Inxpo Studio: Reviewing the Premium Tier Webinar Platform
Returning to the interface in the background of Figure 3, note the green icon on the left of each input on the upper right. This reflects the connection status of each input during rehearsal or during the live event. For example, during the actual webinar, our guest’s light often changed from green to yellow to red, indicating connection problems at his end, probably because he was using Wi-Fi rather than a wired connection.
During the event, there wasn’t much we could do about the problem, but at least we knew why his audio was breaking up. Before the event, these tools and others shown below provide a great way to perform bandwidth checks to avoid problems altogether.
Finally, note the three tabs on the top right of the background screen in Figure 3. The Staff button lets me edit the metadata or rights of any speaker or staffer, while the Chat button provides backchannel chat to any or all speakers or staffers.
Final Configurations and Going Live
To serve viewers on disparate platforms, Studio automatically encodes the video to DASH and HLS formats and distributes them as appropriate. If you have Broadcast Studio, you can also send streams to Facebook or YouTube Live, or any Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) streaming server. Once you’re ready to go, you click the aforementioned Start Webcast button to publish streams to your viewers.
Once you’re up and running, you’ll use the tools on the extreme left of Figure 3 to control and monitor the event. Here, you can perform actions like selecting an exit action, perhaps to send the viewer to a post-event survey or a website. You can also track the number of viewers online and their activity, send messages to the viewers or presenters, and highlight and review the different interface elements to make them apparent to the viewers, perhaps to shake the Handouts icon while telling the viewers that the handout is available for download.
The monkey wrench on the left opens the Producer tool, which you see in Figure 3, and the Monitor tools, which you see in Figure 4. This shows some of the live QoE stats collected during my event, with 12 total viewers, four viewing HLS streams, and eight viewing DASH. All 12 are watching the highest-quality stream from both formats and are receiving the packets with no issues. If I click the number 12 highlighted in green next to the Good label, I open a list of viewers, which provides connection information like operating system, browser, and CDN. Obviously, I could do the same for any users with a sub-standard experience, offering the opportunity to diagnose the problem and/or contact the user to apologise or make sure he or she knows know about the archived version.
Figure 4. The Monitor tools
The CDN Overview on the bottom left shows that Akamai delivered all streams to all viewers, while the browser overview shows three viewers on Safari and one on IE11, which are probably the HLS streams, and seven on Chrome and one on Firefox, which are probably the DASH viewers.
Note the three tabs on the upper left. The Source tab shows the incoming bandwidth from all stream sources, providing much more granular data to the green, yellow, and red indicator lights shown on the upper right in Figure 3. Had I known about this feature before the webinar, I could have performed much more extensive testing before the event, perhaps diagnosing and avoiding the connection issues we experienced. The Outputs tab, which is shown, is where I would add Facebook Live and/or YouTube Live (before actually going live). The Master Audio tab lets me adjust master volume, treble, or bass and add a highpass or lowpass filter.
When your webcast is complete, you click Stop Webcast, which triggers whatever end action you’ve configured. After the event, you can access a data portal with event metrics, including the always useful Live Attendance Trend chart that shows how long our viewers stayed online watching (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Analytics available after the event
While the numbers weren’t large, they sure were riveted, as no viewers left before the webinar was over, which is a testimony to the great content that our guest provided.
You can see the other data tracked by the system on the left in Figure 5. Note that any time a number is presented, you can click the number to identify the users that comprise it. For example, in Figure 5, if I clicked the 14 next to Unique live viewers atop the screen, it would open a list of those viewers that I could view and export.
Studio records all webinars automatically, after which you can edit them in a cloud-based editor. You can trim heads and tails from the video, change slides, and/or move cue points where you changed a panel layout. You can also download the video portion of the presentation, which is saved as an MP4 file and will include all content presented in the real-time video window, in our case, the PowerPoint and two talking heads.
Studio does a nice job of making the system accessible via short, function-specific videos available in a library called Studio University. I found the videos particularly useful for unusual activities like connecting to a videoconferencing system or to a speaker by phone.
During my testing, I configured and ran one small webinar and then configured another that I didn’t actually run live. During the live webinar, I didn’t change any configuration options; I just pushed the Start and Stop buttons to begin and end the event and easily ran the webinar by myself, which may be a consideration for smaller organisations that don’t want to assign a resource to administer the webinar. After learning to use the Producer tool, I’d be comfortable producing a more complex webinar while serving as speaker or panel moderator. That said, adding an operator to control the event or a monitor to handle Q&A definitely simplifies things, keeps the stress levels low, and helps resolve any issues that might arise before they become obvious to the viewers.
My small live event ran smoothly, other than the self-inflicted connectivity issues I should have detected before the event and taken steps to avoid. Interestingly, my editor, Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, has also used the system with good results. When I pitched the Studio review to Eric in July (before West acquired Inxpo), I mentioned that we hadn’t looked at a webinar system in a while. His response? “You’re right, we haven’t. I think it’s about time we do. I used Studio last week for a webinar Inxpo sponsored and really liked it (though I didn’t handle any of the production duties).” So Studio comes highly recommended from the both of us.
[This article appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Streaming Media Magazine European Edition as "Review: West Studio."]
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