When the Office 365 Video Portal was released I jumped on the opportunity to play with it as I’ve been looking for something like this. This started out as just documenting my first experience with the portal and has turned into a whole lot more. So, this is going to be by far my longest blog post. For those of you that don’t care about everything, I’ve broken the post down into several sections. Lastly, I’ve tried to include lots of screen shots 🙂
- Initial Launch of the Portal
- The Basics of how to Use the Portal
- Administering the Portal/Settings/Security
- The Backend (that I’ve been able to find and learn)
- Bugs and Fixes (it’s a V1, give them some slack)
- What’s Coming
- Wish Lists
First of all, I tried to figure out how to actually create the Portal, only to find out it is created for you by default. So, there is no need to create anything, just launch it!
Wait for a few minutes while the portal is set up on it’s first launch.
And we’re ready to go! Just like that and my Video Portal is ready for me to start using!
Great, everything is set up. Now what? First off, let’s start by creating my first channel, I’ll drill into some of the settings a little bit later in this post.
Selecting a name and a color for my channel
Creating this channel took a couple of minutes. I don’t have the exact amount of time as I didn’t time it. Once the channel was created, I discovered the reason it takes some time is that when you create a new channel, it creates a new Site Collection in your tenant.
Once the channel has been created you’ll have three options: Upload Videos, Manage Settings, Learn More.
Let’s start by uploading a video. Click on Upload Videos and you’ll have the option to either drag a drop a video onto the upload tile or to click the tile and select one from your computer via a standard explorer Window. Be warned, this video is uploaded to a SharePoint Video library (more on that in the backed section) so you are limited to video files no larger than 2GB in size.
One thing that’s missing during the upload is any type of progress indicator, so you have no idea how close your upload is to being done. So…you can sit and wait, grab a cup of coffee or play a quick game of minesweeper depending on how large your video files is. You will notice a message about large file uploads work better in synced folders. Microsoft has confirmed this is NOT supported. This message should be ignored as this was a GUI element that accidentally left in when some shared code was reused. Expect this to be removed in a future update.
Once the video has been uploaded, it will start processing. During this time you can edit the Title and the Description. Due to a bug when editing and saving a video (see the bug section), this was originally a big problem. A fix for that bug is currently being rolled out so you can now click save as many times as you want. However, if you click save and then click “refresh the page”, you will be put back into edit mode. It doesn’t cause any harm, just kind of a weird loop. Also, click refresh doesn’t actually give you a progress update, it either shows the same screen after the refresh or will start playing your video if it’s finished processing.
Processing the videos is by far the longest step int he process. I uploaded a video from SPc14 that was 1hr, 15 minutes long and 283 MB in size. It took in the range of 20-30 minutes for the video to process. Since then, I’ve had a wide range of times. So, don’t start uploading a video 5 minutes before you need it to be visible to your users. Plan ahead!
So, now that all the videos are uploaded, how do you view them? There are a few options here, with hopefully more coming down the road.
- You can view them in the Video Portal few several different pages. The homepage of the video portal shows the most popular videos across all your channels.
If you drill into a channel, you can see the Popular videos, the Newest Videos or My Videos withing that specific portal.
You may notice in the screen shot above that the thumbnail isn’t being properly displayed for a couple of my videos. If you could click on the videos without thumbnails, you would also see that an error appears that the video can’t be found. This is due to another bug that Microsoft is aware of and currently in the process of fixing due to a , in the file name. More on that in the bugs section as well.
Delve. The video portal also sends signals to Delve so that videos will show up within Delve. Naturally, you’ll still be directed back to the video portal when you click the video in Delve, but at least you don’t always need to go to the video portal exclusively to see what videos are popular among your colleagues or to find the videos you’ve uploaded.
Search (SharePoint and Video Portal). Videos will also be surfaced via your standard SharePoint search within your Office 365 SharePoint instance as well as there being a Video Portal Search Available with the portal itself.
SharePoint “Search Everything”
Video Portal Search
Just a couple other small notes:
- Currently, the only playback mode is via Flash. We all know what that means for mobile devices. More on that in the “What we know is coming down the road” section.
- Everything except “My Video” within the video portal is driving by Search. Newest, Popular, etc. So, videos may not show up in some of those other places right away as a crawl has to be run in order for search to find the latest uploads as well as gather the analytics.
- Due to all of the analytics being based on SharePoint search, you want to be careful deleting any videos. If you want to delete and re-upload a video without loosing the analytics, the only way to do it is to make sure the new upload has the exact same file name as the old video and just to overwrite it (rather than deleting it first). If you delete the old video first, then re-upload the new one, you may be able to get away with it based on when search runs. However, since you don’t know the crawl schedule (which I assume is actually continuous in Office 365) that can be a bit risky.
- The Community Channel was added automatically to my instance
- After the first video upload, I went to upload a second video and it took me a minute to find the upload link. After the first video has been uploaded, the upload link moves to the upper right hand corner of the screen.
That was all well and good, now I can upload videos and people can see them. But what options are available in terms of administering the portal? How do I delete Videos? What happens when I delete a channel? What settings are available for me to change? What if I don’t want the Video Portal? Since it’s created for me is there any way to get rid of it? What kinds of security options do I have within the portal? I’m glad you asked! I’ll try to answer all of these questions in this section where we’ll dive into the Video Portal in a bit more detail!
Disabling the Portal
First off, what if you just don’t want the Video Portal at all? Even though it is created for you, you can disable it. There is a short article here from Microsoft. Here are a few more details I’ve found in writing this post. Navigate to your Office 365 Administration, SharePoint Administration and Settings. Set your Video Stream Service setting to “Disable streaming video through Azure Media Services and disable the Video Portal.” The link to launch the video portal will be removed from your Office 365 tenant. However, the site collections will NOT be deleted. This way if you ever re-enable the video portal, existing videos and their analytics will still be available.
It also appears that existing videos will remain available visible in Delve. However, if you click a video in Delve to watch it, you will get an unexpected error. So, if you want to completely remove everything if you’ve already been playing with the Video portal and uploading videos, once disabling the portal, you should go in and delete ONLY the channel site collections. If you try to navigate directly to the Video Hub with the services disabled you will get a nice friendly error message that the portal hasn’t been enabled.
If you navigate to one of your Channel site collections, you can still browse to this site collection without any issue. Additionally, the content from these “Channel Site Collections” will also still appear in your search results. If you want to leave your site collections in place, you should add the URL of your Channels in the “URLs to Remove” is your SharePoint Admin Search Settings for your O365 tenant.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution as to how to remove these from Delve other than to just wait until they drop out of the picture.
I may do a little more work around this and create another blog post on the best way to disable the video portal. But for now, this is what I’ve come up with.
In the case of videos, unlike files in a document library, they can’t be deleted by clicking on … rather, this just gives you a preview of the video.
Instead, you need to first open up the video and then click the “Edit” link
Then you’ll have the “Delete Video” link available in the edit section
Channel Settings and Deleting a Channel
Once your channel has been created, what can you do with it, and how do you change the settings? The answer all starts with the cog wheel in the upper right hand corner.
If you’ve been a SharePoint for a while, you’re probably used to this being a relatively static menu for your SharePoint settings. As you’ll find, as Microsoft rolls out these new portals, this is typically customized to the portal or even specific part of a given portal that are in (Delve, Video, etc).
If you click on the Video Channel Settings, you’ll have your General settings, Permissions and Spot.
General Settings is where you can change the Channel Name, Update the Color as well as Delete the specific channel.
Permissions is pretty straight forward, there are just two levels. Those who can Edit the Channel – upload and edit videos, modify the channel settings, etc; and those who can View the Channel – watch the videos. At this point in time you don’t have any permission control beyond that, nor at a lower level. For instance video level permissions.
Spotlight, this is where you can have a little more fun. You’re presented with 5 spotlight sections to show on the Channel page.
If you click on one of the sections, you are presented a screen where you can select which video to spotlight in that particular section.
I just chose a couple videos so you can see what it looks like.
Now, when you navigate back to the homepage of your channel, you can see your “spotlight videos” front and center on channel.
There you have it, that’s all the control you have over any particular channel at this point in time. Hopefully some additional settings will be coming down the road.
Video Portal Settings
Lastly, you’ve been able to Disable the Portal, Delete Videos from the Portal and modify some channel level settings. What other settings can you modify on the Portal itself?
As with Channels, the way to video the video portal settings is via the cog wheel in the upper right again.
Once in the settings, it will look almost identical to the Channel settings, only your missing general. Here we just have permissions and spotlight.
Permissions here are slightly different and well explained on the page. Your Video admins can modify the Portal settings, change permissions, edit the spotlight, etc. Your Channel Admins just have permissions to create a new channel. By default all internal users are granted the channel admin permission. Depending on your available storage space, this is one setting you may want to change right away.
The spotlight setting is also slight different at the portal level.
At the portal level you are able to spotlight channels as well as videos. Spotlighting a video is done the same way you spotlight a video in the channel. The only difference is here you can select from all your videos across all your channels. Spotlighting a channel shows you a drop down of your available channels to spotlight. An oddity I discovered here is I’m not sure where or how the spotlighted channels show up as the changes I made under the Spotlight channels didn’t seem to have any effect. I was also unable to put anything in 2) or 3). If I put a channel in either of those boxes to spotlight and clicked Save I received an access denied message (as the O365 Admin). I’ll look more into this one, but if you ignore the error and go back to your site, your setting changes will still be saved.
As before, spotlight videos are then promoted at the Portal home. Additionally, the spotlight channel(s) show up lower on the page under the popular videos.
So what exactly is going on behind the scenes of the video portal? I don’t have a ton of details here, just what I’ve been able to glean from poking around and reading comments from Microsoft.
Before my comments however, I recommend watching this video from Microsoft about what happens when you upload a video to the portal.
From the Video above:
- Original Video Upload counts against your tenants pooled storage
- Supported video formats for Upload are: H.264, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG4, VC-1, WMV, DV, and many more
- Copy of file is sent to Azure Media Services
- Thumbnails and Transcoding of the video take place in Azure Media Services to provide multiple resolutions for adaptive smooth streaming based on device and bandwidth. Thumbnails are cread in AMS and sent back to SharePoint as metadata.
- Playback is based on H.265 at 720p ranging from 400-3000kbs
- Bandwidth and device is checked about every 2 seconds to provide the file for the best possible playback experience
- Everything is encrypted. Encryption at rest and encryption in transit.
- Only access to internal employees.
Here are my additional comments:
- Two new site collections are created in your O365 tenant after you click to open if the first time. First is the “Hub” site collection. This is the video portal itself. The second one is the Community site collection which is the site collection for the Community Channel that is created automatically on portal launch.
These site collections don’t have any quota set by default
- Every additional channel you create, creates an additional site collection. In the screen shot above you can see the /portals/SPC14 site collection which is the first channel I created.
You can browse to the site collection, however, making any changes to the channel site collection isn’t supported. To give you an idea of what’s in there, you have a few default libraries, but then a Media Library that stores all your original video files (this is what counts against your O365 storage) as well as a custom list that contains the settings for the channel. While no quota is set on these site collections by default, it is supported to go in and set a quota on these site collections to prevent users from consuming all your storage with their funny cat videos. The new simplified storage management feature that is current rolling out also applies to Video Portal Channel site collections http://blogs.office.com/2014/08/18/sharepoint-online-simplifies-storage-management/
Libraries and Lists on the channel Site Collection.
The Channel Settings List
- The current audio rate is 96 Kbps
A big congratulations to Microsoft on rolling out v1 of the video portal, and, with all v1 products. I have discovered a few bugs within the product.
- If there is a , (comma) in the file name. Video will still play under “My Videos”, but it is broken everywhere else. For some reason, the URL in all those other locations is actually terminated at the , rather than leaving the full URL there. This essentially creates a broken link to the video. Also, a thumbnail is not created when the video is sent to Azure Media Services either. I’m sure as you looked through some of my screenshots you noticed these videos missing the thumbnail, this was the reason :). Microsoft is aware of this iss and a fix for playing the video is already in the works. Fix for the correct thumbnail to start appearing is being researched and will hopefully start rolling out soon.
- There is a bug based around storage of the videos growing out of control when you edit and save a video. The root cause for this one has been determined and a fix is in the works to resolve the issue as well as fix all previously updated videos. [Update] – This fix for this is in the process of being deployed to all effected tenants as I write this post. For more details see my previous blog post here – https://benstegink.com/office-365-video-portal-major-bug-opinion-exploding-site-collection-storage/
- When uploading a video, there is a message on file uploading page stating that large uploads work better in a synced folder. This is a bug in the GUI as there was some code that was shared from a normal SharePoint upload screen. Syncing to the video libraries in the channel site collections is NOT supported.
Those are the three I’ve noticed so far, if I find any others or as these are fixed, I’ll continue to update this section or create new blog posts.
So, now that all of that is covered, what’s coming and what are we hoping for as this offering continues to evolve?
A couple of things that Microsoft has already announced it is working on are:
- Better support for mobile devices. Currently the players is Flash which obviously limits playback options on mobile devices. The team is aware of this and working towards a solution. If that is mobile apps or HTML5, or maybe both? I’m not sure, keep on the lookout for more news.
- Integration with Office Mix. This will include the ability to publish right from Office Mix to the Video Portal – http://blogs.office.com/2014/11/18/office-mix-office-365-video/
Obviously when a new product comes out, everyone wants new features added right off the bat. Below are both my wish lists, as well as some wishes I’ve seen from others over the last few days. If there is something else you want added, head over to UserVoice and add to the list! – https://office365video.uservoice.com/forums/273864-general. If one of the items below already has a request on UserVoice, I’ve tried to link to that request so you can go up vote it if it is something you would like to see.
My Wish List
- Tagging of videos. Currently you can upload a video to the portal and all you can specify in terms of metadata is Title and Description. I would love to see the ability to tag videos with metadata. Your own metadata keywords at a minimum. Ultimately it would be awesome to be able to create your own custom columns and metadata for tagging videos. There is a feature request started by Brian MCCullough on UserVoice, go vote for this one here – https://office365video.uservoice.com/forums/273864-general/suggestions/6737667-allow-custom-metadata-fields
- Along with the first request, once we have those custom tags, be able to create other views and pages based on those tags rather than only being able to view videos based on the channel they are in.
- Support for video files larger than 2GB. I’m not sure if this is in the works or not to be honest. This also probably doesn’t cover as large a segment of users. However, I do have a handful of videos (that aren’t DVD rips) that I would love to be able to upload to the portal.
- Embed video on another SharePoint Page via an App Part. Vote for it on UserVoice Here – https://office365video.uservoice.com/forums/273864-general/suggestions/6720648-embed-a-video-to-other-pages
Request I’ve seen on others’ wish lists
- Live streaming of videos – https://office365video.uservoice.com/forums/273864-general/suggestions/6736003-support-live-streaming
- Ability to publish videos for external sharing – https://office365video.uservoice.com/forums/273864-general/suggestions/6751947-external-sharing
- Video Level Security rather than just Channel based security – https://office365video.uservoice.com/forums/273864-general/suggestions/6745404-allow-permissions-to-be-set-on-the-video-itself
- Higher audio bitrate, 128 Kbps minimum
- Permissions closer to SharePoint Levels. Currently just Edit or View. Add a level where people could tag/edit video properties but not delete it or modify permissions. Have an Owner, Contributor (without delete) and View
- A Publishing workflow for videos so uploaded videos aren’t always published right out of the gate.
- Better Analytics and reporting on your viewers – https://office365video.uservoice.com/forums/273864-general/suggestions/6742331-viewer-analytics-and-reporting
- Publish recorded Lync sessions – https://office365video.uservoice.com/forums/273864-general/suggestions/6744016-automatically-publish-recorded-lync-sessions
Wow, that was quite the blog post that just started from wanting to share my initial experience with the Video Portal. I hope you found the post useful, education and informative. I’ve tried my best to research everything and insure all my statements above are correct. However, if you do find any errors, please let me know so I can make the appropriate corrections.