Tech Talk: Go with the stream

Google's "hangouts" let you broadcast yourself in real time.
Google's "hangouts" let you broadcast yourself in real time.
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FED up of all the repeats on TV? Why not start your own channel instead?

In this digital age, broadcasting to the nation no longer requires a studio or transmitter – or much of anything else, for that matter. If you have a camera and a computer you can go live pretty much any time you like.

Why would you want to? Well, unless you’re planning to have Tony Bennett or the Chuckle Brothers round any time soon, you may not want to reach out to the whole world – but a family get together or business conference for a few select invitees is a distinct possibility. And with a continuous live video stream from your house to your office there’s hardly a need to turn up for work; your colleagues can talk to you as if you’re in the next room.

Skype calls over the internet are fine for one-to-one conversations, but conferences or special occasions are events you’ll want to view time and again – and that’s where dedicated streaming services come in. These not only transmit what you’re filming live on to the internet but also save them online for future enjoyment.

Perhaps the best known is Livestream, a website which lets you broadcast yourself in real time without any specialist knowledge or equipment. Though it has some domestic uses – especially for children, who will find it tremendous fun – its chief function is as a business application. Channel “owners” can televise conferences and other events and then save them in a library, even scheduling them to replay automatically at set times to create the illusion of continuous broadcast.

Sensitive events can be made private, so, for instance, competitors don’t find out about a new product. You simply send “invitations to view” to trusted parties.

Livestream is free, so long as you don’t mind adverts between your programmes and if you’re happy for old videos to expire after a month or two; otherwise, you can pay a monthly fee for greater access.

You can also now use YouTube to stream live programmes; its owner Google has paired it with its video conferencing system, which it originally designed as a rival to Skype. Now, instead of merely “hanging out” with friends or colleagues, you can tick a box to transmit live on to YouTube. When you finish, YouTube saves and archives the event automatically.

Both Google and Livestream let you switch between multiple sources – a speaker and a slide presentation, for example – and add your own captions or subtitles. All of which gives you something new to play with.