"Life Could Be A Stream"

A quick overview concerning reviewing, archiving and distributing digital video. Written by Chick Ciccarelli (Pres. Chick, Inc./Editvu for Music Video Producers Association Newsletter-2001

Suddenly, from out of the crevices of fallen dot-coms, comes an intense amount of attention around something called "streaming media" (point-to-point networks, IP to IP delivery, asset management, encoding and pay-per-view). It's enough to make your brain woozy. What's the best solution? What about security? Is bandwidth ready for content delivery? With so many companies and solutions being thrown at the entertainment market, I think most people are just scratching their heads and saying, "Who's on first?"

A lot has happened since 1907, when 5,000 nickelodeons popped up throughout the United States. The evolution of the motion picture theatrical business has transformed itself into the "entertainment industry" with the introduction of television, home video, pay and basic cable television, music television, satellite television, direct-to-home private cable, transportation viewing, video games, interactive multimedia and point-to-point kiosks. But it was the change in the art of film editing and the introduction of the Internet that has made the fastest metamorphosis. Computer-based technologies, digital, non-linear editing machines utilizing computer compression algorithms have revolutionized the process.

Today, there is a strong desire to make the Internet the next distribution channel for film and video. The demand comes not only from the entertainment industry, but also from the general consumer market where people have shown their desire to share information about their lives, cultures and experiences, worldwide.

Though connectivity and bandwidth are seemingly not as advanced as is the desire of the film and video industry to make the Internet become its new distribution channel, industry leaders recognize that Internet technology is rapidly advancing its reality. It is especially evident with the latest introduction of streaming media.

Streaming Media

Streaming media is a method of making audio, video and other multimedia available in real-time over the Internet or corporate Intranets, with no download wait and no file to take up space on the user's hard disk.

Streaming video is a sequence of "moving images" that are sent in compressed form over the Internet and displayed by the viewer as they arrive. Streaming media is streaming video with sound. With streaming video or streaming media, a Web user does not have to wait to download a large file before seeing the video or hearing the sound. Instead, the media is sent in a continuous stream and is played as it arrives. The user needs a player, which is a special program that decompresses and sends video data to the display and audio data to speakers. A player can be either an integral part of a browser or downloaded from the software maker's website.

There are basically two types of streaming-http streaming and RTP/RTSP streaming. HTTP streaming works by downloading an entire movie to your hard disk.

Just-in-time streaming RTSP (real-time Streaming Protocol) is a streaming technology that keeps the user's computer in constant touch with the server running the movie. Digital data is transferred and displayed-and discarded once the viewer has seen it. Though a 3-10 second cache of data is stored to compensate for occasional network "burps" that might otherwise compromise quality, at no point is the entire movie stored on the users computer.

There are many advantages to direct streaming, as opposed to simply posting a movie to your web site and having people download it. With streaming, people can see your media play right away–there are no length downloads. It is the only way to distribute live events such as news coverage and sporting events over the web. Streaming media files are not limited to file size, which makes a download quick and instant. Long-form media such as feature films and concerts that would make multi-gigabyte downloads can stream effortlessly. With multi-casting, viewers can tune into one stream at the same time. Viewers can pause, fast forward, or otherwise interact with prerecorded movies and play only the parts they want.

Most importantly, streaming allows you to maintain control over the distribution and copyright of your media. Anyone can download a movie, alter it, and redistribute it, but it is much harder to redistribute the contents of a stream. When your audience saves your streaming movie, all it is saving is the URL of the stream and some user settings. The actual data is never copied.

Security

David Du at Broadbandindustrynews.com sums up the security levels best:

"Streaming can protect content better than Download and Playback or Progressive Downloads as it is real-time and does not involve local playback, but content still reaches the hard drive in the form of a buffer. While this method is more secure than the previous two, a moderately savvy computer user can generate a copy of the streamed content. Real-time Streaming, buffered only in RAM, is notably the safest of the mentioned content distribution methods. This buffer is immediately purged upon playback of the media. Only a very highly sophisticated user could get into the system code to transfer from RAM to the hard drive.

Given that real-time streaming is most suited to digital rights management, on-the-fly encryption can further protect the streaming content. Although several encryption methods exist, on-the-fly encryption ensures the information is not intercepted, pirated or altered in transit from the server to the player and provides copy protection for content. When a user requests a file, the stream travels through an encryption engine so each packet is encrypted and a unique user key allows access to the content. In the past, on-the-fly encryption was associated with lagging performance, but companies today, such as RPK and PassEdge, can provide on-the-fly encryption with as little as 2 percent performance degradation.

Other effective methods for digital rights management are public key infrastructure (PKI) and watermarking. PKI for multimedia uses digital keys and certificates to authenticate all parties involved in viewing content and manage their access rights.Watermarking enables companies to trace where content is sent through watermarks embedded in the code."

What company does what?

Many new companies, products and services have spawned from streaming technologies, including encoding equipment manufacturers, video asset management products and expensive point-to-point networks.

IP to IP (on the Internet) Delivery

Editvu™ (pronounced "edit-view") is an IP to IP digital video delivery application designed for reviewing digital dailies & editing cuts, archiving & asset management and pay-per-view distribution of streamed digital video. Editvu is extremely universal, supporting Real®, Microsoft® Windows Media and Apple® QuickTime®, formats, all browsers and from 56k to T-1 connections. It is strictly Internet based and requires no special software installation on your own computer and no special connectivity requirements. If you have an Internet connection, you can use Editvu. Each package comes with a 16 account (Bin), password-protected Base Station, each containing its own Viewer Screening Room, Editor's Workstation, Library Archiving and 24/7 technical support. Editvu's anonymous password-protected numbering system makes each account snoop-free and lets you rotate Bins as productions begin and end. One of the most, user-friendly interfaces of all video delivery system structures. Industry packages start at $99.95 a month ("flat-rate") for 200MB of storage and 4GB of data transfer. (http://www.editvu.com)

The AvidProNet™ Review & Approval™ service is an Internet browser-based application for frame-accurate review and approval of Quicktime video content, which can be integrated directly into an Avid® workflow. It's main, highlighted feature allows the ability to view reviewers' comments directly in the Avid Timeline (in Symphony™ 3, Media Composer® 10, Film Composer® 10, Avid Xpress® 4 or Avid Xpress DV 2 editing systems). Avid charges $24.95 for initial reviewer and $9.95 for each additional reviewer, $9.95 for encryption and $9.95 for every 100 MB block after the first 100 MB. (http://www.avidpronet.com)

VideoClipstream™, a proprietary technology developed by Destiny, enables the delivery of streaming video directly from a web page, email or banner ad without the need for an external player or plug-in. As a Java-based technology, VideoClipstream™ claims it can be viewed by approximately 93% of web users, with instant on demand streaming. ClipstreamMail is VideoClipstream's rich media, html email product which uses a "Pass along to a Friend" feature, encouraging the recipient to virally pass it along to others, while a built in data collection technology simultaneously tracks the senders and recipients. Pricing not available. (http://www.videoclipstream.com)

Point to Point

Picture PipeLine is a single-source solution to its clients, providing fully integrated solutions over secure broadband networks and is a service offering, where all hardware, software, and secure connectivity are provided for a set-up and monthly fee. Picture PipeLine, LLC offers fully integrated solutions for the film, television, commercial and music video production community over secure broadband networks. Pricing not available. (http://www.picturepipeline.com)

Media.net has deployed an ultra high-speed fiber optic network connecting the entertainment industry's movie and television studios, post production houses and special effects companies. The network is capable of delivering the complete spectrum of production bandwidth requirements and connectivity. The claimed benefits for media.net clients are more creative control, shorter production schedules, lower production costs and improved quality. Pricing not available. (http://www.media.net)

WAM!NET's services, which include managed network, storage, hosting and application services, are delivered in a utility-like model via the company's highly integrated IT platform, enabling commercial and government customers to access the combination of IT services they need on a transactional basis. In doing so, customers are united with their community of interest, which collaborates to specify, create, print, store, broadcast and distribute content within WAM!NET's online, secure digital environment. Pricing not available. (http://www. http://www.wam.net)

Combination Delivery and Edge Networks

Digital Island supports high-quality, live and on-demand streaming media through its Footprint Streaming Services. Footprint Live employs multicast and satellite technologies to reliably deliver highest quality live events streaming media to even the largest audiences. Footprint On-Demand delivers video, audio, and animation on demand so companies can house entire libraries of video and audio content at the edges of the Internet, at the location closest to the end-user. Footprint Media Services, Digital Island's comprehensive package of streaming media support, allows customers to choose from a robust menu of services, including syndication, sponsorship, custom marketing, production, encoding, custom database development, and custom Web site development. Pricing not available. (http://www.digitalisland.net)

Software and Hardware

Terran's Cleaner 5 is the industry-standard tool for adding dynamic, interactive streaming video and audio to your website. Its workflow allows you to easily capture, author and your streaming media. Cleaner 5 is Flexible; it supports all the streaming formats, including MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 and files larger than 2 GB. Interactive authoring with Cleaner 5's exclusive EventStream™ technology lets you create video that drives web content. Add interactive features like Buy Me links and hot spots. Pricing: $599. Upgrades for only $179. (Or buy it bundled with Editvu and get Cleaner 5 for $499, which includes one free month of Editvu and free installation). (http://www.terran.com)

Virage™. The Virage Internet Video Application Platform transforms video into an effective online medium that is easy to publish, manage and distribute on the Internet or corporate intranets. The Virage platform provides content owners with the complete infrastructure for seamlessly integrating streaming video into business, entertainment and information applications. Index and Encode: Virage VideoLogger® enables the SmartEncode™ process of simultaneous encoding and indexing. VideoLogger uses advanced technology to watch, listen to and read the video signal in real time to automatically create a video database (or index) of your content. Pricing starts at around $20,000. (http://www.virage.com)

Anystream's Agility Workgroup automates the encoding process with single pass encoding, allowing for a tenfold increase in output when compared with manual encoding processes. Agility Workgroup is an easy-to-use, end-to-end encoding solution. Your staff can enjoy the speed and efficiency of automated streaming media production and delivery without changing your existing production environment. With a single job submission, Agility Workgroup captures source media from a live feed, tape deck or digital source (including MPEG-2), applies specified video and audio preprocessing filters for superior quality output, encodes media into any number of streaming media formats – Real®, Microsoft® Windows Media, Apple® QuickTime®, PacketVideo, MP3, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 - at multiple bit rates Distributes the final, high-quality video to any destination including Internet and LAN servers, FTP sites and CDNs. Pricing starts at $25,000. (http://www.anystream.com)

The Market

Over 3,000 radio and 100 TV stations already offer daily live Internet broadcasts and Internet-only content. Major record labels like Capitol, Polygram, Warner Brothers, and Sony Music Online provide music lovers with a vast assortment of programming, including near-CD-quality recordings, concerts, and music videos.

News broadcasters and entertainment companies are also jumping on the bandwagon with offerings like ABC News, CBS Online, Comedy Central, ESPN SportsZone, Fox News, MGM, National Public Radio, TV Guide and The Wall Street Journal. And innovative companies are generating additional revenue with Internet pay-per-view content, one-time-only events or subscriptions.

By 2006, eighty percent of the top 2000 businesses worldwide will deploy video on demand (VOD) to employees' desktops, says Gartner Inc. According to Gartner, VOD capabilities will be crucial in attracting and retaining highly motivated employees.

Media players and streaming media now are installed on 99 percent of US home PCs, according to a new study released by Media Metrix, a Jupiter Media Metrix research company.

Spending in the global entertainment and media industry will climb to $1.2 trillion in 2005 from $831 billion in 2000 despite current economic uncertainty and Internet sector volatility, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a report released on June 6th, 2001.

Online distribution of content will continue to be a key driver of growth, the consulting firm said in a report about the sector's outlook. "Digital technology, such as Internet access, broadband services, the expansion of the (high-speed) pipe into homes, satellite and wireless communications are going to be driving this growth," said Mike Kelley, one of the authors of the report and partner in the firm's media and entertainment practice.

Summary

Whether you are a content creator, manipulator or owner, one thing is clear–videos on the Internet are here and there is money to be made from it. Finding the right solution for your needs is going to require homework and lots of demos before dishing out large amounts of cash to accommodate video on demand. One thing to remember before you do–at the rate of new solution development, the technology will probably be obsolete with a month of purchasing it. However, don't get left behind. Might be a good idea to look at inexpensive alternatives until the market settles down.