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Review: Vidizmo EnterpriseTube

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To complete the Silverlight-related picture, on the playback side, viewers do not need Silverlight for simple audio/video playback. But if you create rich media presentations using Vidizmo’s tools, say integrating PowerPoint slides and video, viewers without Silverlight will only be able to see the audio/video component. Mobile viewers also only see the video portion. All this will change when Vidizmo implements HTML5 playback, but that’s not here yet.

OK, back to the narrative. Once the Contributor uploads the file, it gets sent to encoding.com for encoding; though EnterpriseTube is built on top of Microsoft Azure, the encoding function within Azure is not used by default. With encoding.com, you get your choice of playback station-specific presets to enable and disable, but you can’t adjust the specific encoding configuration options. Encoding was very fast; I was uploading very small files and they usually were transcoded by the time I moved from the contributor-upload role to the manager-approval role.

What happens next depends upon how the approval and notification process is set up. Specifically, you can configure Moderators, Managers, and Administrators to receive an email when a video is ready for review. Then they enter Media Management module (Figure 5) where they can watch the video, if desired, then approve or reject the video, or review its settings. All these options are controlled by the eponymous buttons on the left of Figure 5. If no email notifications are set up, someone with approval authority will have to open this view to moderate the videos from time to time.

Figure 5. Here’s where Moderators, Managers, and Administrators go to review and approve videos. 

When anyone with review authority clicks Settings, that user sees essentially the same controls the contributor does with Silverlight installed, as shown in Figure 4, which they can modify and then approve, except for options relating to who can watch the video. Again, these can only be changed by modifying the membership type in the General settings field shown in Figure 2. Since only Administrators or Managers have access to these controls, once high-level access-related options are set, those with lower management rights can’t change them, by accident or on purpose.

Note that if you do decide to change the access rights to videos in a channel, this change automatically flows through to videos already uploaded, in addition to all videos uploaded after the change. This will likely be very convenient in practice, since having to manually change access rights to previously uploaded videos one at a time could be catastrophically time-consuming.

While on the subject, note that in Figure 4, we’re allowing viewers to share and embed the video, which seems at odds with the restricted viewing. In both cases, however, before a viewer can actually watch the embedded video or the video linked via social media, they’ll have to log in to the system with the necessary access rights. So, the restricted viewing is maintained even though the video can be shared via social media sites or embedded.

Viewing the Content

Once a video is approved, it transfers into the general library where it can be viewed from there, or embedded into a web page via standard embedding controls. There are three players available within the EnterpriseTube: Silverlight, Flash, and HTML5, and administrators and managers can select their priority. For example, if the order is HTML5, Flash, and then Silverlight, the playback device will try HTML5 first, then fallback until it finds a compatible player. This is the order I used during my testing and the HTML5 player is shown in Figure 6.

Within the Manager or Administrator interface, you can choose or customize a theme for your Silverlight player (but you can’t customize the Flash or HTML5 players). Customization options are limited; for example, even though you can change the colors of player controls, you can’t control the controls actually used in the player.

The HTML5 player itself is functional, but not exotic, more Prius than Jaguar (Figure 6). Still, it gets the job done. The only real complaint is that you don’t have typical playlist controls to determine which videos get shown on the right of the player. When I mentioned this to the company, they responded that this feature was in the pipeline.

Figure 6. Here’s the HTML5 player; functional, but not the most exotic around. 

During playback, EnterpriseTube supports adaptive streaming via Smooth Streaming to Silverlight, HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) to Flash via the JW Player, HLS to iOS devices with fallback to a single MP4 file for Android. On computers and Android devices, you can also choose a stream manually, so if you’re willing to wait for absolute top quality, you have that option.

On both Mac and Windows workstations, playback was flawless, as was access to common controls such as full screen mode, adding comments, and flagging contentand the like. On mobile devices, the results were mixed. To test mobile, I ran through a two video test that involved playback of a 2-minute and 48-minute video; it’s not exactly the Iron Man of mobile testing, but I wanted to simulate a typical use case. Specifically, with each video, I started at the beginning, watched for a few seconds, then tried to go to full screen. Then I dragged the playhead to the middle of the video to see how long it would take the player to respond. The results are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Mobile playback performance

Overall, playback performance was very good; given the problems I’ve seen with other services playing reliably on Android devices, I was impressed. The only absolute fail was on my ancient iPad 1, which refused to go full screen.

Otherwise, during playback, the equally ancient Thrive and iPad 1 were also sluggish in the controls; sometimes you had to tap the screen multiple times for the controls to appear, likely the result of too much CPU being consumed during playback. On the Android tablets, you can choose the desired stream, and both units were much more responsive with 360p than 720p.

Comment Moderation

Speaking of comments, you can choose to moderate them or not, but the comment approval workflow isn’t as efficient as the video approval process. Leaving a comment is straightforward; the viewer types in the comment (Figure 7), and if it’s moderated, they’ll see a message informing them that the comment is being sent for moderation.

Figure 7. Adding a comment to a video

One or more Moderator, Manager, or Administrator should elect to receive an email notifying them that a comment has been made and identifying the channel and video. When they click the video, they jump to media management area, where they first have to find the video, then edit, approve, reject, or delete the comment.

Unlike approvals, there is no single screen like the one shown in Figure 5 where you can go to review all comments; you have to hunt and peck in the videos in the media management area. Though Vidizmo plans to add a comment administration feature similar to Figure 3 in the near term, working with lots of comments will be frustrating until it’s available.

Similarly, users can flag inappropriate content, resulting in another email to a higher authority which links to the media management area, but not the specific video or an administrative panel with all flagged content. For high volume use, Vidizmo needs to streamline dealing with comments and flagged content.

Wrapping Up

On the analytics side, Vidizmo offers a comprehensive list of video and user-based analytics as shown in Figure 8. These let you track the performance of each video, and also which users, or groups of users, watched which videos and for how long. I scanned many of the reports, and the only major gap I found was the lack of an engagement graph showing how long users watched a particular video. This too, is in the works. Beyond the internal reports, you can also send the data to Google analytics and export data for crunching in Excel.

Figure 8. Reports available from the EnterpriseTube 

Also in the works is documentation for the product, which has been outlined but not yet written. With all this, and the transition from Silverlight to HTML5, Vidizmo has a lot on its development plate, though I guess products of this scope are always somewhat of a work in process.

Overall, I found the product very functional and reasonably useable, though my pokings and proddings were admittedly focused and limited. Every organization will need different features and different workflows. Before considering any corporate YouTube product, you should spend a few hours mapping out the content insertion and creation workflows, and viewing scenarios, as well as security and analytics requirements. Buying a corporate YouTube is a major investment of cash and particularly time, and the more time you spend on needs and requirements up front, the better chance you have of choosing the right system. And if you’re considering a corporate YouTube system, Vidizmo should definitely be on your list.

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Review: Vidizmo EnterpriseTube."

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