The first stage of the broadband video revolution was driven by user uploaded content mainly consisting of short clips. Now people are able to take things further by actually being able to produce their own online TV destination by creating live channels and scheduled programming through a variety of online tools .
Create Your Own Web TV Station – Mini Guide
This mini-guide compares the currently available tools and services according to whether they incorporate the following features:
- Live broadcasting – the ability to stream live video directly from the user’s computer and / or web-cam
- Scheduled broadcasting – a feature that allows you to set a date and time for the first transmission of your video, after which users will be able to access it in archived form
- On-demand broadcasting – the more familiar YouTube-style broadcasting, whereby viewers can choose when to watch the show
- Embed live video – the ability to embed a video player of your live broadcast into your viewers websites and blogs, so that they can watch live streaming from a website other than that of the broadcasting service you are using
- Embed recorded video – the ability to embed pre-recorded video, or archived live video footage into a website or blog
- Integrated text chat – the opportunity for viewers and / or broadcasters to interact with text chat from within the video player interface during a broadcast
- Integrated video chat – the chance for viewers to interact in realtime via their own web-cams during a broadcast
- Webcam capture – the ability to capture video footage directly from the user’s web-cam, either to stream live or record for later broadcasting
- Mobile phone capture – the ability to capture either stills or video from a camera-equipped mobile phone, whether live or recorded
- Import online video – the option of bringing in video files from other video sharing websites for use in your broadcasts
- Pre-recorded video – the ability to broadcast pre-recorded video as uploaded to the service being used
- Still images – the inclusion of photographs and other still images in the broadcasting options
- Music – the ability to broadcast music files, either separately or mixed in with a video track
- Multiple participants – the chance for more than one broadcaster to take part in a video, such as the ability to cut between a number of cameras, or simultaneously broadcast multiple users
- Add titles – the ability to create text-based titles or captions over or in addition to your video footage
To find out which features are included in the services reviewed, and the strengths and weaknesses of the currently available web broadcasting tools, read on.
Live Broadcasting Solutions
If you are looking to broadcast live to the world using your web-cam, there are now a number of options available to you. Furthermore, several services offer you the opportunity to enhance your direct-to-camera performance with the inclusion of extra features, such as the ability to add and mash-up a variety of different media, or manage a group of participants in a live video discussion.
UStream does one thing and does it really well. If you are looking for a solution to broadcast live from your camera, by way of your computer, UStream makes it very easy to get started. Providing you with an embeddable video player and a TV-guide style listing of forthcoming events, UStream allows you to create truly live videos that can be inserted into any website or blog. Once your live show has finished, your videos are archived and can be watched back at any time.
According to Chris Yeh, an angel investor in the company, uStream was actually not first intended to be primarily used for live video streaming, but actually for broadcasting pre-recorded shows at specific times.
Suited to: Situations where broadcasting live is of peak importance, from up-to-the-minute (on-location) news reports, to reality-TV-style lifecasting in the style of Justin.TV
Not suitable for: Situations where you want to edit your live feed on the fly, or insert other media into your stream, such as a musical soundtrack, or pre-recorded video clips
Operator11 gives you what is essentially a mini-TV-studio right in your browser. Broadcasts are created either from pre-recorded video clips, or in the Operator11 studio, whereby you can mix your own web-cam video, that of any other person watching your broadcast, adverts and pre-recorded video clips. With a simple drag-and-drop interface, you choose which feeds will be displayed in the live player at any one time, just as an editor might do for a live TV show. The result can be a fantastic combination of live conversation and pre-recorded video clips. It’s a real shame you can’t embed the live video player into your website, though.
Suited to: Live shows with more than one participant, such as talk and discussion shows. Also an excellent tool for conducting and recording interviews, allowing you to cut between the two (or more) speakers with ease.
Not suitable for: Those that want to broadcast their show live from their own website. Solo video-bloggers with no interest in involving the audience.
Stickam has been around for quite some time now, and was reviewed here a year ago. Stickam makes it very easy to create both video chat sessions and live broadcasts straight from your web-cam, with the addition of being able to upload photos and audio / music files to include in your broadcasting line-up. With an easy to navigate embeddable media player, an active (if teenager-biased) community and promotion of forthcoming shows on the Stickam website, this makes for a well-rounded live broadcasting solution.
Suited to: Creating live broadcasts that can be embedded into any website or blog, or watched from the Stickam website with the addition of text and video chat.
Not suitable for: Those afraid to seem ‘past their prime’. The Stickam website and community is almost entirely comprised of teenagers, and the service can feel a little too teenaged for the tastes of some. Nevertheless, there is nothing to stop you breaking the mold.
YouCams focus is firmly on video chat, and the service is primarily advertised as a ‘Webcam chat widget‘, allowing you to embed video chat capabilities, along with text-chat functionality, right into your own website. This is a great solution for those looking to broadcast from their own website, and perhaps to a smaller group rather than to the world at large. Furthermore, you can watch YouTube videos together with other chat participants, seeing their reactions in realtime.
Suited to: YouCams could be used in a number of ways, from small seminars, marketing presentations and discussions through to focus groups, video-feedback sessions or just plain old video chat.
Not suitable for: YouCams is ill-suited to broadcasting to a larger audience, and also lacks the creative control that other services offer, making sessions much more of a group effort than a programmed, individually-led broadcast.
Scheduled and On-Demand Broadcasting Solutions
If you are less interested in getting your video out live than you are in being able to seamlessly mix your media files together into fluid, multi-dimensional Internet TV shows, you might want to take a look at the following solutions. While they don’t offer the ability to stream live video, they more than make up for this shortcoming by offering a great range of import and playback features.
Kyte offers a very easy way to create scheduled programming by combining your video footage, images, music files and even live image-feeds from your camera-phone. Using a really easy-to-get-along-with drag-and-drop interface, you simply drag different media and formatting features onto your screen to create a media-rich show. You can then share the show at a scheduled time from the Kyte website, where live text chat is integrated. Kyte features extensive customization features, so that you can really transform the look and branding of the media player to suit your tastes. It also allows you to produce shows for other users’ channels, or invite them to contribute to your channel. The inclusion of in-show polling adds interactivity to the viewing experience.
Suitable for: Anyone looking to put together their existing media files into a great-looking, branded-and-customized media player, to create scheduled Internet TV shows.
Not suitable for: Those looking to broadcast live, as in ‘right here, right now’. Kyte will allow you to upload photo-streams from your mobile, but if you want to broadcast your video show as it is recorded live, this isn’t currently supported.
In some ways similar to Kyte, Splashcast is focused on allowing you to easily aggregate your existing media into shows and channels. However, in addition to its extensive capabilities in this department – including the ability to import and incorporate YouTube video into your show – Splashcast has a further list of great features. With the ability to add a soundtrack to your show, to record voice narration, create still image slideshows as well as video, and to record your web-cam right from the interface, Splashcast has a very rich feature-set. What it won’t do is allow you to broadcast live in any way shape or form, but this is perhaps made up for by the inclusion of RSS feeds that instantly update any player embedded out on the web each time you add new content to your channel.
Suitable for: Splashcast is an excellent way to combine your media into playlists, with our without video and audio commentary, and is therefore also very well suited to the delivery of all types of web presentation.
Not suitable for: If you are looking to broadcast either live or to a schedule, Splashcast is not for you, as the Splashcast player is on-demand only.
More Boradcasting Services:
In addition to the above there are also the following three broadcasting solutions which basically allow you to create a channel by aggregating videos from various video sharing sites.
Conclusions – The next wave of web video
Web video is evolving, and it is easier than ever to create your own Internet TV show using free tools, right from your browser. Some of the features now available would have seemed impossible only a short span of time ago. With nothing more than a web-cam enabled computer, you can now:
- Broadcast yourself live to the world, twenty-four-hours-a-day if the mood takes you
- Create media-rich mash-ups from a number of different sources, bringing your video, music and images into exciting new fusions
- Manage live and recorded video from a virtual TV studio, cutting between live and archived footage to create an episode of your personal show
With several services offering branding capabilities for the resulting channels you create, it is now very easy to put together your own highly customized video content streams, from news broadcasts to academic conferences, stand-up comedy shows to multiple-participant interviews and debates.
With so many well-featured services out on the market, and surely more to come, it should be easy to find a web-based tool that meets your broadcasting needs. I would argue, however, that there some features missing from each of the services reviewed.
What I would like to see, and this may be just wishful-thinking, is a tool that combines the ease-of-use but tight creative control of Operator11 with the embeddable live streaming feature of UStream, and the ability to import and mix in other media to your broadcasts, as is possible with Kyte and Streamcast.
At present each tool leaves me just wishing for that little bit more. Take Operator11 as an example. Here is a tool that allows me to control a variety of live and pre-recorded video feeds, and to create great looking shows as a consequence. I can embed these shows on my website, but only after they have finished recording.
UStream, on the other hand, has little in the way of additional features and controls – it just does a very good job of broadcasting live video, which can be embedded anywhere, as it happens. If it were possible to embed my Operator11 broadcasts while they were still live, this would be a very welcome improvement to what is already a very promising service.
Finally, I would love to see the ability to have integrated chat appear within the frame of the video as it unfolds live. Operator11 comes very close on this front, displaying new messages onscreen, but as soon as I watch the video back, the messages are nowhere to be seen.
Nevertheless, each of the tools reviewed here has a very rich feature-set. We are seeing the next wave of online video and Internet TV evolve, and the opportunities seem to expand a little more each month. If you want to broadcast your very own web-based TV channel, the time is ripe.
The following chart summarizes the key features and differences between the services under review: