The 2009 Streaming Media Editors' Picks
Here are the Streaming Media editors' choices for the most innovative, compelling, and useful services and technologies from the past year.
This article appears in the 2009 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook. Click here for your free subscription.
This year’s Streaming Media Editors’ Picks differ from those of years past in that we broadened our scope to include not just software and hardware solutions used by those inside the industry but also a couple of the most notable consumer-facing services that arose in 2008. When the history of online video is written, we’re betting that 2008 will be remembered as the year that internet-delivered video began making its first real strides toward maturity, not just as a technology but as a business proposition with long-term viability. So, without further ado, here’s our list of the top 10 products and services of 2008, as chosen by our editorial contributors.
Accordent Multicast In-Stream
Accordent calls its newly released Multicast In-stream Technology a "breakthrough that enables large organizations to leverage multicast-enabled networks to deliver high-quality streaming video with synchronized slides and graphics as a single, compressed stream." This technology is HOT! What Mike described as we observed the statistics on the Windows Media Player was quite simple—a slide was pushed from the PresenterPRO, and as we watched the statistics, a very graceful bandwidth peak occurred according to the the bandwidth limits we set in the Encoder Controller (in real time), and then they went back down to the a/v streaming bandwidth.
—Nico McLane, from her Splice of Life blog
Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium
Adobe’s Creative Suite 4 isn’t as major an upgrade as CS3's moving Premiere back to the Mac, but CS4 builds on the things that matter for streaming. From speech recognition (that works so-so) to tapeless workflows to multiple-core/processor encoding tools to support for GPU-based encoding of H.264, Creative Suite 4 pushes streaming toward high definition in a way that leaves Final Cut looking a bit long in the tooth.
This catch-up service offers U.K. residents free online access to all of the BBC’s TV and access to BBC Radio to listeners worldwide. Plagued by bandwidth and technical issues soon after its launch in December 2007, the service saw requests to stream or download programs go from 36,000 per day in June to almost a million per day by October, and its sleek new interface and a desktop player powered by Adobe AIR are examples of video platform design done just about perfectly.
Seeing a real demand in the market, CDN Highwinds has been working for the past year on improving its web-based reporting product and offering all of the functionality that customers asked for in the survey. In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to watch the Highwinds product continue to evolve and have been able to get a few in-person demos along the way. To date, its reporting package is one of the best solutions I have seen from any of the CDNs in the market.
—Dan Rayburn, from his Business of Video blog
This joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp. started out humbly enough in October 2007, but its popularity skyrocketed during the 2008 U.S. presidential election thanks to Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impersonation on Saturday Night Live, which quickly became the focal point of Hulu’s offerings. But if SNL brought viewers to Hulu, full episodes of dozens of new and vintage TV shows (and not just NBC or FOX offerings) and full-length movies kept them there. (And how ironic is it that, 3 years after SNL’s "Lazy Sunday" clip catapulted YouTube into the mainstream, the 30-plus-year-old television show is once again driving new media growth?)
iStreamPlanet, which made its mark in the live webcast production space, created iStream Director to combine the joint benefits of a digital asset management (DAM) system and content management system (CMS). Director handles ingest and transcoding as well as metadata, rights management, and playout/reporting, rolling them into a DAM/CMS combo service that makes sense for streaming media workflows.
Billed as a "Content Delivery Network Management Suite," VDO-X (Video Exchange) is aimed at ISPs and other networks that are looking to offload their backbone and peer links. But what’s most impressive about the tool is its interface, or should I say five interfaces—one each for account information, asset management, live stream management, statistics, and API. The interfaces are intuitive and easy to use, but Jet Stream hasn’t sacrificed functionality for simplicity.
On2 Technologies VP8
On2 Technologies’ VP8 codec is touted as better than H.264. Licensing questions aside, there’s no comparison between the benefits of a standards-based codec and a proprietary one, yet VP8 comes to market at a time when the entire online video pie is expanding dramatically. VP8 has potential, and we look forward to seeing true comparisons of reference encodes between H.264 and VP8, but at the very least, On2 deserves a hand for continuing to innovate at an inflection point in the market.
Rhozet Carbon Coder
Rhozet’s Carbon Coder has always offered great encoding quality, outstanding multicore processor utilization and encoding speed, and a scalable offering that includes stand-alone and server-based products that can be expanded into a server farm. With the introduction of Carbon Coder 3.0, Rhozet has made several useful streaming codec-related improvements, enhanced watch-folder functionality, and improved the program’s interface. If you’re in the market for an enterprise-class encoder, you should strongly consider Carbon Coder.
—Jan Ozer, in his review in the June/July issue of Streaming Media
For Velocix and ISPs, this is a very different approach to the market, and it’s one to watch very closely. Most ISPs let CDN providers come into their network and deploy caching boxes to allow the ISP to pass traffic directly to the CDN, which helps to reduce their transit costs. This new approach by Velocix lets ISPs build what is essentially their own private CDN enabling them to control costs and potentially add additional revenue if the ISP has good peering and wants to deliver content to users outside of their last end mile. This is something Verizon is not doing today but is expected to utilize down the road due to their extensive peering arrangements. In addition to the cost savings, Velocix Metro enabled ISPs to receive a revenue share based on traffic delivered via their networks from Velocix.
—Dan Rayburn, from his Business of Video blog