Hands On With Microsoft Stream: A Business-Focused Video Share Tool
Microsoft believes that video is a vital tool for businesses. Many people, after all, prefer watching video than reading text on screens. The human brain can process videos 60,000 times faster than written text. This is supported by the surging popularity of video streaming services as well as video sharing platforms. Netflix and YouTube make up over a quarter of global internet traffic. According to Sandvine, YouTube also makes up 38 percent of worldwide mobile traffic. As popular as YouTube and similar video sharing services are, they lack the security and levels of control that should be used for business and corporate environments.
Microsoft Stream, a secure video and live streaming tool designed around the needs of businesses and enterprises, could be the answer. Available to corporate or educational Microsoft Office 365 subscribers, Microsoft Stream lets you create and share business videos from meetings, presentations, training sessions, and interviews across companies and organizations. For live videos, Microsoft Stream can manage online learning, training, and events for up to 10,000 attendees or viewers.
Versatile Video Creation and Sharing for Business
"Video is becoming more ubiquitous in our personal lives. More and more people are using it to share ideas, to communicate, and to learn," said Seth Patton, General Manager of Microsoft Office 365 Product Marketing. "We have made Microsoft Office applications mainstream tools for creating and collaborating on documents. We think there's a similar opportunity for video, which we see as the new document."
To make business video sharing as easy as possible, Microsoft built Stream to integrate with its other collaboration apps, notably Microsoft SharePoint Online and Microsoft Teams . But the company didn't stop there.
It integrated Stream with all the apps in the Microsoft Office 365 portfolio, including Microsoft OneNote. and Yammer. Microsoft also kept IT professionals in mind by making sure Stream worked with Azure Active Directory (AD), which handles user authentication and other identity management chores in Microsoft environments.
More than just an easy way to record and share video from multiple sources, Microsoft Stream has a number of intelligent features that extend the functionality of video from a passive activity (just sitting and watching) to an active and engaging tool (participating in polls, quizzes, and online surveys).
Microsoft focused on versatiltiy with Stream, making sure it needed only a browser, a webcam, and a PC's built-in microphone to set up a live event video that could be easily broadcasted across an organization. Microsoft Stream also recently became available to mobile users via Android and iOS apps. Designed mostly around video creation on mobile, Microsoft Stream videos may use a smartphone's cameras and microphones, but the videos reside in a secure cloud. The mobile apps also allow for offline viewing, so users can queue up videos to consume at a later time.
Microsoft Stream has intelligent features that can track a recorded speaker's timeline (using face detection), speech-to-text technology, and closed caption creation. The same technology generates a transcript of the video, complete with timecodes to quickly scrub and find specific moments within a video.
Additional intelligent features include auto-generated captions, a deep search function for finding specific words or phrases, and a unique people detection function where viewers can jump into the speaking sections of specific persons. The rationale of all these tools is to add functionality to videos by making the audio and text components more dynamic and easy to search, much like a Microsoft Word document.
In the image below, we can see how playing back a recorded video will show the timed transcription of recorded text under the Transcript section on the right-hand side.
Using a Microsoft Office 365 corporate account, I was able to access Microsoft Stream through the Teams app. I started by setting an appointment for a video conference, selecting participants, and the date and time. Once I set up the prerequisite requirements (i.e., ensuring my PC's webcam and microphone were properly set), I initiated the meeting and also clicked "Record" on the Microsoft Stream console. All of the participants can see a pulsing red dot that tells them they are being recorded.
The Microsoft Stream page looks similar to most video websites, with one large window for the main video you are viewing or recording and then various smaller thumbnails of similar or related videos positioned below. If you've used YouTube or Vimeo, then this will be familiar to you.
Sound and video quality of the Microsoft Stream meeting was clear and adequate. At the end of the meeting, the recorded video file was quickly available for playback or sharing. It takes about 40 minutes for the transcription process to complete, so when I played back the video, a windows with on the right-hand side showed a line-by-line transcription of what was being said. I found Microsoft Stream intuitive and easy to use and the transcription feature helped me verify information better than if I was just relying on an audio recording.
"Every video has transcribed audio," said Christina Torok, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Microsoft Stream. She said the artificial intelligence (AI) converts audio from the video into searchable text. "You can simply just type a descriptive keyword and jump to any point in the video," she said.
(Image credit: Microsoft)
Videos from various formats that are uploaded into Microsoft Stream undergo this automatic transcription. "Not only does Microsoft Stream have its own video destination or portal, we've also embedded it into all the tools that people use for productivity and communication," Torok said. "When tested internally, Stream usage grew by 300 percent after it was easily interoperable within other products, like Microsoft SharePoint Online, Teams, Yammer, and OneNote."
"We also have face detection which enables viewers to see where each person is speaking in the video complete with a clickable timeline." The ability to add timecodes and comment sections is icing on the cake and truly converts video, which was previously a one-dimensional piece of content, into a document that can then be quantified, split apart, and closely analyzed. I found these features helped me get to specific parts of topics simply by running a keyword search.
Being able to play back videos and get to specific areas or speaker segments quickly saves a lot of time. It is a far more intuitive than scrubbing the video manually to get to that specific part. I found it easy to plug in polls and short quizzes through the Microsoft Forms integration. "Adding quizzes and polls directly into the video solves a lot of problems in education, company training, and knowledge checks," Torok pointed out.
Mobile Is Natural Habitat of Video Creation
Using Microsoft Stream on Android or iOS smartphones can change the game for service-based workers. While it isn't as specialized as augmented reality (AR) headset Microsoft HoloLens, secure video streaming on mobile devices (already available) makes it easier to engage with business customers and deal with difficult situations remotely.
Smartphones have become so popular partially because they're ideal for capturing and sharing short videos or personal moments. Microsoft Stream has simply leveraged that paradigm for businesses, keeping it very easy to use, but also wrapping it in a secure, IT-managed bubble geared towards productivity. "Mobile apps bring video creation to a whole new set of scenarios for businesses and front-line workers," Patton said.
This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.