Friday, December 28, 2007

Apple and Fox iTunes Movie Rental Deal

While it hasn’t been officially announced, many news sources have been reporting that Twentieth Century Fox Film has signed a deal with Apple that will allow consumers to rent new Fox DVD releases through Apple's iTunes store. It's been speculated and rumored for some time, that Apple would launch a movie rental service, and it’s likely that Steve Jobs is saving the official announcement for his Jan. 14th keynote at the Macworld Expo.

This is big news, as it charts a new distribution model for iTunes and the deal strengthens Apple’s position in video downloading ecosystem. Sure, digital movie downloads have been around for several years but really hasn't had widespread acceptance. In fact, last week Wal-Mart killed its video download service. The Red Herring reported that the Apple-Fox deal could be a trend for Hollywood studios selling directly to consumers and "cutting out the middleman." Stacy Widlitz, of Pali Research, believes the deal will be a long-term negative for Blockbuster and Netfix, who both saw their shares down 5% following the Apple-Fox news.

You can expect that more studios will follow suit in the coming year. Prior to News Corp, Disney was the only other major content partner selling movies through iTunes, (Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM have partial catalog deals with iTunes), but those movies were only for sale and not for rent. New Corp stands benefit from this arrangement having its content available from iTunes and Hulu. Apple will also make it’s FairPlay DRM technology available, something else it hasn't done before, which could make iTunes content playable on Zune and Sansa devices.

Although Apple TV has really caught on, selling only 400,000 units which is 600,000 shy of it’s projection, it's stock continues to rise.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2008 Predictions From Around the Web

Between all the holiday cheer and over-eating the past few days, I spent some time reading through a variety of predictions for 2008, and collected some interesting ones here.

What’s the next big thing? What current trends will catch on? What new ones will emerge? What new handheld device(s) will appear? What’s in store in the social networking sphere? Who will buy whom? Will it be Google everything? Will advertisers figure out online advertising? What about H.264? Mobile web? Live web channels? CDN consolidation? IPTV? HD on the web? P2P content delivery? WiFi? Open social? Semantic searches? What else will be in store for 2008? It will certainly be an interesting year to come.

Here's a short video of Jon Fine, Business Week, courtesy of Beet.TV, expanding on his 2008 predictions which are also listed below, Media Predictions for 2008, Everything May or May Not Change. .

Apple Gazette: 8 Predictions for Macworld 2008

Business Week's Jon Fine - Media Predictions for 2008

CMS Watch - Twelve Predictions for 2008

Faster Future – 10 Digital Media Predictions for 2008

GigaOm: Gaming and Online Worlds

GigaOm Looking Back: The Year in Web 2.0 (2007)

Hollywood reporter - 2008 Predictions and Prognostications

Mashable’s 2008 Predictions: Mark’s List

Mashable’s 2008 Predictions: Adam’s List

Mashable's Drama 2.0 Predicts What Won’t Happen in 2008

Microsoft in 2008: 10 Predictions

Read Write Web: 2008 Web Predictions

2008 Searchviews Predictions

Techdirt's If You Need A 2008 Prediction... How About: The Fact Checker Is Dead... Long Live The Fact Checker


Valleywag's 25 predictions for 2008

Venture Beat's 2008 predictions from a VC: Android will succeed…

Venture Beat's Predictions for the Consumer Internet in 2008

Web Worker Daily - Six Tech Predictions for 2008

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A First Look at Hulu

What is Hulu? You may have heard that NBC recently pulled all their content from iTunes to launch their own video portal. Well they did, and they call it Hulu, an invitation-only online video site from NBC Universal and News Corp , and it joins the ranks as a YouTube rival.

"Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself... Our hope is that Hulu will embody our (admittedly ambitious) never-ending mission, which is to help you find and enjoy the world’s premier content when, where and how you want it" - Hulu's CEO Jason Kilar, in his first blog entry.

That was in August 2007, when Kilar extended the invitation to try the Beta site and provide feedback. He added that, "Within that same timeframe, we will also be offering great programming through our distribution partner sites: AOL, Comcast, MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo."

So I was pretty excited to finally get my golden ticket to Hulu a few days ago, and at first glance it definitely captured my attention. The video library is extensive and well suited to my taste in contemporary and nostalgic entertainment. Current NBC hits like Heroes and 30 Rock, The Simpsons and classic shows like Alfred Hitchcock or Mary Tyler Moore, WKRP in Cincinnati can be viewed in their entirety and look great at standard resolution and not that bad when expanded to full screen. The selection is quite extensive, with networks and studios that include the likes of NBC, FX, 20th Century Fox, FOX, Fox Television Classics, FUEL TV, SCI FI, Bravo, USA, MGM, MyNetworkTV, Entertainment Channel, National Geographic, Sundance Channel.

It takes time to browse the library.You can spend a lot of time browsing through the library, but it's easy to find popular clips like SNL's viral video sensation, Lazy Sunday.
You can even watch full-length movies and embed any video onto your web site, like another SNL-alumni classic, the 'Blues Brothers Movie' (I embedded this one for buddy Rob!)

The video player interface is well designed and you can read the WebwireTV post for a nice review on the look and feel of the site, Hulu - A Great Free Video Service That Seems To Have Improved Greatly Since Launch.

They have a small HD Gallery which only features videos in H.264 at 1280x720 resolution. You need a 2.5Mbps Internet connection or greater and a pretty fast machine. They looked great at native resolution as well as full screen.

Here's my feedback to the Hulu UI designers on browsing.
I’d like to be able to toggle between views like on a Mac or Windows to see a listing rather than have to wade through thumbnail after thumbnail. Please though don’t give me the YouTube bubble, I want to be efficient when I search, Check out Apple trailers page to see what I mean.

Open HuluSoon after Hulu launched, a web site called, Open Hulu appeared mirroring the same content but it didn't require a password. A crafty guy named Matt Schlicht is behind the web site that embedded all the available Hulu videos onto a public site. It's chock full of advertising and you can read WebwireTV's post on OPENhulu - Hulu Videos For Everyone, Invitation Or Not | How Long Will It Last? for more details.

This Download Squad post seems to think that it's only a matter of time before the web site gets shut down. But it’s actually pretty cool that they’ve given the control to edit the clips to make our own unique clips to embed on our websites. In the face of the writer's strike, it will be interesting to see what other major development in this area will be and who else will follow suit.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scobleizer Scoops Kyte Funding

A day before the official announcement, Robert Scoble paid a visit to Kyte's San Francisco office and scooped the big story that Kyte has received additional funding to the tune of $15 million (US dollars) from Telefonica, Nokia, DoCoMo, Swisscom, Holtzbrinck and DFJ. In his usual social networking fashion he conducted a live web conference with the Kyte executives to break the news.

Why is this important? Well, it's not just because it's some of the coolest technology in lifecasting and microblogging - it's charting new territory in content distribution - as Scoble says , "Telefonica has 230 million users. DoCoMo has 52 million. Nokia has 39% of the cell phone market share. If the Kyte player is embedded on these three it brings a HUGE audience to Kyte." Read his blog for more information.

You can also go to Scobleizer's Qik page to view his Qik videos of the announcement.

Check out the Kyte blog for the latest on their mobile web development.

Monday, December 17, 2007

It Looks Like the Revolution Will Be Televised - Qik

Thanks to an innovative new cell phone streaming service called Qik - a product of Santa Clara, Calif. start-up Visivo Communications, the revolution will be televised, on the web... from your cell phone.

Similar to, and Seesmic, this "little piece of software enables you to stream videos directly from your phone to the Web."

Lisa Gaines, of NewTeeVee, wrote about it last week in her post, One to Watch: Qik Live Video and Robert Scoble is going ga-ga over this next new killer app - live video streaming from mobile to web. It's definitely the real deal and you can see for yourself in this demo Scoble created with his producer Rocky.
Mash this up with Twitter and you can imagine the endless lifecasting possibilities. Your cell phone can become a live broadcast channel. This goes way beyond the Dick Tracy wrist phone and it's created quite a buzz in the UK and Germany according to Techcrunch.

To get started you need to sign up on the web site and have one of the supported Nokia 560 smart phones with an unlimited plan. You can view the Qik FAQ page for more information. The video is not that high quality since it's coming from a cell phone but I'm sure it will improve over time.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Best Practices For Webcasting Production

Last month I took part in a panel discussion on, "Best Practices For Webcasting Production" at Streamingmedia West. Each speaker presented unique business case examples which shared common production processes and tools.

Click here to view the video in a new window. Thank you to for making the sessions available and a big thanks to the video crews who recorded all the sessions.

"This session delves into the intricacies and best practices of live broadcasting over the Internet. From signal acquisition to encoding and server distribution, the session will detail the best practices for delivering a live Internet Webcast. Discover how to deconstruct a complex and rich live event down to its elemental parts, from hardware and software to the workflow and signal flow of the production. Industry experts and end-users will share experiences and guidelines to help you produce successful, high-quality Internet broadcasts."

Speakers (pictured left to right)
(Moderator) Joe Tripician, Director of Broadband Services, Medialink
Gordon Castle, SVP, Turner Broadcasting/CNN
Wayne Oates, Global Web Communications Manager, McDonald's Corporation
Larry Kless, Production Manager, Videoconferencing, Kaiser Permanente Northern California
Alan Richardson, Webcast Program Manager, Sprint Creative Media

I've included the slide deck from the session below (my slides are 26-42):
Here are some "best practices" I've learned that address the technical and logistical challenges for webcasting, and how you put the right team and the right technology in place.

If you are producing a webcast, consider the following:
  • Know your role. You may be producer, director and technical director and even camera all rolled up into one. Or you may have the luxury of hiring a full crew.
  • Get clients on board with deadlines, financial commitments and better understanding of web cast requirements.
  • Audio is the number one killer. It’s an ongoing issue when using wireless microphones, telephone call ins, multi-point conferencing and live PA (Public Address) system.
  • Working with a team you know and trust and who knows your business is best. Relationships are vital to your process. Delegation and deference to expertise key to getting the job done. You need to rely on your team to do their job and sometimes take over your chores too when you get called away to manage client issues and handle last minute changes.
  • Redundant personnel and technology is a must and equipment failure should be expected. Back up to you back ups really saves the day in a pinch.
  • Make every room a broadcast studio.
  • Site surveys at least a good 8 weeks ahead to inspect data and A/V ports, power requirements for lighting, ceiling height for rigging, windows and doors for light and noise, bring a digital camera, measuring tape and a continuity tester as part of your arsenal
  • Complete all pre-web cast equipment and connectivity testing well in advance and conduct it on-site for higher reliability
  • Prepare a production summary that includes every last bit of detail that covers the entire production. Give everyone on the crew a copy for reference and lead a production meeting before the works so that all teams are synched up.
  • Be prepared for last minute changes and if there’s time just roll with them – update your script, rehearse if possible, but say “No, we’re out of time” when you have to. Really, there’s nothing worse than a major on-air blunder. But as they, “It’s live television.”

  • I've included the video from panel discussion now that it's available in an embedded player,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Streaming Media West 2007 Videos Now Available! has created a custom player to present all the videos from Streamingmedia West 2007. The link below should launch the player which contains all 27 videos from the conference.

Streaming Media West 2007 Videos Now Available!

Download Speakers Presentations Here

I've already highlighted one of the videos in a previous post and I'll highlight others, including the Best Practices in Webcasting Production session, of which I was panelist.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lifecasting with

With all the collaborative and live video streaming applications - like Youtube, Skype, Twitter,,, Facebook, MySpace - is what we’re doing an ongoing Lifecast?

is defined in Wikipedia as "a continual broadcast of events in a person's life through digital media.... through the medium of the Internet and can involve wearable technology. Justin Kan popularized lifecasting after strapped a web cam to his head and began his life broadcast 24/7. He founded and the web site streams multiple live video channels of people mostly hanging out at work or at home chatting online with viewers, or driving in their cars or performing live music. One channel had a live feed from a club in San Francisco that regularly broadcasts a Salsa dance class. You can get your own mobile Lifecasting kit like Justin at Dynamisim. The technology does lend itself to adult themes based on it's voyeuristic quality, but everything I saw was G-rated, mainly people chatting with their viewers.

While I'm not ready to set up a live video streaming channel, I did try sign up an account on Here's a video example I produced to show how it works.

It's easy to set up a account and start broadcasting. The online content creation tools are intuitive and easy to use. I didn't spend too much time exploring the channels, but I did find Scobleizer's channel and you can't miss 50 cent's channel on the main page.

We'll continue to see a lot of development in this area of personalized channels (live and on-demand), interactive video tagging, live chat and mobile streaming applications with more and more in the coming year. One recent example is San Francisco-based start-up Seesmic, a community driven video social software that's being called the video based Twitter. It's gone through beta and is now it's in its invitation only alpha phase. Here is what TechCrunch says about it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tools And Best Practices For The Enterprise Streaming Media Department

This is the first video session from Streamingmedia West 2007 that I'm posting courtesy of It's an an hour long but should be of interest to those in corporate or educational multimedia departments. I attended this session and took notes which I'll make available here in th next week. I found this panel discussion very valuable as it focused on content creation tools and best practices. Click below to launch the player in a new window.
Tools And Best Practices For The Enterprise Streaming Media Department - Streamingmedia West 2007
This session brings together four frontline streaming media professionals to discuss their favorite toolsets and techniques for producing enterprise communications and training content. The emphasis is on in-house production with “off-the-shelf” tools and apps, rather than turnkey or outsourced solutions. Premiere or Final Cut Pro? Camtasia or Captivate? Flash or Silverlight? Or all of the above? What works and what should be avoided? All this and more is covered in this enterprise-focused session.

Jeff Hanley
, Manager
, Multimedia Corporate Learning Center, KLA-Tencor

Adam Hessler, Manager, Technical Marketing, Cisco
Dan Seoane, Media Services Manager, Covad Communications
Greg Pulier, Co-Founder and CTO, Interactive Video Technologies (IVT)
Nathan Greene, Multimedia Manager, Arizona Heart Institute

Register now for StreamingMedia East 2008 in NYC.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Adobe Releases Flash Media Server 3 and Flash Player 9

It's a big day for online video because H.264 playback within the Flash player has finally arrived. Today, Adobe released the much anticipated update to it's streaming media line of products with the new Flash Player 9 Update 3, which now supports the H.264 and VP6-S codecs, both capable of efficiently streaming high definition content via the new Flash Media Server 3 (FMS). They also dramatically slashed the price of the FMS 3 to $995 for unlimited connections paving the way for High Definition H.264 streaming.

Why is this important?
In short, one word - convergence.

H.264, or AVC (Advanced Video Coding), is the scalable video compression component of MPEG 4 (Part 10) and the core of HD media like Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. This is the first public version of Flash Player 9 to include support for H.264 HD video playback, which means we could be seeing HD video at 1080P on YouTube and everywhere else in the near future. Along with the H.264 video support, Flash Player 9 also supports High Efficiency AAC (HE-AAC) audio encoding, the same audio encoding format used by iTunes.

In the clip below courtesy of Beet.TV, Bill Joll, CEO of ON2 Technologies helps put HD playback within Adobe Flash Player into perspective. On2S Supports H.264 as HD Flash Comes into Focus.

Related Links
Tim Siglin - Flash Media Server Spawns a Family

Scott Gilbertson -Flash Player Update Adds HD Video Support

Ryan Stewart's Blog - Flash H.264 support and new pricing/availability for Flash Media Server 3

Adobe Flash Player 9 is immediately available as a free download for Windows, Macintosh and Linux platforms from To learn more about Adobe Flash Player 9, please visit

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Power of the Slideshow

This topic has kept coming up for me and was punctuated by a discussion last month at Streaming Media West called, "TV's Last Gasp, How Broadcasters Are Making The Move To The Web." The panel was moderated by Jose Castillo, President, thinkjose LLC. and included speakers from SNL Kagan, FOX Sports, Associated Press and Online Studio, Current TV. The panel focused mainly on what the TV networks were doing (and need to do) to move their traditional TV content models to the online world.

The main take home message was that there's a huge on-line market for super-niche content. Web-only content that's not just an upload of an existing TV shows but a unique experience that offers Web 2.0 "lean forward" features (UGC, mashups, folksonomy, tagging, comments). I've seen some of that already in the form of web-only webisodes, but there's not a lot people in the traditional TV space creating content specifically for the web. Video quality is also still an issue for sports and some entertainment genres due to low video compression data rates.

A great example of the shift from fast action and movement to a more simple approach is the of traditional photo essay with narration. It's a different way to tell stories than full motion video because photographers have different aesthetic. The power of the single image capturing that frozen moment in time, compelling wide angles, rich saturated color or stark black and white. Audio narration adds depth and a layer of truth making the pictures come to life. Much like how Ken Burns revolutionized the documentary genre, this format is catching on as Slideshare and Flickr become extensions of how we tell our stories. Not with full motion video or even animation, just pictures, words and sound.

Garr Reynolds recently shared an example from the NY Times in his blog, Images, narration, text: the power of the slideshow which I've featured here The slideshow is from Free and Uneasy: The First Year Out. Garr sums it up by saying, "This is very simple—nothing fancy or high-tech—and yet how powerful... This is a technique that storytellers, such as documentary film makers, often use. And powerful images, plus thoughtful narration and maybe even a bit of text, can help you tell your story in ways that bullet points never could."

It's that single image frozen in time. A compelling moment captured by the eye of the photographer. Whether it's a famous image like this* or one taken with your own camera, it's the power of the still photo that creates an open space of emotion for the viewer to explore.

There are a bundle of tools you can use to create your multimedia slideshows. In my department at work, the graphic arts, web and video departments have collaborated to create wonderful photo essays with narration. One series in particular documented a group of employees who volunteered in the rebuilding process after Hurricane Katrina. They captured audio and photos in the field and emailed them back to the office hundreds of miles away. The final project was compiled in Flash. You can view the Gulf Coast Volunteer Project here.

A few other colleagues in other departments have suggested trying Soundslides, a rapid production tool for still image and audio web presentations. I know there are a whole slew of other products and audio tools to create these type of presentations but more on that for another post. If you have any you'd like to share, please let me know.

*"Migrant Mother [Oklahoma, 1936] by Dorothea Lange

Saturday, December 1, 2007

VCASMO - a Free Web 2.0 Multimedia Presentation Solution

"VCASMO is a multimedia presentation solution for personal photo-video slide show, business presentation, training, acadamic teaching, sales pitching, seminar, conference, press release meeting, live event."

I found this wonderful free Web 2.0 tool while searching, "Video with Synchronized Powerpoint" on Robin Good's MasterNewMedia web site. After reading his review of it I went to the web site right away and signed. There are a lot of off-the-shelf products that you can use to create these dynamic rich media presentations, but this one was free and you didn't need to be a web developer.

I created the presentation featured here for a "Communications 2.0" educational workshop that my department at work sponsored for our internal communications staff on Web 2.o tools. I was asked to talk about "Video with Synchronized Powerpoint" because I produce these type of presentations for a number my clients. My VCASMO presentation is a quick demonstration to show how VSCAMO works, by role modeling a 57 second video with synchronized slides.

I used my Macbook which has a built-in camera and microphone and captured the video using iMovie. My daughter Marley was my production assistant for the recording, which is in no way Emmy award winning! I exported the video as a Quicktime movie and created a short Powerpoint for my talking points. The Powerpoint slides were exported as .png files and all the assets were uploaded and easily synched together in about a minute using VSCAMO's on-line editing environment.

Can you believe this is free? It's like YouTube with slides, but a little off the beaten path because it has more educational content than entertainment.

Thanks to all the VSCAMO software engineers and people behind the scenes to make it available and to Robin Good for letting me know about this incredible Web 2.0 application.