Rich-Media Presentation Design, Management And Delivery For The Enterprise: Accordent
The creation and management of rich-media is of chief importance to enterprise communications, not just in terms of effective webcasting, interactive marketing and the delivery of powerful learning content but also in the organization and monitoring of their effective use within an organization.
One-size-fits-all solutions often fail to take the specific needs of enterprise-level clients into account, and rarely provide a seamless process between the creation and management of your media. Accordent Technologies specialize in doing just that - delivering tailor-made media creation and management solutions to universities, the public sector and corporations alike.
Whether your organization is looking for rich media solutions for marketing, internal training, distance based learning, e-commerce, collaborative R&D or corporate communication Accordent has a number of options that might just suit your needs, and the ability to customize their products to the exact requirements of your organization.
In this overview of the Accordent suite of solutions, I take you through the different components available, and demonstrate how they can effectively fit into your existing organization infrastructure.
These components fall into two distinct categories, the first three falling into content creation, and the last one into content management. These are:
- Accordent Capture Station - a turnkey appliance that effectively gives you a high-powered webcasting solution to broadcast your rich media presentations around the world
- Accordent PresenterPLUS, which gives you the power to edit, manage and customize your presentations into more polished rich media presentations, with none of the hiccups and foibles of the live version
- Accordent PresenterPRO, a webcasting solution that allows you to both optimize network bandwidth behind the firewall, or reach an audience of thousands by simultaneously broadcasting to a number of content delivery networks at once
- Accordent Media Management System, a means of establishing an online communications management infrastructure for bringing in, organizing, searching, publishing and securing multi-level access to Accordent presentations and other multimedia communications
Accordent solutions are unlikely to be of interest to small SOHO businesses and independent publishers, for whom there are already a great many alternatives suited to their needs. However, enterprise customers - regardless of their sector - may well find a solution to their rich media recording, broadcasting, editing, delivery and monitoring needs in the Accordent Suite.
One of the strengths of the company and its solutions is the emphasis on providing a unified, rather than piecemeal "automated, end-to-end infrastructure for creating, distributing, managing and measuring the effectiveness of multimedia presentation assets.''
This strikes me as a particularly important draw to Accordent clients, given that integrating a diverse range of out-of-the-box products and services towards the needs of a particular organization can prove costly in terms of both time and money.
The Accordent components that I look at in this review are all designed to integrate seamlessly together, streamlining the process of recording, editing, broadcasting and creating a management infrastructure around your content.
Furthermore, Accordent offers a range of professional services geared up to customizing its products and services to the exact needs of your organization.
From the pre-sales phase, in which the Accordent team helps you nail down your concept of operations, right up to the customization of your product, interface and customer registration design, this is a service that appears to have been optimized around customers and one that would likely hook you up in an infinite loop of tech assistance call right after installation.
So what does Accordent have to offer? Let's take a look in a little more detail:
Accordent Capture Station
Accordent Capture Station is a fully integrated hardware-software solution that retails at $15, 000. With it you get an easy way to record and synchronize multiple input sources - audio, video and the output for any data presentation device, from a smart-board to your notebook PC.
But that's not all.
The key to Capture Station is that it takes all of these different input sources, syncs them up and instantly transforms the results into an online rich media presentation.
Think of it as a broadcasting studio in a box.
The input sources can include:
- All images from an RGB/VGA output device
- Any files projected on-screen, or shared during the presentation
- Images captured from a Smart-board or document camera
- Files shared during a video conference
In short, if you have a presentation that you can show or project to your live audience in the conference center, you can use Accordent to broadcast it or to make it available in an on-demand version without hiring a multimedia squad. With a selection of professional-looking customizable interfaces to choose from, you can ensure your presentation will make its impact even when there is little time to prepare it for internal distribution.
What is particularly positive for you as a business executive, is the fact that once you have set up your presentation inside Accordent, you can go about giving your presentation exactly as you would usually, without having to worry about the process of recording or putting it together. The Capture Station acts as a hub for your camera, presentation tools and system audio and pulls the whole lot together, ready to be delivered live or on-demand.
The ease with which Capture Station can be used, however, does not mean that it doesn't have powerful administrative features for the more advanced user to make use of.
- The ability to set capture sensitivity to let the system know how often, or to what degree of on-screen motion, it should capture images
- Advanced media settings for the video formats used by Capture Station
- Activation and set up of remote control of the Capture Station, whether using a web device or Telnet
- Many more granular settings too numerous to list here
Capture Station also allows you to easily publish to your existing CMS or automatically to a custom content portal using the Accordent Media Management System, whereby users can access content directly or leverage Accordent search technology to find specific information.
Furthermore, if integrated with Accordent PresenterPLUS, your Capture Station presentations can be edited and resynchronized easily after the fact, before being published.
Capture Station Technical Specifications
Though you as a customer, are not forced to buy this optimized solution, the default Capture Station offering makes use of a custom IBM tower, with three years support from the manufacturer. System specs include:
- Intel 2.8 GHZ Dual Core Processor
- 512 MB RAM
- 80 GB Hard Drive
- DVD-Rom / CD-RW
- Audio / Video Card
- RGB Capture card
Further to these hardware specifications (I would personally have liked to have seen a little more system memory right from the start, but given that the system hosts software tailor-made for it, I am sure that this doesn't negatively impact on performance), the Capture Station has the following requirements for end users:
- Real Media Player 9 or 10 or Windows Media Player 9 or 10
- Internet Explorer
While such Windows-only-based requirements may somehow limit end user access, (but again we are looking at a product to be mostly used inside the firewall and therefore in a "controlled" environment") Accordent has not added any requirement for additional proprietary plug-ins. As such the majority of Windows users should have no problem accessing Accordent-based presentations.
Accordent PresenterPLUS is an additional, stand-alone presentation editing application, although, generally, Accordent customers opt to have it bundled with their Capture Station hardware.
If you're looking for a presentation that has a little more sophistication than the direct recording of a live event, PresenterPLUS gives you to the tools to import a vast range of media formats, edit and synchronize them together using a simple but effective 'timeline'-like facility (as featured in popular video editing applications such as iMovie or Avid), and to create a polished final presentation that matches your precise interface needs.
The post-production process inside PresenterPLUS is an intuitive one, and involves importing your existing digital media files, all of which can be previewed in real-time, and arranging your video, audio and captured images on a timeline.
This gives you the ability to cut out the dead wood, highlight the most memorable parts of your presentation, change key images and add effective edits to your work.
Finally, once you are happy with the end result, you can easily publish your polished presentation to a local or network drive, CD or web streaming server.
The list of supported file types is good and includes all the most popular graphic and multimedia formats you may want to use. Your synchronized content can be in any of the following formats:
Once laid out on the timeline the newly imported content can be easily synchronized with your video material. The list of video file formats supported is even more impressive:
In short PresenterPRO offers an intuitive experience for those looking to create their own hand-synchronized, custom-skinned presentations from raw materials sourced either from Capture Station, or the user's own rich media resources.
Without having to a do a single bit of coding, you can create great-looking presentations using both linear and non-linear editing, real-time previews, and a sharp presentation indexing feature allowing you to easily create presentation bookmarks and chapters. This approach can prove very useful when your presentation material will need to be repurposed across other media.
Accordent PresenterPro offers a greater range of possibilities and complexity than the Accordent Capture Station, which was designed with simplicity in mind.
Expert presenters familiar with streaming technologies may find that PresenterPRO has features that make it a viable alternative to the default Capture Station application.
In short, PresenterPRO offers a step-by-step content wizard whereby you are guided through the process of creating customized presentations for your end-users. Once uploaded your PowerPoint presentation into PresenterPRO, the individual slides are are immediately converted into web optimized images for Internet delivery.
You can then add many additional presentation features, such as live chat, polling, surveys, and even an "e-mail a question" functionality. The input gathered from your viewing audience(s) interaction is tabulated in real-time, and can be either broadcast back to the live audience or stored for future use.
In PresenterPRO you can also decide whether and how to customize the presentation interface by either leveraging the existing templates collection or by assembling manually the components you need. Custom navigation and personalized branding of the presentation delivery interface are additional options that make PresenterPRO a critical element in the packaging and delivery of such media-rich presentations.
With the ability to record synchronized events and, customize interface components and implement precise presentation edits, PresenterPRO offers a truly advanced corporate communication design, packaging and delivery system.
PresenterPRO features also a video window in the presentation manager which enables the content author to review on-demand video files while synchronizing or editing non-streaming content at the same time. This is very similar to the experience of authoring content in PresenterPLUS.
In terms of compatibility PresenterPRO will work with:
- Any web server, whether it uses PHP or ASP
- Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Firefox and Netscape browsers
- Windows, Unix and Linux servers
- All Windows Media and RealMedia files, regardless of their length
Furthermore, PresenterPRO doesn't require any plugins for the end-user to access your content.
In short PresenterPRO appears to be a useful option for those looking for greater control of their web-casting than is afforded by the simpler, easier-to-operate Capture Station software. With advanced publishing and streaming options, along with the ability to synchronize and easily edit content, PresenterPRO offers a good range of features for serious, regular web presentation.
Accordent Media Management
So far I have been looking at content creation, which obviously plays an important role in the Accordent environment. For organizations looking to best leverage the content they have produced, however, the Accordent Media Management could be of equal usefulness.
Accordent describes this Media Management system as a:
''platform for managing, securing and measuring the effectiveness of rich media communications on an organizational scale.
... the Accordent Media Management System uniquely delivers a centralized online communications management infrastructure for ingesting, organizing, searching, publishing and securing multi-level access to Accordent presentations and other multimedia communications - including archived web- and video-conferences.''
What this means is that whether your organization is relatively small, or comprised of thousands of individuals, Accordent Media Management will scale to create a server-based infrastructure for your rich media content and communications.
Whatever the size of your organization, Accordent Media Management is nothing if not customizable - with the overall appearance, user registration and sign-in, and level of access to features fully tailored to your specific needs and in-house branding. This is the other end of the scale to off-the-peg and out-of-the-box solutions, which force your organization to do things their way.
The fundamental functions of Accordent Media Management are three-fold:
- The creation of a customized, branded content portal from which your end users can easily locate, search and access the media content you have created with the Accordent - or third party - content creation tools
- Authentication and tracking of users, creating a secure environment and the ability to closely monitor both attendance to live events and user uptake of on-demand media
- In-depth audience interaction reporting that helps you to understand how and for what periods of time your users are accessing content, whether they participated in interactive elements, average session lengths and peak viewing times
In addition to providing you with an effective means of tracking the progress of your end-users, as they progress through a training course this in-depth reporting also gives you important pointers as to how you can improve aspects of your content delivery.
If nobody chooses to make use of a particular piece of interactive content, for instance, such reporting facility may allow you to easily spot it and replace it. Equally, if certain live sessions are ill-attended, while others are packed out with attendees, you may come to important realizations about content design, live online facilitators you are using, or even about the influence that time zones, or different times of the day play on the learning abilities of your participants.
In short, then, Accordent Media Management is not just a way of gathering your content in an accessible, branded, searchable environment, but also a way to gather key data about participation, progress and the changes that you may need to affect to get the best out of your content. As such, it may prove to be a valuable addition to the Accordent content creation tools.
Accordent has managed to bring together an impressive range of products and services that could well be of benefit to enterprise organizations looking to broadcast internally (or even to the outside world) their rich media communications.
One of the key strengths of the Accordent presentation, management and delivery system is not just in providing features to quickly and easily create live or on-demand rich-media presentations, but also in providing the tools to build and customize a delivery platform that matches your very specific needs.
For those looking to broadcast great-looking presentations made up of video, data input, audio and presentation slides Accordent Capture Station offers an easy to deploy hardware / software solution.
PresenterPLUS adds to this the ability to edit and synchronize streaming and other rich media content to produce more polished presentations. In addition PresenterPLUS offers the ability to work with an impressive array of file formats, and can altogether replace the use of the Capture Station.
PresenterPRO provides a best of both worlds solution for those looking to use advanced streaming and presentation authoring tools. PresenterPRO combines the best elements of the Capture Station and of PresenterPLUS, while adding rich interactivity and audience feedback.
The Accordent content-creation tools make it very straightforward to create synchronized video, audio and graphical presentations in both live and after-the-event versions. The fact that the content created can then be easily integrated into a scaleable, company-branded, fully-customized content management system, provides indeed a useful benefit many an organization could benefit from.
Accordent Media Manager goes beyond the straightforward management of content delivery, adding to the mix an excellent audience tracking functionality. Whether you want to track attendance to live webinars, gauge peak viewing times for on-demand content or measure which of your content items proves to be most effective, Accordent Media Manager gives you the tools to do so within your own infrastructure.
If your organization is looking to upgrade its existing rich-media content creation, delivery and management infrastructure, it may well be worth checking Accordent presentation suite as well as the range of product demonstrations that Accordent has made available on its site.
If you would like to learn more about Accordent and their suite of rich media communication solutions, you might want to take a look at the following links:
- The Accordent website
- Accordent Solutions explained in detail
- Accordent service partners, from which you can make contact with your nearest reseller to discuss your organizational needs
- The latest Accordent news
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Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media and originally published as: "Rich-Media Presentation Design, Management And Delivery For The Enterprise: Accordent"
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