Low-Cost Options To Meet Online – Virtual Meetings, Town Halls, and Large Conferences

Low-Cost Options To Meet Online – Virtual Meetings, Town Halls, and Large Conferences

Houses of Worship, City Governments, Schools, and Businesses are all trying to figure out one thing- how do we continue to communicate with employees, students, customers and audiences during the these times? Here’s a look into solutions you can implement today to virtualize your conference rooms, town hall meetings, and large conferences.

Virtual Conference Room | Zoom and Google Hangouts Meets  

Let’s start with the smallest type of meeting- internal meetings. Meant for collaboration, screen sharing, and a phone dial-in option, face-to-face video conference is the most frequent types of gatherings, and thus they need to be extremely easy to use. While there are a lot of solutions out there, we’re going to focus on three of the most common platforms.

  • Google Hangouts Meets – Let’s start with free! Google Hangouts has always been free, but recently they made their premium platform, Google Hangouts Meets, free until July. A $25 per month value, Google Hangouts Meets will allow businesses and classrooms with up to 250 participants join a video call. Meetings can be recorded as well.Google Meets has its limitations. It can be challenging for an administrator or instructor to quickly accept attendees into the meeting and mute non-presenters. A lot of those controls are hidden away on a separate web page, that can only be controlled by an administrator. Unfortunately, this can leave the person hosting the meeting frustrated. You also will not be able to play video from your computer, or YouTube at all.
  • Zoom – If you’re looking for crystal-clear audio and HD video, with a lot of control for instructors or presenters at your fingertips, you’re going to want to go with Zoom. On top of reliability, Zoom is packed with the best features- remote control of presenters’ screen, interchangeable backgrounds, and mute all features. Zoom supports up to 1,000 video participants with 49 videos streaming.Zoom is one of the few platforms that does support video playback off your desktop or YouTube. This is also great if you’re looking to demonstrate video editing software, or anything that requires video.Schools and businesses can integrate Zoom into their Crestron integrated classroom, conference room, or Clear Touch smartboard.Zoom is offering their videoconferencing tool free for all K-12 schools impacted by the coronavirus.

Virtual Town Hall Meetings | Vimeo Connecting Live Streaming, Audience Engagement, and Netflix?

Now we’re moving away from the day-to-day meeting platforms and looking at solutions that can create an interactive experience for audiences the size of a city or country. Let’s say you want to host Comic Con Q&A panel, with a professional live stream, and questions coming from a live audience attending over the internet. In this situation, you’re going to need a little more control than what is available in traditional virtual conference platforms.

Vimeo Enterprise is offering something that is half-way between a videoconferencing platform and a YouTube Live experience. It’s unique and built to make mass events more interactive.

For production equipment, you still have the option to use your favorite video switcher, cameras, and audio. The video feed can be connected using the typical Stream Key setup. Once you’re connected, you have the ability to simultaneously stream to YouTube, Facebook, and variety of other CDNs- directly from the console, without the need for additional hardware encoders.

Inside the Vimeo Enterprise console, you have options to schedule events, censor commentary, approve/deny chat comments before they get published, and ask audience questions and polls. There is also no data caps, no overages, or other hidden fees. They’ve also made the interface easy to use, so those with much experience can use real-time graphics, Q&A or polls, with a professional broadcast look and feel.

Vimeo has another OTT product that takes it a step further, by providing customers a turnkey private Netflix-like web page of all of their recorded content and live streams, which can be integrated directly into your website. This includes user login, and e-commerce like features, which allow you to charge a monthly subscription- or offer customer layouts and content based on user tier.

There is also a host of analytics tools, but we’ll get into that in another blog.

Virtual Tradeshow | Connect with The Masses with Live Streaming

Even when the world is shutting down, your business or institution still needs to get the word out- and fast. While scheduling a meetup at Church or the Lecture Hall, or you have an important product announcement that just needs to get out- you now may need to look to live streaming. Luckily, live streaming has become easier (and cheaper) than ever. Let’s look into a few options- the basic to the live streaming workflows:

  1. Directly from your laptop or phone. Yes, if you’re looking for the ‘free’ and ‘easy’ option, you can certainly start live streaming immediately from Facebook or YouTube, directly from your phone or laptop. We’ll call this ‘the FaceTime’ option, and with it comes all the potential issues- dropped video or audio, lack of control, and an overall amateur look. This will get you started, but if you’re looking to do something worth engaging, move to the next one.
  2. Connecting an External Camera – If you want to connect a single professional camera, and stream directly to any RTMP or CDN, it might be worth checking out the AJA HELO. It’s incredibly simple setup, might attract those with modest budgets, that want viewers to have a decent video experience.
  3. Connecting Multiple Cameras – If you’re looking to start doing a multi-cam professional broadcast with a variety of video, audio, and graphic resources- you’re going to want to purchase a more traditional broadcast switcher, and hire a technical director with basic broadcast or live streaming experience. Our top choices would be from NewTek TriCaster, Ross Video Carbonite, or Grass Valley.
  4. Connecting off-site cameras, with all other feeds – With a cellular bonded backpack, provided by LiveU, you’ll be able to send a video signal wirelessly back to your production. This is great if you need to host a professional interview, when both parties are not in the same room. It also plays beautifully with video software demos, so you can have your demo artist presenting from home, while your master control room handles the switching and graphics.
  5. Virtual Broadcast Control Room – Some of you may be professional broadcaster already, and you’re just trying to find a way to control your master control room remotely. There is a way to solve this. HP ZCentral Remote Boost provides a VPN experience for video professionals- allowing graphics, switchers, and schedulers to login to their stations remotely.

There are plenty of options out there, so don’t get your feelings hurt if your favorite brand isn’t mentioned. If you are serious about finding out more about one of these options or evaluating what is the best option for you- do not hesitate to reach out- our team will respond quickly and with all the information you will need.

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