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Commentary: Here Come the Brides

I live, by choice, in a small city nestled in the MountainSouth region of the southeastern U.S. While our community and the surrounding area are home to a Fortune 500 company and the Bristol Motor Speedway—a NASCAR track that’s packed with 160,000 spectators and various TV crews twice per year—"streaming" is not a word commonly heard on the streets of Kingsport, TN.

Last week, though, I received a call from the mother of a bride-to-be who had apparently heard about this "streaming video" thing and asked someone at a local college about how to stream her daughter’s wedding. The reason was both utilitarian and touching: the grandparents lived five states away and couldn’t make the wedding, and neither mother nor daughter wanted the grandparents to have to wait until days later to see the videotape.

This was not someone who knew the ins and outs of the technology; in fact, she confided as we talked that she and her husband didn’t know how to make copies of the videotapes that they shot on their camera, resorting instead to hooking the camera up to the TV to watch their videos, which would be at best a hassle and at worst impossible, since the grandparents had an older TV that wouldn’t accept the composite video inputs.

But even though she didn’t know the details, she did know the church had internet connectivity and that the grandparents had been able to watch movie clips on the web, so she put those two pieces together and set out on a quest to understand how to get "streaming video" from one part of the U.S. to another with just two days to spare. Her reasoning was simple: if video goes across the internet and there is connectivity at both ends, would it not be possible for the grandparents to view the output of the handycam video camera set up in the sanctuary in real time?

Welcome to a new era in streaming media, where the knowledgeable consumer might just be willing to rent a low-cost streaming video flypack, and know what to do with it, in much the same way that the bride's parents used to rent a video camera (and attached VHS recorder) at the same rental house that provided wedding essentials such as the candelabra.

True, one could argue that recording the ceremony and then digitizing, encoding, and uploading the file for on-demand viewing would be more cost-effective. For the average consumer, though, who can’t figure out how to transfer a tape to a DVD, let alone a personal computer—and who wouldn’t take the time to do so immediately after a wedding or other significant event—real-time streaming at a cost-effective price point is where it’s at.

I also write a column for EventDV, Streaming Media’s sister publication; the column is focused on event videographers who volunteer their time at their chosen house of worship, a few of which are beginning to offer live streaming of their weekly worship services. So I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the streaming capabilities now permanently housed in those churches might also be available for weddings that take place in the same venue. Nor should it surprise me that the same event videographers who volunteer at those churches might suggest to their clients—many of whom are brides or mothers of brides—that they include streaming as part of the package for a high-end wedding video package. What did surprise, me, though, was that this event was taking place at a small country church that had recently just added DSL for the minister’s use, and the congregants were pushing the envelope with something the church had probably never even thought of.

To explore this concept even further, I started searching for streaming service providers that focus on weddings and also designing a conceptual flypack that might be used for the average wedding—one being shot by Uncle Joe and his MiniDV camera rather than a professional videography crew.

On the streaming service provider front, I found many providers that would host the wedding video after it had been shot, digitized, and encoded but few that listed live streaming wedding videos as a key service area.

Of the ones that did live wedding streaming, the most prominent were two British sites: wedcam.co.uk and streamingwizard.com. The latter showcased an example of a wedding that had been shot in a cathedral in the United Kingdom and viewed in real time by family members in Australia. Wedcam, however, provides the service that my conceptual flypack yearns to be: a multicamera shoot that allows guests to choose which camera they watch, as noted in this excerpt from the site: With at least four cameras available for use at any one time, your wedding will be captured from every angle and streamed across the internet for all your guests to see. And what’s more, they can choose which camera they watch from in real time so they can fully appreciate you, your partner and the surroundings.

The site hastens to note, however, that privacy is assured, as only those guests who have received a password can view the wedding live. On the other end of the spectrum was another site that allows anyone to view weddings being performed around the clock. Vivalasvegasweddings.com has a permanent 24-hour live streaming feed that could very well be a precursor to churches, synagogues, and chapels that handle many weddings per week. The site provides continuous streams of the main chapel, the little chapel, the Doo Wop Diner (for those wanting a "wedding in a ’50s diner"), and the outdoor gazebo wedding chapel.

Meanwhile, back in Tennessee, final touches are being put on the wedding party. The mother of the bride has her myriad last-minute tasks, the father of the bride rehearses his one line again, and the video streaming of the Big Day begins.

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