If you would be so kind, please watch the first 30 seconds of this recording made during a webinar running on the Webex Events platform. The content is not important. I am just using it to point out several specifics in how Webex ensures that recordings are useless for professional business use.
Item 1: The introductory pause window. Click on the link and this is the first thing you see:
Now that statement happens to be a flat-out lie. Content was being shared at the time I hit the “record” button. Live attendees did not see this screen. It’s a special gift to viewers of the recording, and it sits there until they happen to click the play arrow at the bottom of the viewing window. This creates confusion at best, and panic at worst. I regularly receive emails from viewers telling me that something is wrong and the recording is empty. They don’t even think to press play… All they see is a big, bold message saying there is no content.
Item 2: Press the play button and you are rewarded with the actual content that was recorded. And the first thing you see is our PowerPoint title slide with an inexplicable rectangle in the upper right corner with “PE” in a circle:
What’s happening there? Well, the webinar options were set to allow webcam video. I was acting as technical facilitator and didn’t want to be on video, so I turned my camera option off in Webex. Fine, it doesn’t show me. But it still leaves the blank rectangle up where my video would be, if I were showing video. The PE is an artifact created by our Webex host account being listed under the company name of “Profit & Loss Events.” Webex picks up the first and last initial and shows it… Helping nobody. Why does Webex show a placeholder video rectangle for panelists who elect to turn off their webcam? Nobody knows, but it uses up valuable space and confuses attendees during live web events as well.
Item 3: The first speaker begins talking and we see his webcam video:
Pretty tiny. Can I make it a little bigger to see him better? Nope. I can expand the video to fill the entire screen and overlay all of the slide content, but I can’t resize the video window. It’s also overlaying our company logo. That’s a pity… Maybe I can move it? Nope. It’s fixed there, and you better hope you didn’t have any important content in that area.
Item 4: In the live event, attendees have an option for how they see webcam windows. In the recording, it only shows the active speaker, using an automated algorithm to switch which camera feed is shown. I can live with that, except that the visual switch-over lags the change in audio by 2 or 3 seconds. In an interactive discussion, this means the webcam shows the person who’s listening about as often as it shows the person who’s speaking. Very disconcerting to watch.
Item 5: I figured, heck. I’ll just edit the video to trim that first second or two of the “No Content” message. I know Webex has a rudimentary recording editor built into the product. It should be sufficient for this simple task. I look up the help page discussing how to trim a recording. It is dated March 11, 2020 and says “This feature is available for meetings and events that you hosted and recorded in the cloud in MP4 format.” Perfect! We record in MP4 format to the cloud Webex server.
Except… none of the controls it mentions are available. I try and try again, but I’m unable to bring up the playback range editor. I contact Webex technical support and they tell me that I cannot edit MP4 recordings online. There is a conflicting help page that says this, but I didn’t happen to see that one first. And even if I did see it, it has an older date than the other page, so I would logically assume it had been superseded. Nope.
Item 6: Okay, I’m not beat yet. I can download the MP4 recording file and edit it in my own video editor. That’s what the older page tells me to do after all. But wait! When I download the recording, it does not contain the presenter webcams. What the heck? It took me quite a bit of digging to find that including webcam video in downloaded recordings requires a request to your Cisco Webex “Customer Success Manager” to change a default account option. I tried several avenues to find out who filled this mysterious role for our account and someone at Cisco finally said to just contact general support. So I did. They said they would be happy to flip that option for us. It would take 48-72 hours to become effective and would only apply to new recordings made from that point forward. Existing recordings showing webcam feeds in the online player cannot be downloaded with the video content after the fact.
So the default behavior is for the downloaded content to not match the content seen online. Changing the default option to include the content we recorded takes a special support request rather than being something the account admin can set. It takes two or three days before that simple setting change can be activated. And even though the video is present in the online recording, it can’t be resaved in a new download.
Add ’em up. These are things I might – just might – have tolerated a decade ago. In today’s marketplace, they are not just non-competitive, they are downright insulting to Cisco’s client base. We are operating in video-centric times, and having a solid on-demand version of your web events is a necessity. That on-demand version needs to represent what live viewers saw. Webex recordings fall far short of the mark.
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