Leveraging Software and APIs to Extend Automation

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By: Steve Vonder Haar

Good software has made it easy for all of us to take good graphic design for granted.

Even the most basic publishing tools make it easy to weave text, photos and graphics together to create great-looking brochures, white papers and other documents.

Of course, we all should be more than accustomed to seeing documents that blend multiple inputs into a single effective messaging vehicle. After all, the first mainstream “desktop publishing” software that put advanced design capabilities into the hands of average users hit the market more than a quarter-century ago.

In short, tons of folks have the tools and skills now to put together documents that would have been within the reach of only the best graphic designers 30 years ago. It is important to keep this history of desktop publishing in mind when we think about the future of webcasting and streaming video.

Video production has always been a stumbling block to mainstream webcast adoption. Without the tools or skills to create high-quality video, some executives shy away from developing online content unable to match the quality of prime-time television.

Slowly but surely, though, the online industry is making its way around this content development hurdle. A variety of factors are contributing to this progress. First, video editing tools are becoming more accessible than ever before. Hosted solutions from vendors such as Mixmoov and WeVideo, for instance, make it possible for organizations to access cost-effective video editing at a fraction of the cost of traditional high-end video editing solutions.

Second, the devices capable of capturing video are proliferating. Whether traditional cameras or camcorders, webcams, smartphone or tablets, the number of potential sources that can be used to capture video continues to grow. This gives content creators more raw material for presenting in live and on-demand webcasts.

Third – and perhaps most important – better software is making it easier for average users to take advantage of these proliferating video production tools. Just as was the case at the dawn of the desktop publishing era, the implementation of intelligent software solutions can greatly enhance the quality of video that is presented online live and on-demand.

For one small example of this, consider the progress we’re seeing in automating high-quality video capture in lecture halls and conference rooms. For years, cameras have been programmed to pan and zoom by following tracking devices that presenters would wear while speaking.

Now, emerging solutions make it possible to program systems to initiate specific capture procedures automatically based on pre-set triggers. For instance, a pressure mat could identify when a speaker is presenting from a podium and notify the capture system of the movement. The capture device could then use this information to initiate a software-based response that switches to a camera focusing on the podium. Likewise, the capture device could be pre-programmed to increase the prominence of content from a digital white board when the presenter is actively using it.

In much the same way that video is getting better, it is also becoming easier for organizations to present and integrate data-driven content in the form of PowerPoint slides or screen sharing from a range of digital devices. As software makes it easier for end users to combine better quality video with relevant data presentations, the prospects for mainstream webcast development do nothing but improve.

Certainly, it still may take decades for the world of online video to match the ease-of-use and sophistication of today’s desktop publishing tools. But we’re on our way.

Steve Vonder Haar is a senior analyst with Wainhouse Research, covering the enterprise streaming and webcasting markets. He can be reached at Svonder@Wainhouse.com.


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