What software do I need to Webcast?

Webcasting software - What do I need to webcast? How do I webcast live?

Good Questions. There are a lot of ways to webcast. There are only a few that you should be considering if you want to provide a professional, quality experience with reliability, flexibility and security within your "brand". But to be fair not everyone really needs or cares about all of that. And to be totally honest there's a lot of people webcasting without my companys webcasting services. So it can be done, but there are limitations..
let's look quickly at a couple of options.
Here are a few basic requirements:

Equipment needed to webcast:

It's pretty simple at the most basic level
  • Camera
  • Microphone
  • Computer
  • Broadband Internet Connection
  • Encoding software (locally or online)
  • Site to view the video webcast at
Free Webcasting Solutions
The basic process is this:
  1. You hook up your camera and microphone ( can be on the camera) to your computer
  2. Encode the video into an efficient format that can be delivered in a browser that uses as little bandwidth as possible for efficient streaming while still looking and sounding good and playing smoothly
  3. Send the stream to the web at a specific location
  4. Your viewers need to know where that location (web address) is. They go there and watch live.

There is equipment you can buy that will convert composite video signals from a camera into data that your computer will recognize.
Older cameras may not have Firewire or USB outputs. You'll need to get a converter or card. There are many. many inexpensive options. Search Google:  video convertor usb
If your camera has FireWire or even USB out, most computers both PC and MAC, will recognize firewire or USB cameras as A/V devices.

How do people see my webcast?
One important point is that you for the 2nd and 3rd steps above, you will either need to have software on your computer to encode and send the video to a website for streaming (Or stream from your desktop.... I won't get into that issue here) Or use an online service that will connect to your computer and recognize your camera.

Ustream.tv is one online service that many people use. These services provide the encoding and the website for you to stream your video to. You download the software and stream to their site only. Your video will be available as a "Channel" along with many other video webcasts.

On the Desktop, you can use a couple of applications, both free and paid that let you stream to other sites, sites of your choosing if you know how to do that.
I'll only look at a couple of FREE options here.

Webcasting software for PC:
Free Windows Media Encoder. (Now called Expression Encoder)
Flash Media Encoder by Adobe

Webcasting software for MAC:
There are few free options here.  One is Procaster.

These apps, and the whole "Free -  DIY" webcasting process is very cool. It's one of the things that I really like about the social web. Everyone that cares to take the time to learn how can share info, opinions and knowledge with anyone. But this is still not dead simple. It can be FREE, but that doesn't mean it's simple enough for anyone to use without hassle, nor that it works as well as you want it to.

How to Webcast - Professionally.

There are reasons why organizations that wish to control their online content and protect their image and brand do not use these particular free options.

There are Pros and Cons to these processes.
Free? yes. Easy? Sort of.

Having your organization's video webcasts intermingled with other webcasts of unknown origin or content can be awkward. Who knows what the other webcasts on the site are about? Your competitor or someone talking about your organization can be right there alongside your video. Offensive video can be present..

To visitors it will look as if you didn't take the time, nor care enough to expend the resources to build your own branded environment for your webcasts. Or at least embed them in your (hopefully already professional) website.

Where do I find Live Webcasting Services?

Live Webcasting services are not as common as web design firms. There are a mix of Video Production and Web Design Skills that are needed to successfully provide and produce Live Social Webcasts at the high level of quality that professional organizations demand.
 Even at this level if you search Live Webcasting Services on Google you'll see that some of the results would turn out to be companies that offer software and servers that let YOU produce your own webcasts.. Not really what all organizations want. Because staffing up or learning how to do this yourself at the highest levels is not easy nor inexpensive. Buying equipment and software as well as paying the necessary staff to really know how to arrange, coordinate, build and deploy an organization's live webcasts, from various locations around the globe in a professional enterprise environment, is a huge undertaking that requires experience and knowledge. Don't believe me? Think it's not that hard? Trust me.

What Webcasting Software do you use? What equipment do you use to Webcast?

We have been webcasting for over 10 years. Live on location. We started using a service called Worldstream (now defunct). The URL is a Hosting company now.. This was an Online service that you could stream the video into. and they would host it. Then we used a piece of equipment called a StreamGenie. The beauty of this was that it was mobile. you could roll up with a medium sized wheeled case and with a Camera and an Internet Connection you could send a stream out.
We needed to be able to be mobile. The key to webcasting and having it be of real value to an organization is that it has to be something that can be decided ad launched anywhere anytime on  short notice. This is why in-house staff is unacceptably cumbersome and costly.

Now we use a combination of HD Cameras, Flash Media Encoder, Wirecast, aja KiPro digital recorders, in coordination with our own webcasting management and deployment applications which our web development staff built and continues to update. We ended up shaking the dependancies of subscription SaaS providers or other companies hardware. Instead, we've assembled our own time tested cases of gear and web apps online. Still not simple but it works at the highest levels. It took us 10+ years to get this sorted out and we still have cases of gear we use.

The equipment and the software is only part of a full service webcasting company. The work we do before the event, even on very short notice makes clients trust us. Building out he signup and login process, creating any associated content or training. We coordinate with the location and the staff. We provide our clients short notice, cost effective, worldwide event webcasting live with synchronized PowerPoint slides in a branded custom Media Portal. We'll travel anywhere and do it for less then expected. These are the things that separate BASIC home brew webcasting from live social webcasting at the highest level.

Can't you webcast from just a laptop and a little camera?

At the level many organizations expect? No. You need absolute rock solid reliability, security, flexibility, and customization. More then a few times we've rolled in and setup to webcast where another group was "webcasting" using small prosumer cameras and the free tools I mentioned.. Their clients are our clients now.


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