Achieve High-Quality Enterprise Webcasts from Home

High-Quality Enterprise Webcast from Anywhere

In today’s blog, we’re talking about ways you can create a high-quality enterprise webcast. Whether your presenters are working from home or social distancing in the office, here are some things you can do to achieve a high-quality enterprise webcast without using a fancy studio.

You can easily make your streaming videos look professionally produced by combining a robust streaming platform with video production software and DIY (do it yourself) webcast gear. And we have a special offer to help you get started.


High expectations… gone?

COVID-19 has changed many things. We’ve had to improvise. Find quick fixes. And even sacrifice quality for getting things done quickly under these unusual circumstances.

Video production is no exception. We’re no longer producing elaborate CEO townhalls or corporate videos. But many of our customers have told us they’re streaming more videos than ever before. A large, global manufacturer told us they managed more internal webcasts last quarter than they did in all of 2019.

Social distancing has forced us all to make significant changes in how and where we produce these types of videos. Gone are the days of in-studio productions and on-site video shoots for events like all-employee meetings, town halls, employee trainings or financial webcasts. Instead, many have turned to a simple set-up of talking heads behind their computer’s webcam.

The approach might be “good enough,” but your employees are used to so much more. (And I have no doubt going from TV-like productions to “good enough” pains your communications and production teams!)

But now that the dust has settled, and we’ve settled into the “new normal,” expectations are on the rise. Therefore, you need to come up with a plan for how to deliver high-quality webcasts and videos on demand (VOD). 

Meeting new expectations

What if I told you by making a few minor changes, you can achieve broadcast-quality videos from anywhere?

The tools are at your fingertips. You might be thinking, “But I’m not a video producer.” I’ve got good news. You’ve watched enough company meetings and TV news broadcasts to know what looks good. You’ve probably also read all the help desk tickets and survey feedback after an internal webcast, so you know what doesn’t work.

Add in some confidence, a few pro tips, and you too can pull off a high-quality webcast.

Tools for professional-quality streaming video… from home

So, let’s take a dive in to a few pro trips. You can get pretty close to fancy, in-studio productions if you think outside of the box. You can easily achieve awesome live events and recorded videos by mixing and matching the right streaming platform with video production software and DIY webcast equipment. No studio required! 

Microsoft Stream

Chances are you already have (and maybe use) Microsoft Stream. If not, here are the basics. Microsoft Stream is an enterprise video service that allows people in your organization to create, upload and share videos. It is offered as a free extension of Microsoft 365 and the primary video engine for Microsoft Teams and Yammer. Some use cases for Microsoft Stream include CEO town halls, department all-hands meetings, online trainings, recorded messages and knowledge transfer.

Of the information technology decision makers surveyed by Wainhouse Research in the third quarter of 2019, 28% said they have already implemented Microsoft Stream capabilities, with another 36% saying that they are considering implementation of the platform.1 Based on anecdotal information gathered from our customers and prospects, those numbers are probably much higher today.

Microsoft Stream is built with a ton of functionality, including: 

  • More users – Microsoft has temporarily defaulted the limit of attendees to 100,000 in stream when planned using the Microsoft live events assistance program. (Teams and Yammer temporarily support 10,000 attendees). The assistance program is free provides administrators with guidance and support in setting up a Microsoft 365 live event. Many of our customers have told us they have upwards of 80% attendance rate for live events, so Stream is  their go-to streaming platform.
  • Closed captions – Using Automatic Speech Recognition technologies, videos created in Microsoft Stream are automatically indexed to generate captions in a number of languages.You also have the option to upload your own subtitles and captions. The captions are automatically combined to create a transcript of your video, which helps with metadata for advanced search.
  • Advanced search – Microsoft Stream allows you to search more than just titles and descriptions. It also allows you to search transcripts of your videos to pinpoint the information you’re looking for. But it takes it one step further. It not only provides a transcript and timecode, but also the ability to click the lines to play the video at that specific moment in time. 
  • Adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR) – Stream uses HTTPS unicast ABR to automatically determine the best level of playback quality based on the available network bandwidth and size of the video player.
  • Smart encoding – Microsoft Stream automatically determine the different sizes and qualities of videos it should create. To maintain a great viewing experience, it takes into account the original resolutions of your video as well as video content (i.e. action versus static) to create a high quality viewing experience. 
  • Delivery in other Microsoft apps – Microsoft Stream works seamlessly with other Office 365 applications, including Teams, SharePoint and Yammer, which gives you even more flexibility to create and share your streaming videos.

Review the Microsoft Stream documentation to learn more about the solution and how to use it.

Let’s Do Video tutorial on using OBS for business webinars.

Video production software

Another strategy for creating a high-quality enterprise webcast is by using multi-functional video production software. Video production software helps you create more dynamic and engaging webcasts—whether you record them live or make them available on demand at a later date.

Like most things, you have options when it comes to finding a software that fits your needs and skill level. But most are equipped with easy-to-use, professional video production features like graphics, switching, virtual backgrounds and more. 

To create high-quality enterprise webcasts, look for the following:

  • Built-in switching – What’s switching? If you’ve ever been in a studio’s control booth, you’ve probably seen a switcher. A switcher is used to change what viewers are seeing on the broadcast. Video production software allows you to do the same thing from the comfort of your home office. You can switch between different sources, including speakers and digital assets like presentations, screen shares and videos.
  • Picture-in-picture – Add windows on top of your main screen to create interest and draw attention. These are typically fully customizable, allowing you to reposition and resize the picture-in-picture windows as needed.
  • Programmable settings – While we’re on the theme of visual variety, many video production software solutions allow you to pre-program layouts, scenes, transitions and camera angles to give you a high-quality enterprise webcast. Some solutions even have built-in configurations to make it easy. For example, you might switch between close ups of the speaker and long shots of them standing.
  • Camera settings – To help achieve the example I mentioned above, your software will need to include a camera settings or camera control function. In addition to adjusting the frame size, you’ll be able to change resolution and exposure settings. 
  • Multi-channel audio management – At a minimum, you’ll want to be able to mute and unmute each of your presenters and other audio sources you’ll be broadcasting (or recording). Options like the ability to increase volume and add affects are a plus.
  • Built in graphics – It goes without saying, you’ll need to create graphics for a high-quality enterprise webcast. At the very least, you’ll want a branded open and close and lower third graphics to identify each of your speakers. But many of these solutions offer more. Just be sure you’re able to customize colors and fonts to meet your organization’s brand guidelines.
  • Virtual backgrounds/green screen – By now, you’re no stranger to virtual backgrounds during video conferences. Many of these solutions also offer virtual backgrounds or green screen (a.k.a. chroma key) effects. The ability to remove a real background and replace it with something to reinforce what the speaker is talking about or have a more professional look will get you one step closer to a high-quality enterprise webcast.  
  • Post production – We’ve all been there. Maybe you started your webcast a little late or need to change a lower third before publishing your video for replay. Having the ability to edit post-production becomes invaluable to fix those “oops” moments or add a little extra polish.
  • Performance – Most video production software also include options to improve overall performance. Whether it’s a built-in encoder or the ability to manage device, resolution and bitrate settings, you can control specific aspects to ensure a high-quality enterprise webcast.

You have a number of video production options, including ManyCam, OBS Studio and Telestream Wirecast. Like anything else, you’ll need to evaluate what best meets your organization’s needs.

DIY webcast gear

Working from home has created a few unique challenges. Makeshift workspaces. Wonky schedules. Unscheduled interruptions.

As a result, a high-quality enterprise webcast will take a little more preparation. When you’re using a studio or auditorium for webcasts, you maintain100% control of the set up. You create the perfect backdrop and test lighting, audio and camera angles before your presenters ever set foot on stage.

Since you cannot control your presenters’ environments, you’ll need to take a little extra time in helping them set up for your next webcast. Prior to a formal rehearsal or run-through, invite them to a one-on-one meeting to help them set up their lighting, sound and camera angle. Make whatever adjustments are necessary to help their set up look more professional, which in turn, will help them feel more comfortable.  

Lighting

Be sure your speakers are well lit so viewers can clearly see their faces. The best lighting is natural light, but it’s sometimes unpredictable. The enemies are harsh shadows and back lighting. Sometimes using a desk lamp to fill the shadows and/or eliminating light behind the speaker will do the trick. If not, you can typically purchase a webcam light for about $30 from an online retailer or electronics store.

Background

Ask your presenters to evaluate what will be behind them during your broadcast. The background should have some depth and interest, but not be distracting. If it’s impossible to create a nice, natural background, a virtual background or green screen will give it a more professional feel. Using a green screen is a slightly better option because it adds depth to the shot (and the quality is usually better), but you will need the video production software we talked about to make it work. 

Camera

Sometimes you’ll need to make do with what your speakers have on hand. Most standard laptop cameras have fairly good cameras in them. Good lighting (see above) and camera positioning play a huge part in making your speakers look good.

The camera itself should be just above your speaker’s eyelevel. But a word of caution. If the camera is too close, it’ll cut off the head of your speaker. So, he/she may need to maneuver their laptop to frame the shot perfectly.

Another option is to use an external webcam. Many are full HD, which is probably a better quality than any laptop camera. As you search for the perfect camera, consider ones with autofocus and autoexposure, which along with the right lighting, will improve overall quality. These are typically pricier than webcast lighting, but worth the investment.

Audio

Audio has the ability to enhance or distract from any webcast. Background noises aside, the quality of a microphone or speaker can be a detriment to your success. Keep in mind some of your viewers are using earbuds, so poor audio quality will immediately offend their eardrums.

Like webcams, laptop microphones are pretty good. But they’re more susceptible to damage and debris, which can result in poor audio quality. A USB microphone, conferencing speaker or headphones can do the trick. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive. There are many budget friendly options on the market.

If you purchase a new microphone, consider selecting a directional microphone. By design, they only pick up sound from a specific area. This helps weed out background noises. Many commercial conferencing speakers have similar functionality. Just be sure to select one that best fits your presenter’s environment. 

Video distribution

Now that we’ve talked about ways to improve webcast production, it’s a good idea to also think about video delivery. Whether viewers are at home or in the office, your goal should be providing a high-quality enterprise webcast stream. Buffering, jitter and delays can be frustrating for viewers—and the reason many people don’t bother to watch live or on-demand videos.

There are a ton of factors that play into stream quality. But if viewers are watching on the corporate network, an eCDN (enterprise content delivery network) can help. Read Strengthen Your Network Infrastructure to learn more.

Let Ramp help you achieve high-quality enterprise webcasts

We know creating high-quality videos can be a challenge. But now that everyone is working—and watching from home—there’s added pressure. Ramp wants to help.

For a limited time, we’ll give you free video production software with any purchase of Ramp.

1 Survey Insight: Enterprise Video, ITDM Perspectives – North America Q3 2019

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