Dynamic Communications

Virage's VS Webcasting will help you get your point across.

March 31, 2003

5 Min Read
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VSW encodes and streams live and on-demand audio and video. It combines the streaming media with applications like Microsoft's PowerPoint to deliver an interactive presentation with live question-and-answer sessions and reader polls.

VSM also lets you register, notify and authenticate participants. I tested these capabilities at Network Computing's Real-World Labs® at Syracuse University using a Hewlett-Packard Co. Kayak workstation with a Pentium III (667-MHz) processor, 384 MB of RAM and all the necessary VSM components, including Virage SmartEncode and a Virage Solution Server (VSS).

X-Files

Virage Interfaceclick to enlarge

The SmartEncode process takes standard analog (NTSC, PAL, SECAM) or digital video (DV, SDI) and transforms it into a proprietary VDF (Variable Definition File) format for Webcasting through the VideoLogger application. The VideoLogger logs and indexes audio and video, and controls the encoding process for third-party products from the likes of Microsoft and RealNetworks. In an enterprise implementation, the VideoLogger would reside on its own Windows PC (minimum 500-MHz Pentium processor with 512 MB of RAM).

The HP Kayak came equipped with two Osprey 100 video-capture cards--one to capture the video exported from a Panasonic Digital Video Camcorder (PV-DV952) and one to capture a PowerPoint presentation. The VideoLogger, a multithreaded application that generates HTML pages based on queries to the VDF index file, includes a plug-in to receive data from a PowerPoint presentation via a MediaSync application.Slide by slide, MediaSync extracts all the text, speaker notes and slide images, then time-stamps each slide. Next, it sends the data to the VideoLogger, where it is merged with the video metadata from the Panasonic camcorder to create a VDF index file. This index file, and the resulting digitally encoded version of the video, are then handed off to a Virage Video Solution Server (VSS).

X-Files

The VSS stores and makes available the VDF from the VideoLogger. The index file maintains a one-to-one mapping to the digital video file using the time-coded information on the video index and the URL of the digital video. Once the VideoLogger creates the VDF file and begins encoding the digital video, your presentation is ready for VSW.

Lights, Camera, Action!

How VSW Webcasting Worksclick to enlarge

After I configured the VideoLogger to work with the Osprey capture cards, the Panasonic camcorder and the PowerPoint application, I was ready to take the show on the road. I captured a videotape of our labs and integrated a PowerPoint presentation. VideoLogger combined the presentation and the video, and presented it to the VSS in a VDF file and a Windows Media video file. From there, I accessed the VSW GUI using Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5.VSW reduces the setup and production of a Webcast to a number of sequential tasks. First, I set up users to produce, schedule, operate and view Webcasts. You can specify presenters and restrict access by user or group. VSW uses LDAP to manage and administer users and groups in iPlanet and Microsoft Active Directory.

As producer, I set the date and time for the event. VSW provides some basic options for layout, and you can choose the color and style for the media player, but an enterprise can put its own brand on the presentation using Virage's development kit. During the layout, I created and included a participant poll and imported links to related documents. Next, I verified the publishing point--the URL created after the editing process is complete, from which the user can access the presentation or publication--and configured a "proxy" to deliver live video.

Getting the Word Out

VSW automatically generates the publishing-point URL, which is actually VSW's virtual representation of the video captured from the camcorder and encoded in a streaming media format. To add flexibility, you can create as many proxies as you want in VSW, and the bitrate for encoding can be adjusted in the VideoLogger for low- or high-bandwidth conditions.

You can restrict access to any user or group in the directory and restrict viewing to participants who register for the Webcast or were notified in advance. Unfortunately, event notification is limited to users in the directory, though others can register and participate for an event if it is set up that way. Once a Webcast is set up and published, you can operate it in real time.

As event producer, you operate the Webcast and control what the participants see on screen. You have the option to hide or publish participant polls and related documents, and answer questions in real time, to the individual or to everyone. Finally, you can generate reports on participant registrations, polls and questions and answers in HTML, or download them in a CSV (comma-separated values) file and package a Webcast in a Zip file for e-mail delivery.

System Requirements

VS Webcasting supports a standard Intel-based system (minimum Pentium III, 1.3-GHz with 2.5 GB of RAM) and Microsoft Windows NT or 2000. It ships with an Apache version 1.3 Web Server, MySQL database (version 2.23.31) and built-in support for Microsoft Windows or RealNetworks media servers.

With a sticker price of $140,000, VSW is not an entry-level offering. Virage is targeting large enterprises that outsource their Webcasts to service providers, or enterprises that have dabbled with Windows Media Technology and are looking to move up to the next stage of video production.Sean Doherty is a technology editor and lawyer based at Network Computing's Real-World Labs® at Syracuse University. Write to him at [email protected].

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