What to look for in a Video Encoder for Live Streaming Corporate Events
More organizations are using live streaming than ever before. It is an excellent way to amplify a message and to improve communications across multiple sites. An important factor in the success of these live streams is the quality of the viewing experience. Organizations are looking to create a broadcast-quality experience, which requires the proper equipment, including a broadcast-quality video encoder.
Whether you are live streaming an event such as a partner conference or sharing an executive all hands meeting, the higher the quality of your production, the bigger the impact that it will have. Let us explore some of the key features that a video encoder needs to be both broadcast quality and enterprise grade.
Latency is the amount of time between when a video is captured and delivered to the viewer. Latency is introduced through the multiple steps required for streaming live video. These include compressing (or encoding) the video, video processing, encapsulation of metadata, transcoding into online streaming formats, and decoding at the receiving end. Anything that alters the video content and stream will add latency.
For enterprise video applications that require 2-way interaction or bidirectional video, such as interviews or discussions between multiple sites, latency needs to be kept as low as possible to ensure that the interaction is fluid. For streaming to mobile devices, there can be significant latency introduced when passing through multiple network nodes or a content delivery network (CDN). Choosing a low latency encoder at the onset can have a significant impact on overall end to end latency.
Maintaining Video Quality Over Any Network
When selecting a video encoder, you first need to consider what type of network you will be using to stream your video. Managed IP networks such as a LAN or WAN should be able to provide enough bandwidth for video streaming. However, if the video is going to be captured from a remote location over the internet, it is essential to choose a video encoder that is capable of managing unpredictable bandwidth fluctuations, packet loss, and transmit times.
Don’t let an unreliable network compromise the quality of your live corporate video streams. Look for a video encoder that supports the SRT protocol, which provides advanced error correction to prevent pixelated and blocky video that could significantly impact the viewing experience. SRT can also be used for transmitting directly to cloud-based content management systems and video distribution.
There are additional considerations if you are streaming directly to viewers with mobile devices. In this case, you will want a video encoder that supports adaptive bitrate streaming, such as the Haivision KB video encoder series. Finally, if your organization will be using an online streaming service from a social network, such as Facebook Live or YouTube, make sure that your video encoder is certified to support these platforms.
Inputs and Compression Codecs – H.264 versus HEVC
Another thing to look out for in a video encoder is what type of compression codecs it supports. HEVC or H.265 is the successor to the H.264/AVC codec standard. HEVC offers 50 percent bandwidth reduction for the same image quality, or significant image quality improvements at the same bit rates when compared to H.264. Though H.264 is still widely used for live video streams, most new software video players and mobile devices now support HEVC and therefore it makes sense to consider it as a more efficient method of video compression.
Of course it’s also important to consider what type of video sources you will need to use as inputs. If it’s from a professional video camera or mixer, you will need SDI. If you are capturing directly from a computer presentation system, you may need an HDMI input.
A key consideration when choosing a video encoder is how sensitive your live video content will be. Most corporate communications, including live video, are not meant for external audiences – it is important to be able to ensure your stream is secure even over the internet.
AES (advanced encryption standard) 128 and 256 are widely adopted key-based encryption systems used by many corporations, as well as the US government for securely sharing streams and files. However, not all video encoders support AES. If security is important to your organization, look for an encoder such as the Haivision KB series – it supports the SRT streaming protocol, which has AES incorporated within the protocol, so that you can stream video securely.
Decoding & Viewing
In addition to choosing an encoder, it is important to also know how the video will be viewed. One option is to use a dedicated video decoder. They are typically used in broadcast production environments where streamed videos are to be further processed through a mixer, switch, or playout system. However, when the streamed video is meant to be viewed live without further production, a dedicated decoder is not always necessary.
Set-top boxes are devices designed to receive a live encoded stream and display directly to a screen. Enterprise set-top boxes are capable of displaying one or multiple live video streams to a television screen via an HDMI cable. An enterprise set-top box such as the Haivision Play Series can be centrally managed and controlled to make sure that the right content is being sent to the right screen, whether locally, or in an office on the other side of the world.
Though a set-top box is a good option for group viewing or public area displays, the easiest way for individuals to watch a live video stream is from a desktop or a mobile device. For mobile viewing, Haivision Play for Mobile allows viewers to watch live video over a phone or tablet.
For viewing on desktops, the encoder should be able to stream video to a seperate server-based media player that can deliver live video streams to a web browser or desktop application. The media player can either be installed within a company’s IT network using a video management platform such as the Haivision Media Platform or can be a cloud-based service such as Microsoft Stream for Office 365. And if you are an enterprise reliant on Office 365, you should make sure to find a video encoder that is certified for Microsoft Stream, like Haivision’s KB series. Microsoft Stream will soon enable enterprises to easily create and securely share broadcast-quality live video streams from any location to multiple sites.
Most live corporate events need to be recorded. One way to do this is by recording directly from the camera, either internally or via an external recorder, though the file will be very large and require further encoding and compression for viewing through a web browser, set-top box, or mobile device.
The most efficient and fastest way to share a recording of a live event is to directly capture the live encoded video stream. If you are using an enterprise media management system such as the Haivision Media Platform, the recording can be done over a network. Some video encoders, like the Makito X series, include built-in storage in the form of an SSD drive or removable SD cards. Other video encoders, like the Haivision KB Series can be connected to a RAID system either directly or over a local area network (LAN) allowing for large amounts of enterprise video storage.
Form Factor and Portability
An important consideration when choosing a video encoder is how portable and compact it needs to be. If it will be permanently installed such as in a production studio or auditorium, then a rackmountable encoder is a good option. Whether as a card within a 19” rack module, a rack unit sized encoder, or rack adaptor, having it permanently fixed along with other gear such as a video switcher and IP router will prevent it from being mislocated or deconfigured. If the encoder needs to be moved around or space is limited, a compact form factor, like the Haivision KB Mini, is important.
Setting Up Your Enterprise Video Streams for Success
Selecting the right video encoder to stream your corporate events is an important decision, and one that will have a direct cascading effect on the success of your streamed event. The above guide should serve as a good guide to get you started before you reach out to an enterprise streaming expert to help find a solution that suits your particular business application.
Of course, it is only a start. Want to ensure that your all-hands and corporate events are set up for streaming success? Learn from the best in the industry, and watch our free webinar, Broadcasting All Hands Webcasts from Anywhere, featuring Dan Swiney from LinkedIn.