The past 18 months has seen rapid development in the videoconferencing/broadcast technology space. These developments – spurred on, of course, by health and safety measures stemming from the global pandemic – have come with a healthy amount of new and innovative cross-pollination between the broadcast and on-site AV industries and videoconferencing providers.
Simply put, we have watched as remote meeting tools evolved more robustly into broadcast tools – and, equally, as broadcast tools began to be utilized more frequently in video conferencing.
The areas of “audio visual,” “videoconferencing,” and “broadcast” have traditionally been viewed and deployed as their own silos. Today these elements have, in many ways, become a singular environment. United through two major factors – the wider adoption of AV-over-IP and software defined deployments – these three offerings now work in lockstep to offer more robust, impressive, and creative AV and videoconferencing deployments.
To see this in action, consider the common examples of a corporate meeting room, university lecture hall, or worship space. Over the past 18 months we have seen each of these environments embrace a “broadcast” mentality by seeking ways to involve more virtual participants.
Meanwhile, the nature of back-and-forth interactivity in these spaces has been brought back to broadcast. Today, a videocall powered by a webcam and laptop into a live broadcast is considered common-place and has been widely accepted by viewers.
Further, there appears to be very little fatigue in using these technologies – especially in the traditional AV space – as they enable impressive long-term uses.
Employees and students have, for some time, wanted an easier process for interacting with content and media sharing. After all, they have content served to them easily through smart TVs, smart Hi-Fi, and mobile devices. In many ways, working and studying from home has been liberating both in a technical and work/life balance sense.
Meanwhile, corporations and educators that provide facilities for AV and videoconferencing are now aware that requiring people to work or attend class in a facility on a day-to-day basis may not be a concrete requirement.
So, what is the big change required to find a balance and serve these new ways of thinking?
Everyone is an artist
Corporations, educational institutions, workspaces, and other hubs of creative activity are now thinking beyond “what’s enough to provide.” Instead, they are looking to what can be provided to entice workers back to the office or campus. How can spaces be used to provide unique multimedia communication offerings and experiences that can’t be accessed at home?
Yes, “video call fatigue” is a real thing when it’s the daily grid of just faces and screen sharing. To combat that, we see an interesting twist on “everyone is an artist” – what if the facilities at an office enable you to present as well as you might see on any TV show? Reliably, solidly, and with entertaining flair? Even better, what if this is possible in a way that is easy, global, and affordable?
The corporate space has found that you can reenergize and engage employees by enabling broadcast grade experiences for communication. They break the “daily grid” fatigue and empower employees to become better communicators.
How do they achieve this? Many facilities of this type employ a live production system (more on these below) that are easily automated yet provide creative expression and ease of use. The simpler it is to engage and share with cohorts, the greater the usability – and the more effective stories can be told.
The best firms will continue to trust their employees to work remotely while remembering that nothing beats face-to-face communication. Providing unique, creative, media-rich experiences and facilities on campus enables employees to bridge that gap in a hybrid environment – offering an engaging experience for employees no-matter where they might be working…but at the same time reminding them of impressive, dynamic, and creative tools and offerings that are available to them at the home office.
Education requirements are not too dissimilar to the experiences in corporate. All verticals are facing the same challenges of maintaining engagement and communication remotely, locally, and now in a hybridized manner.
The biggest challenge in education, however, is delivering practical education such as the lab environment, the tooled workshop, collaborative performance, and close-up detailed learning.
Again, live production systems with AV-over-IP technologies at their core provide an answer. These systems enable everything to become a video source, including a laptop display, a phone camera, a tablet, even document cameras and USB microscopes. By adding these visual elements seamlessly to a video conference – or by distributing them to every screen across multiple classrooms – you reengage the learner with specific and detailed visuals critical to their learning.
Further, adding lecture capture capabilities ensures coursework is available long-term – a capability that allows students to recall lectures the next day, or even the next year. This custodial capability is crucial as it maintains our knowledge for future generations.
Just as with corporate, the education market leads by being as agile as possible between local and remote delivery.
Making it happen
Medical, events, performing arts, training – over the past 18 months there have been few markets that haven’t leaned on videoconferencing in some shape or form. That said, what tools can be used to maintain engagement and communicate better?
The answer is in unifying best-of breed technologies through IP, which in turn liberates all communication. Any fluid media environment is only as strong as its underlying fabric. You can have world-class endpoints and processing capability, but they will still be undermined by a poor network infrastructure. Your network fabric locally, and your connectivity remotely is the nervous system of any deployment.
The good news is that it’s easier than ever to get this right. Network vendors are now rising to the challenge of rapid deployment to support this new world. And free-to-use AV protocols are now available that have been adopted by multiple manufacturers.
Aside from the underlying fabric, software defined approaches to video production also offer long-term flexibility and scalability to make your investment count.
Finally, this is all brought together in practice by the live production system, which serves as the beating heart of these types of unique and exciting deployments. A live production system allows you to seamlessly bring in all the unique video sources in a building – from PTZ cameras to cell phone cameras – and mix them together professionally. Text, graphics, and transitions can all be added seamlessly. Video callers can be added in as sources elegantly. And the automation that is available make the learning curve on these systems very approachable.
The technologies involved in these workflows have been truly democratized, with entry price points that ensure high-powered, creatively designed, and engaging video is available to more schools, offices, organizations, worship facilities, and more.
Finally, and most importantly, is to make sure you partner with an integrator and manufacturers who are engaged in your business, passionate about the changing landscape of AV, videoconferencing, and broadcast, and – most importantly – want to partner in your success long term. With the right team backing your organization, you can offer an integrated platform for collaboration, learning, and interactivity that is truly better than broadcast.