If you’re thinking about live streaming, you might be wondering where to begin.
It can seem like a dark art. A combination of new media, technological terms and hybrid words which often cross over disciplines, can fuel misunderstanding. What’s the difference between webinars and webcasts? Is video conferencing the same as live streaming?
You’d be forgiven for falling at the first hurdle, but you’re not the only one! Many people who come to us are unsure about what they’re looking for or how live streaming can work for them. It can be off-putting, so we’ve put together this back to basics jargon buster to give you the knowledge to make the right decision about what you need.
Streaming is a method of transmitting or receiving data continuously over a computer network. Usually associated with Netflix, YouTube and Spotify, it’s the way all of us watch pre-recorded video or music online today. Instead of storing the content on your device, it loads as you watch it, via the internet. When we see the dreaded buffering symbol, our internet connection is struggling to load the video. With the quick development of mobile internet speeds, today we’re able to stream wherever we are.
Live streaming is when the content being streamed is not pre-recorded, but filmed as it’s happening. We capture the footage and stream it live via the internet. This can be done from your mobile phone or webcam through social media, or on a full production level with multiple cameras and live mixing.
This term is familiar with most. It’s the main way we’ve consumed content since electronic communications were invented. Broadcasting is the distribution of audio or visual content transmitted over airwaves. It’s often referred to as a one-to-many format because it is picked up by many via satellite signal.
Traditionally, it’s an expensive method of production because of the use of satellites. Plus, outputs are restricted to television and radio where you need to have rights, agreements and licences to publish. Broadcasts can be live – such as the live shows we watch on TV – or pre-recorded.
Now we start getting into relatively new technology terms. We can begin to see the routes of the words which help us to understand more about what they mean. Quite simply, webcasting is broadcasting on the web, distributing by streaming.
Webcasts can be live or pre-recorded. We can watch a live webcast back post the live event, when it becomes on-demand. The term tends to encompass the production and visual output of the content as well as the method of transmitting. It refers to the whole show that you create and normally involves cameras at the very least.
Again, it follows the one-to-many format. Compared to traditional broadcasting, webcasts are much more accessible and affordable to the everyday person or company because they can be published anywhere online.
So what’s the difference between webcasting and webinars? This is a question we get a lot. The truth? Not a lot in terms of everyday use of the word.
Webinar is a hybrid of seminar and web and is often used to describe the same types of content as a webcast, particularly when referring to lectures, conferences or presentations.
However, there is one key difference. Webinars tend to be a two-way format e.g. there is much more collaboration with the audience and host (usually in the form of chat, screen interaction etc) and the audience tends to be smaller. Webinars often don’t involve visuals of the speaker or presenter, just showing slides or other content on the screen, although they may also include an element of video via webcam.
There are many webinar softwares out there which allow you to produce successful webinars from your home or office without the need for specialist expertise or production equipment. Webinar content can be made available afterwards to watch online (via streaming!).
A telecast is content that’s delivered by television, as opposed to via radiowaves (broadcast) or the internet (webcast). It’s not a word that we hear too often in general vocabulary because people tend to label everything on TV as a broadcast.
Webex is a well-known webinar/video conferencing software provided by IT giant Cisco. Just like hoover has become synonymous with the vacuum cleaner and google with search, Webex is often used to refer to webinars or video conferencing by those who are only familiar with this product. Webex does not produce webcasts or give the tools to host a professional webcast production (live or otherwise).
This is something many people often confuse with webcasting or webinars due to terms such as ‘live video’ and ‘conferencing’ which cross over between platforms yet have completely different meanings depending on where we apply them.
The simplest form of video calling is now something billions of people all over the world use thanks to Apple’s facetime. Most offices also have some kind of video conferencing capability whether it be webcams in the boardroom or online programmes for one-to-one meetings. More complex video conferencing software can include many of the same features as webinars, such as screen sharing.
To confuse things even further, many of the leading software packages (such as webex below) combine webinar and video conferencing in one place, which has blurred the line of where one ends and the other begins. The defining difference is that video conferencing is always in real-time, and is a one-to-one format e.g. you specifically choose to engage with a small number of people by directly reaching out to them. The content is not available afterwards.
Podcasts are becoming more and more popular, but many don’t know that the term originates from Apple’s ‘IPOD’ and ‘broadcast’. Podcasting refers to sound only, but in much the same way as a webcast, the term implies a level of production which includes scripting, mixing and editing to produce an overall professional level of content.
Now, we listen to podcasts via streaming on any internet-connected device. We can download and save or watch on-demand. Podcasts are not usually live, although they can be.
On-demand is a term coined in the last 20 years as we’ve seen a rise in streaming. It essentially means that we can watch content whenever we like. Unlike traditional television and radio, which we can only watch as it is being broadcast, we can tap into streamed content on any device at a time that’s convenient for us.
Pause, rewind and playback are the biggest features we’ve become accustomed to on our television sets. When we use these features, we’re switching from broadcast content to streamed content. We can also download streamed content to watch offline, but on-demand content is never live.
Another hybrid term made up of webcast and simultaneous. You guessed it! Simulcasting is when you webcast to multiple platforms simultaneously. This is a great way to get more exposure for your webcast and maximise your investment. It involves special software which encodes your live stream out to two or more platforms at once. It means you can reach your audience live wherever their preferred viewing platform is, without creating two lots of content. Simulcasting is fantastic value for money.
OBS stands for Open Broadcast Software (or now Studio) and is a free open source streaming and recording programme that anyone can download and use. It’s a great choice for those starting out or who just want to dip their toe in the water, with plenty of online tutorials online to help you get started. Whilst the options and functionality don’t rival professional paid for streaming platforms, OBS is completely free and accessible to all.
OTT stands for ‘Over The Top’ media, in the same vein as ‘Above The Line’ and ‘Below The Line’ terms. OTT media refers to content which is streamed directly online, bypassing traditional broadcasting such as cable and satellite. With the dramatic improvement in internet speeds and mobile accessibility, using OTT media has become a very popular and affordable way to reach a mass audience in a way that was previously only available to those with a TV-sized advertising budget.
PTZ stands for Pan Tilt Zoom and refers to a type of camera which can be remote controlled and store pre-set shots. PTZs are ideal for filming live streamed content. Amongst their benefits are their ability to capture panning shots without the need for operated cameras, plus they enable a crew to cover more angles without needing additional people. Whilst they don’t replace the quality and skill of a camera person, they certainly contribute to more comprehensive productions at a more affordable cost.
Also known as dual display, this term describes a visual format used in webcasting. Essentially it means the display of two or more camera feeds on screen at once.
A great example of picture in picture is for presentations with slides. We capture the speaker with one camera, then mix this alongside or overlay on a separate slide feed. This way, the audience gets a clear detailed view of the information as well as feeling a part of the presentation.
If you’re webcasting a presentation with slides, this method is a vital way to keep your audience engaged and deliver clear communication. Picture in picture methods requires more complex set up and experienced vision mixers.
Unfortunately, many sub-par streaming production companies don’t offer this method and will flick between slides and speaker. Even worse, showing the slides only in the background through the camera. This is not professional and doesn’t make for good audience viewing.
A term most commonly associated with either sport or video production, lower thirds refers to any graphics which appear in the lower section of the screen. Think team scores or stats, or for more corporate content, names, job titles, logos and social handles.
Lower thirds graphics can be designed bespoke to your brand or event and help make the overall feel of your webcast much more professional. They’re also a handy way to deliver information to your viewers, such as the structure and narrative of the content or even to deliver additional messages such as marketing, charity donations or call to actions.
Graphics are prepared in advance and then overlaid by the vision mixer during the live production of your webcast. They can even be animated!
Although usually placed in the ‘lower third’ of the screen for visual purposes, these graphics can be displayed anywhere you like.
If you want to discuss your event or project with us, we’re always happy to give friendly, honest advise and provide no obligation quotes. Just give us a call today!