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CIT can broadcast your seminar, conference or meeting live to a world-wide audience over the Internet as a real-time streaming video. The event can be recorded and made available for viewers to watch at their convenience as an on-demand video or a downloadable podcast. CIT can also broadcast NIH-only or HHS-only content.

New VideoCast Features

In an effort to improve our service and offer the best technology, we have transformed NIH VideoCast into VideoCast 2.0 – the next generation of streaming video at NIH. The service now offers a variety of new features, including a better video player, HD video, smartphone and tablet support, widescreen 16x9 aspect ratios, powerful search functions, improved visuals, chapter markers with thumbnail images and a YouTube channel.

H.264 Adobe Flash now on VideoCast

The first hurdle to move NIH VideoCast into the second generation was to identify a technology to replace our old Real Networks player, which wasn’t easily available to all users. Our goal was to find a solution that “just works” without requiring users to install a separate player application.

The VideoCast player streaming h.264 video

The Adobe Flash player suggested itself as a possible solution, since it is already installed on a majority of computers. After a successful Flash trial program, we chose the H.264 codec with video hardware acceleration built into the player for its sharper picture and smoother video at full screen.

Because the player is already on 99% of our users’ computers, support calls have decreased and comments from customers have been favorable. The new VideoCast player seamlessly incorporates alternate bitrates to support varying network connectivity. CIT recently increased the maximum live bitrate to 1840K. The higher bit rates improve motion and image clarity.

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High Definition Video

The next hurdle to move NIH VideoCast into the second generation was to upgrade standard definition fiber and encoder infrastructure to high definition.

The VideoCast player demonstrating high-definition video
Click to see full size

HD video is noticeably better with details crisp and clear and better able to handle motion. The VideoCast HD video player provides a larger screen size with 1280 by 720 pixels along with a maximum sustained bitrate of 1840Kbps.

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Smartphones and Tablets

With the rise of popularity of smartphones and tablets, CIT now supports video streaming to mobile devices. With adaptive content video delivery optimized for mobile devices, the goal is to deliver high-quality, smooth video with multi-bitrate for live and on-demand streaming.

The VideoCast player on a tablet
Click to see full size

The VideoCast system produces multiple files from the same source that adapts to differing connection speeds and is transparent to the user with switching occurring behind the scenes.

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Wide screen 16x9 aspect ratio

CIT is broadcasting more and more VideoCasts in a wide screen format, similar to television, DVD and Blu-ray. The goal is to fill the screen area without distortion or cutting off any of the picture by zooming and cropping.  

The VideoCast player demonstrating wide screen video

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Intelligent search and concept clouds

CIT has been VideoCasting world-class seminars to a world-wide audience for more than a decade. We stream hundreds of events live each year, and make them available for viewers to watch at their convenience as on-demand or video-to-go podcasts. Unfortunately, this continuous creation of content made accessing specific information a daunting task for users. Without an easier way to quickly and efficiently sift through hours of video on various subject matters, crucial information stored in our VideoCast archives could remain essentially unavailable to the research community.

The new VideoCast search engine takes a big step towards solving the problem of finding specific items from a vast pool of video and audio content. With the new search engine’s search and voice recognition technology, users can now search not just textual elements such as VideoCast titles or event summaries but the actual audio portions from videos in the database. Researchers can go to the VideoCast web page (http://videocast.nih.gov), search the video archives for the occurrence of scientific terms, and locate those within specific segments of the video. The goal is that the specific search results will take users to the exact part in the video where the searched term is used.

The new VideoCast intelligent search engine

Apart from in-video searching, another key enhancement to VideoCast search is the concept cloud. It provides visitors with a graphical representation of main search topics. Concepts related to the search are listed alphabetically with their font size indicating importance or relevance to the topic. Users can see at a glance which related topics are most relevant to their search term, and will be better able to extract targeted information from the video content.

The search engine's concept cloud
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High definition side-by-side slides

In an effort to respond to user feedback and make the research content of the VideoCasts more accessible visually, CIT has added slides side-by-side next to the video window. Having slides in a higher resolution helps users see material in a higher contrast and makes the slides easier to read. The addition of sharper images to our VideoCasts has brought positive reviews and comments from the research community.

The VideoCast player demonstrating video with slides

Slides, agendas, and supplemental materials can be added to both live and on-demand VideoCasts. And because the images are converted to an Adobe SWF file, there is no helper program or plug-in required for users to install. Images look great and work seamlessly with the video program already installed on Windows and Mac computers.

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Closed captions

In the area of 508 compliance, we listened to feedback from viewers regarding closed captions (CC) and responded with a new system to move captions away from the video window for live events.

The VideoCast player demonstrating live Closed Captioning

For live events, a “CC” pod allows text to be displayed in its own window so it no longer interferes with presentations. Caption text can be edited to fix a misspelled word without the need to change the video file. Users can also download caption text and convert it to transcripts if needed.

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Chapter markers with thumbnail images

In the past, navigating VideoCasts to find an individual speaker has been a challenge. CIT recently offered a new service to divide some of our longer VideoCasts into chapters to help viewers navigate to the footage they are looking for, much like DVDs use chapters in menus.

A demonstration of the chapter-markers feature

Thumbnail images of the individual speakers add visual cues and help improve the VideoCast's overall appearance. 

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YouTube

As part of our outreach to the wider community, and to help connect NIH research with a bigger audience, CIT recently published the NIH VideoCast channel on YouTube. There are 250 videos available on this channel now, with more to follow.

The VideoCast YouTube channel

Working with HHS new media group, VideoCast is branded under the HHS YouTube umbrella. CIT collaborated with other NIH offices to share ideas for implementing social media at NIH. One of the goals was to reach more users and support more devices such as the Apple iPad and iPhone.

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Google + and Facebook Recommend, and Twitter Tweet

CIT recently added Google + and Facebook Recommend along with Twitter Tweet social network buttons so users can easily recommend NIH videos to their social network.

Social media links on VideoCast

When users select the buttons, the content appears in their news feeds. The buttons also report how many users recommend content.

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Language Translation

CIT recently published an automatic language translation feature.

Language translation options on VideoCast

The system uses statistical machine translation rather than dictionary or grammatical rules. The service has been effective in translating our web page into other languages, thus helping the world-wide scientific community in their research. On occasion, any rule-based algorithm can cause mistakes to translated text. With these additions to VideoCast and plans for further enhancements in the future, CIT is always looking for ways to better serve the NIH community.

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