Over the past couple of years I have looked at several video encoders for streaming video over the Internet.
They all pretty much do the same thing, they take audio and video in, compress it and stream it out to a server. Many of them can record to a hard drive and then upload the compressed video to a server, however I’ve have found that there are several other things that need to be taken into consideration if you want to stream either live or publish on-demand videos. First, take the encoder, what type of compression is it using, what is the bit rate, video size, frame rate, I-frames and B-Frames. Next, how hard is the encoder to use, do I need an IP address, what is port forwarding, what is graphic overlay with a key color. And then, how do I get my video to appear on my web site? I have a web server, what is a media server? How do I add a LIVE link to my web site? How do I embed video? These are just a few questions most people don’t even know to ask.
When I was first introduced to the Tech Werks EZCaster, I was they told that anyone could easily use it and have video on their web site automatically. I was skeptical; but the first thing I did was open an account at Tech Werks. You can use the EZCaster with your own servers; however I wanted to try the complete on-line Management software package available from Tech Werks. When I was setting up my account, I had the option to select from a variety of Streaming packages to fit my purpose. I was very surprised that Tech Werks had some of the lowest cost live-streaming and on-demand pricing I had seen. When I finished creating my account I had full access.
I unpacked the EZCaster-264, plugged in the AC power, audio/video, the 7” touch screen (just one USB cable) and my Internet. I turned on the EZcaster, and it automatically connected to my network, and then it connected to Tech Werks Database and automatically downloaded all my information and graphics for my test and it was ready.
I logged into my Tech Werks On-line management software, and clicked on the “link to my HTML page” button and a new browser opened. When I touched the START button on the EZcaster, the STREAM and ON-DEMAND “light” on the touch screen display turned yellow for about 2 seconds and then red. I looked at my computer, and at the top of my HTML page I saw the “WATCH LIVE” link! I clicked on it, to my amazement a flash player opened on my computer and I was broadcasting LIVE to the entire world, and all of this was accomplished without having to do any “programming”.
When I touched STOP, the WATCH LIVE link disappeared from my HTML page. On the EZCaster, the AUTO-PUBLISH screen appeared asking if I wanted to auto-publish this video, I touched YES, and watched as my video automatically up-loaded to Tech Werks servers. When the video upload completed, I refreshed my browser and there was my video, ON the Internet ready for anyone in the world to watch. Although at first skeptical, I now agree with Tech Werks claim that “Anyone can use the EZCaster”.
So the EZcaster is simple and it did publish my video automatically to my HTML page, but, what if I were a “high-end” user? As I started working with the EZcaster I was surprised at all the features, built-in waveform monitor, graphic overlay i.e. insert a logo in the video, full network control i.e. IP address, wireless interface, control over LIVE and On-Demand “profiles” i.e. compression variables, file management, file conversion, manual file upload and video icon grab. Tech Werks really gives you a lot of “handles” to customize your videos.
I then logged in to my Tech Werks On-Line Management account, to find out what options I could add to my videos. Again, it was basically simple, but had some complex options. I found, I could customize my HTML pages and customize MyPlayer, this is a video player provided with the management software. I could also password protect any LIVE or On-demand video, I could even make a LIVE or On-demand video a Pay-Per-View event. There is also a remote control feature to control the EZCaster via the Internet. I was also able to upload graphics and build a graphic playlist for graphics to be inserted over the video on the EZcaster while streaming live. I thought this was a great and simple way to add graphics to my presentation. I could create full frame graphics or just a simple name super.
I then built a LIVE webinar; I could enable “data capture” requiring the viewer to enter name, email and phone number. I enabled “Ask a question”, allowing the viewer to ask the presenter questions in real time, in addition to having the option to add a real time chat box. I even uploaded a PDF that is displayed in the presentation window next to the video. Tech Werks also created the EZPresenter and trust me, it was easy. First I enabled the EZPresenter, and then clicked “create EZPresentation”. I actually uploaded a Power Point file, .ppt. The EZPresenter then created individual slides. You can also add additional graphic files. I selected thumbnails and all my graphics were displayed. I started the EZcaster and clicked “WATCH LIVE” and a presentation window opened. I had the video in the top left, an “ask a question” box in the bottom left, and my first Power Point Slide on the right hand side. As I was Streaming LIVE and talking on camera, I used my computer and clicked a thumbnail slide and the Power Point slide changed in the video presentation window. This could NOT be any simpler, and I created a VERY complex presentation.
In conclusion, I am very impressed with Tech Werks EZcaster along with their On-Line Management Software. You can use it directly out of the box in a simple “plug & play” mode. You don’t need to be a “programmer”. Or you can use the system and create some very complex presentations. I really liked the multiple profiles at the same time. There were several options I thought I would really like to see in the EZcaster. So I contacted Tech Werks and found out they were already working on 3 of my 4 ideas. I am impressed to find out that Tech Werks is still creating new features.
Jim Carroll is a Retired Technical Manager. He has worked at both ABC and NBC.