By Bob Lamm
I didn't know that web-streamed video could look so good! Long-distance internet bandwidth restrictions and modem connections may bump the quality down to postage-stamp level, but video on high-speed connections and local networks can look surprisingly good - at least as good as VHS.
That's what the presenters at the October SMPTE/New England meeting on Web Broadcasting were able to show us. The folks from e-StudioLive even had a complete system there: It not only generated a live multicamera internet video feed, it also had a simultaneous graphics display and even a chat window all within the same display page. This system is perfect for corporate presentations, educational systems, etc.
Jeff Sauer and Matt McMakin, the two well-known (notorious) magazine columnists explained some of the new internet-video terminology. For example:
The main file formats used for web streaming are Real Video, Windows Media and QuickTime. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but they're roughly comparable.
Just posting a video file on the web (even QuickTime) isn't 'streaming'. That term means that there's two-way interaction between the server (source) and viewer to deliver the program and continuously adjust the quality while the viewer watches the show. This requires the web server to have some special software, but means that the file never has to be stored on the user's computer: Really handy for those without Gigs of disk space!
'Progressive Download' is when the user starts playing a file before it's fully loaded onto his computer. It means he doesn't have to wait until the entire clip is in his computer before it plays. It's commonly supported by most player software and the server doesn't need to have any special capabilities. But it requires the user to have enough room on his drive for the file to be stored as it's downloaded.
Bill Churchill, the CEO of Cosmic Blender, a Boston-area production house that specializes in this type of production, had lots of practical hints: Internet video can handle either a lot of detail or a lot of motion, but not simultaneously. Rapid cuts can be a problem. But many of webcasting's capabilities are truly unique and once one masters the particular idiosyncrasies of the medium, most of the challenges are the same ones that video people have confronted for ages: How to make a compelling, exciting presentation that makes a point or tells a story.
Caren Anhder from Media 100 rounded out the panel. She explained how the medium was growing and also how it was beginning to meet more demanding expectations. She recounted how the MediaCleaner people (now an M100 subsidiary) went to see George Lucas to prepare the last Star Wars internet trailer. George told them: 'There are 24 frames/second in this movie and none of them are optional!' The MediaCleaner Pro people were able to put every one of them online.
Bob Lamm is Manager at CYNC Corp., a video/multimedia equipment dealership that sells internet-video software and hardware. He can be reached at 617-277-4317
Posted: 15 December, 2000
Robert Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor