The health care industry has turned to streaming videos to educate the public about different diseases, nutrition, mental health, and more. It’s also useful for training health care providers and enabling doctors and nurses to communicate between facilities.
Streaming video is most commonly used as either an Internet broadcast channel, serving up recorded videos on demand, or as a real-time one-way or two-way communications tool for conferencing. It can be used for entertainment or education as well as for surveillance or collaboration. It can be opened up to the public at large or used within a private network. However, none of this can be done until the video is actually online and to do that it takes a streaming media encoder.
Sitting squarely in the intersection where A/V meets IT, streaming media encoders are network devices that reside between your switch or router and your firewall. They translate your video into IP packets that can travel across the local IP network and across the Internet. Streaming media encoders built for A/V also scale the video for a specific output resolution, either low or high, which can be viewed on a variety of screens and across different bandwidths. For instance, you might want your on-demand video to be viewed easily by people using smartphones on a 3G network. However, you might also want the CEO’s quarterly message to stakeholders be broadcast in HD on a room-sized display.
No matter what kind of video you plan to stream, the streaming media encoder should share common features with other devices on your IP network.
“Reliability of service, ease of use and flexibility in configuration are top considerations. It’s just not important how good the stream looks if it goes down in the middle of an event. Also [important is] that the device will support the desired target and source formats. Some current units might not be able to support a 1080p signal,” says Ron Guensche, a live sound engineer and a network engineer at ednet (Entertainment Digital Network), a live audio and video webcasting production and streaming services company in San Francisco.
According to Guensche, input configuration is a top concern when choosing a streaming media encoder. “How easily does the unit integrate into your existing infrastructure? For instance, [it might] lack serial digital inputs, which a lot of facilities in my niche use, but [it might] have analog VGA inputs, which virtually none of the facilities in my niche use,” he says.
In the corporate world, streaming video is used for everything from demonstrating products to potential customers, providing detailed tech support, disseminating internal messages, and conducting meetings across continents.
Depending on your AV set up, you can plug additional devices into a streaming media encoder, such as a projector, a videoconference codec, display monitors, or a DVD player or other source devices.