We made a mistake…

Cisco Meraki

Since the lockdowns began around March 2020, our businesses have changed. Live events has been mostly non-existent. In order for businesses in our industry to survive, we’ve had to adapt, try new things and learn new skills. Not only that, but budgets are different (smaller).

I’m very pleased with the way that we’ve adapted in the last year. We’ve been able to offer our clients excellent quality live streaming and virtual events at the right price. I’m also happy to say we’re dong it the right way, with highly skilled staff, on some of the best and most reliable equipment currently in the industry.

But it’s been a journey to get here. A few months ago, we were asked to do something new. We were asked to record 20 people in HD from a Zoom meeting. We thought we could do it. In the ‘old world’ it would have been easy. We would have been on site, brought in 20 video feeds from anywhere around the world and rented in a rack of video recorders. The quality would have been excellent and the budget doubled. This time around, we wanted to do it from our studio and we wanted to keep it cheap and keep the client. We did some testing, all appeared to work. We looked over our test recordings, they seemed ok. We confirmed with the client and won the job to work on one of their most high profile projects that year.

We started the job, pressed all the buttons, everything looked good and the ‘event’ took place. After the event, we confirmed we had files, nothing had crashed and we would send everything to the client. Everyone left (virtually) feeling happy.

It was only went we went back over the recordings that we found the quality was poor, to say the least. Very poor. They were certainly not something I was happy delivering to the client. We worked through the night to fix the issues in post (video joke) and by the morning, we were able to deliver something. I say ‘something’ because it still wasn’t good enough, but it was something.

Now there were only a few things left for us to do.

  1. Apologise to the client profusely. Obviously we didn’t send a bill despite the fact we know the end client did pay for the eventual product. From my point of view though, as a business owner, I was not happy AT ALL with the work we had done and was not prepared to let the client pay for that quality of work.
  2. Research, read and learn everything we can about how we had made a mistake.

Now we’re in a unique position that we’ve made the mistake and we’ve learnt from it. And so what’s the outcome / silver lining? We know how technically challenging it is to deliver something like this. We made the mistake and we’ve learnt a lot. As a result, we rebuilt our entire network (more money than we’ve ever spent before one a single item) and changed our workflow for this kind of project. Now we know exactly how to deliver this project, should we ever get asked again! And next time, we’ll get it perfect. Even better than that, as a result of the new things we’ve learned and the improved infrastructure, our workflows for all kinds of projects have changed and improved. Everything we do is now to a far higher standard.

Shortlisted for the Event Technology Awards 2015

Present Communications are delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for an award for “Best Hybrid Event or Live Streaming Solution” at the Event Technology Awards.

PUNCH!Our solution allows us to completely bypass network firewalls and system intricacies safely and securely and to set up video conferencing or webcasting solutions (or any other type of internet connection that may be required) very quickly and easily and with little or no configuration at all. Given its ability to break through most complexities, we have named it PUNCH!

This solution is revolutionising the events industry by facilitating video conferencing and webcasting in places where previously it would not have been possible without expensive and time consuming access to an on-site IT teams and venue networking hardware.

It is worth noting that this product can be used to access internet in many circumstances but the reason why we see it is so fundamental for video conferencing is because it allows video conference unit to receive incoming calls even when behind a firewall. The only thing that is required from the venue is access to the World Wide Web i.e. if you can see google, PUNCH! will work.

“We are very excited about being nominated for this award.  This is a product that we use day in day out and it’s great for the team to get recognition for the way in which they are facilitating business communication and allowing these businesses to connect to their international audiences easily and more cost effectively than ever before” – Kieron Garlic, Managing Director.

We wish all the teams shortlisted for the various awards the best of luck and look forward to being there on the night.

 

Firewall problems are a thing of the past – introducing PUNCH!

Firewalls, NAT, port forwarding, words that strike fear into the heart of even the most veteran video conferencing engineer.

There are many ways to set up a codec on a network.  You can allow the codec access to a public IP, NAT to the codec or use simple port forwarding if you think you’re brave enough.

Punch through the firewall

Any of these options require assistance from the in-house IT expert.  Of course that IT person should also be handy with video conferencing and understand the specific port requirements and also how H.323 work.  When you find that person, send him to me, I have a job going.

There are lots of ways that a firewall can be bypassed.  Some are much more complicated than others but mostly they require a lot of configuration.  What is really required by the industry is a way to just PUNCH! through any firewall and present the Video Codec to the outside world on a public IP address outside (and not related) to the network it’s on.
Well, we have this product and if you haven’t guessed already, it’s called PUNCH!  Each device is plugged into any network via the PUNCH! and that device is automatically configured with a public IP address on our network which will work with your Video Codec or any other device.

Don’t believe us, give us a try!

Webcast, videoconference, telepresence, teleconference or virtual event???

We have experience in many kinds of web, video and telephone conferencing. Some methods are much easier, cheaper and more reliable than others and some are obviously less so. Most people don’t really know the difference between these methods. In fact, there isn’t really a standard definition for each as everything is still developing so quickly at the moment. The current ‘trend’ is for collaboration and inter-operability between these different systems and this can work with varying degrees of success. The Internet has made these types of communication more accessible but the Internet is not always appropriate.

Some of the terms we are most familiar with include skype, gotomeeting and webex. So what are these and why are  they important? This type of communication isn’t new. MSN messenger has been offering ‘video chat’ for over 10 years and ‘voice-over-IP’ for 15 years. It is typically used for point-to-point communications on a personal computer. Webex and gotomeeting have gone one step further and allow for document sharing, instant messenging and video chat for multiple users. These work over a normal IP connection to the internet. This type of communication hasn’t really been given a name yet so most people refer to the software they’re using although it is sometimes called telecollaboration. These systems are often used for document sharing and run along side a teleconference.

Many of us are familiar with conference phones, often used in boardrooms. These are essentially speakerphones. Boardrooms are often linked together for meetings using a bridge or virtual meeting room. This is a teleconference. But we can also connect another person or a teleconference to an entire conference room. A presentation could be given over the phone or a number of people who are unable to attend could listen using their phone.

A videoconference is really an extension of the teleconference but with added video. It might be for a small meeting or it might be for a larger conference. It allows people to interact both ways and presentations can be lead from the near or far end. Content sharing is also possible using an additional screen although the same level of interactivity is not possible as the content is streamed and not shared. Videoconferencing has traditionally been done over ISDN which provides a guaranteed point to point connection but now more videoconferencing uses the internet, eliminating call charges. A bridge can also be used to link multiple sites and/or users with interaction often managed by the bridge.

One of the problems with videoconferencing is that some people believe it doesn’t make the user feel truly immersed and comfortable and so a face to face meeting is always more productive. Videoconference system designers have taken this criticism on board and now design conference rooms with telepresence built it, making it feel like your colleagues are in the room. This is achieved through intelligent camera, speaker and screen placement so that colleagues appear life size and sound ‘appears’ to be coming directly from them.

These systems are all interactive to some extent but the number of users is limited. Webcasting allows an event, seminar or presentation to be broadcast to a (potentially) unlimited number of people. Webcasts are accessed using Internet enabled computers or many Internet enabled device (ipad, iphone, blackberry etc). It is possible to stream video, audio, content (slides or otherwise) or any combination. It is often possible to customize the interface and therefore integrate some type of feedback and/or interactivity such as chat, twitter or simply email.

Virtual Events haven’t really become popular yet but some big players in the webcasting world are focusing a lot of effort on this new concept. It’s like webcasting meets second life. Whilst attending a virtual event, it is possible to walk around and network with other attendees as if in a computer game using typical Internet communication methods like chat and voip. Other attendees might host meetings or webcasts, which are accessible via the virtual event. U2 famously held the first online concert inside second life.

So, I hope that provides a quick overview to all the different technologies and I wish you luck with each of them in the future.