Rental and staging companies today are increasingly being challenged to do more with less. Sonic Foundry, a well-known and well-respected developer of multimedia tools, has helped us do just that here at ImageTrust, Ltd., a full-service event production company. ImageTrust, Ltd. is a full-service event production company. As a producer/director, together with my business partner, Greg Elston, an engineer, our motto is “Any Meeting! Any Size! Anywhere!” Between the two of us and our team of producers, editors, artists and technicians, we can cover anything.
We bought our first Mediasite unit a couple of years ago. We initially began looking at it for its capture and archive capabilities (as opposed to streaming live content over the web). For years, our clients have been asking us to record the live events we produce for them. This, of course, meant that after the event we would spend weeks editing hours and hours of tape. This process was time-consuming for us and costly for our clients. Worst of all, once the tapes were distributed, people rarely watched them--there was too much content and it took too long.
With Mediasite, we can capture an event live and then hand a disc to our client right when the meeting ends. Our clients love the ability to view the slide list (thumbnails) and the indexed “Play from Slide” feature. This way, they can skip ahead to the specific content that they want to see. It makes massive amounts of content manageable. Best of all, it helps ImageTrust, Ltd. provide its clients with a timely, cost-effective solution. Another great time saver was in copying CDs after the fact. We purchased a Kangaru CD duplicator to take on-site with us. We can burn seven CDs at a time. This method works great for smaller meetings. For meetings with a larger audience, we still need a day or two to duplicate discs for everyone before we can send them out.
We have also used Mediasite for live webcasting. While we believe that our clients will always have the need to meet face-to-face, webcasting/webconferencing is a very useful way for them to connect when a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible.
Fast, Simple Webcasting
Webcasting with Mediasite is fast and simple. Mediasite’s Microsoft Web and Media Services (installed on a separate server) allows us to stream a synchronized presentation to participants. Mediasite takes input from any video graphics array (VGA) device. While most presenters will choose to use PowerPoint, they also can choose to hook up a document camera or other type of VGA device, like smart boards or even microscopes.
Participants watch the streamed presentation in a Web-based viewer that integrates audio, video, and data. The Mediasite viewer software assembles and synchronizes these various elements and plays the recorded presentation automatically within the browser. For live/streamed presentations, the speaker can introduce polls and display poll results, and participants can use the integrated Q&A tool to ask questions in real time-a key benefit to many of our customers. A key advantage for a company like ours is that we don’t have to perform any pre-production work. Instead, we can just focus on the event. For example, we were recently able to focus on some of the logistics of a client meeting without having to worry about setting up a huge studio to capture the content. The ML440 also is very non-obtrusive and takes up very little space. If you are like us, the less space you use, the more that can be devoted to an event.
The session can be saved onto a CD, published onto the Web, or archived. Mediasite publishes the presentation and makes it available in a Web-viewable catalog.
The latest features have made our lives easier. We purchased the latest addition to the Mediasite family, the Mediasite ML440, and were pleased by a more rugged rich media chassis. And just like the previous Mediasite unit it, allows us to encode, synchronize, index and publish rich media content for mobile or remote applications. Also, just as before, one of the key benefits of Mediasite is how fast and easy it is use. We can set up and be recording in minutes. The “one-button” recording design allows easy use by all of our team.
We love the new editing capabilities of the Mediasite ML440. Clients always want to cut out a slide or a sentence or something. Before, that was very time-consuming and hardly worth the effort. We would have to export the video file to an edit program, make the change and then go through to re-align all the slide cues. It meant that we couldn’t deliver discs at the completion of the meeting. And we’d have to spend a lot of time (and client’s money) trying to make the changes. Now, editing is a snap. We make the changes, publish the presentations and we’re good to go.
The new System Manager makes workflow a lot smoother now too. Previously, you had to hop from one application to another. For example, if you wanted to change the status of a recording to make it viewable, you used to have to click through a number of menus to do it. Now, you can just right-click on the presentation and change it.
As with any cutting-edge product, there are areas for continued development. Presenters should be aware of some PowerPoint guidelines when using Mediasite. For example, it’s best to use high-contrast slides: We have found that some text and color choices that worked for the human eye gave Mediasite trouble at the default sensitivity settings.
We have also had issues with videos that are embedded into PowerPoint presentations. The graphics window can’t handle motion video. All video needs to be switched into the video window.
The ML440 Rich Media Recorder includes a bright 17-inch backlit LCD with a wide-viewing angle for all lighting conditions. The price tag is $24,950, is cheap considering the costs involved in what would have been the normal pre- and post-production work. With Mediasite, it’s all done on automatically on the fly. We’ve found we’ve recouped our investment after about four recordings.
All in all, the most recent enhancements to Mediasite are very useful in making an innovative product even better. The team at Sonic Foundry has worked very closely with us to continue to develop the software. We look forward to our continued partnership with them and future enhancements.