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Office 365 Live Video Streaming Feature Now Available

Microsoft this week announced the general availability of a new "live events" video broadcasting feature for Office 365 users.

In addition, live events broadcasts also are now accessible by users of the "collaborative workspace" Microsoft Teams client app plus the Yammer chat app. Those client-support capabilities for live events also are now at the general availability stage, according to Microsoft.

In preview since last summer, live events is a video distribution and broadcasting solution for organizations that's part of the Microsoft Stream service. Microsoft conceives of live events as a video solution that can work across various Office 365 applications, according to Christina Torok, a senior product marketing manager for Microsoft Stream, in a recorded Microsoft "Intrazone" talk. She added that it can be used for big productions and even small efforts, such as simple screen-sharing sessions. Live events is principally a distribution and broadcasting system, but it also has some video-production capabilities, and can make the production process a bit easier, she explained.

There can be up to 10,000 live events video attendees, and they can use the Teams, Microsoft Stream or Yammer clients. Meeting participants can join from any device, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also has a Skype Meeting Broadcast service that can be used to deliver live video events. Microsoft tried using the Skype Meeting Broadcast service to connect its employees worldwide about three years ago, but that effort had to be "hacked" to work. Now, it uses its live events service for such broadcasts, according to this Microsoft "IT Showcase" article.

A live events session gets determined by a producer, who decides what sort of event to have. The producer also selects the audience, which can be the entire company or specific groups of people. Any user licensed for Microsoft 365 E1, E3 and E5 plans, or Education A3 and A5 plans, can create a live event, according to this Microsoft document, but there are IT controls, as well.

The Microsoft Stream service works with "cameras, microphones and content sources" from various partners, including "Haivision KB and Makito encoders, Switcher Studio, Wirecast and Wirecast S," according to Microsoft's announcement.

Users of Teams can use a webcam or audio-visual recording device with a Teams Room System to record a live events session. More sophisticated production can be done using "third-party hardware and software," Microsoft indicated.

Large organizational meetings may require additional support. Microsoft has enterprise content delivery network partners, namely Hive Streaming, Kollective and Ramp OmniCache, that can address bandwidth issues when live events are streamed to very large audiences.

Here's Microsoft's explanation about why such content delivery network support might be needed:

Live event playback uses adaptive bitrate streaming, which is a unicast stream, meaning every attendee is getting their own video stream from the internet. For live events sent out to huge audiences within your organization, this can consume significant internet bandwidth. Microsoft's trusted video delivery partners now offer enterprise content delivery networks (eCDN) to optimize the bandwidth consumed while delivering a great end user experience during large-scale Microsoft Teams live events.

Live events also have some artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. For instance, meetings will automatically generate a transcript. There's an accessibility "closed caption" feature that audience members can enable by clicking a "CC" button.

Other AI capabilities include the ability to show on-screen captions and translations during an event. Those features are expected to reach the general availability stage "over the next few months," according to Microsoft.

Microsoft is working on adding other live events features, as well. A coming capability will be the "ability to add a guest or a federated user as a presenter." Another feature will be the ability to manage live events using the calendar in Teams.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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