ustream provides. It gives content owners a truly live way to see how viewers are accessing content, their experiences and to learn more about details related to the content being sent to and ingested by Ustream. Combined with the Live Broadcast Console, enterprises have many methods to analyze data in motion, making informed, in the moment decisions that would not be possible through analyzing data at rest.

Want to start using real time monitoring for your live streaming? Try out Pro Broadcasting and take full advantage of Ustream’s live stream analytic capabilities.

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Webinar: Protect Your Internal Network

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Looking to stop internal video streaming from overtaxing your network?

Join us tomorrow, Thursday June 23rd at 11:00am PT | 2:00p ET, for a LIVE interactive webinar on eCDN, Ustream’s new solution that allows companies to horizontally scale their video streaming and reach internal audiences without compromising the integrity of their network.

The webinar will:

  • Explain how eCDN works
  • Demo the admin portal that controls eCDN
  • Explore Ustream’s Software Defined CDN (SD-CDN) technology and how eCDN and SD-CDN work together to deliver video deep inside corporate networks and to every corner of the globe.

Register now to learn more about the Ustream eCDN solution


Video Access: Password Protection & Restriction

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Video streaming privacy and controlling video access can be a challenge at times, and the reasons for wanting to limit access can be varied. Sometimes there can be legal incentives, such as acquiring distribution rights for a concert in only selected areas. Other times it can just be to funnel the benefit of doing that video content to a source controlled by the content owner. For example, making sure beneficial traffic to a website ends up at a page controlled by the user.

This article covers the wealth of features available at Ustream that can facilitate this need to restrict access to streaming content. This includes methods to password protect video assets along with more sophisticated approaches such as restrictions based on demographics like location or age. 

Video Access: Password Protection & RestrictionThis piece is focused on protecting external facing video content. If the need is to instead protect video access for content that has to be internal facing only, Ustream Align offers more granular control to keep video content inside an organization.

Video Access: Restrict Embed URLs

There is a natural inclination by many users to “own” their video content. This includes not just legally owning their video assets, but also being able to control where and how that content can be viewed.

The domain restriction feature is one step toward this solution, allowing the content owner to control what websites are allowed to distribute this content. Found under the Security selection, this option allows content owners to enter in approved URLs for where the content can be embed. For example, entering the URL of “*” will create a setup where just websites under this domain will be able to successfully embed the content. The * permits any page within that domain to embed that content. For example, “” would be allowed to embed the stream. If the desire is to limit access to just a specific page on that domain, that can be achieved through placing the full URL with no asterisk, such as “”.

Video Access: Restrict Embed URLs

This feature comes with added functionality of being able to redirect content when an unallowed website attempts to use the embed. This can either redirect to the Ustream channel page or a specific URL. In execution, this will prompt a message inside the player stating: “This stream is currently unavailable on this domain at the broadcaster’s request”. Included with this message is a button that states “Ok”. Clicking on this button will redirect the viewer to the desired URL.

Video Password Protection

Video assets can also be protected through mandating that viewers enter a password before gaining access. This feature, which is not found on Ustream Align due to more sophisticated methods of securing content, can be controlled directly through the Ustream dashboard. Content owners can set a password that will gate access to that content.

Video Password ProtectionPasswords can be simple or complex, as long as they contain at least 5 characters and less than 33 characters. The password can be changed at any time as well.

The password is easy to setup, and universally applicable to all viewers of that stream. If more granular control is required, like individual viewer access credentials, Ustream Align offers Single Sign-On (SSO) approaches to further lock down access.

Preferred Support Restrictions

Additional methods for restricting content are available as part of preferred support, which is available on Enterprise level plans at Ustream. This includes the ability to restrict access at both the geographic and IP level along with a method of restricting by age.

GeoLock: Geo-Blocking

At the geo level, this is done on a country basis and can be either set up as a white list or a black list. For example, a channel can be selected so that just the United States, Canada and Mexico can access that content. It can also be setup in an opposite fashion, where everyone except the United States, Canada and Mexico could access the content. This functionality gives the tools to make it easy for content owners to navigate region specific rights for their broadcasts.

Geo-BlockingAdvanced features are also available with GeoLock that can restrict based on down to the city level. This city based restriction is available through either the same whitelist and blacklist methodology. For example, a video asset could be set up so that San Francisco could not watch a stream, or the inverse so that places outside of San Francisco could not watch the stream. This can be useful for example if you want to “blackout” a specific media market where the same content may be available on traditional broadcast distribution. It could also be ideal for driving on premise attendance, for example a music concert located in Seattle and therefore Seattle isn’t permitted to stream the content but locations outside of that city are.

IPLock: IP-Blocking

The IPLock feature involves providing a list of IPs that the content owner wants to have access to their video assets. The feature works like a whitelist, meaning other IPs besides the ones given will be locked out of viewing that content.

The approved IP addresses can contain wildcards as well. For example, “174.*.*.*” could be a listed IP address, meaning any viewer who is watching from an IP that starts with 174 would be able to access that video asset.

AgeLock: Age-Restriction

Additional restrictions are available via an age gate. Viewers are asked to enter their birthdate before they can access the content. If the viewer meets the age restriction, they are allowed to view the video content.

Suite of Video Restriction Features

The Ustream SaaS (Software as a Service) platform allows for a multitude of restriction features that can be used individually or combined. For example, content can be restricted through URL restrictions and also mixed with password protection, which is carried through at the player level regardless of where the content is trying to be accessed from.

Want to take these features for a spin for a large event? Try out Pro Broadcasting and take full advantage of Ustream’s restriction capabilities.

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White Label Video Platform: Live Streaming & VOD

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White Label Video PlatformLooking for a white label video player solution? Broadcasters can spend hundreds if not thousands on their setups, from top of the line cameras to hardware encoders that can allow for camera switching, only to have the end product touting another company’s brand which can cheapen the viewer experience.

Ustream offers a wealth of features to help customize and allow content owners to control a viewer’s experience. This is presented as part of a white label video platform, allowing the removal of the Ustream branding and also allowing content owners to insert their own. This article covers these features in more depth. It looks at where and how content owners can remove Ustream branding and insert their own and also how content access can be restricted. This includes insight into how content owners can manage elements of the video player, embedding, viewer access, and also the channel page experience.

White Label Video Player: Branding

Video content owners have a variety of options that they can utilize when it comes to video player branding. In total, there are four options available that include Ustream Branding, Co-Branding, Full Branding and No Branding. These options, controlled in the dashboard, can be switched between at any time.

Branding for White Label Video Platform

Ustream Branding: This has the Ustream logo appear in the upper right. If this is a live channel that is currently streaming, it appears next to the red Live notification.

Co-Branding: Love Ustream, but want to still promote your brand? This option allows the Ustream logo to still appear in the upper right. However, it also adds the option to display your own watermark in the lower right. The image can be up to 288 x 96 pixels large, and can be png, gif or jpeg format. For optimal representation, unless the desired graphic is a square, it’s ideal to use a png or gif with transparency behind the logo.

Full Branding: This option removes the Ustream logo in the upper right. It adds the custom watermark option, though, that appears in the lower right. Same as the co-branding feature, this logo can have transparent elements and can be up to 288 x 96 pixels large.

No Branding: This option removes both the Ustream logo in the upper right and the custom watermark option, so no branding appears inside the video player.

Social Sharing: Player

Social Player Features

The ability to allow viewers to share content over social networks gives an easy way to create brand advocates out of your users.

When enabled, this feature appears in the lower right of the player. It’s represented by a social network icon and when clicked brings up four options to choose from. These options include the ability to share on Facebook or Twitter. There are also options to share the link to reach the video or get the embed code to place it on another site.

Social Sharing White Label FeaturesGiven the type of features available, it can be important to customize them as part of a white label video solution. This includes the ability to disable or enable the feature, which is controlled through selecting the channel in the dashboard.

Also included is the ability to enable or disable sharing for Facebook and Twitter. Furthermore, the social message created from sharing can be customized as well. This gives a great opportunity with Twitter to add either accounts, through using the normal @ symbol, or using a desired hashtag that can tie into the video asset.

One of the great aspects of this feature is the ability to customize the URL that it sends people to. This allows you to insert your website URL which will be used for directing people who share it over Facebook and Twitter and also used for the “Copy Link” feature.

If it’s desired to remove the embed code, though, it’s suggested to disable the social sharing option as this will remove the button altogether.

Limiting Access: Restricting Embed URLs

There is a natural inclination by many broadcasters to “own” their own content. This includes not just legally owning their video assets, but also being able to control where and how that content can be viewed.

Embed Restrictions for White Label VideoUstream has a ton of features focused around restricting access to a broadcaster’s video content, and for those interested in learning more we have an article right here that covers this in more depth. That said, it’s common for broadcasters to look for a white label video solution that can limit the scope of where their content can be accessed. To accommodate this, there are methods for both disabling the Ustream channel page and also features to limit where the content can be embed.

To control embeds, the feature is controlled from the dashboard and lets broadcasters enter in approved URLs. Any site found trying to embed the stream that doesn’t match the approved URLs will be blocked from being able to playback the content through the player. Furthermore, a button will appear inside the video player that will both explain this and also provide a way to redirect to another page of the broadcaster’s choosing, such as their own site. The actual restriction element involves entering in one or several approved URLs. Wildcards are permitted through the use of an asterisk, which will allow entire domains to host it along with also being able to confine access to a single, precise URL if desired.

Customize Channel Page

While a lot of white label features happen at the player level, there are a variety of features available to customize the look of the Ustream channel page as well. These options are found under the Channel Page selection for each channel on your account. Among these features are the ability to:

  • Upload a cover image, which functions similar to a Facebook or Twitter cover image
  • Add an “About” section to describe the content and add some SEO (search engine optimization) content to help with indexing
  • Associate external links to the content, which can range from a main website to even donation buttons leading to PayPal
  • Hide or display associated recorded videos and other channels, as designated by the broadcaster, with the channel

To learn more about these features, check out our customize channel page article.

Disable Channel Page

While there are a wealth of features related to customizing a channel page, there is also the ability to disable it outright. To select this option, the broadcaster simply needs to navigate to the Channel Page selection after choosing the appropriate channel.

Disable Channel Page for White Label PlatformThe top most option on this page will give a readout on the status of the channel page. If the channel page is currently enabled, it will list a URL below the “enabled” notification. To the right of this is a “Disable channel page” option. Clicking this will trigger a prompt to confirm the action. Once disabled, the old URL will give a 404 when viewers attempt to navigate there and it will no longer appear in search results on Ustream.

This action can be reverted at any time through navigating back to the Channel Page area and clicking to “enable channel page”.

Align Portal Branding

Ustream Align plans offer a lot of additional restriction features to keep content internal facing. This includes being able to restrict through email verification or SSO (single sign on). The feature set mentioned so far, though, is relevant to both Ustream Pro (external) and the Align plans.

White Label Video Platform for Align Portal

One feature that is exclusive to Align, though, is the ability to create a portal. Controlling the look of the portal is done through the dashboard and allows you to select a name for the portal that appears in the upper left and upload an icon to represent your channel as well.

White Label Video Platform for Align Portal

A company icon, called a “Portal Picture”, can also be uploaded and will appear to the left of your channel name. Below is an example of this. The image is an optional element of the design, which is otherwise very minimal and clean. The picture can also be changed or removed at any time as well.

White Label Video Solution: Both Internal and External

Ustream offers a complete white label video streaming solution for video delivery. This includes a robust feature set that can help you customize the look and feel of your streaming.

Want to take these features for a spin for a large event that can be branded around your own organization? Try out Pro Broadcasting and take full advantage of Ustream’s white label capabilities.

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Already have a Ustream account? Check out this Support Center article to learn how to start enabling these features.

Ustream’s eCDN: Enterprise Content Delivery Network

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Wondering what an enterprise content delivery network (eCDN) is and why a company might need one?

Ustream’s eCDN helps enterprises service large viewerships centrally located inside an office. The solution allows companies to horizontally scale their efforts, enabling training sessions and more that can be streamed while not causing bottlenecks for a local network.

ecdnRead on to learn what CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) are before diving into what an enterprise CDN is, and finally to learn more about Ustream’s approach.


Understanding The Need For CDNs

CDNs are based around delivering content to audiences that are traditionally difficult for a small server network to manage. This can include audiences that are geographically diverse. Content distributed over the net is dependent in part on the physical distance between a server delivering that content and the source trying to receive it. So, all other factors the same, if the delivering server was located in the United States, it would take someone in Australia longer to receive the content as opposed to someone located locally in the United States. CDNs address this need by locating servers, called edge servers, in diverse locations, often on a global scale.

Beyond geographic diversity, CDNs also manage the need to deliver content to large audience sizes. Content caching involves caching a local copy of content that can be served to other viewers in a region. So if a stream is going viral, viewers in a concentrated area can all be pulling from the same edge server that has the content cached there.


What Is A Enterprise Content Delivery Network?

Enterprises, even those utilizing top of the line CDNs, can run into their own issues. 100 employees all trying to watch the same high definition (HD) training video at the same time can easily cause local congestion issues.

An enterprise content delivery network, often abbreviated as eCDN, is intended to resolve issues on the local level while being utilized by a popular SaaS (Software as a Service) offering. This is achieved through a local installation of what basically becomes an edge server located directly inside the corporate network, allowing organizations to horizontally scale resource intensive content like video streaming.

ecdn diagram


Introducing Ustream’s eCDN

Recently announced by IBM, Ustream’s eCDN functions like an edge server installed inside an office. It can be delivered as a standalone hardware appliance or as a virtual appliance that is run on virtualization platforms. It ultimately reduces local network strain through delivering a single instance of a video asset.

The offering can work in a WAN (Wide Area Network) environment and also behind corporate firewalls as well, only needing port 80 and port 443 to be open which are the ports for HTTP and HTTPS. A web based administration portal is provided as well, enabling administrators to see concurrent users and a health check on nodes within the eCDN. Staying true to the SaaS nature of Ustream, the enterprise CDN is also updated and optimized by Ustream.


Global Reach From eCDN

Multinational companies, or even just multi-office corporations, can also utilize eCDN as well. At the bare minimum, there is an option to utilize fallback logic around eCDN. So if an issue occurs around the eCDN, like the power going out at the location, it can utilize Ustream’s SD-CDN (Software Defined Content Delivery Network) approach that includes multiple CDNs. Viewers outside of the range of the eCDN, for example someone working from home, can still get access to the video asset as well.

For a more robust solution, the enterprise content delivery network can also support multiple instances. Consequently, companies with several offices can utilize eCDN at each location so that a particular office doesn’t have to be prioritized over others. The  solution allows companies to effectively scale their video streaming, regardless of internal scale, to deliver even high definition content to a corporate audience and with faster response times.


Ustream eCDN Release

The new offering includes full functionality for live streaming content. This includes the ability to reach mobile devices within the eCDN, through delivering a cloud transcoded version of the stream in HLS that supports iPhones, iPads, Android devices and more. Additional features, such as delivering cloud transcoded bitrates that are used for the adaptive bitrate process, also integrate smoothly with eCDN.

Want to learn more about eCDN and how it could work to resolve internal congestions on your enterprise’s network?

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Customize Channel Page: New Viewing Experience

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Today, April 14th, marks the complete launch of the new Ustream viewing experience and the discontinuation of the old experience. This impacts all existing Ustream channel pages that were created before February 18th, 2016, and were not already migrated to the new design.

The new viewer experience brings with it a multitude of new improvements for the desktop and mobile experience around these pages. This includes a cleaner look and also additional features for broadcasters to customize channel page content.

Expanded Channel Page Options

Customize Channel Page MenuThe new viewing experience adds numerous ways to customize a channel page. It offers broadcasters more opportunities to relay their message and provide complementary resources surrounding their broadcasts. Many of these new features are controlled through an expanded Channel Page menu found in the dashboard of a Ustream account.

Among these features are the ability to update the cover image, about text, links, video gallery (“show recorded videos”) and setting for the “other channels” feature.

We’ll dive into each new feature in terms of the functionality that can be expected and sometimes how to best use it.


Cleaner Look + Cover Image

The new viewing experience offers a much more streamlined and clean looking interface. This includes a similar experience across both desktops and mobile phones or tablets, in contrast to the different design right now across these. The new look utilizes a lot of white in the display, rather than darker, competing background colors. This places greater emphasis on the unique channel page content, such as the video player and information related to the new features that broadcasters can control.

Customize Channel Page Cover Image

One of these major new additions is the cover image for channels. This appears near the top of the channel page, and will function as a backdrop, although with the channel image appearing elevated and on top of the cover image to draw greater attention to it. On mobile the cover image and the channel image appear around the middle of the screen to make room for the player which is at the top of the screen as usual in video apps.

Right now, uploaded images must be 2560 x 852 pixels to best accommodate the varying devices with their own resolution. No other image sizes are currently permitted. When you go to the cover image settings you can find the specific safe area within these dimensions that is guaranteed to appear on all screen sizes.


About: Description Updated

Customize Channel Page DescriptionThe concept of a description or “about” area for channel pages is nothing new. What has changed, though, is the degree of functionality in this area. This includes rich text formatting that introduces the ability to bold, italicize, and use headings. Hyperlinks can also be added, which requires highlighting text and then hitting the link button. Finally, there are also options to add graphics, which have to be hosted outside of Ustream, and to add horizontal lines. You can also use numbered and unnumbered lists.

There is also an added option to control it so the “about” area is the default choice when the viewer goes to the channel page, as opposed to the video gallery area.


The “links” feature found under the “channel page” dashboard allows broadcasters to define URLs that can be linked to. This offers the broadcaster the chance to enter the URL and link text for the name of the link. These links can be edited or deleted at any time.

Other Links for Channel Pages

Once enabled, the links appear in the “about” area of the viewing experience. An icon will also populate to the left of each link. The icon graphic will be a link chain, with exceptions including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube pages which have their own logos.

Links appear before content entered into the “about” option in the channel page area. Links will be ordered, from left to right, based on when they were added to the “links” area. If the broadcaster needs to add a new link that should appear at the front, it’s recommended to simply edit the first link and replace it with the new URL. The replaced link could then be added as a new link, and would appear at the bottom.


Broadcasters can add a video gallery to their channel page that will feature their uploaded VOD (video on demand) content. The gallery will show a thumbnail to represent the content, title of the video, how long ago it was uploaded, and total views the video asset has received.

Control wise, this feature is found under the channel page that is not set to “unpublished” where it can be enabled or disabled. Be aware that when used, all video content associated with the channel will be listed here. As previously mentioned, the video gallery is the default landing area for the viewer, unless an option is enabled to make the “about” area the default.


Upcoming Events

Events on Ustream give broadcasters a powerful way to inform their viewership of upcoming broadcasts. Not every broadcaster does 24/7 streaming, and letting viewers know when they can expect the next live stream can bolster both your audience size and also viewer retention for future streaming.

Upcoming Events

This feature adds an “upcoming” area to the channel page that viewers can select to see a list of events. This provides the dates they will occur on, time of day, title of the event and an option to “remind me” of when the event will occur. The remind feature can be linked either through a Facebook account or through a Ustream account to send notifications to the viewer.

As a side note, there is no “on/off” switch for this feature as unlike others it’s not controlled from the “channel page” settings. So if events are scheduled, the “upcoming” area will populate with them.


Other Channels

One of the goals of this update is to help broadcasters better own their Ustream viewing experience. One approach toward achieving this is through the introduction of the “other channels” feature.

Parallel to the “about” and “video gallery”, viewers can select the “other channels” option to see a list of other channels from that broadcaster.

For the broadcaster, this feature is completely customizable. It offers three settings which are:

  • List all of my channels
  • List selected channels
  • List no channels (disable feature)

Being able to select channels for this area is fairly robust. It’s controlled through entering the Ustream channel page URL. Because of this, users can even enter in channels from other broadcasters as well. This can allow synergy, from a simple “channel exchange” with others to being able to list channels from other departments under a single company.


Story Behind The New Viewing Experience

The current viewing experience has been around for years, with no significant upgrades to the design. This resulted in the experience not evolving with industry trends and not providing the experience desired at Ustream to best utilize features such as the ability to create galleries of video content.

Once deciding that the experience would be drastically improved, we established requirements that we wanted the new design to address. This included:

  • Clean design
  • Large player
  • Simple way to chat
  • Video gallery
  • One primary customization option
  • Consistency across platforms

Updating the experience presented its own challenges. Not only did the new design have to work over desktop and mobiles, but it also had to accommodate the over 1 million customers utilizing the portal as well. Consequently, updating the design was broken into stages.

Stage one started on December 16th, 2015, and offered users the chance to preview the design using their own content, barring it wasn’t password protected or had the channel page disabled. This offered a valuable opportunity for users to present feedback before committing to elements of the redesign.

Stage two started a slow rollout that began on February 18th, 2016. This allowed broadcasters the opportunity to migrate early to the new design and also marked the point when all newly created channel pages would automatically be with the new viewing experience.


Complete Launch

Stage three is today, and sees all channel pages converted over to the new design. Many months in the making, the new viewing experience is now available on all Ustream channel pages, offering a clean, unified look that introduces more features for broadcasters to utilize.

If you want to learn more about the new viewing experience and how to control each new feature, read this resources guide.

Want to give the new viewing experience a test drive? Try out Pro Broadcasting and start using these new features on large scale video streams.

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Viva Las Vegas! Come see Ustream at NAB 2016

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viva las vegas

We’re dusting off our blue suede shoes, packing our bags and are ready to hit the road for the NAB 2016 Show in Las Vegas! Will you be joining us? This will be our 5th appearance at the conference, and trust me when I say that it gets better every year! Especially since we are now a part of the IBM family, this time around is already turning out to be one for the ages, we cannot wait to show you what we have in store.

Members of the Ustream team will be onsite and are looking forward to meeting you at the Ustream booth #SU11413. Book a meeting to speak with us, or stop by during our happy hour on Wednesday April 2oth between 5:00p until when the expo floor closes, and be one of first 100 visitors to receive a custom etched “Ustream at NAB 2016” commemorative beer pint or wine glass that you can take home and cherish for years to come. We will also be available at the IBM Video Cloud booth #SL3305 to answer any questions you may have about Ustream’s powerful video technology and how our services fit into the IBM Video Cloud unit. While you are there, make sure to catch one of our daily Ustream theater presentations at 4/18 @ 5:30p, 4/19 @ 1:30p, 4/20 @ 9:30a & 4/21 @9:30a.

Ustream + IBM are planning a lot of great sessions, but there is more to see at NAB. Check out some of the sessions that we are excited for that give you a sneak peek into the direction that the broadcasting industry is headed. Here are some of the talks we are looking forward to at NAB this year that the live streaming community shouldn’t miss:

Broadcast Minds™: Where Today’s Content Leaders Discuss Tomorrow’s Trends
Monday, April 18 | 4:30p – 6:00p

  • This session is presented by NewTek, manufactures of the TriCaster encoder, who are bringing together IP leaders in order to discuss where the broadcast industry might be headed in the future. The segment will include looking at today’s IT technology before looking toward where live production might shift in the years to come.

Cisco Presents – Media in a World of Exponential Technology Advances
Tuesday, April 19 | 12:30p – 1:30p

  • Produced in sponsorship with Cisco, this panel attempts to predict disruptions that will occur to transform the media landscape, similar to the drastic change that occurred to the camera market where consumer friendly video cameras continue to improve in both quality and decrease in size. This panel is a bit more media focused, but there is a high probability the discussion will be relevant to broadcasters outside of this industry.

4K, UHD, HDR and More – The Future of Video
Tuesday, April 19 | 2:30p – 3:30p

  • Sponsored by Ericsson, this super session looks at how the current ramp up toward improved video quality is shaking out at the consumer level. It then dives into a panel featuring people from production houses, agencies, broadcasting, and manufacturing who forecast where video is headed in the future.

We look forward to seeing you there, and in the meantime VIVA LAS VEGAS!


Slack Video Integration for Live Notifications

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Slack Video Integration for Live NotficationsUsing Slack for its collaborative capabilities? Looking for ways to bolster that effort through autonomous notifications of your streaming projects? Ustream is introducing a new Slack video integration that surrounding Ustream video channels. The integration allows broadcasters to link to a Slack channel to push automatic notifications, and works with both Ustream Align for internal communication and Pro Broadcasting. It creates an easy way for team members and followers to get informed about the latest live stream or video on demand content.

What is Slack?

Slack functions as a powerful and engaging tool to facilitate communication, largely for internal use cases. In 2014, a year after the “app” launched, engagement was tracked on an average of 10 hours per user. The service helps to keep people connected through being available on desktops and mobile devices, with apps available for Android, iOS, and even a beta version for Windows phones.

Slack Notification Use Cases

The Slack integration feature for Ustream can be enabled on “public” channels over the messaging platform. This feature is one of the few Connection options that works with Ustream Align. The use cases for this implementation are numerous, for example a general company channel can be linked in order to notify the team of important streams like a CEO town hall meeting. The notifications can also inform channel members of training sessions beginning or when training resources are updated as well.

For event use, a marketing team can be quickly notified when a broadcast for an event is live. The notification can be used as a sync point to notify others to begin increased social media efforts. It can also supplement webinars and notify a team to key up internal resources if the stream is expected to bring in live enquiries.

For public use, there are many communities open that allow for relevant conversation around a topic. For example, looking to live stream a construction site for a new skyscraper? Chances are a Slack community exists around that interest and can be easily notified and engaged whenever the broadcast goes live. Although Slack is generally associated with internal use, public facing channels do thrive with passionate participants. There are a lot of directories available to catalogue the many public channels available.

Setting Up Slack Integration

Setting up Slack video integration inside UstreamLinking a Ustream channel with a Slack channel is a quick and easy process.

While logged into a team on Slack, a broadcaster needs to login to their Ustream account and go 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.

The Slack team account has now been integrated with the Ustream account. The integration can be disabled at any time by clicking the Disconnect button.

Check our Slack Integration Set Up Guide for a more detailed explanation of enabling Slack integration, with images for each step of the process.

Enabling Slack Notifications

Enabling Slack notifications for the Ustream video platformAfter being setup, a new tab will be added to Ustream channels on the account called Slack Notifications. Selecting this will allow a broadcaster to enable the feature and also designate what Slack channel the notifications will be sent to. Note that the dropdown for Slack channels will include all Slack channels connected to your team, regardless of if the individual who set up the Slack integration is apart of that channel or not. “Private” channels are not available on the list.

Once enabled, the Slack integration will offer notifications for participants in the Slack channel. These notifications will be whenever a Ustream channel goes live or new video content is added. In the instance of either of these events, a message will be pushed to the corresponding Slack channel.  For a stream going live, this message will appear like the following:

Ustream BOT
Live now

[Channel title]
[Channel description]

Both of the elements in brackets are controllably by the broadcaster. The “Channel Title” can be set in the Info tab. The “Channel Description” can be set as as part of the Channel Page tab, under the About settings. The description will truncate if the description is longer than 140 characters, ending in an ellipses (…).

The channel title will act as a link, leading back to the Ustream channel page. If the Ustream channel page is disabled, the link will be removed although the title name will still appear.

For videos content being added to a Ustream channel, a similar but different message will appear on the Slack channel to notify users.

Ustream BOT
New video on [Channel Title]

[Video title]
[Video description]

The bracket information can be customized by the Ustream broadcaster. This is controlled through going to the Videos tab for the channel and editing the video. The edit panel will allow the video title and description to be edited.

A single Slack channel can be linked to a Ustream channel at a time. However, a broadcaster can quickly change their Slack channel in the Connection tab at any time.

Note: The message to inform a Slack channel that a stream is going live is not linked to the Event feature, where a broadcaster or company can set a specific date and time that an event will begin. This message will instead publish whenever live video content is published from the encoder to that channel. As a result, this makes it faster to setup a broadcast, but users should be aware in regards to test streams and will want to disable the Slack notification when doing a test live stream for this reason.

Slack Integration Feature History and Launch

The Slack Integration feature was actually born as a December 2015 hackathon idea.

The feature is launching today on April 7th, 2016. It will be available on all plan levels at Ustream. This includes Align, being the second Connection feature there after YouTube.

Want to learn more about Ustream Align and how this Slack video integration can help bolster your internal communication?

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Interlaced Video & Deinterlacing for Streaming

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Interlaced Video and deinterlacing with encodersHave you ever seen video content that looks like the image to the right, but weren’t sure of the cause? These overt horizontal lines, appearing as pixelation around movement like out of an old school Atari game, are an artifact created from presenting an interlaced source in a progressive format.

This article explains what is interlaced video content and what sources, such as analogue cameras, can produce this type of video content on live streams. It then goes over deinterlacing techniques to remove this artifact and how to easily enable it on the encoder side… and why you wouldn’t want to use deinterlacing on content that is already progressive.

What Is Interlaced Video?

Interlaced video is a technique that was originally created and made popular before the advent of digital televised content. First developed over 70 years ago, it was primarily for television video formats like NTSC and PAL.

At its root, interlacing was an early form of video compression that was used to make the video look smoother while sending less data. This was achieved through breaking up each full frame of video into alternating lines taken from two separate fields that were captured at slightly different times. After this process, one set of lines would be delivered to the viewer before 1/60th of a second later the second set of lines would be sent.

In contrast to other possible methods of the time, this process granted what appeared to be smooth movement, at least to the human eye, while being able to send less data related to the broadcast. Interlacing can cause issues, though, trying to deliver that feed to a progressive source due to the differences in presentation between the two.


Progressive Video And How It Differs From Interlaced Video

Unlike interlaced content, progressive video is a video track that consists of complete frames. There is a slight asterix to this statement as techniques like interframe can be used to compress video content to remove redundancies from frame to frame (read more about the interframe process). Even including this technique, progressive video content will not alternate fields and will present a full keyframe that you will never find in interlaced content. This means it won’t serve odd or even lines at different time intervals from each other.

Consumers will be familiar with this terminology due to its proliferation in HD content. For example, 1080p content means it has a vertical resolution of 1080 lines while the “p” relates that this is progressive content.


Which Method Is Better: Progressive Or Interlacing?

To be blunt, the answer is it actually doesn’t matter which is better. Many playback methods, like computer monitors or modern HD TVs, do not support interlacing. So even if interlacing provided better looking content, a broadcaster would still want to go with progressive delivery due to support for this method. Otherwise, the broadcaster would be displaying interlaced video in a progressive format.

Assuming both methods were supported equally, the human eye can’t keep up and the motion should look smooth regardless.


What It Looks Like: Interlaced Content As Progressive Video

Sometimes a broadcaster needs to use an interlaced source for streaming. In other words, taking an interlaced source and make it progressive or watching it in a progressive medium, like a computer monitor. This need can range from wanting to use an older broadcast to using an analogue camera that supports interlacing.

Converting the video involves combining the two fields, that were created as part of the interlacing process, into a single frame. By default, this process creates a rather ugly artifact on high motion in the video track. The motion between fields can cause visible tearing when displayed as progressive video. Essentially, the video track shows two different line fields where the fast motion is occurring, creating a staggered line appearance as seen in the image below on the figure to the left.


Left: Interlaced video shown in a progressive format. Right: Deinterlaced video (more on this later).


How To Tell If Your Camera Captures Interlaced Video

A lot of this article has talked about interlacing as a legacy component, but that doesn’t give a fair representation. A lot of analogue cameras, for example, are setup to deliver video in an interlaced manner. Even some modern digital cameras still offer interlaced mode. Reasoning behind this is partially for compatibility and also 1080, even 1080i, is a strong selling point and it’s cheaper to do 1080i. Because of that, even though interlacing might be sometimes associated with older, televised broadcasts, it’s still very possible to use an analogue camera with a capture card or another setup and still run into interlacing.

One method to tell if your camera was setup for interlaced content or not is in the specs. While some will be overt, describing that the camera outputs in interlaced mode, others will state it in their mentioned resolution. For example, we already discussed that 1080p is an HD feed that is progressive. If that stated 1080i, though, it would mean it’s HD, interlaced content. Chances are good that someone has seen 1080p content much more frequently than the interlaced version. Most modern analogue cameras, if they are interlaced, should mention it either directly or with the resolution. If it’s an older analogue camera, from before 2003, it outputs interlaced content as the first consumer-affordable progressive camera was the Panasonic AG-DVX100 that was released in 2002.


What Is Deinterlacing Video: When You Have To Use Interlaced Sources

Thankfully, there is a process called deinterlacing which can solve issues created from presenting interlaced content in a progressive medium. Deinterlacing uses every other line from one field and interpolates new in-between lines without tearing, applying an algorithm to minimize the resulting artifacts.


How To Deinterlace Video For Live Streaming

Deinterlacing is done at the encoder level for live content. How this is done varies from encoder to encoder, with some enabling it through a simple check box.

Deinterlacing video content at the encoder levelFor Ustream Producer, deinterlacing is found under source settings, via Sources and then “Show Source Settings…”. If a source is being used that can be deinterlaced, a checkbox will appear to enable it for that source.

Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE) users can find the deinterlace option on the main Encoding Options panel. Simply called “Deinterlace”, this feature is found to the left of Timecode at the bottom of the available options.

Teradek encoder products, such as the Cube and VidiU, offer built-in hardware based deinterlacing. Inside the interface for the encoder, this feature is found under Encoder Settings. Located above Adaptive Framerate, this feature is called simply Deinterlacer and can be enabled or disabled.

Show Source Settings to Deinterlace in WirecastOn Wirecast, this is found under Sources and then “Show Source Settings…”. From this screen you can select your source, with most having two options available. For example, a capture card source might show “Capture Device Size” and “Device Deinterlacing”. Changing this from “None” to “Blend” will activate deinterlacing.

If someone is using an older version of Wirecast, this option is instead located under File > Preferences > Advanced instead.

How to deinterlace in vMixFor vMix, the user has to click Add Input in the left corner to open the input selection panel. The options present will depend on the type of source selected. If selecting a source like a camera, an option called Interlaced should be present, located below Frame Rate. Unlike other encoders, to deinterlace content this option needs to be unchecked.


Another Source Of Interlaced Video: Three-two Pull Down

Sometimes referred to as a 2:3 pulldown, three-two pull down is a process used to convert material from film to an interlaced NTSC display rate. This involves taking content created at 24 frames per second and converting it to 29.97 frames per second, which is the signal frame rate of NTSC video. This process involves duplicating fields, two from one frame and then three from the next frame or the process can also be vice-a-versa. Consequently, it’s common for this to be called 3:2 pulldown or 2:3 pulldown as well, with the numbers used interchangeably to describe the effect.


Reverse Telecine: Removing the 3:2 Pull Down

Also known as inverse telecine (IVTC), reverse telecine is a process that can be used to remove the effects of taking a source and stretching it from 24 frames per second to 29.97 frames per second.  This involves removing the added information from the frames to return it to the 24 frames per second.

For example, frame 1 might be converted into frame 1A and frame 1B through interlacing, with each being a vertical odd or even sequence that is interlaced. However, frame 2 might be converted into frame 2A, frame 2B and frame 2C, with the last one being duplicated content that is used to gradually increase the frame rate. As part of reverse telecine, this added content would be removed to restore the video to its original frame rate.

If you want to live broadcast content that previously had a 3:2 pull down applied to it, it’s recommended to encode it with a reverse telecine process ahead of time before the broadcast. Apple Compressor and Handbrake, the latter calls this process “detelecine”, are two examples of programs that can be used to achieve this.


Can Deinterlacing Video Be Bad?

Yes, if the source is not interlaced than the result can introduce needless artifacting if the deinterlacing methods are inadequate. This will be most noticeable on motion, which will have a greater loss of quality. Fine, rounded details can also suffer, often converting a smooth look into a blocky look, like mini stairs as would be common in video games with pixels present and trying to create curves. If the type of deinterlacing being provided is blended, it can show obvious motion in the same frame.

In addition, deinterlacing is more CPU intensive. So an encoder using deinterlacing will require to be on a better unit compared to a similar encoder not using deinterlacing. So from a reliability standpoint, it’s better to not use the feature too.

So if a source is not interlaced, do not provide deinterlacing to it. If someone isn’t sure if a source is interlaced or not, do a quick test broadcast without deinterlacing. After some sort of motion occurs in the feed it should be easy to tell if the source needs to be deinterlaced or not.

If someone is dealing with mixed content, where part of the video is interlaced and other elements are not, it’s up for debate if the entire feed should be deinterlaced or not. Interlaced content displayed in a progressive manner is much more disruptive to the viewing experience compared to artifacts introduced from inadequate deinterlacing on already progressive content. For this reason, I personally recommend to deinterlace when dealing with mixed content. School of thought there can go both ways, though. For example, if the amount of interlaced content is minimal, like briefly showing an older TV playing interlaced content, a broadcaster can get away without using it.


Summary: Know Interlacing And How To Correct It

Many modern broadcasters will never experience interlaced content when it comes to their own broadcasting. For example, someone using just a webcam and a software based encoder will never have to worry about this. As setups become more complex, bringing in either professional analogue cameras or legacy equipment/sources (VHS tapes, etc), interlacing might come up and it’s best to know the quick techniques that can be used by your encoder to prevent it.

Interlace video example before deinterlacing