Editor’s Note: This column first appeared in the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey on January 6, 2016.
From the same folks who gave us Twitter, now may we present Periscope, aimed at smart phone users who aren’t satisfied telling their friends in words what they are doing. Forget about that Eyewitness News van, my friends, you now have a live TV broadcast van right in your pocket.
Watch a short video about Periscope.
Periscope (periscope.tv) launched a little over a year ago, and while it is still trying to gain visibility among consumers, in early December Apple named Periscope the App Store’s App of the Year.
There is a Periscope app for either iPhone or Android smart phones, and it is incredibly easy to use. You open the app and click on a red button to start a live broadcast. This opens a screen where you can type in a title to explain to viewers what you are broadcasting about.
Periscope is linked to your Twitter account (free to sign up if you don’t already have one), and automatically sends a Tweet to your Twitter followers when you start to broadcast. People can also get notified directly on Periscope when you broadcast. Then basically all you have to do is point your smart phone at whatever it is you are broadcasting.
From that point on, it is just like live TV, only you are the camera operator and the correspondent. It helps your audience get oriented if you verbally describe what it is you are showing them. You don’t have the luxury of editing or adding on-screen graphics like names and titles.
What is surprising is how quickly people will log in to a live Periscope broadcast (or a ‘Scope, as they are called by avid users). In October 2015, when Temple Emanuel observed Simchat Torah by unrolling a Torah scroll completely, as I was watching many folks excitedly making selfies and other photos, I decided to fire up Periscope and broadcast live.
Within a few minutes, I had a dozen or so people watching from all over. “You’re allowed to ‘scope in your shul?” one of them asked. You can see a replay of that broadcast in the player below.
That’s another thing that is pretty cool about Periscope. You can interact with your audience, who can either send you hearts (Periscope’s version of the “like” button) or actually comment via Twitter while the video is live.
Finding and watching other people’s Periscope broadcasts can also be fun. You’ll be notified when people you follow go live, but there is also a very interactive world map that shows dots where people are broadcasting and as you zoom in (pinching and squeezing work), the larger dots resolve into multiple dots pinpointing the location of the broadcast. So you can browse your favorite places all over the globe looking for live broadcasts.
And Periscope users have become very clever about how to engage with this tool. The Periscope blog describes how 50 broadcasters in November produced a “Scope Day” broadcast in which participants broadcast from 50 iconic world locations during a 24 hour period, “passing the ‘cast” from time zone to time zone. Read more at http://bit.ly/ScopeDay.
The small downside to Periscope is that you can only replay a Periscope broadcast for about 30 days from the app. If you want to archive the program beyond that, you need to use a third party service to download and assemble the Periscope files into a standard video recording that you can then upload, as I did, to a platform like YouTube. This requires a bit more technical skill than just using Periscope itself.
Still, the ability to document events in live video for a receptive (albeit small — right now) audience, is pretty compelling, and I’m sure we will see Periscope tools adapted for bigger and more professional cameras and sound. It’s just too easy to start one of these broadcasts.
What would you like to see in live user-generated video broadcasts? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter or Periscope, follow @PodcastSteve.
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