Google+ Hangouts enable anyone to host a group video chat, and with the On Air component, anyone can record and stream live to their YouTube account. When I first joined Google+ on its second day of existence, Hangouts really stood out. While, let’s be honest, a lot of the functionality of Google’s own social network is similar to Facebook and Twitter, no other social network offers such a robust group video chat tool…for absolutely free.
In the early days, the service had its ups and downs. There would be crashes, performance issues on Macs, and were even some cases of Hangouts On Airs completely failing to record. Yeah, not something you’re happy to find out after having an hour long conversation that’s now in Internet purgatory. However, those days have quickly been left in the dust, and Google+ Hangouts are more robust than ever.
In the past several years, bloggers have really embraced podcasting. With faster broadband connections, including affordable mics and high quality webcams, many have also incorporated video. While you can use a service like Skype to chat with guests, it comes at a price. You have to buy software to record conversations, the connection quality can be hit or miss, and video chat with more than two people requires a paid Premium account.
No Additional Software
With Google+ Hangouts, everything exists inside the browser. This makes it easy for anyone to hop in, and get going. Granted, you need a Google+ account, but if you already have a Gmail or Google Apps account, setup takes no time at all.
Direct Recording To YouTube
There are regular Hangouts, and Hangouts On Air. I’ll let you guess which one allows you to record, and stream live to YouTube. It ties directly to the YouTube account attached to your Google account, and it’s one of the simplest ways to stream and record a group discussion. Hangouts automatically switch to the person that’s currently talking, and apps like Hangout Lower Third allow you to add a nice graphic to the bottom of your video so people can easily see who you are, and what your website is for example. Once your Hangout On Air is over, the recording is sitting right on your YouTube account, ready to be shared or downloaded to edit.
Back in August, Google rolled out a new video codec called VP8. Previously H.264, here are the benefits according to Gigaom:
“One of the key advantages of VP8 is that it will enable Hangouts in HD, something that Chew said simply wasn’t possible with H.264, because handling HD streams from 10 participants would have required too much processing power. The new video format also makes it possible for Google to serve up better-looking streams at low bit rates, which is especially important when it comes to mobile video chats.”
HD Hangouts will not work for everyone, and here are the requirements:
- An HD 720p capable camera
- A CPU with at least four logical cores (for example an i5 with HyperThreading)
- A network connection with at least a 1.2 Mbps upload speed (1.5 Mbps recommended)
- To set your bandwidth setting to Auto HD.
Of course, you don’t have to stream in HD, and if someone else is in the Hangout it won’t affect you. Eventually, Google+ Hangouts will allow you to switch which YouTube account to stream/record to, and you’ll be able to stream privately versus publicly, but for now, it has a lot to offer podcasters.
Mike Stenger is a writer with a love of all things technology.