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A webcast is a specific type of media that allows a single content source, or video clip, to reach many viewers or listeners. This type of technology uses streaming media, and can be distributed over the Internet on demand or as a live broadcast. The best description is that a webcast is essentially broadcasting, but over the internet instead of TV or radio. Many radio and TV stations will also webcast through the internet, using their online radio or TV streaming, and may even have their own Internet station. Besides these traditional “casting” companies, E-learning organizations and investor relations tend to use webcasting to communicate with the commercial sector and as a form of communication. This type of media has flourished because the technology needed for webcasting is not expensive. This has allowed many independent shows and individuals to webcast online frequently.
As mentioned before, this form of media is distributed using streaming media technology. In simple terms, this means that the data can be displayed to the browser or plug-in application before the entire file has been transmitted. There are storage and bandwidth recommendations for webcasting that depend on the required storage space, number of clients viewing the cast and the length of the media. Several different types of data can be sent, each on their own stream. Audio and video data are sent on separate audio and video data streams and then assembled on a container bit stream. This bit stream is then sent from the server to the client using a specific transport protocol, which may vary as there are several to choose form. For webcasting, synchronized multimedia integration language or SMIL is very important. This is a type of XML language that describes the webcast or multimedia. This provides the information for visual transitions, timing, media embedding, animations and other things so that audio, images, video, text and links can all be presented at the same time. It is very similar to HTML.
The main webcasters are radio and TV stations, and many have their own streaming channels. The Digital Media Association represents some of the largest webcasting companies found on the web, including Live365, Pandora and Yahoo. In the United States, Brain Swell Media or BSM, is one of the largest webcasting companies. Reuters and Thomson is one of the largest webcasting service providers found around the world with webcasts from Broadcast One in Hong Kong, StreamX in Australia, NeTVision in Germany, RAW in the UK and CCBN in the US. More than 30% of their webcasts are videos and media clips. Of importance to all companies and independent webcasters is the International Webcasting Association, also known as the IWA, which works to promote efficient and effective streaming media and webcasting over the internet. It helps to form the future of the webcasting industry.
Webcasting is typically used within the commercial sector as a way of providing investor information. The company can provide information to many more people because they no longer have to travel to the company’s headquarters. Individuals simply log onto their computer at home and watch the provided webcast. For example, companies will choose to have Annual general Meetings webcasted to all investors, many of whom would normally not be able to attend the meeting in person. The commercial sector may also use webcasting as a way to hold meetings, presentations or business from afar when travel may be problematic or when time is an issue.
Webcasting has been of huge benefit to independent media as almost anyone with an internet connection and webcam can do webcasting. Almost anyone can do webcasting and there are many independent stations found on the internet, those that offer video and those that are dedicated to radio. These independent shows are produced by average individuals and can cover a large range of topics. The low cost of streaming media brought the internet and information sharing to everyone that owns the necessary, inexpensive equipment. Additionally, the success of social media sites has allowed for further development of independent media sharing.
The concept of webcasting was unveiled in 1989 at InterTainment ’89 from GTE laboratories. The first webcast was not made until October 1995 when Brian Raila and James Paschetto, both from GTE laboratories, showed the first streaming media prototype at the Voice Mail Association meeting in Switzerland. The first company to feature video webcasting was Onsteam Media by Alan Saperstein. HotelView contained thousands of two minute videos providing details on hotels around the world. The actual term, webcasting, was not developed until the mid-1990s. A group of streaming pioneers, Peggy Miles from InterVox Communications, Craig Schmeider from Applied Media resources, William Mutual from ITV.net, Howard Gordon from Xing Technologies and Mark Cuban from AudioNet, picked a term that best described this type of streaming media.
There are many different types of webcasting. Podcasts are those webcasts that were designed specifically to be watched on portable media devices. The name Podcast originated with the iPod as webcasts were designed to be watched on these devices. Many times, individuals will use the term netcast instead of podcasts, so as not to connect the webcast specifically with the iPod as these can be viewed on many other types of portable media devices. Media clips are normally short video or audio clips that tend to act as promotional material. For example, a movie clip is webcasted to help promote a new movie. Many times actors will promote the movie by using these short media clips.
Another type of webcasting is a Vlog, which is video blogging. Instead of providing written entries, the individual will combine video links and embedded videos within images, text and metadata. Entries can be given in one take or separated into different parts.
Many television webcasters will provide Webisodes for viewers. These webisodes are short episodes that can act as a preview or bonus to support the actual TV show. The webisode will not have been broadcast with the original show on the TV.
Wedcasts are a special type of webcast, as these offer wedding broadcasting across the internet. Many chapels, specifically wedding chapels, offer this as it provides the opportunity for many individuals to see the wedding live without actually attending.
Another form of webcast is a webinar which is a type of web conferencing or online seminar. Video chats, voice and text can be shared across the world to allow those that live far away to gain the provided information. This is very popular with universities and colleges that offer distance learning as well as other E-learning companies.
Many of the above mentioned webcasts use video data, but there are webcasts, known as Web radio, which offer only audio data. These web radio stations function just like regular radio stations, but they are streamed through the internet. Therefore, an individual in California can tune into a radio station that originates in Russia if they so desire.
Author: James Parker Doyle