Archive for November, 2007

Podcast, Vodcast, Webcast….. help!

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

I’ve recently been asked to explain the difference between all of the different ‘video type’ technologies that are around such as podcasting vs streaming video and webcasting vs web conferencing etc.

So I thought that I would write up a short article to try and help anyone else with the same type of question as I have even been asked in the past if we could do live podcasting!

To begin I think the main point to remember is that video is a communications medium and the main thing to ensure is not only that the video and the content are of high quality but that the contents meet your objectives for creating them in the first place. What are you trying to achieve? You then need to consider what is the best way to deliver this content to your potential audience and this is where all of the different technologies come in to it.

The first thing to consider is simple video, a medium with which people are very familiar thanks to TV, CD & DVD’s as well as the growth of site’s like YouTube and MetaCafe introducing many to video on the web. Video can be delivered to the web audience via a stream, this means that when you click on a link to watch the video it will start to play immediately (there are variations on streaming such as progressive downloading etc) or the video can be delivered by the viewer clicking on a link to download the video as a file so that it can be viewed later in your own time on the PC, on an mp3/mp4 player such as an iPod or on some mobile devices. This type of viewing is referred to by many as podcasting (podcasting normally refers to an audio file but can also be video and is sometimes then called vodcasting!) although true podcasting allows the file to be downloaded by an application like iTunes and normally on a subscription basis.

The main advantage of streaming video is immediacy and the disadvantage is picture quality (although the internet bandwidth is improving all the time allowing better and better quality). The disadvantage to downloading (podcasting or any other type of download) is that you need to go through the download process,which can take some time before you know the content of the video and whether it is what you want to watch. The advantage is that you can make the picture quality higher than you can with streaming video (although this will increase file size and therefore the time it takes to download it). There are other issues to both such as digital rights management, access control, payment mechanisms etc which I won’t touch on here but will if you contact me to discuss.

Both of these technologies,however, relate to simple video whereas webinars or webcasting (basically the same thing) allow the use of video plus other types of content. For example a training webinar might show video, slides that change automatically (synchronised to the video) and provide downloadable content such as workbooks and pdf’s etc. They could also include a text based version of the audio for the hard of hearing (to meet DDA requirements) or even in another language to meet international needs. In this case the webinar is using a streaming technology but is pre-recorded and available to view whenever the client would like. This is generally referred to as an ‘on demand’ webinar or webcast.

The next stage on from that is a Live webinar/webcast which is fundamentally the same as described above but delivered in real time and with the ability for the audience (which can be very large - even in the thousands) to ask questions of the presenter(s) and have them answered there and then.

Webinars and webcasting are quite different to live meetings and video conferencing which are aimed at much smaller audiences (2 - 10 generally) and used as an online meeting solution where everyone can interact at the same level (much like a normal meeting), although it is normally chaired by one person. This type of solution generally also provides collaborative working or data sharing applications again meeting the needs of a typical meeting.

There are many different technology solutions to meet all of your requirements for streaming, podcasting, webinars, webcasting, video conferencing and online meetings and they all have different advantages and disadvantages over each other but as well as comparing different technology providers against each other make sure that you are also comparing different technology types against each other to make sure that you are using the right type of solution (or mix of solutions) to meet your needs.

Different technology solutions, each with different positive and negative points are provided by vendors such as these:

Adobe Connect Professional

and I am happy to discuss these pros and cons with anyone that is interested but you can also find some very useful info from the web such as this very informative blog about all things web conferencing and webinars by Ken Molay, it is however very US centric.

Just so that you know at In Situ productions we are ‘technology agnostic’ and deliberatly so, which means that we can take advantage of the right technology solutions to meet the needs of our clients as we think that no one solution is a panacea to all situations.

If anyone has any other question in this area then feel free to ask them here in this thread.


Chris Mitchell
Digital Media Strategy & Solutions
podcasting, vodcasting, streaming video, interactive webcasting, webinars, web meetings, pay per view video content