Video Streams Onto the Internet

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Many years ago, I attended the New York World's Fair in Flushing Queens. For a young boy, there were incredibly exciting exhibits. I especially remember the General Electric pavilion featuring robots that spoke and sang songs about a new world of technology and gadgets. The General Motors exhibit promised cars that would drive themselves. But most intriguing was a long white building with a three-tier moving floor -- the Bell Telephone Pavilion.


Throughout the fair, AT&T had installed private telephone booths where people could get together and call home using the latest telephone technology: touch-tone pads and speaker phones. Next to some of these booths were picture phones, with which you could see the person you were calling.


Fast forward 36 years, the latest technological mountain being scaled is streaming video on the Internet. It can be sent live -- check out Bloomberg.com -- or on demand -- MSNBC.com.


What are some of the possible uses of streaming video? The answer is many. As the Internet becomes more incorporated in the office and on the home desktop, Web users will want video not just for short news bites on cnn.com but as a video e-salesman at various marketers' Web sites.


Let's say your company is selling the next killer kitchen utility device and you've managed to bring a potential buyer to your site with a dynamite 60-second spot. It would be great to have a two- to three-minute demo that would make your product even more irresistible to the potential buyer. You've probably photographed numerous demo and product shots during your shoot. With all the extra footage that is shot for a commercial, it would not cost much to edit a short demo video. Streaming video will become an essential tool in the direct response marketer's pocket. What's great is that most marketers can easily upgrade to Internet video without a problem since our products and marketing techniques are made for this. But what are some of the technical specs for streaming video, and what are the costs?


First, understand that streaming video and audio are still in their infancy. The current state of the art quality at 56 Kbps is low. Video pictures can't render complex images fast enough, that is why the images smear, audio is susceptible to digital drop-out and congestion throughout the Internet because of lack of bandwidth is a major problem. Are there any solutions?


When we talk about streaming video, we also use the term broadband. Broadband is a catch-all term used for high-speed Internet connection. The standard Internet home connection is 56 Kbps. Many businesses have T1 lines that zip along at 1,536 Kbps, and soon cable systems will be able to deliver speeds of more than 7,000 Kbps. At those speeds you'll be able to watch a feature film in very high resolution from the comfort of your desktop. But movies are not the only form of entertainment that will expand with the dominance of broadband.


Marketing companies -- instead of having just Web sites -- will have transmission sites for product demonstration, video news releases, marketing information, clips from corporate meetings, commercials, infomercials and improved picture quality for video teleconferences, also known as picture phones. It's no wonder that an online service such as America Online merged with a content provider like Time Warner. Video will play a large role in their merger.


What if you want to add video to your site now? No problem. First make sure your video is not too long -- up to 5 minutes. Then make sure the video does not have many cuts; if it does, there may be video smearing. Talking heads or product shots -- no quick camera moves -- currently work best at 56 Kbps. And last, make sure your original is good quality.


You'll need to have the material digitized, like an Avid or any other nonlinear system. The material is then outputted to a QuickTime, MPEG or Real Video file, or you can work with an authoring program like Real Producer G2, which is free, or Avid's new ePublisher, which costs $300. Once the video is processed, your Web programmer can easily install it on your site. There are tons of sites on the Web that use streaming video. You can check out real.com since it has a list of sites that use its format.


As there is deeper penetration of broadband, streaming video will have wider use, especially for those companies that are prepared for the adventure.
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