April 16, 2009

Overview of live video over the internet

Here are some aging-as-we-speak notes done for a short survey of live video over the internet, as an alternative to investing in more costly and so more sexy satellite uplink systems. But then again more expensive systems may weather hurricanes and economic meltdowns a bit better.

Internet broadband services have proven capable in many live video events, including the 2009 Presidential inauguration, even if it did push the system to the edge (see below). Access to these services should expand in capacity at reduced prices over time with development of cable and VDSL broadband services. But there are many low-cost options available right now that should be putting pressure even on dedicated video conferencing businesses and services included in IPTV (Internet Protocol Television):

1) Chat software
Apple provides live video in iChat AV. And of course Skype can do video chat and now screen sharing, and is used by in broadcast TV by the major networks like CNN. Gmail is about to get HD options added to its video chat & it's not Adobe Flash, but something developed at Google.

2) Web services
There are a number of services doing lower end webcam live video that could become the YouTube of live video, and that includes YouTube as Google has let it be known they were developing live services for YouTube. This should be part of every social network in the near future. Here's a few current services:
There were some earlier roundups at AEPortal News.

3) Mobile phones
Also slated for mass expansion is live video via mobile phones. I actually saw video from a Fall 2007 Adobe conference sent over a Nokia phone. Here's 2 overviews: Broadcasting live video from phone and Mobile video reporting increasingly important.

4) Flash web services
HD-quality video services can be built with Adobe production tools including Flash Media Live Encoder and Flash Media Server, although various services already leverage this technology for you.

Ustream.TV (http://www.ustream.tv/) has integrated Flash Media Live Encoder into its business to deliver high quality streams with interactive features. Ustream's FME Broadcast Console will enable users to:
* Start and stop their FME broadcasts
* Create FME broadcast recordings
* Add customized graphic overlays to their FME broadcasts
* Add polls
* Invite cohosts

Another internet service for live video is Mogulus, (update: now Livestream) which gives you the capability to easily broadcast live, 24/7 linear, and on-demand content for FREE. Mogulus PRO gives you the same features but adds a bundle of new features geared toward professional producers. Gannett had live hurricane coverage on the Mogulus platform in Fall 2008; see Live hurricane video and data..

5) CDNs
Whichever software encoding and server system is used (Flash, Silverlight / Windows Media, QuickTime), you'd have to have dedicated upload capacity or use a content distribution network (CDN), like Akamai at the high end. An aside, QuickTime Broadcaster can serve sessions for live video -- it works but the codecs weren't optimized previously so you need a good amount of dedicated bandwidth (a T1 could serve 7 content-hungry clients 320x240 10fps in 2006).

6) Compression and server/networking
Cisco is moving in, so it's a big market, but it's early to make sense of the role rack-mountable IPTV units for video compression and server/networking in many contexts. Various services use their software and server; see notes by Real World Video Compression and Matrixstream, and this on software encoding from Kulabyte.com.

7) Background
For more background, see naysayer Mark Cuban in The Great Internet Video Lie, and a rebuttal from Veoh, a streaming video service like YouTube.

There were some looks at the 2009 inauguration broadcasts by: Streamingmedia.com and Techcrunch.com. Not covered by Streaming Media was a reportedly a good inauguration effort by Move Networks, which partnered with CBS and Microsoft. Move offers a complete “signal to stream” delivery system not based on Flash or Windows Media, and is "not a CDN" as reported earlier. More info is here:

Update: see also Cisco readying high end teleconferencing for consumers. And is Facebook Video Chat on the Way?

Update 2: note the previous post on Strobist's How to Improve Your Cheapo Webcam Picture Quality -- note that a better camera will work even better with better light.

Update 3: with the iPhone now doing live video streaming in December 2009, the Livestream CEO says that Live Video Will Comprise Half of Web Video Programming in Five Years.


Anonymous said...

Move Networks is *NOT* a CDN!

Rich said...

Why, thank you kind stranger.