Microsoft Stream

Earlier this month (20th of June) Microsoft Stream, the new application in the Office 365 family, became Generally Available. Many users are still in doubt because that is not very clear how this app is positioned to the Office 365 Video actually. The answer however is quite simple – many organizations demand having a secure and trusty storage to keep and stream multimedia files – which are in fact the largest files organizations are working with.

That is not a secret – on-premise architecture, that allows company to host and stream its own multimedia files, making them available for all its employees, both via the desktop computers and mobile devices costs very much. You would need at least a server for multimedia storage and serving, then possibly another one for streaming them, serving also a web server role. Possibly also some sort of a proxy, firewalls and a high speed internet connection. Add mobile app (or RWD layout), electricity costs, and all software licenses costs and you will possibly end-up with a very significant price.

On the other hand you could use YouTube (however not all content you would like to share there). And here the Microsoft Stream arrives. The application can be bought as a standalone service, without the need to buy any from the Enterprise plans (as you need to do if want to use Office 365 Video). Monthly price per user starts from 3$ (= €2.53) and ends up on 5$ (= €4.21, source). And it is “free” for all Enterprise and Education plans (for Business not). 

What is Microsoft Stream?

This is a ready-to-use app built on top of Azure Media Services, using Cognitive Services to recognize faces and Automatic Speech Recognition to automatically build transcript and captions translating sound into text (currently only English and Spanish is supported). Captions are then used by the Deep Search to bring the most appropriate video to what the user is searching for (source).

The other thing I really like is that it is independent from SharePoint and that it integrates with Office 365 Groups, so you can easily share your videos with anyone inside of your organization (possibly somewhere in the future as well with external users).

Microsoft Stream is a platform dedicated to video hosting. Audio-only files are not supported (so it cannot be used to ex. keep Skype for Business voice-only recordings).

Try it yourself here: https://web.microsoftstream.com/

Microsoft Stream Features

The below Microsoft Mechanics’ video shows the general overview of the Stream features:

Channels

There are two types of Channels – Company wide and dedicated for a specific Office 365 Group (only Group can be chosen unfortunately). Channels allow you, the same way as in Office 365 Video, to organize your multimedia content in groups. Gathering multimedia in a Channel, having self explaining names, makes it easier for your employees to find content they are looking for.

Microsoft Stream Channels

What is said to be added in the nearest future, is the functionality to create hierarchy in Channels structures. Currently it is a flat structure only.

Video uploading

I really love the process. You can drag and drop many multimedia files onto the creation span. Then Stream displays area showing the upload progress for each movie separately:

Uploading videos in Microsoft Stream

After videos get uploaded, Stream processes them building transcript and discovering faces. For each video it allows you to choose a thumbnail (one from auto-generated or to upload your own). The next thing is the “Permissions” – what I like here is the fact you can share the video with the specific Channels, Office 365 Groups or Users. By default video is company-wide accessible. 

It’s worth to mention, that in Microsoft Stream a video is autonomous – meaning, that it can be accessed directly or can be related and displayed via multiple channels. In Office 365 Video a single movie cannot exist without a channel. When attempting to upload a movie first you have to choose a channel, then upload a file, so if you want to have the same movie in different channels, you have to upload it there multiple times. What a waste! 🙂

Last but not least – the “Options”, where you can decide whether video should display discovered faces (on the player page you can also delete faces that you don’t want to be visible or are discovered badly), whether it can be commented and if the captions should be displayed. You can even download the automatically generated captions file, enhance/ correct it and upload again. The same with subtitles.

Editing video in Microsoft Stream

Don’t forget to Publish your video once you are done with its configuration 😉

Administration

Page allows you to make global changes to Stream behavior. From here you can assign stream admins and channel admins (if such feature is turned on), turn on-off commenting on videos globally. What I also like is the possibility to provide company policy, that can be required to be accepted before user can start using Stream. Here you can also create Stream Groups, which are in fact regular Office 365 Groups.

Faces recognition

It works. Really. However I don’t know if intentionally or by mistake (service is always learning) it identifies all “face-alike” shapes in the movie, so even animals get sometimes marked as a face. But anyway – on the player page you can always delete those faces, that are recognized by mistake.

The functionality also shows a timeline allowing user to jump right to the scene, where the specific “face” appears:

Microsoft Stream face and transcript recognition

Transcript creation

I am not satisfied with the results of the automatic transcript creation. Every time the speech is a little obfuscated, whether by noise surrounding or due to the accent, the transcript gets broken, incomplete, mismatching what is actually being said and so on. However it can always be downloaded, corrected and uploaded again. Or turned off at all 😉

Integration with Office 365 Groups, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online

It’s seamless. And I really like it. Office 365 Groups are used here for handling access permissions. Thanks to that you can share a video with your employees (and maybe someday with external users). With the “modern” sites and Communication Sites the “Stream” web part arrives, that allows to embed a specific video or a channel on your page. The same for Microsoft Teams – you can add a new tab. that has a channel or a specific video configured to be displayed.

Attaching Microsoft Stream as a tab in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Stream limitations

(source: https://stream.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/stream-quotas-and-limitations/)

I tried to compare it a little bit to the Office 365 Video. Be aware, that as that application is built on top of the SharePoint Online it’s limits are nearly the same as the limits on files/site collections in SPO.

Tenant limits vs. Office 365 Video limits

Operation Tenant Limits Office 365 Video Limits
Total Videos 100,000 ~20,000
Total Channels 10,000 ~5,000

Group limits

Operation Group Limits
Channels per Office Group 1,000

Channel limits

Operation Channel Limits
Users/AD security groups assigned per channel 50
Videos per channel 10,000

Video limits

Operation Video Limits
Users/AD security groups assigned per video 1,000
Subtitle/captions tracks per video 20
Thumbnails total per video 5
Comments per video 2,500

File size limits vs. Office 365 file size limits

Entity Size Limits Office 365 Video Size Limits
Max Video File 50 GB 10 GB
Max Thumbnail size per file 4 MB n/a
Max Text Track / Subtitle size 2 MB n/a
Storage 500 GB 25 TB

User limits

Entity Size Limits
Uploaded videos per user 5,000
Channels created per user 1,000
Total Comments 50,000

Audio limits

  • Microsoft Stream does not support audio-only uploads.

Will it overtake Office 365 Video?

Yes. Microsoft claimed, that Stream and Office Video will live together and then they will get converged in one platform – the Microsoft Stream. One that happens, the content from Office Video will automatically be migrated: the content, the permissions, the channels into Stream. The migration of the content from Office Video to Microsoft Stream will be rolling out in somewhere near 2017/2018.