For local governments and public sector organizations, video streaming is quickly becoming an essential tool for citizen engagement and improving the transparency of their meetings and proceedings. However, when selecting which streaming service to use, the number of providers and options can seem overwhelming.
Some vendors may be fine for entertainment-oriented streaming, and others may offer many advanced features, but they often have significant limitations for integrating with government or education public meeting requirements. Other offerings may seem appropriate but require too much technical knowledge or IT support.
Streaming options can also vary considerably in cost, capabilities and complexity. Which features do you really need, and how do you make sure you’re choosing a platform that will meet your needs for the long-term, not just today?
Keys to Streaming Success
To help you make the right choices without needing to become a technical expert yourself, we’ve compiled a baker’s dozen of key things you should consider when selecting a video streaming service. We’ll start by looking at the first six considerations.
1. Automated operation with minimal manual effort
Tie webcasting control to meeting session management. You and your colleagues have enough to do during meetings without having to handhold your streaming system. Look for a solution that automates the streaming process as much as possible, minimizing error-prone manual steps. Features like one-click streaming/recording free your staff to focus on the meeting itself, while the ability to monitor video and audio status from their seats gives them ongoing confidence in your streams.
2. Automatic time-stamping of agenda and minute items
Help your citizens quickly find what they need. Many viewers of your meeting videos will only be interested in a specific agenda or minute item. Bookmarking these points in the video lets viewers jump directly to what they want to see, without scrubbing through the entire video to find it. Choose a service that can automatically time-stamp the video as it is captured and link the bookmarks to the minutes (or post-meeting agenda) on your website, letting you improve the viewer experience without time-consuming, after-meeting effort.
3. Automated, real-time closed captioning
It may sound like science fiction, but Artificial Intelligence with Deep Learning is becoming part of the engagement and accessibility story. Today, closed captioning of your videos is essential for providing transparency to the widest range of constituents, and a regulatory requirement for complying with expanding accessibility standards in many jurisdictions. Tomorrow, real-time translation may be a requirement in certain environments. Many streaming services require closed captioning to be performed manually and/or added to your video as a separate step after recording. Instead, look for a provider that offers accurate, automatic closed captioning in real time, minimizing effort and turnaround time. Ideally, the solution you select should take advantage of technology developments in Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning Systems by incorporating a ‘trainable’ closed captioning engine that can master proper names and the particularities of pronunciation. That same technology could be harnessed in the future to provide real time translation, giving you a path to tomorrow.
4. Splash screens for breaks or closed sessions
Avoid blank screens and embarrassing silence on your webcasts. You don’t want to stream the feed from your live cameras during breaks or closed sessions, but what should your viewers see if they access your streams during these times? Empty black screens or “stream not available” messages frustrate your audience. Choose a solution that lets you display informational splash screens during closed sessions and breaks to keep your viewers interested and engaged, and lets you upload multiple splash screens in advance so you have something ready to display even for unexpected events.
5. Unlimited storage, data and viewers
As always, the first rule for storage is to plan for as large an amount as possible, as you will ultimately need it. High-quality video can consume massive amounts of storage capacity – think terabytes (TB), not just gigabytes (GB) – particularly when archiving multiple years’ worth of recordings. Many streaming services limit how much storage you can use, or charge fees based on storage consumption. Similarly, many providers limit or charge based on the number of viewers who can watch streams simultaneously, or on the amount of streaming data you’ve delivered. Look for a service that offers unlimited storage, data transfer and viewer concurrency for a fixed cost, with no usage-based charges.