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Videoconferencing Meets Streaming -- Finally

October 9, 2013 | Telepresence Options

telemedicine cart

Story and images by Tim Siglin / Streaming Media

For years, people have talked about the value of integrating existing videoconferencing into live events being held in corporate auditoriums as a way to bring in remote subject matter experts (SMEs) for presentations and live question-and-answer sessions. But the integration of videoconferencing and streaming has lagged, stuck in the world of analog decodes and re-encodes.

So we thought it was high time to find out whether the integration of videoconferencing and streaming had progressed into the 21st century or was still stuck somewhere in the analog past.

For those who might not be familiar with the pieces and parts of a videoconferencing unit, the basic input parts are an audio input/microphone, integrated camera or video input connector, and an encoder. On the output side, a decoder separates audio and video signals, sending them to an integrated screen or to video and audio output ports.

Videoconferencing units can either connect directly to one another in a point-to-point configuration -- not unlike a FaceTime call between iPhones -- or multiple videoconferencing endpoints can all call into a multipoint control unit (MCU, also referred to as a bridge) so that all callers can see one another in a four- or nine-image tiled view. The tiled view, as we'll explore later in this article, is sometimes just too simplistic for the sophisticated, high-quality content that corporate communications departments are creating for their internal audiences.

The integration issue lies in the fact that most videoconferencing endpoints are designed to work well in point-to-point with like-type endpoints, or in multipoint MCU calls, but are not really designed as a simple broadcasting or publishing point like those we're familiar with in the streaming world.

Even the idea of recording videoconferences was such a foreign concept in the early days that my question to a vendor at a 1995 videoconferencing trade show about ways to do so was met with the question, "Why would anyone want to record a videoconference?"

The Integration Challenge

Fortunately, today we not only have the ability to record content, including the HD-quality telepresence videoconferencing that's of great interest to corporations, but we also have the ability to integrate videoconferencing feeds directly into streaming platforms.

Erik Herz, director of business development at MediaPlatform, says that his company is working to integrate with Cisco's TelePresence Content Server (TCS).

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