Stream On: the Latest in Video on the Web
Written by Michele Meek | Posted by: Anonymous
You’ve most likely heard buzz about video streaming. Techie types tend to herald it as "the start of TV and the internet merging," while filmmakers complain of its "poor quality" and "teeny screens." But technology improves lightning fast, as we’re all starting to realize, and sometimes it’s worthwhile to get in on it sooner rather than later. Also, five years from now, you’ll be able to say, "I remember watching indie videos online the size of a matchbox" and act like it’s all old news to you.
What is video streaming?
Through the internet, "video streaming" delivers digitized videos as fast as your connection can receive them. By sending bits of data while you watch, video streaming eliminates the need to wait an hour while an entire clip downloads. Instead, the media is sent in a continuous stream and is played as it is downloading.
You can stream with any speed modem above 28Kbps, but the faster your connection, the better quality you’ll get. With a 56Kbps modem connection or better, the result is an instant and seamless real-time video. The main drawbacks are that the viewing screen is only about the size of a biz card, the frame rate is usually lowered to about 15 fps, and the result can sometimes be jerky all to cut down on file size. Most often, streaming video is sent from prerecorded video files, but can also be transmitted as a live broadcast "feed."
Because watching video streaming requires a special player, you will first need to download additional free software.
What software do I need to watch videos online?
If you want to start watching videos online, your first step is to download some software (if you don’t have it already). The bad news is that there are still tons of competing formats that show video online–Shockwave, QuickTime, RealVideo, VivoActive–and they usually require
separate applications for viewing. The good news is that most of the streaming video companies offer free versions of their viewing or "player" software. Below, you’ll find a collection of the types of downloadable software out there, and the pros and cons.
The new Microsoft Windows Media Player (which is available for Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0, 3.x and Macintosh) allows you to play most multimedia content formats, including Active Streaming Format (ASF), RealAudio and RealVideo 4.0 and below, QuickTime, AVI, WAV, and more, from one application. However, even this program doesn’t cover all formats. For example, RealNetworks released a new product called the RealPlayer G2 which won’t play on this application.
RealNetworks has recently released the free RealPlayer G2 which will play all current and earlier versions of RealAudio and RealVideo files. RealNetworks maintains its place as the market leader in video streaming technology since it’s used on more than 85 percent of web pages with streaming media, according to "Internet World." They offer two versions of the software, one free player and the RealPlayer Plus G2 for $29.99, which offers hi-fi audio quality with a graphic equalizer and picture controls like your TV. I’d recommend starting with the free version.
Things might get even more competitive (and, unfortunately, complicated for consumers) when Apple Computers releases QuickTime 4.0 this year. This new version is expected to include streaming technology. However, Apple will have to accompany any streaming media effort with robust authoring applications, an area where Apple has never shown strength, according to "Internet World."
There are other applications that play streaming and other multimedia content on the web, such as VDO LivePlayer; Macromedia ShockWave FlashPlayer; and VivoActive PowerPlayer. It’s simply a matter of just how many applications you want to download and install on your computer.
What are the best sites featuring streaming video?
Despite the fact that the technology is still very much in its infancy, there are constantly new sites sprouting up that offer video streaming content. That content ranges from news station clips to short indie videos to Hollywood coming attractions. Although I can’t possibly list them all, here’s a list of the best bets to get you started.
Free Speech Internet Television
Free Speech Internet Television is the first, and only, audio/video webcasting site created entirely by its members. Anyone can join and begin broadcasting their own Internet "television channel" or "talk radio" show within days. Their belief is that "democratic media can and will change society for the better." The result is a comprehensive site with dozens of meaningful works on a variety of issues from censorship to political prisoners to racism from around the world.
Requires RealPlayer 5.0 or G2
The sync aims to create compelling, interactive content that is specifically tailored for an Internet audience. They have several net-only shows, including "CyberLove," "the JenniSHOW" (you remember the infamous JenniCam?), "Meeks Unfiltered," and "SnackBoy!," where viewers interact with show hosts and other viewers. They also have a bunch of features, an online film festival, and a special program called "Independent Exposure," a monthly screening of independent short videos, films, and computer art from around the world. Their motto? "Your television is already dead."
Requires RealPlayer G2
This yahoo-like directory of video streams by topic including music video, film, live, et cetera. They also present the first video-based soap on the Internet, "Austin," the continuing story of four young people living in a group house in Austin, TX. A "top ten" list of videos provides a nice overview.
Requires RealPlayer, Vivo or VDO
Film.com Screening Room
Their screening room includes coming attractions and film clips from Hollywood films, and short films from the Real Short Film Festival and Midnight Theater. With one of the largest archives for Hollywood trailers and a strong selection of indie work, this is a great site to check out.
Requires RealPlayer G2
This site features a weekly selection of independently produced streaming films, shorts, and episodic A/V adventures which subvert mainstream mediaculture with intelligence, creativity, and meaning. If you join their weekly email list, you ll find out about the new works featured each Monday. Independent producers are invited to submit their own works.
Requires RealPlayer G2
Indieplex represents the cooperative effort of many netcasters from around the world, brought together under one cyber-roof. Indieplex is an initiative of OffLine and the Seattle Independent Film and Video Consortium aiming to exhibit provocative new works being made by independent producers from outside the mainstream of commercial content production all around the world. Under "details," they list the software requirements for each individual site.
software requirements vary
TV Retro at Nick-at-Nite
Nick-at-nite features a bunch of clips from their retro lineup–"Mary Tyler Moore," "Happy Days," "I Love Lucy," and "Laverne and Shirley," to name a few.
Quicktime and RealVideo formats
CNN Video Select
Here you can view clips from CNN’s latest news stories. Updated throughout the day, the site features segments from "Headline News," "Larry King Live," and "Crossfire."
Requires RealPlayer G2 or Windows Player
RealNetworks has compiled dozens of sites on every topic you can think of– news, business, sports, education, entertainment, health, et cetera. You can even do a search through all of their listings to find something in particular. It’s a great jumping-off point for video streaming.
Requires RealPlayer G2
How can I start streaming my own film/videos online?
There are several ways to start taking advantage of this new technology as a showcase for your work. It all depends on how much you’re interested in learning about the technology. Choose your option, and go from there.
If you just want your work shown, but don’t want to get involved in the technical side, there are several places that you can submit your work. Many streaming video sites will accept works on VHS or other video formats which they will digitize and get online for you (if you are accepted).
NewEnglandFilm.com: Send tape, details & return postage to:
PO Box 1033, Winchester MA 01890
On the other hand, if you’re interested in learning how to digitize and upload your own video clips, there are other options. You can become a member of FreeSpeech.org for free and will get space on their server to upload your video files. They have a well-done guide that takes you step by step through the creation process. For membership information, visit their page at http://www.freespeech.org/membership.html