New Stream Client Worth Checking Out

But Only for New Content

Earlier this week, I wrote about updating the Stream tile in the Microsoft 365 app launcher to point to the preview version of the new Steam client (aka Steam on SharePoint) instead of Steam classic. Since then, I’ve been exercising the new client to understand its strengths and weaknesses. In fact, the new Stream client is a composite of the browser interface to manage videos and the web player to play videos and control their settings. If you play a video from the OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online clients, those clients launch the same player.

The first question I received after the original post was, “can I access my old videos in the new client?” Alas, the answer is no. At least, not until Microsoft delivers the migration capability to move videos out of the old Azure blob storage to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online (ODSP). For now, the only videos you can access through the new client are:

  • Teams meeting recordings (both your recordings and ones shared with you).
  • Videos that you upload to the new client (or OneDrive for Business). This includes video files uploaded through applications like Yammer and Teams.
  • Videos shared with you.
  • Videos attached to emails in your Exchange Online mailbox. I don’t know if Microsoft Search is clever enough to find videos in Exchange on-premises hybrid mailboxes.

There are not many user settings to tweak for the new Stream client. You can change to dark mode, and that’s about all.

Using Graph Insights

The first thing I found is that the new Stream client is smarter than the old one. Take the set of videos highlighted at the top of the video list. The far-left video is tagged “this may relate to a recent meeting.”

The new Stream client
Figure 1: The new Stream client

I’d used another new feature – Add to a calendar item – to include a link to a video in a meeting invitation. Stream calls the OWA create meeting screen (Figure 2) to set up the meeting, complete with an embedded link to the video and the ability to adjust sharing to accommodate all the meeting participants. Because I sent the invitation, Stream figured that I maybe should review the video myself before the call. It’s a nice use of the Graph Meeting Insights API.

Adding a video to an OWA meeting invitation
Figure 2: Adding a video to an OWA meeting invitation

The Add to options for videos also includes To Do. It’s not a very exciting option because it creates a very bare-bones personal task in To Do. I assume the purpose is that the task will remind you to do something with the video, but if you want a full reminder of what you need to do, you’ll need to open the task and add a note to yourself. And who remembers to do that…

Share to Teams

Seeing that the new Stream client is essentially OneDrive for Video, sharing is a strength. The old client was very inward-focused, but the new client allows users to share videos with anyone they can send an email to. You can also share to Teams, using the same functionality that’s available in Outlook, to post a message containing a video link to a person, group, or channel.

Transcripts

For a long time, Stream classic generated transcripts for uploaded videos (it also had a people view where you could find places where someone appeared in a video). In August 2021, Microsoft decided to reduce the amount of data involved in the Stream 2.0 migration by removing some transcripts. The new Stream doesn’t generate a transcript when it uploads videos. Instead, if the spoken language in the video is English, Steam can generate an automatic transcript. Otherwise, you’ll need to create your own transcript.

A transcript is a collection of time-coded text snippets (the same text is used for closed captions) in the VTT format. Figure 3 shows a video playing with both the transcript and captions on display.

Viewing a transcript for a Stream video
Figure 3: Viewing a transcript for a Stream video

You can download the automatically-generated transcript file and amend it with a text editor (or even better, a VTT editor – here’s a free online version). This allows you to correct phrases or even add speaker attribution to indicate who’s speaking. When you’re ready, you delete the existing transcript and upload your version for Stream to use.

Updating Video Details

Different capabilities (to the classic client) are available to amend or interact with videos. For instance, there’s no way to trim a video (remove some content from the start and end of a video). This might well come in time, or perhaps Microsoft will deploy their Clipchamp acquisition for this purpose.

The options available in video settings are:

  • Choose your preferred thumbnail image for a video. You can move a slider through the video to find the frame you want and use that.
  • Publish details of a video. The editor is basic but good enough, and it’s more than sufficient to compose the text to give users information about the content (Figure 4). Regretfully, the filtering capability in the Stream client doesn’t use the descriptive text entered for videos, but the search (SharePoint search) does. The video owner can decide to turn the description on or off.
  • Ability to turn on comments for the video. The commenting engine is the same used for Office documents. The owner can allow or disable comments for a video, and they can also delete all existing comments for a video.
  • Ability to break large videos up into smaller chunks with chapter marks. Think of a chapter as a scene within a larger play. The chapter marks on the video timeline allows a user to navigate to the point they’re interested in.
  • Turn noise suppression on by default (a good thing if a video has a lot of background noise).

Viewing the title and description for a Stream video
Figure 4: Viewing the title and description for a Stream video

Missing Pieces

I’ve already mentioned video trimming as a useful capability that’s not currently available in the new Stream client. Among the other missing features I’ve noticed are:

  • Replace a video.
  • Screen capture.
  • Organize videos into channels with Microsoft 365 groups.
  • Highlighting selected corporate videos managed at the organization level.

There’s bound to be other features that I haven’t picked up yet, and some older features are redundant in the world of ODSP. For instance, the new Stream client uses the standard recycle bin and doesn’t need its own recovery mechanism.

Finally, the Stream mobile apps currently only access classic Stream files. So maybe that’s the trick until Microsoft completes the migration. Use the browser interface to work with new video content and revert to the mobile client to get to old files. It couldn’t be simpler!


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