At a Glance
While Livecage offers a range of online broadcasting and conferencing tools, the service lacks cohesion and polish. If you’re looking to sell videos, you might persevere though the slap-dash interface....
LiveCage isn’t like other online conferencing services. That’s because online conferencing isn’t all it does. You can use it to hold audio- and videoconferences. You can also use it to do live video and audio webcasts; record video and audio for later viewing; and upload and share videos, photos, and audio files. It even has pay-per-view features. But in doing so many things, it doesn’t do any of them as well as more focused services.
Livecage does have two things strongly in its favor: First, it offers unlimited file storage; you can upload and share as much video and audio as you want. Second, almost all of its services are free. The service charges only when you use its pay-per-view system to sell your content; in that case, Livecage keeps half of your revenue.
You can log into Livecage and begin using any of the services almost instantly. The site uses Flash in your browser, so you don’t have to download or install any tools. For a videoconference, you click through a setup page; the Flash plugin asks for permission to use your Webcam and microphone, and when you agree you’re ready to begin.
You can then invite up to nine other participants to the conference; Livecage sends them all e-mail instructions for joining. Participants just click the link inside that message to join the conference. Once the meeting is underway, participants use their own microphones to talk. (Livecage recommends the use of headsets.) Participants can also use the text chat window (which is also a good place to store URLs and group notes during the meeting).
If you aren’t having a meeting, you can use Livecage to broadcast your audio or video. Your audience can be private, limited to people you invite, or open to the Internet at large. You can also upload videos and program them in a streaming playlist; if you wish, viewers of those videos can still access videoconferencing and text chat windows. You can also upload and share audio files and photos.
Video quality in Livecage’s live applications—both conferencing and broadcasting—is OK. Images show moderate compression, but they look fluid. Uploaded video can look great. Livecage supports resolutions up to 1080p in uploaded videos. At that size, I had a hard time telling the uploaded clip apart from the original source.
However, compared to other dedicated conferencing services, Livecage’s interface is disappointing. It displays you and up to nine participants in a cramped, 2-by-5 grid of small windows. You can promote one person to a larger window, but the rest stay in those postage-stamp-sized boxes. Strangely, even if you’re in a videoconference with just one other person, Livecage keeps the same layout; the other eight boxes in that 2-by-5 grid stay black.
Livecage’s interface is unpolished in other ways as well. Throughout, you’ll have to guess at options rather than intuitively selecting the right choice. For example, the video upload page asks you to pick resolution and compression settings. Choose the wrong one, and your aspect-ratio will get skewed. That kind of thing seems common. Livecage should offer more guidance or even just detect the best choice. The service has little documentation to help resolve these issues; the handful of introductory videos often literally just read you the names of interface buttons.
Much of the service seems untested; I found a show-stopping bug in the latest version of Firefox (3.6.8) that prevented a MacBook and MacBook Pro’s webcams from working. (The service worked for me in Safari on those computers.) And it’s too bad Livecage watermarks nearly everything—even your private videoconferences—with its logo.
Unlike some other online conferencing tools, Livecage doesn’t let you share your computer’s screen. It doesn’t let you upload and share documents, either. And, unlike some other conferencing tools, Livecage doesn’t offer an accompanying conference call service, nor can it encrypt your content.
If you access the site from an iPhone, Livecage presents its mobile version. You can’t upload clips or connect to streaming sources, but you can watch previously uploaded files.
Macworld’s buying advice
While Livecage offers a wider variety of tools than some other more focused conferencing services, the service lacks cohesion and polish. If you’re looking to sell videos, you might persevere through the slap-dash interface. But for media uploads, you have many other, better options. And for online conferencing, most business users will want to look elsewhere.