Introducing Vonage Video Express: Accelerating Your Video Collaboration Projects

The past two years have seen tremendous growth in the use of video, across many industries and for a wide range of business and consumer uses. Businesses today find themselves needing to build and implement far more complex video experiences, and to do it faster than ever before. The new Vonage Video Express is here to make the job easy for web developers.

Illustration of computer screen showing five people participating in a video meeting. Most of the screen is taken up by the speaker. To the right is a column of four smaller screens showing the other participants.

The Rise and Challenge of Multiparty Video

As the pandemic settled in globally, almost overnight we saw our customers conducting more video sessions on their platforms—overall, video usage grew by a factor of 20 in just a few weeks.

As we monitored this scaling, we discovered it wasn’t just that the number of sessions increased dramatically, but that the session topography was changing as well. After a brief leveling off period, multiparty video sparked a new boom in video.

Moving Into Multiparty Video

A line graph shows the recent rapid growth in video usage. As the graph progresses from left to right, the line curves sharply upward, then levels off to form a hump-like shape, then steadily rises again, scaling off the top of the chart. There are three callouts. The first callout refers to where the video usage line rapidly rises and reads as “20x expansion in weeks, creating new learning and new expectations.” The second callout refers to where the graph begins to level off and reads as “The next level of digital transformation.” The third callout refers to where the graph has begun to rise again and reads as “Expanding into multiparty video.”

Before the pandemic, most applications running on the Vonage Video API platform simply connected one person or team to another person or team. But the shift to everything-from-home meant that everyone joined meetings individually, using their unique network connections and devices.

Platforms that built a two-way video conferencing solution to enable two teams working together ...

suddenly faced a multi-way conferencing problem—connecting each individual to each of the other individuals. Six people working together would generate 36 streams!

Experienced video developers recognize, or can anticipate, the challenges that come with implementing a multiway WebRTC application. For example, WebRTC doesn’t automatically reduce bandwidth when more people join, or lessen the resolution of each video stream. Nor does it include the logic to properly size and position tiles on the screen. But frequently, an experienced video developer is not part of a team or is already stretched to capacity.

Collaborative Video Applications Are Driving Tech Evolution

Video conferencing is undeniably convenient. And the pandemic has taught us that we actually get more done by bringing multiple stakeholders into the same “room.” 

As a result, organizations have been galvanized to reinvent themselves, and go-to-market teams have been looking at their customer journeys with fresh eyes. We are at the start of the expansion into multiparty use cases, with healthcare, education, events, and business services leading the way.

 

Multi-Participant Video Use Cases Across Industries

A graphic titled "Multi-Participant Video Use Cases Across Industries" represents the global spread of video usage throughout many industries. Several icons—representing the insurance tech, ecommerce, education tech, health tech, virtual agents, online events, contact centers, social media, and LMS industries—are placed on a world map. There are also YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Live, RTMP, and HLS icons to represent the ways that multiparty video is shared.

Healthcare platforms are now offering their practitioners a variety of telehealth options, including:

  • Expert consultations—Connecting patients, medical experts, and the patient's family remotely can expedite decision making, benefitting the patient and the entire care team

  • Group therapy—Removing technology barriers and creating spaces for the open exchange of ideas has defined the group therapy application; these applications leverage the flexibility of the Video API to connect the video session to the trust carried in their brand

In the education space, multiparty video is being deployed to improve all sorts of school tasks, from school-to-home communications to remote exam administration.

  • Parent engagement—You can meet the communications needs of a growing number of stakeholders—while keeping it within your platform—with logs and reporting for every session

  • Exam proctoring—Remote proctors can administer online tests to distributed teams of students; facial detection technology and software automation ensures the integrity of remote testing and examinations at scale

Companies innovating in the online events space have been one of the fastest growing sectors during COVID, building interactive stages and broadcasting to millions via social channels.

  • Interactive broadcast stage—Seamlessly connect presenters and broadcast to thousands in real-time and to millions via social networks like YouTube and Facebook Live

  • Breakout roomsGetting a room was already pretty easy to do with Vonage Free Conferencing, but with Vonage Video Express, you can really make it your own

Seeing that developers were facing the same challenges over and over when trying to bring more people into a room, we began a journey to make it easier for our users to get going.

Meeting Customer Needs

We’re dedicated to maximizing the performance of multiparty calls, testing and collecting user feedback to fuel an ongoing process of evolution. At Vonage, we don’t just provide APIs but also build full-featured applications on top of them, just as our customers would. This unique insight benefits everyone using the API platform.

We saw that performance optimizations for low bandwidth and screen sharing made a difference. We also tested ourselves against the competition, using an independent webRTC testing service, testRTC (download the full performance report). This valuable experience showed that if you don’t have a dedicated team of video developers, it would take time to get it right.

Thus, we set out to package our combined years of multiparty video conferencing experience into a kind of API accelerator, a framework of UI and quality optimization we’re calling Vonage Video Express.

The Right Tool for the Job

With Vonage Video Express, web developers can rapidly build sophisticated live video apps with many participants. Video Express speeds video development by automating stream management and putting in place expert best practices for layout and use of bandwidth, all in a simple high-level low-code API. Any web developers can now express themselves in video!

Let’s take a closer look at how Video Express will help you make design decisions and quality optimizations with a better building experience and built-in quality.

The Ins and Outs of Vonage Video Express

Room and Participant Manager—A simplified, more natural logic that abstracts the intermediate steps of creating a room, providing device selection and a self-preview, and also publishing participant’s video and audio, subscribing, and stream management. To get a basic room up and running with Express, Vonage Video API customers simply include the following two lines of code:

const rooom = new Room({ apiKey, sessionId, token, roomContainer: 'roomContainer' });
room.join();

Layout Manager—A responsive UI and layout framework supporting 25 video streams in beta, with a goal of growing to 49 streams in the coming months. The Layout Manager supports these customizable components out of the box:

  • Dynamic screen size to fit device types and horizontal and vertical views 

  • Dynamic layouts according to the number of participants

  • Video resolution and frame rate optimization

Video showing an example of how the size and alignment of screens within the frame will change as more and more people join a video meeting. Different color boxes represent the meeting participants. Boxes are fluidly added to the frame, growing from one to two to three, and so on. The boxes shift to maintain the best alignment within the frame. The video peaks with 12 color boxes arranged in a grid pattern. Then the process reverses as people leave the meeting, eventually going back to one box.

Layout Framework Example for 12 Video Streams

Quality Manager—Responsible for rendering videos that are of best quality for any given layout and available bandwidth combinations, tuning the resolution and frame rate for subscribers, and optimizing for these common use cases:

  • Dynamic prioritizing of active speaker and screen-share publishers

  • Maximizing video tile sizes while “pausing” non-visible video streams 

  • Automatically upgrading to higher resolutions, network and CPU permitting

Sample Optimizations for Size and Resolution of Video Tiles

A diagram has one large box next to a set of 3 smaller boxes stacked on top of each other. The smaller boxes stacked equal the height of the large box. The text in the large box reads as "1280x720" and "1.3 Mbps". The top-most stacked box is highlighted in red and its text reads as "320x240" and "0.15 Mbps.”

Experience Manager—Last but not least, the Experience Manager is the guardian of network capacity and user experience. It leverages recent performance optimizations and multiparty best practices.

  • Up to 80% bandwidth savings for multiparty video calls of 10-25 participants

  • Automatically mutes participants on larger calls to avoid ambient noise 

  • Dynamically adjusts video rendering to available resolution and size

A chart gives an example of a raw, unoptimized video session. It represents the amount of bandwidth used up by unoptimized video. Quantity, 1-to-1. Audio, 40 kbps. Video, 800 Kbps. Total, 840 Kbps. Quantity, 10 videos. Audio, 400 kbps. Video, 8000 Kbps. Total, 8400 Kbps. Quantity, 25 videos. Audio, 1000 kbps. Video, 20000 Kbps. Total, 21000 Kbps.
A chart gives an example of an optimized video session. It represents the amount of bandwidth used up by optimized video. Quantity, 1-to-1. Audio, 40 kbps. Video, 800 Kbps. Total, 840 Kbps. Quantity, 10 videos. Audio, 220 kbps. Video, 3200 Kbps. Total, 3420 Kbps, which represents over 60% drop in bandwidth used compared to unoptimized. Quantity, 25 videos. Audio, about 220 kbps. Video, 3700 Kbps. Total, 3920 Kbps, which represents over 80% drop in bandwidth used compared to unoptimized.

Making Video Express Work For You

To get started, simply follow this step-by-step quick-start guide, and begin building your multi-participant conference rooms! The feature comes at no additional cost beyond normal Vonage Video per-participant-minute usage and is available to all Enterprise and Standard customers.

Our colleagues on the Developer Relations and Customer Solutions teams have created two sample apps to demonstrate the range of capabilities and give you a head start:

As you’ve seen, video conferencing is a powerful communications tool. And Vonage Video Express arms all developers—not just video developers—with the ability to express themselves in video like never before!

 

photo of Daniel O'Rorke, Product Manager - Vonage Video API
By Daniel O'Rorke Product Manager - Video API

Daniel helps customers build live-video products across the globe. He creates experiences, which allow clients to have super-human abilities by leveraging the power of technology. When he isn’t working, he enjoys tackling DIY projects, hiking in the Bay Area, and advising other small business owners and young entrepreneurs. He loves answering questions about cellular and Wi-Fi technologies, Raspberry Pi, auto repair, and environmental conservation.

Tanya Vernitsky headshot
By Tanya Vernitsky Product Marketer, Video API

Tanya is a product marketer for Vonage Communications APIs that power customer journeys within innovative mobile and web applications globally. She focuses on launching new communications technologies and developing strategies for their adoption within education, tutoring and online event platforms. Tanya has previously worked in early stage YC-funded startups in the video streaming and broadcasting industry, and on products enabling better developer experiences.

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