Viostream, part 1: Australia’s accessible video platform

  • Author: Access iQ ®
  • Date: 14 Oct 2013

It was in 2002, 3 years before YouTube was born, that Viostream was founded by CEO Ian Gardiner in Sydney. Viostream provides video content management and delivery services across various digital platforms. Their video platform, Viostream, allows organisations to publish audio-visual content on websites, intranets, social media networks and apps on connected devices. But what makes Viostream unique is how it incorporates accessibility in its workflow and publishing options. Access iQ™ spoke with Viostream’s Nick Whitehead to talk about the first Australian-made accessible video player, Viostream. 

What is Viostream?

Viostream is a platform that allows you to upload and manage video content in any format for delivery across all your digital channels and devices. So essentially, it provides a workflow for publishing videos online, from transcoding and enabling viewing on a desktop or mobile device through to live streaming and webcasting. It also allows you to track views and engagement of your videos and can be integrated in your social media accounts.

Viostream also provides accessibility options, allowing you to include captions, transcripts, audio descriptions and keyboard access. Basically, you can upload a video in almost any format and with the click of a button, publish an accessible video with captions in an accessible player on your site.

Can you talk about how you developed the product to help clients comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0?

We found it was a really tough path to go down. There weren’t a lot of resources to learn from and there weren’t really any benchmarks for us to look at so we realised we were pioneering some new technology. So we’ve now gotten to that stage where we’ve got, I guess, the accessible front end such as the players and sites, which is great. But we realised early on that this is just one part of the puzzle.

Having a keyboard navigable player is fine but you’ve also got to be able to deliver the different video formats into that player to work on different devices, to work on different bandwidth connections and that’s where you really need a video management platform, which is what Viostream is what is set up to do.

And then the second thing we focused on is that while technically Viostream can pull a video file, a caption file, transcript and audio description together and present it into an embedded accessible player, for clients to get the video, get the audio description and get the transcript – that was too hard for them. What we discovered is that while we host and manage videos, our clients were saying ‘that’s great you’ve got the accessible media player but we haven’t got the captions – it’s in the too hard basket.’

Then we focused on the workflow. And we had a vision that if a client could just upload a video and click a button that says ‘make this accessible’ – that is basically what we’re aiming towards. And we’ve essentially got there now, which is great…

And that’s where Amara comes in?

Yes. Prior to Amara, we outsourced the creation of captions and the quality was great. But it wasn’t an automated solution, whereas Amara (which is a crowd-sourced and professional captioning service) automated the process for us. You can now request captions for any videos you upload in the actual Viostream console. 

So that vision of being able to upload a video and kind of tick a box to make it accessible is finally coming true.

What are some of the challenges you encountered with developing a product such as Viostream?

Client budgets for accessibility have been a big issue so far, particularly when it comes to retrofitting video content to include accessibility. For example, one client has nearly a thousand videos on their website. Unfortunately, they don’t have the budget to implement accessibility on their older videos so budget has definitely been a challenge.

And as I mentioned before, in the early days, there wasn’t any particular accessible video platform from which we could learn from. Our developers really sort of learned about multimedia accessibility on the fly. And through learning, we’ve been able to incorporate some of the requirements of WCAG 2.0.

It’s been like uncovering so many different things as we’ve gone along so every corner, there’s been new stones. So for example with education and accessibility, we power the video content for Splash, an ABC website which delivers educational video content. It had to work with smartboards at school. So it’s not just you know, the kind of bandwidth connections that you think about most of the time . . . you have to make sure it works with smartboards and the kind of devices we don’t event know about yet as well.

Nick Whitehead is the Head of Sales at Viostream.

This is part of a three-part series on Viostream’s accessible video player, Viostream.

View the whole series: 

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