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Technology Showcase: Web Video Streaming Gear

May 6, 2009 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Sending video to the Web has become push-button easy.

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Digital Rapids TouchStream

Digital Rapids TouchStream

Long gone are the days when only the largest companies, churches, and universities could afford to get video and sound out to the world. All of these entities have a need to get the word out, but with the emergence of small, portable web-streaming appliances has come what some have called a democratization of information. Using the Internet as a worldwide broadcast network, even individuals can become global broadcasters or narrow¬casters, and this has had a profound effect on both content producers and viewers. Let’s have a look at some of the current offerings in this dynamic market.

Billed as an appliance that turns any room into a webcast studio, the Accordent Capture Station includes video and VGA capture cards to input all the various elements consisting of audio, video, and graphics and seamlessly synchronizes them into one complete presentation. Laptops, projectors, smartboards, and document cameras can be connected to the unit. The user simply clicks Start, and the system will capture, record, and synchronize all the presentation sources. The resulting combined file can be streamed live to the Internet or an intranet, and it can be recorded and posted for viewing on demand. Pre-installed editing software enables the user to review and edit each element of the presentation including adding or cutting images and adjusting presentation timing. Viewers can receive the presentations with Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, MP3 players, and a range of browsers.

For simplicity, portability, and ease of use, the Webcast in a Box from Box Populi is hard to beat. The device allows the user to encode and stream a combined file consisting of video from a camera and video from a computer display. Beyond that, the background may be customized with a specific color, image, banner, or logo and viewed with RealPlayer. The hardware has composite and S-Video jacks for video input, and the network connection is labeled “1GB.” It can interface at network bit rates of 1Gbps, 100Mbps, and 10Mbps. The device can be operated by simply plugging in a USB key to start the webcast and removing it to stop the presentation. The unit displays its IP address in the LCD window on the front panel. Anyone with a browser on the same network just types that IP address into the URL window of the browser to view the webcast.

An integrated component of the Cisco Digital Media System (DMS), the Cisco Digital Media Encoder 1000 provides live and on-demand digital streaming media with video and sound on any IP network, and it can also be used as a standalone unit. The front-panel buttons allow users to select between a number of predesignated Windows Media and MPEG4/H.264 encoding profiles. On-demand formats supported include these and Flash. The unit’s physical interfaces include both composite and S-Video connections along with RCA and XLR connections for audio. There is also a front-panel dock for downloading directly to an Apple iPod. The Cisco Digital Media Manager can set up and control multiple media encoders such as the Media Encoder 1000, schedule live streaming events, and publish live and on-demand streaming presentations.

The Webcaster-3 from Communitek Video Systems is packaged in a tough road rack, and it includes every¬thing needed to input audio and video signals and output an IP network signal in up to three simultaneous streams, depending on which build option is selected at purchase. While performing live streaming, the unit can simultaneously record an archive file to the internal hard drive for on-demand viewing as well as onto an onboard DVD recorder as a removable backup. Synchronized PowerPoint presentations can be assembled using third-party PowerPoint push software such as or Encoder Script. The unit can be connected to a small video switcher for mobile webcast production.

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