Broadcasting Live Events: What You Need To Know - Understanding The Basics
Part 1: Broadcasting Live Events – What You Need To Know
When it comes to deciding on how to broadcast (typically refereed to as "webcasting") your live event on the Internet there are many variables that exist. Many times, outsourcing your event to a service provider that specializes in these services can make the process much easier. Whether you choose to do the production using your own in-house resources, outsource to a service provider or a combination of both, there are some basics you need to know. Understanding the components of a live event will help you make sure the event goes smoothly and will give you an idea of what you should pay for these services.
Utilizing streaming media technology is a great way to take advantage of a global means of communication at a fraction of the cost of traditional broadcast mediums. When making the decision to use the Internet to broadcast your message, there are many decisions you need to make. Unless your corporation has the resources in-house to make the broadcast happen, most companies need to outsource the live event to a service provider to handle the webcast and the components that go with it.
Understanding The Basics
Before contacting service providers to get help with your broadcast, there are some basics you need to be aware of. Understanding what is involved in a live event from a technical perspective is important, as the technical resources chosen will be the biggest factor in the event cost and complexity. Typically a live event is broken down into five main components consisting of the following:
- Audio and/or video capture
- Signal acquisition
- Content encoding
- Delivery or distribution
- Website interface integration
Audio and/or Video Capture
The first piece of any live event is audio and video content. Some events consist of just an audio component, such as a quarterly investors relations call, while others consist of video as well as audio. The first step in any live event is being able to record and film the content, otherwise known as "capture". Many times, this factor can be one of the highest costs depending on the complexity of the capture needs.
Once the audio/video content is captured, the signal needs to be transmitted to the location where it will be encoded. This process is typically done a few different ways depending on the event. The signal can be sent to a satellite in the sky (typically refereed to as "uplinking") where it is then pulled down (otherwise known as "dowlinking") at the service provider’s offices for encoding. Another way to capture the signal can be via a phone bridge, say if the live event content consists of just a conference call. The signal can also be sent via connectivity at the event location if the content is being encoded on-site from the venue.
After the signal has been acquired via satellite, phone bridge or another method it needs to be encoded for distribution over the Internet. Encoding the content consists of taking the audio/video signal and transforming it into a streaming media file format ready for distribution on the Internet. These formats are what are being referred to when you hear the terms Windows Media, Real Media and QuickTime. Encoding is done by using an "encoder", a hardware based device with capture cards and software that allows the signal to be digitized into one of the above mentioned file formats.
Delivery or Distribution
Now that the content has been captured, acquired and encoded, it is ready for delivery, which also can be referred to as "distribution". Once the signal is encoded, it is sent to servers sitting on a delivery network that transmit the content to viewers via the Internet. For most service providers, the distribution of your content on the Internet is the largest cost associated with a live event. Understanding the components that effect the costs for these services will allow you to make sure you do not pay for delivery bandwidth you don’t end up using.
Website Interface Integration
Another technical piece that can typically be involved in broadcasts is website integration or interactivity. Live broadcasts on the Internet have the ability to include interactive functions such as chat, polling and power point slides. Additionally, you can have the service provider build you a micro website to host the event from as well as additional options such as setting up a registration interface which allows you to collect user data. Many options are available when it comes to interactivity and the complexity and amount of options chosen will effect the final cost for technical services.
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