I am sure that I do not need to explain the value of video when used in nearly any training or meeting scenario. Because Adobe Connect makes it so easy to upload and stream video to an audience many people make assumptions about the outcome of sharing video, the participant experience. In this article I will attempt to identify issues with playing ondemand video as well as present solutions for those issues.
The first step is to figure out what might go wrong and why. The great news is that there are many tools that can be used to identify issues. Since I am a Windows 10 user my examples and references will be based on Windows 10 but I have to assume that there are similar tools on nearly every other operating system. The problems that I run into typically fall into two categories: bandwidth and/or CPU (pc resources).
Lets start with CPU as an issue to smooth playback of ondemand video. An easy way to test a video before you upload it to Adobe Connect is to simply play it locally to see if you can identify any issues. If the video does not play locally it should be obvious that it will not play well when streamed.
PC Resources (Memory / CPU)
If you know the answer to the question, how do I know if I have enough CPU/memory resources to play ondemand video, you can move to the next section. I have found what I think is the easiest way, which is to use the “Task Manager”. There are several ways to launch it including : right click on the task bar or Ctrl + Shift + Esc keyboard shortcut. Once it is open you will see several tabs.
You can see from the image above that 87% of the CPU is already being used on running applications. Notice that Chrome is using ~52% of the CPU. Also notice that there are 37 tabs open in Chrome. If you play the video locally with little change in the CPU, Memory, etc… and it plays smoothly, that is a good sign. It should also be obvious that if the video playback takes 50% of the CPU, attempting to play that video with less than that amount available is not going to work well. Of course this simple test does not assure that this video will play back when streaming but it is a good start.
Many people will assume that the size of the file on the hard drive is a determining factor in how a video will play, that is not the case. Of course it is not a good sign if you attempt to upload a 40 GB video, just for the fact that you will have problems uploading it. The critical measure for streaming video is bitrate (bits transmitted per second). Bitrate is typically displayed as Kbps/Mbps/etc… (e.g. 600 Kbps or 600 kilobits per second). Lets say that you have a 200MB video file but the bitrate was set to 600Kbps that video should play for most if not all participants in an Adobe Connect meeting, there are a few possible exceptions that I will cover later. I have found that bitrates for ondemand videos less than 1Mbps work for most participants.
So how do you set the bitrate for a video? You set the bitrate when you encode or re-encode the video. There are numerous tools that can be used such as Adobe Media Encoder, Handbrake, etc… I have also written a very simple encoder that you can download from here. The simple encoder that I wrote makes some assumptions in order to make the encoding process as simple as possible. There is a short video that explains how to use it on the same page. It will create two versions of the video : good and best. Best requiring the most bandwidth. If you are planning to encoder video it is a very good idea to quit out of any non-essential applications as the CPU overhead for encoding can be high.
Notice in the preceding image the CPU spiked to 100% of the available resources, while encoding a very short snippet of video.
If you use a more capable encoder such as the Adobe Media Encoder you will see a setting called “Bitrate Encoding” that has a few options: CBR, VBR 1 Pass, VBR 2 Pass. Since you will be streaming this video from Adobe Connect always select CBR.
In order to make this process easier when using the latest Adobe Media Encoder , I have created and made presets available here. These presets assume that the video is in a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Now that we have tackled the two most prominent issues lets cover a couple best practices.
There are many unknowns when it comes to the capabilities of participants in a Connect meeting. For any given audience in an Adobe Connect meeting you could have a wide range of bandwidth capacity, CPU, memory, etc… . You might find that some home users have more than enough bandwidth where some corporate users might have poor connections. Corporate users that have poor connections should make sure that they are not connected to vpn unless they have no choice.
You could have everyone run the test link and / or report back their connection status from the connection widget in the upper right corner of every Adobe Connect meeting room but that might take some time. An alternative way to address bandwidth issues is to encode more than one version of the video you would like to play. In that way if the audience reports issues playing the video, you simply substitute the other lower bandwidth version. You might think that is a difficult process but actually it is simple. Just encode one version that is a fairly high bitrate (see encoding section in this article) say 1Mbps and another lower bitrate say ~600 kbps. Upload them to the content library or directly to the meeting room. There is an upload utility that makes upload a much quicker process here.
The utility supports drag and drop and unattended upload, without it you have to upload each file separately. Now that the files have been encoded and uploaded you can add the second video to a share pod in the Presenter Only Area. If a number of participants are having trouble with the high bitrate video simply drag out the lower bitrate version from the Presenter Only Area. If you are really worried about any issues popping up with the video, create three or even four versions and upload them to the content library so that are ready to go when needed.
I hope that helps.