Sunday, March 30, 2008

Beet.TV on The Rise of H.264 and High Quality Online Video

Online video quality is on the rise this year now that Flash Player supports playback of H.264. Adobe announced this last December with it's release of Flash Player 9 and a growing number of video distribution platforms now offer high quality and high definition H.264 encoded video.

Andy Plesser has been using H.264 and he's seen a dramatic increase in the quality of his videos on Beet.TV and Blip.TV. In his recent post, Adobe's New Flash Codec is "Everyman's HD Platform"....has Improved Beet Stream on YouTube and Blip, he said, "We get a lot of compliments about the quality of our video. Using H.264 has been key to the improved quality... I have come to think of H.264 as a kind of everyman's HD video production and distribution platform."

Plesser described the video workflow as only a few step process (1) shoot the video (2) edit video with Apple's Final Cut Pro 6 (3) export H.264 encoded .mov file. For producers and editors this really streamlines the process since you don't have to render a file that would then need to be imported into a stand alone compression program. He included this video of a conversation he had with Kevin Towes Adobe's Technical Product manager for Flash Media Server (FMS) who as Plesser says, "gives an overview of the evolution of the Adobe Flash Player and the various codecs that have been used over the years. He explains the significance of the introduction of H.264."

Towes was also interviewed by David Berlind, formerly of ZDNet, in a blog post titled, Between H.264 & 90% price drop, will Adobe’s new media servers mean more YouTubes? The post dates back to December 2007 and includes an mp3 file of the interview.

Monday, March 24, 2008

GigaOM Show: Seesmic's Loic Le Meur, and Why Video is Changing the World

Joyce Kim and Liz Gannes interviewed web entrepreneur and video blogger Loic Le Meur on the latest Giga Om show, Episode 34 - Forget Twitter: creates online video conversations. The episode description says, "Unlike most online video sites that rely on a video upload model, Seesmic provides an online built-in user interface that enables participates to record their personal video note directly to Seesmic's servers. This could be the future of conversation over the web."

Sessmic has been described as the Twitter of video however Le Meur calls Seesmic a video conversation software and incorporated that into the tag line "Join the Video Conversation." Jose Castillo thinks Seesmic is another example of why video is changing the world and he recently expanded a short post on his blog into a full article on Castillo described how he tapped into a community conversation started by a deaf Seesmic user Louis Ricciardi writing that, "I was reminded why video is so important and why it is changing the world … it’s all about people communicating."

Liz Gaines said on NewTeeVee, "Seesmic is a video startup I’ve shied away from writing about too often, because I’m not sure I really get it. But I figure if so many smart people think there’s something good going on here, I should keep an eye on what the company is doing."

Loic responded on his blog, "Ah and Liz says she does not really get Seesmic, even after having me on the show, I must really not be clear enough, let me know if I can explain more."

Allan Stern from CenterNetworks wrote a post about Seemic last month titled, Taking a Look at Seesmic and Why It Won't Work Despite Those Behind It. He compared some of the many video tools and distribution services like YouTube, Flixwagon/Qik, Ustream, SeeToo/ooVoo and concluded that, "It's taken me a while to figure out what Seesmic is but I've come to the realization that it's a video message board... If Loic can figure out how to make the "video conversation" real-time and step away from being a message board, then it has a much better chance of succeeding. But there are plenty of services that do that already."

Jose Castillo put things in perspective regarding Seesmic by saying, "
We all are guilty of focusing too much on the tools we use every day. Blinded by the coolness of our latest application or service, we sometimes forget that connecting human beings is at the core of online media."


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Steve Garfield on "Rebooting Your Newsroom" with LIVE Mobile Broadcasting

Steve Garfield posted this video on his blog from a presentation he gave to the New England Newspaper Association for the New England News Forum. It's an excerpt from a 90-minute training and informational video that included Steve and several other presenters speaking on: "Rebooting Your Newsroom: Adding blogs, podcasts, citizens and the web."

The longer version is available at:

"The video is an edited version of the workshop of the same name presented by the news forum at the New England Press Association annual convention on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008, in Boston. It is available for free, educational/training use on the web. A high-resolution DVD may be ordered for $30.00 duplication/handling costs from" - Bill Densmore, Executive Director, The New England News Forum,

Monday, March 17, 2008

Skype Now Broadcasting on a TV Near You

I use Skype all the time to video chat with my family who live many miles away across the country. It's so much better than a regular telephone call since you can see and hear each other and the video and audio quality is fine for this personal use. The kids love to see their cousins and Grandparents and it's become quite routine to "Skype" each other on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. You know the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" and although it's cliche, it really applies well when using Skype. I haven't had an opportunity to use Skype in a professional setting but it made the new headlines last week for its emerging use in live broadcasts.

In his March 13th post on TechCrunch, Duncan Reily wrote, "Marked as a first for national TV, CNN used Skype Video to conduct a live interview Monday." According to Paul J. Gough of the Hollywood Reporter, CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who went to Harvard Law School with deposed New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, joined the CNN broadcast via Skype from Maui." When the Spitzer sex scandal broke on Monday Toobin was on a family vacation and had participated in a phone interview. Reuters reported that, "CNN executives wanted to use a video feed but were stymied by the fact that they didn't have the equipment to make it happen."

CNN Senior VP David Bohrman said, "I didn't want to take this guy and his family away from vacation and send him to Oahu (where there would be other facilities) I thought it would have been really annoying."

So Toobin used a laptop and web cam borrowed from the hotel business center the hotel and created a makeshift studio on location. The lighting was one of the only drawbacks but CNN Execs found the video and audio quality to be acceptable. According to Paul J. Gough of the Hollywood Reporter, "Bohrman said he was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the video. It didn't make "The Situation Room," but an interview was featured in CNN's primetime political programming, and Toobin later took part in a roundtable discussion on "Anderson Cooper 360." CNN called Toobin's cell phone with the audio feed, and he used his cell phone earpiece to hear what was going on."

This actually was not the first use of IP Video in TV news as Gough continued, "Other networks use broadband technology and, in some cases, Treo or cell phone video for live reports. Fox News Channel used live video from a cell phone for Spitzer's initial news conference when no one else was able to provide live video. Fox News Channel regularly uses VoIP technology, notably in its mobile election units. MSNBC's campaign embeds and correspondent Lee Cowan use ComVue video technology to file live reports. A Fox TV affiliate, WBRC-TV in Birmingham, Ala., used Skype last year to file live reports from a tornado scene."

Andy Plesser of Beet.TV spoke with CNN U.S. president Jon Klein who commented that use of the Skype videophone is another technology advancement for news reporting. The video below is from his post TV News Breakthrough: CNN Uses Skype Video Chat for Spitzer Scandal React.

Cory Bergman from Lost Remote also has a good technical description of how news station KRCA in Sacramento, California used Skype to go live from a moving vehicle. In his post, Going live on TV via Skype, Joe Rosemeyer, KCRA’s Digital Executive Producer write “Our photog had a little 3CCD DV cam plugged into a Macbook via Firewire; he sent the video back to the station using Skype and a Verizon aircard... Back at the station, we pulled it up fullscreen on a PC that has a scan converter and routed it through the control room... The video quality isn’t perfect, but, that’s really not the point.” Bergman continued, "Rosemeyer sent us a link to a video clip so you can take a look for yourself." There were some good comments on this story and one from mekahlo said, "we, nbc los angeles’ digital channel, use skype nearly dialy to interview bloggers and some guests live on the air. we also used a similiar system to broadcast a new verzion live broadband phone during the LA Mararthon."


Skype is also a sponsor of Oprah's big 10-week web cast event "A New Earth" with Eckhart Tolle. In his post on the Skype blog, Skype "a good thing" for CNN, Villu Arak said, "Things get even better with High Quality Video, which requires Skype, an optimized Logitech webcam, a computer with a dual-core processor, and a reasonably fat internet connection. Nothing extraordinary for 2008, but it’ll deliver up to 30 frames per second at 640x480 pixels. With proper lighting and micing, the experience isn’t too far removed from regular TV. Little wonder, then, that broadcasters are experimenting with Skype. I have a feeling that things won’t end with CNN using Skype to interview a vacationing analyst in Maui."

Sources and related:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Daniel Graf on the Difference Between Kyte.TV, Seesmic, Qik and Flixwagon

A few days ago Allen Stern posted this interview from SXSW with Kyte CEO and Co-founder Daniel Graf about the difference between the Kyte and Seesmic, Qik and Flixwagon. It appeared on CenterNetworks as SXSW: Video Interview - Kyte.TV Explains The Difference With Seesmic, Qik and Flixwagon.

Graf defined Kyte as an enabling technology and other platforms as destinations. He explained that all four record labels are using Kyte and the major difference is that Kyte’s offerings are broader than it’s competitor with on demand video, slide shows, polls, Facebook apps and everything is interactive as “a full media platform.”

50 Cent was a early Kyte adopter and premiered his new video on Facebook (powered by Kyte) and got 500,000 views in two days. “It’s massive” said Graf who explained that with the Kyte player branding you can create a “micro website” that’s virally distributed on many platforms.

While other platforms focus on streaming “Kyte wants to be a much fuller experience than other sites doing livestreaming… its sights are set higher than that” said Joseph Weisenthal from MoconetNews in his March 10 th interview with Graf titled, @ SxSW: Interview: Daniel Graff; Kyte Vs. The World; More Than Just Video Streaming. Graf asserted “We do slideshows like Slide, but they don’t do mobile video… we do mobile video streaming like Qik, we do mobile uploads like Shozu. We do mobile chatting like Meebo… What the brands want… they don’t want five widgets they want one super-widget..”

Graf created quite a buzz for Kyte at SXSW with some of the following coverage:
  • Scoble interviewed Graf at SXSW as well and posted these five separate Qik videos of which he said, “Unfortunately the connection kept going down, so we split that video up into five pieces. Here they are: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.”
  • Kyle Monson from AppScout also interviewed Graf in his Mar 12th post,SXSW: Interview with's Daniel Graf where Graf offered an important tip to video podcasters, “"It's all about the content quality. If you have compelling content, we'll probably give you the easiest way to product, and the easiest way to distribute. But if your content is not compelling, it's not going to work. And it's not easy to do compelling content… I think the sweet spot is between three and four minutes. Don't do a 20-minute show, no one's going to watch that.”

You can check the Kyte blog for more information:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Live from Your Mobile with FlixWagon

Rory Cellan-Jones from BBC News recently asked, "What would happen if everyone, anywhere, could have their own live television station from a mobile phone? So I could broadcast something as banal as my walk with the dog, or citizens could go live in conflict zones?"

He posed this question in his March 10th post Live from Your Mobile on BBC's technology blog, and after several days of experimenting with Flixwagon he concluded, "The difficult thing to work out is - what is the point? Yes, you can see my live dog-walk - but do you really want to?"

The Flixwagon Blog,Cellan-Jones' skepticism What would happen if everyone, anywhere, could have their own blog/online news site on the internet? So I could cover something as banal as my walk with the dog, or citizens could go live in conflict zones?" Hess explains that with Flixwagon it’s easy to produce video and broadcast it live anywhere and only it's only “one click away.”

asked "So, who really wants to go live?" Hess insisted "People do." and added that you can communicate instantly and upload video immediately without the need to transfer video to your PC and upload it to YouTube. Mobile video makes it easy to express yourself and build a social networking community. Regarding the competition Hess asserted that Flixwagon has the best video quality and that will be an important factor when choosing between platforms. He wasn't worried about YouTube and said, "YouTube going live is an opportunity – not a threat. The whole idea of live is getting validation.”

Going back to emphasized that *Update: photos*

Thursday, March 13, 2008

YouTube Über Alles

It was a big week for the world's largest online video distribution network. By now you've probably heard the three major stories that dominated the tech news blogs. These developments have helped further cement YouTube as the video platform on the internet. I've listed several links associated with each of these news items.

  1. Expanding their API Set (explained the YouTube team below)

  2. Tivo Integrates with YouTube (part of the new API set)

  3. High Quality Video Available by Default (no extra code required)

  • Where Have the YouTube Watermarks Gone? - March 13, 2008 from NewTeeVee by

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Week in Review, March 3rd - March 7th

It was another busy week in the video and streaming media world and I thought I'd try a new approach to comment on the big events that caught my attention.

Monday, March 3rd

It started on with Oprah's big web cast. Oprah launched a new global web cast series and had record 500,000 simultaneous connections which proved to be too much for the system to handle. I didn't catch it live and only read about it, watched it on demand and talked with a friend who attempted to connect to the live event. He said the video froze, sputtered and quickly dropped and Oprah issued an apology email that followed the next day stating,"More than 500,000 of you simultaneously logged on to watch Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle live, resulting in 242 Gbps of information moving through the Internet. Unfortunately, some of you experienced delays in viewing the webcast. We are working to identify the specific causes for the problems experienced and will work diligently to rectify them. Harpo Productions, Inc., Move Networks and Limelight Networks recognize that interactive Internet broadcasting to a mass audience is still an emerging medium, and we're proud to have been pioneers in pushing the industry forward. We deeply regret that some of you were not able to participate in Monday night's live Web event and that others did not have an optimal viewing experience"

Other news of the day:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Vawkr* - Instant Video Chat Makes You a Talker

I had a chance to test out another new video chat tool called vawker*. It's a free browser based video chat solution that's easy to use and requires no downloads or sign up. Their slogan is "Look Who's Talking" and they gave it a fun and simple interface that works seamlessly within your browser using Flash. You can "grab a room" and get a unique URL to share with friends and start a video chat session instantly. You can also create your own permanent chat room by signing up and embedding the room on MySpace, Facebook, your blog or any website.

[<span class=

My friend Rich and I took it for a test ride yesterday and had pretty good results. The controls are very basic with only volume and microphone adjustments and a chat window. There's no resizing of windows like other video chat applications. Audio is an issue as we experienced a lot of echo and had to keep adjusting the volume and microphone levels. When we selected "Reduce Echo" the audio kept gating and cutting out. The video looked clear when you didn't move too much and it seemed to run at about 300k while trying to give us 30 fps. We both were on iMacs down the hall from each other and noticed only a slight delay. Overall, it worked very well and I signed up and set up two separate rooms using two of my email addresses.

I tried a 3-way video chat today and it actually performed poorly. The video kept freezing, the echo increased and we ended up with a 30 second delay. We gave up on it and went back to Skype.

My initial feedback is that I'd like to see some improvements in the way it handles audio and I want to be able to scale and move the video windows around. I'll test it out some more before I render my final verdict but I suggest you give it try. It's fun and fast and you'll video chatting in no time.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Adobe Air Lifts Off

Amidst the constant battles between competing formats we as end users ultimately benefit from the development of new tools and applications. A convergence between the web experience and the desktop environment is taking shape in the form of Adobe Air, the new cross-platform runtime that gives web developers the tools to build rich web applications for the desktop.

Andy Plesser of writes in his post, Attention Video Publishers: New Adobe Desktop Environment for Web Shows Could be Cooler than QuickTime Podcasts, "There's been a good bit of anticipation about the Adobe Media Player (AMP), the application that will allow users to download videos to a desktop environment. Up until now, virtually all Flash video files are streamed and watched in a browser... Unlike podcasts, which are downloaded and saved as files along with some enclosed metadata, the new AMP environment will appear as a sort of rich, Web-like environment. It is on the desktop, but connected to the Web and updated via RSS."

Plesser interviewed Ryan Stewart "Rich Application Internet Mountaineer" and ZDNet blogger who works for Adobe as "the Rich Internet Application Evangelist" and provides "an overview of AIR and its implications for video."

Associated quotes and video originally published on February 29th 2008 as "Attention Video Publishers: New Adobe Desktop Environment for Web Shows Could be Cooler than QuickTime Podcasts" by Andy Plesser for

  • Live video from Adobe Engage event - February 25, 2008 - Scobelizer
  • AIR Goes Live: The Best Things About Adobe's AIR Platform - February 25, 2008 - ReadWriteWeb
  • 6 Adobe AIR Apps to Check Out - February 25, 2008 - ReadWriteWeb
  • Adobe AIR Vs Microsoft Silverlight: It’s All About Numbers - February 26, 2008 TechCrunch
  • Adobe Floating on Air - March 3, 2008 - eWeek
  • Monday, March 3, 2008

    Scobelizer Launches FastCompany.TV

    Robert Scoble launched today with two new shows - FastCompany Live and ScobleizerTV. On his blog , he writes, "The first is a show done totally on cell phones. If you’ve been watching my Qik channel, you’ve been getting a preview. The second is a new version of my show. This time done with high-end microphones and much better camera equipment. Oh, and a camera operator (that’d be my producer, Rocky Barbanica) instead of me trying to do everything."

    In his new role as Managing Director he will be building a business video network for FastCompany. Here's his welcome video.

    Congratulations Robert!

    Let me know if you need help producing any big broadcast videoconferences or web casts.


    Higher Resolution Videos on YouTube

    CyberNetNews just featured a story on how YouTube has been quietly rolling out higher quality videos. While most the millions of videos are compressed at low quality settings (320x240 @ 300 Kbps) the example shown in the article, Watch High-Resolution YouTube Videos, offers a much higher quality version when you add a simple script to the URL of the video.

    (Update: Photo credit - Cybernet News)

    "Just add &fmt=6 onto the end of any YouTube URL. Using the skateboarding dog as an example you would take the normal URL:

    and add the &fmt=6 onto the end:

    The Google Operating System Blog added that, "If you append &fmt=18, YouTube downloads the video as a MP4 (H264 with AAC audio), encoded at 480x360."

    Here's the Skateboarding Dog video with the "&fmt=18" added top the original URL.

    This doesn't work on all YouTube videos because not all of them have a higher resolution version, but it worked on about half of the videos I checked (10:25), and I saw a noticeable difference in video quality in the number of videos. Although, the video playback choked up (on my DSL connection) due to the higher bit rate and larger file sizes and I had to pause the video and wait for it to fully download for a smooth playback.

    There's a great technical discussion on the Forum on how it works and some of the common settings and file types people are using. A variety of compression techniques can be applied prior to uploading the videos to YouTube to achieve higher video quality video.


    Sunday, March 2, 2008

    YouTube to Stream Live Video in 2008? Co-founder Steve Chen Says Yes!

    As part of the third episode of her new show Pop17, video blogger and producer Sarah Meyers scooped the YouTube live video streaming story when she caught up with co-founder Steve Chen at a recent YouTube party in NYC. In describing the episode, Lifecasting and Lifecasters, Meyers writes that, "A variety of live streaming platforms with social networks are propping up a new kind of online voice." Lifecasting pioneer Justin Kan along with iJustine, Chris Pirillo and Sarah Meyers herself represent a few of the many online voices. She lists "several common live streaming platforms: Mogulus, Justin.TV, Ustream,, Stickam, Yahoo Live, Qik." According to Chen, YouTube has been wanting to do live video and may enter that arena sometime later this year.

    Related (courtesy of
    Update: (Two more live streaming platforms worth checking out)