3. Show action and personality.
There are special techniques to get the best out of the small
window in which streaming is viewed. TV news story methods work
well and they focus on action and human interest. The audience
love to visit places they would not normally get the chance to
see - behind the production lines, into the MD's office, at the
field trial, or to witness the reaction of the ultimate customer.
Remember that you have complete editorial control. That means
you have nothing to fear - the editing can be as selective as
One of the main barriers to Internet commerce
and PR was the inability of the web to bring the people behind
a corporation or a department to life. 'People deal with People'
is the old adage - but website visitors were being asked to trust
and to believe in text arriving from the unknown. Streaming turns
this on its head by letting you show profiles of key staff - at
work and at play, bringing out their personalities, their individuality
and increasing their 'star rating'. This breaks down barriers
to trust and response.
4. Use specialists.
Many contemporary trends in video production degrade the image
quality in streaming video. In particular fast cuts, pans, zooms,
layering, excessive music and complex or small graphics push up
bit rates and/or reduce final quality. Companies experienced in
streaming production use tripods and image stabilization. They
include more close-ups and they know how to fine-tune the encoding
so that you get the best results across the whole range of your
audience's connection speeds, not just at broadband rates.
5. Specify Windows
The vast majority of the total audience have the Windows Media
Player. The future is lining up with Mr Gates once again because
of Microsoft's massive commitment to the Windows Media technology,
the higher quality offered by the latest codecs (compression algorithms)
and the inclusion of the player in Microsoft's operating systems
as installed on the majority of new PC's. In addition, the Windows
Media brand now carries considerable weight and is rapidly gaining
awareness around the world in its own right. You do not need to
double your expenses by duplicating systems and complicating the
choices you offer.
6. Don't pay too
Traditional TV and Video producers usually 'bolt on' encoding
to existing video formats, techniques and pricing structures.
But streaming video requires revolutionary thinking from the
ground up. As suitable video editing suites now cost £5000
instead of the £50,000 they did a few years ago, why should
your production costs still remain the same? Instead of comissioning
one £20,000 corporate video every few years, you can now
budget for 5 x £2000 or 10 x £1000 streaming video
Thanks to multi-skilling and new production
techniques, £2,000 can buy you a day's location shooting
and two days editing, post-production and encoding - enough
for a complete 4-minute production shot in a single, or several
nearby locations. A product demonstration or video news feature
filmed in half a day and featuring your own personnel could
be completed for half this budget. The production company you
use should also be able to offer you DVD and CD-ROM versions
of the material for very little additional cost.
7. Use live webcasting carefully.
If you are tempted to join the headlong rush into live webcasting,
exercise caution. Conferences contain lots of hot air and unless
you know your audience well and the material is sufficiently
compelling, you can be asking a lot to expect them to give up
a great deal of their time. They would much prefer to dip in
and out and to remain in control or be presented with the golden
Crewing costs can be expensive if multi-camera
shoots are involved, so is the use of a server network capable
of delivering reliable live links to very large audiences simultaneously.
A typical three-camera outside broadcast rig could cost in the
order of £4,000 - £6,000 for the day and encoding
and streaming via a reliable server network could cost at least
another £3000 to set up for an audience of 20,000. On
the other hand, a single camera webcast to an audience of under
3000 could cost under £1000 - so there are opportunities
The alternative is to capitalise on the
rapid production capability of new-style production methods
and to give your viewers edited highlights. For a conference
you could present each speaker as a separate link and also include
interviews and audience reactions.
As this whole production could be on the
web within 24 hours, the advantage is huge - it is still fresh,
but now viewers retain control and can watch at a time to suit
them. They can click to view the speakers in the order they
prefer, as often as they like, and they also get to see and
hear the broader context of the event with more reactions and
interviews related to the theme.
This kind of coverage can be achieved with
a smaller crew, and considerable cost savings.
Get the right hosting.
In order to deliver optimum quality, many people specify multi-bit
rate encoding and Windows Media Server. This combination monitors
each viewer's connection speed and delivers the optimum quality
stream that they are capable of receiving. Other hosting methods
are not as reliable and are invariably of lower quality. Video is
best hosted on dedicated twin-processor servers that do not host
If you are planning a long-term streaming strategy,
it is worth considering commissioning a dedicated server, either
in-house or through third-party management. As an example, a machine
with the capacity to deliver streaming video to around 5000 simultaneous
users, the storage for over 1000 hours of content, and the bandwidth
for around 320,000 minutes of video viewing monthly would cost only
around £700 per month plus management charges. And it could
easily be upgraded by clustering with additional servers.
Smaller businesses can form co-operative arrangements
to share these resources on an agreed and monitored basis, effectively
giving them unlimited broadcasting capacity at minimal cost.
The marketing synergy of streaming is another key factor in its
appeal. Each new production gives a reason for news releases that
will generate more visits to the website. Many existing marketing
and PR events - from guest speakers to factory tours - are perfect
streaming material. Planning is required so that these all feedback
into further streaming content for the website, in turn generating
more news releases and more site visits.
I predict that some company advertising will
one day resemble TV listings - giving potential visitors more reasons
to 'tune in' by listing the video content, events and upcoming schedules.
10. Exploit the strengths
of the medium.
Traditional corporate video often took months to conceive and as
much again to produce. Streaming video is different. You can pick
up the telephone this morning and watch yourself speaking to the
nation the same evening.
And as you now have editorial control, you
can bypass any hidden agenda that may concern you in conventional
media. You can direct the press and public alike to your own broadcasts,
via the answer phone if necessary. This facility can be of crucial
importance in product recalls and other crises.
Streaming media lends itself to a direct, honest
and uncomplicated style of delivery. This makes it a very credible
medium - something we could term 'Reality PC'. It excels at showing
the evidence - the customer reaction, the speech from the horse's
mouth, the scientist who actually developed the process, the report
from the event itself. Exploit these areas and you will soon attract
all the right sort of attention on your websites.
Streaming gives unprecedented opportunities
to businesses of all sizes because it need not be an expensive undertaking.
Because of the additional impact and effectiveness it gives to websites
and because of its immense ability to communicate effectively, streaming
is set to become one of the web's major assets.
©2002 Laurence Middleton Jones