How to Host Lecture Videos at Your University

As universities begin to integrate digital media like video lectures more deeply into class curriculum, it’s becoming more important than ever for instructional technologists like you to carefully select the right video platform for your school.

The first thing you should think about when making this decision is how your university will host its video content and technology. Do you want to self-host your video platform, or host it on the cloud? Both are popular models, but understanding the key differences between them will allow you to make an informed decision. Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of each option as you consider how to host lecture videos and other video content.


Here's what you need to know about cloud-hosted vs. self-hosted video platforms.
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Cloud-hosted video platform

Quick setup process

Through a cloud-hosted deployment, or software as a service (SaaS), your university can quickly leverage the full functionality of an education video platform without installing the technology onto your local network and in your data center. The setup process for a cloud-hosted video platform like Ensemble Video’s takes as little as one to three business days, so this is a good choice for universities that want to have their video platform up and running quickly.

Zero in-house maintenance

Unlike a self-hosted video platform, a cloud-hosted video platform requires no in-house maintenance in order to stay up and running. Because the cloud server is fully managed by Ensemble Video, your team won’t have to manage servers or installations, and all software and license updates will be completely automatic. All you need to manage your cloud-hosted video platform is a personal computer or mobile device.

Smaller higher education institutions generally do not have the desire or IT team necessary to update, backup and maintain a self-hosted platform, so for them, the cloud is a convenient solution. But cloud-based deployments aren’t just for small schools. There are many larger universities that decide they’d rather host their video platform in the cloud to minimize the workload for their IT teams. We have cloud-hosted customers with many users in various locations who manage tens-of-thousands of videos for multiple internal departments.

Streamlined costs

Cloud-hosted video platforms require less upfront financial commitment. Instead of investing the resources necessary to build your own internal server, you can simply pay a monthly fee for your cloud service, get it up and running almost instantly and cancel whenever you’d like. When you’re considering how to host lecture videos, cost will undoubtedly be a concern, so keep this in mind.

Self-hosted video platform

Full customization capabilities

Self-hosted video platforms are a good fit for universities looking for full customization capabilities through complete control of their internal servers and additional technology resources. Self-hosted video platforms support self-organized administrative management, flexible media management and an unlimited number of institutions, organizations, media libraries and users operating within the platform. With this option, administrators can manage media assets inside their data center and seamlessly upload video content to their video platform. If your institution places a high premium on control and flexibility and has emphasized these concerns already in discussions about how to host lecture videos, self-hosting may be the better solution for you.

Increased reliability and technical efficiency

Because all data is stored and managed locally through a self-hosted video platform, no video or media content will be lost as a result of an internet issue. Internet outages are inevitable, but with a self-hosted solution, you minimize the risk of losing access to lecture videos if an outage occurs.

At larger universities, it’s likely that a high number of users will be uploading and viewing videos simultaneously. Depending on your university’s bandwidth, network saturation problems could arise with a cloud-hosted solution. Self-hosted solutions are better equipped to handle large amounts of internal viewership, and are more reliable and efficient when serving a high volume of users on campus.

Increased content and system security

With a self-hosted video platform, it’s possible to enforce system-wide security settings. Users and administrators enjoy end-to-end security features, where they can control user, playlist and password viewing restrictions, video access, privacy updates and more.

Because all media content is hosted on your internal server as opposed to a third party server, self-hosted platforms are also less susceptible to hacks by external users.

Implementing the right deployment model for your university

Now that you better understand the difference between cloud-hosted and self-hosted deployment options, the next step is to choose and implement the right model for your institution.

If neither option feels exactly right for your university, don’t worry. In addition to our cloud-hosted and self-hosted solutions, Ensemble Video offers hybrid variations of the two deployment options, and we’d be happy to work with you to design a deployment option that is the perfect fit for your needs.

To get a better feel for which video deployment option might be best for your students, faculty and university media department, take a look at the Ensemble Video trial options or set up a demo today. Our team will be with you every step of the way to answer your questions as you continue to explore the question of how to host lecture videos at your university.

10 Tips for Live Streaming Graduation

Can you believe it? Yes, it is May and it is graduation season. We know that many faculty members are preparing for graduation ceremonies and likely planning their summer activities. We also know many of the students are looking forward to starting their careers post-graduation. Unfortunately, not everyone is coasting at this time of year. The audio video department and/or the media services team at your school is likely hard at work getting ready for the biggest event of the year — graduation. We all know that many family members and friends will be in attendance, but not everyone can make it so a live stream will be expected. How do you easily live stream your graduation to your audience? Here are ten tips to help you not only successfully stream your graduation, but also create a great experience for your viewers.

  1. Create the Live Stream in Ensemble Video (or your VCMS). Make sure you create and assign an “On Air” and “Off Air” thumbnail to visually inform your viewers when they can access the live stream on their viewing device.
  2. Leverage the Right Live Streaming Encoder:  Many media services departments are using live streaming encoders like WireCast, Open Broadcaster or the Matrox Monarch LCS/HD to stream their content through Ensemble Video (or your VCSM).
  3. Test Live Streams Ahead of Time. If you can’t test your stream ahead of time, don’t have high expectations on graduation day. Make sure you can test from the streaming location so you can address network, video or audio issues before the day of your event.
  4. Hard-wire when Possible. We love Wi-Fi, but not that much. Make sure you find a way to use a hard-wired Internet connection to ensure you have the best/most reliable connection possible so you have the best results possible.
  5. Produce & Stream Great Quality Audio. You can’t have a great live stream without great audio. There are three key components to producing good audio: use a quality microphone, place the microphone in the appropriate location, and optimize the recording environment. Want more info? Please review this blog article if you like; there are some great tips for producing great quality audio.
  6. Pre-make Graphics for Wirecast, Open Broadcaster or Encoding Software. If you plan to use graphics, overlays, lower thirds or other name graphics that will be threaded into your live stream production, please do this in advance and do a test run ensuring the graphics are optimized for the stream.
  7. Optimize Your Stream. Make sure you optimize your stream for mobile and desktop viewers. As you know graduation ceremonies are typically on the weekend and many of your viewers will be on the go. Expect a large portion of your viewers to view on smart phones and tablets, while some will be on old-fashioned computers.
  8. Promote Your Graduation Live Stream! We truly appreciate a technically sound production, and promoting your event is just as important as the graduation broadcast itself. A beautiful show doesn’t mean anything without viewers. Invite family members, educators, friends, and the rest of the community to watch the graduation live stream!
  9. Schedule Email and social Blasts in Advance: Make your life easier on the day of the graduation live stream. Please schedule all your email, social and online communications in advance so you can focus on the technical aspects of the live broadcast. If you can’t schedule all your communications, make sure you delegate this responsibility to another staff member.
  10. Monitor Your Graduation Live Stream on Many Devices. To do this, just tap into your live stream on computers, smart phones and Tablets using a variety of operating systems to ensure your stream is working properly on the devices that your viewers will be using. Typically, we recommend testing on Mac and Windows desktop browsers, Android phones/tablets and Apple phones/tablets.

Finally, consider this a bonus tip, remember to use Ensemble Video’s Live Capture or Record Live Stream feature! Yes, your live streams can be  auto-recorded in Ensemble Video if you use our Live Capture option. You can also use our traditional live stream option and start on-demand recordings of your graduation live stream. With that said, we always recommend saving an extra copy to a drive on your camera or devices. If you use Ensemble Video to record your event while you are live streaming you’ll have a viewable VOD file ready for your audience immediately after the event. That means NO EDITING for you (or another staff member) and you can share your event shortly after it ends!

If you can take the time to work through the ten tips to help you successfully stream your graduation, you will take advantage of an amazing opportunity to engage alumni, students and your community members! Good luck to the students, faculty members and especially the AV or media professional streaming the event!

 

How to Increase the Accuracy of Automatic Captions

Closed captioning is the display of text on a video player to visually communicate spoken dialogue. The audience for closed captioning is typically individuals who  are hearing impaired. Additionally, captions can be used to display translation to non-native speakers. Many video producers and instructional technology professionals are tasked with adding closed captions to all their video content and have run into two major challenges: it is expensive and it is time consuming. Luckily, Ensemble Video offers an automatic caption service that allows quick, easy and affordable creation of closed captions. The challenge with automatic captions is the accuracy rate can vary based on the audio quality, so how do you increase the accuracy of automatic captions? The answer is simple: you need to ensure you are recording high-quality audio. This article will provide several tips to increase the audio quality of your videos so you can increase the accuracy of automatic captions.

Audio is the Most Important Component of Video

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Is audio the most important component of video? We can argue that point all day, but we do know that audio is one of the most important components of video. If you consider the most common types of videos uploaded into the Ensemble Video platform are produced to support teaching, learning and communication, good quality audio is critical to the success of the video. Additionally, many of the videos in Ensemble are being automatically captioned by our automatic captions service, so good quality audio will ensure a higher accuracy rate for automatic captions. Besides the decreased accuracy rate, many issues come along with poor audio quality. Viewers may struggle to hear the video, or they might not understand the speech at all. In both situations, the viewer will give up or they won’t learn anything from the video. If you are a media producer or creating your own content, you know all the work that goes into making a great video, so you cannot leave your students or audience hanging with poor quality audio.

Why You Should Caption Your Video

It is also important to mention the fact that many schools, colleges and organizations have hearing impaired students and providing accessible closed captioned video for their viewers is required. Additionally, when captions are added to a video, viewers can search through captions and jump directly to points of interest inside your videos.  These are both excellent reasons to caption content, but captioning isn’t cheap.

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Closed Captioning Example

Many of the closed caption services charge $60–$175 per hour. If you are producing a lot of video content throughout the year, that can add up. For every 100 hours of video it would cost $17,500 to caption the content at $175 per hour (or $6,000 at $60 per hour). One of the most common solutions to the cost problem is using speech-to-text technology that automatically creates captions for your videos. These automatic captions are generated by machine learning algorithms. Ensemble Video’s automatic captions solution starts at $3 per hour (or $300 for every 100 hours of content).

Many experienced video professionals have tried automatic captioning services in the past, and they know that poor audio quality is one of the biggest challenges to generating highly accurate closed captions. For automatic closed captioning technologies to accurately transcribe the audio information, the audio must be crisp, clear and easy to understand. The problem is, many videos don’t contain great quality audio because of common issues. Audio problems can range from improper mic placement to issues with the surrounding recording environment.  The most common problems with audio quality with eLearning and communications video include:

  • Picking up background noises and unnecessary chatter
  • Equipment sounds (fans, hums, buzzing, air conditioners, etc.)
  • Being too far from the microphone
  • Being too close to the microphone
  • Poor quality microphone
  • Rooms with an echo
  • Audio feedback
  • Wind noise

How To Produce Better Quality Audio?

So, the obvious question is, how do you produce better quality audio to ensure quality automatic captions?  Without going too far into the weeds of audio production, there are three key components to producing good audio: use a quality microphone, place the microphone in the appropriate location and optimize the recording environment.

Quality Microphone

The first step in improving audio quality to ensure accurate automatic captions is using the right microphone for the job. The latest and greatest video cameras and webcams boast the highest image quality and visual capabilities, but that is only half the battle. Many times, the built-in microphone of your camera, computer or mobile device might not be good enough. If you are using the on-board microphone and find that the accuracy of your automatic captions is lower than you like, you might want to invest in a quality microphone. Keep in mind a quality microphone does not mean it is an expensive microphone. There are several microphones that can be purchased for less than $100. Here are a few types of microphones that you may want to consider based on the type of video you are creating.

Headsets

headsetIf you are creating screencasts and eLearning videos, a decent USB or Bluetooth headset microphone is a valuable tool. You don’t need a studio-level mic to produce great audio quality for your eLearning experience, just something better than the built-in microphone on your computer. Headsets make a huge difference; they are super easy to use and generally inexpensive. Moreover, they can server double duty by also providing better quality when you’re using Skype or Google Hangouts day to day.

Shotgun Mic

shotgunIf you are producing video and you need to be able to focus on a human voice from a distance while eliminating other sounds from the side and rear, a shotgun microphone is a good option. A shotgun mic is a cylindrical, long microphone designed to give it a narrow range of focus, making it a great option for picking up voices in a recording location. You can connect a shotgun microphone into your HD video camera, an iPad/iPhone and an Android.

Omnidirectional Mic

omnidirectionalIf you need to record all of the voices (or sounds) in a room, an omnidirectional microphone is an option to consider. Omnidirectional microphones pick up sound equally from all sides or directions of the microphone. This can be very useful in applications where sound needs to be recorded from multiple directions. Some great use cases for an omnidirectional microphone are round table discussions and/or multi-speaker productions where sound will be coming from the front, back, left or right side of the microphone. With that said, picking up sound from all directions may be undesirable. An example of this is recording a professor’s lecture in a classroom. In a scenario where only the lecture of the professor needs to be recorded without any noise that may be coming from the students behind, an omnidirectional microphone should not be used if you do not want to capture audio from the students.

Unidirectional Mic

unidirectionalIf you are in a scenario where only the voice of the professor in the front of the room needs to be recorded in a lecture hall without any noise that may be coming from the students behind, a unidirectional microphone is a perfect fit. Unidirectional microphones are microphones that are designed to focus their sound pick-up from a specific side or direction of the microphone. The only issue with this type of microphone is the sound must be coming from the correct side of the microphone, typically referred to the “voice side” of the microphone to ensure quality sound for your recording.

Lapel or Lavalier Mic

lavalierA lavalier microphone is attached to a subject’s clothing to record audio from a single speaker. Lavalier mics are less noticeable than larger microphones, and a wireless lapel mic can give a person hands-free freedom of movement while maintaining consistent audio quality. Lavalier microphones—also known as lav, lapel or lap microphones—are specialized microphones; they are ideal for recording a single speaker, but they are not as versatile as shotgun microphones and directional microphones.

Placement of Microphone

Generally, the golden rule of microphone placement is to get the distance right based on the type of microphone that you are using. In general, if you are trying to produce great quality audio to increase the accuracy of automatic captions, place the microphone as close as practical to the sound source without getting so close that you introduce unwanted effects. A mic placed too close to a speaker will produce unwanted pops and booms, and might be a nuisance for the speaker. A mic placed too far away will produce audio that is undesirably quiet.

mic_placementTry to achieve a good balance between the subject’s voice and the ambient noise. For example, if you are recording an interview with a lavalier microphone, you will need to place the microphone about 6 inches from the subject’s mouth and ensure their very little ambient noise. If you are recording a lecture in a classroom using a unidirectional microphone, you will want to make sure the voice side of the microphone is close to the instructor to guarantee a quality audio recording without picking up the surrounding noise from students, air conditions, projectors, etc. What is close? Having the unidirectional microphone within a few feet of the lecturer would be good; you certainly don’t want to place it outside the range of the microphone (for example, 15+ feet)

 

Finally, please don’t be misled—closer is not always better; it is possible to get too close. Here are some examples:

  • If a lavalier microphone is too close to the speaker’s mouth, the audio may be unnaturally boomy, so you are also likely to experience popping and other unpleasant noises.
  • A unidirectional microphone that is too close to loud sound sources is likely to create distorted and/or “hot” audio. Have you ever seen a guest speaker “eat the mic” and hear the effects from that? You’ll likely get loud feedback in an amplified environment, and the viewers will be covering their ears or turning down the volume on the player.
  • Placing a mic too close to moving parts, rustling papers or mechanical sounds (projectors, computer fans, or air conditioners) may produce negative results. For example, if you place an omnidirectional microphone next to an air conditioner you run the risk of getting too much air and not enough voice.

The Recording Environment

In an ideal world, you have a recording studio where you can control all the sound which will turn into quality automatic captions. But since you likely don’t work for a movie production company or have access to a quality recording studio, you should find a way to optimize the recording environment. Optimizing the environment means eliminating all potential background noise (and potentially making some modifications to soften the room). For example, avoid places that have loud HVAC systems, are near dinging elevators or microwaves, have barking dogs or audible street noises, or are very reverberant. Rooms that don’t have carpeting or anything on the walls are likely to have significant echoing. If you want to try and soften a reverberant room, bring in things like couch cushions, moving blankets, or sound abortions panels.

Control the Equipment and Environment to Increase the Accuracy of Automatic Captions

closedcaptioning-smThe more you control the equipment and recording environment, the better audio you can produce, which will increase the quality of your automatic captions. The recommendations suggested above should help you develop a strategy for recording your eLearning videos and communications content. You do not have to be a millionaire or an expert—just record in an appropriate location, choose the right microphone for the recording and place the microphone properly. You will be able to produce great audio and increase the accuracy of automatic captions. Don’t forget, after the automatic captions are created, you can edit them in the integrated Amara Caption Editor to make all your content accessible and searchable with Ensemble Video’s in-video search feature!

Start Captioning for $0.05/min or Less!