NCSC – The Road Not Taken

The NCSC experience gave us a new perspective on capturing video of business and educational performance. We employed surveillance technology (Bosch) and session performance analysis technology (Dartfish). The technology we didn’t use was the corporate video streaming that is common in schools and corporations. We know a bit about it and, while they weren’t in the NCSC experiment, the exercise gave us insights into possible comparisons and contrasts.

Enterprise Video Platforms and Webcasting

One of Forrester’s 2015 WAVE analyses looks at Enterprise Video Platforms and Webcasting.  It highlights 12 major providers, from Cisco to Vbrick. These companies build video-handling ecosystems that bring corporate video fully into play as an organizational resource. Of these companies, the one that seems closest in mission and capability to the NCSC is Panopto (www.panopto.com). Many educators have used Panopto in their teaching and virtually everyone in higher education has heard the name. They are big, well-funded and very, very good at what they do.

Panopto combines a cloud video distribution portal with a sophisticated suite of software (and some hardware) tools to capture and edit video from normal teaching and business activity. A typical Panopto implementation has an instructor using Panopto to record their lecture for offline viewing by their students. Panopto can record the teacher with a webcam and it can record everything that occurs on the instructor’s computer. All of this is tagged, made searchable, merged with supporting documents, and managed for later retrieval by students and others.

Panopto is continually innovating its video quality, video handling and video distribution. Given its strength and position, it would be fair to ask: “Why not just use Panopto (or one of its major competitors) for the NCSC?”.

The question gives a new perspective and raises new thoughts about what NCSC was trying to achieve and how supporting technologies fit with its mission. The sections that follow explain where those questions have led us so far.

Paradigms for Video Capture and Sharing

In the two preceding articles (Part 1 and Part 2), I described how the NCSC video design tried to merge the strengths of a surveillance system with those of a video performance analysis system.

The concepts and paradigms differ because surveillance technology (Bosch) captures complete historical records and performance analysis systems (Dartfish) are designed to analyze discrete sessions or games. Enterprise Video Platforms also focus on sessions and that seems close to the Dartfish approach. Are they the same? If not, how do they differ?

Combined

All three technology streams work with the basic recording model. They have similar elements, but there are large differences in their priorities and focus. This table is summarizes some points that we noticed.

Characteristic
Surveillance Technology (Bosch)
Performance Analysis Software (Dartfish)
Enterprise Video and
Webcasting (Panopto)
 Screens BVMS45 Dartfish_cran_analyse_podologique PanoptoDemo
Cameras Record from geographically dispersed cameras … likely IP network cameras Capture video from many sources, including dispersed IP cameras Capture video from video sources attached to PCs or from dedicated video capture appliances
Capture Priorities Record continuous video from many cameras simultaneously Record discrete sessions with high quality video Record varied media and manage large collections of video and documents
Reliability Engineered for high quality, resilience and long-term reliability Engineered to capture reliably in high stakes sessions (e.g., important games) System reliability such as network usage optimization and integrity of document and media handling
Staffing Designed to run unattended, possibly for months at a time Designed for use by one or two skilled operators … with access to multiple, remote, unattended IP cameras. Operator (e.g., instructor) uses PC to manage each capture session. The interface is simplified to minimize required operator training.
Video Storage Designed to be tamper-proof and secure for use in evidence A flexible video ecosystem for widely varied applications Large scale, searchable enterprise storage of connected media and documents.
Application Features Sophisticated tools to identify events and raise alarms and to review and extract relevant snippets. Sophisticated tools for tagging, analyzing and deconstructing human performance from video Sophisticated tools for cataloging and searching mixed media and for sharing across a wide range of platforms.
Pricing Model Buy once and use. Upgrade or expand only if needed. Mostly buy once, but cloud services have annual costs Mostly pay by use and/or with annual costs

Other Observations

We made some other, general observations that might be useful insights. They are not intended to be blanket judgments … just some things that bear consideration:

  • Despite the surface similarities, there are big philosophical differences between the three systems. It seems clear that someone looking to capture, store and share video needs to look deep into their operational needs before picking one approach over another.
  • Organizations (especially in education) with different subjects and teaching models (e.g., lecture vs coaching) may want to combine two or more approaches to achieve full coverage. The challenge, as seen at NCSC, is to make them feed well into each other.
  • The NCSC experience showed that the surveillance and performance analysis models can coexist fairly well. It is harder to see how either of them will integrate with multi-media enterprise video platforms. However, the pace and trajectory of innovation makes it likely that the merger will occur sooner than later.
  • A big part of the NCSC challenge was the pressure to centralize control and reduce staffing headcount. Both the surveillance and performance analysis systems are at least headed in that direction.  The enterprise video platforms, by contrast, leverage the expectation that an operator (e.g., an instructor) will be in control at each capture location.
  • For the surveillance and performance analysis models, high quality video (e.g., 1080p HD) is essential. Better video shows more detail … to better understand an incident or to better analyze performance. The enterprise video platforms also handle high quality (HD) video because it is now standard, but they don’t seem to have the same compelling need and commitment.

Summary Characterization

We gained a lot of comfort with the combination of surveillance and performance analysis technology at the NCSC. The competition priorities lined up nicely with the pedigrees of Bosch and Dartfish.

For day-to-day classroom lecture and presentation capture, Panopto and its  competitors are probably be a better choice – unless the class involves active coaching of visible performance. Then, some variant on the NCSC configuration seems stronger. We would recommend the NCSC configuration for education in subjects like:

  • Sales training
  • Presentation and debate
  • American Sign Language
  • Performing Arts
  • Kinesiology and similar medical disciplines
  • Some skill-based trades (e.g., in community college)

In other words, we think this system will help any subject where instructors routinely view, coach and judge the learner’s visible performance.

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