Streaming Media East: Pre-Conference Workshops Provide Practical Solutions

As the Streaming Media East 2009 show kicks off in New York, a large group of attendees participated in pre-conference workshops focused on creation and delivery of content. Led by industry experts, these sessions offered practical tips, tricks and workflows for Flash, H.264 and Silverlight.

The pre-conference sessions were divided in to two tracks, with the morning sessions focused on Silverlight and H.264.

Led by Chris Knowlton, senior lead program manager at Microsoft for Silverlight, the session "Live Broadcasting for Silverlight and Windows Media Player" walked through the steps required to encode, manage, and deliver live streaming broadcasts with Silverlight.

Knowlton, a veteran Microsoft media expert, talked not only about the production workflow but also demonstrated the benefits of one of Microsoft's newest technologies, Smooth Streaming, which addresses the needs to deliver live content to multiple devices and bitrates.

Jan Ozer, who writes for Streaming Media magazine as well as his own Streaming Learning Center site, presented an information-packed session on "Producing H.264 for Streaming and Progressive Download" that included findings from a variety of encoding solutions. Ozer said that, while attendance was slightly lower than previous years, he noticed a trend in the number of government and education attendees.

"I had attendees from several government organizations," said Ozer, principal with Doceo Publishing, "including law enforcement and Federal government agencies, as well as attendees from Harvard and several other schools. All were interested in how H.264 fits into the Flash and Silverlight delivery schemes, and which compression systems to use to achieve the best results for on-demand content."

Afternoon sessions focused on practical steps to creating Flash players and video blogs.

Lisa Larson-Kelley, one of the foremost experts on integrating Flash video with the Flash platform's interactivity, hosted a session on "Developing a Rich Video Player for the Adobe Flash Platform" where she focused on development for Dynamic Streaming, enhanced seeking, and quality of service metrics.

To do so, she walked attendees through a variety of ready-made Flash players, including JWPlayer and Adobe's desktop Adobe Media Player, and then spent a significant portion of the time providing step-by-step examples of the use of ActionScript 3 and Adobe Flash CS4 Professional for the creation of custom players that include playback controls embedded in to the player.

With Adobe's recently announced Strobe player framework anticipated to have plug ins from a variety of content delivery networks, ad insertion engines and analytics firms, Larson-Kelley spent time discussing how to prepare players for the Adobe Flash Media Server 3.5 platform which both Strobe and custom players can take advantage of.

The final session of the day, "Planning, Buidling and Launching a Video Blog" did just that. Jose Castillo, president of the media consultancy, led a session on video blogging that created a full-blown video blog in less than one hour.

Video blog postings, which Castillo likes to refer to as shows or episodes, follow one of several workflows. For the session, Castillo first showed a very simple workflow, where he used a webcam to record directly to a YouTube channel, adding basic metadata for an almost instantaneous publishing to the web. Even though this initial video recording went up on the web in under three minutes, Castillo said technology doesn't preclude the need for pre-planning each episode.

"When you start out," said Castillo, "ask 'why am I doing this?' and don't start recording until you have an answer. I personally think you need to have a starting date and an ending date, with a pre-defined number of episodes, just like traditional television entertainment."

While the basic integrated webcam and on-board microphone from a laptop might be used for simple online video publishing, Castillo then moved on to a slightly more complex workflow which yielded publishing of content on multiple websites.

To do so, Castillo asked a number of session attendees to join forces to create an actual podcast about a topic of their choice.

"You need to pick a topic, have a host, interviewee, camera person and marketing person," said Castillo, assigning the four roles to four participants. "We'll give you ten minutes during the break to craft the mini-business plan to answer the 'why" question and then we'll shoot right after the break."

After the 2.5 minute episode recording was completed—in one take—the "marketing" person then entered the synopsis and meta tags in to a WordPress blog and uploaded a picture of the event to Flickr. Castillo then spent thirty minutes showing how to do a basic edit, complete with titles and a music soundtrack, and then published the video file directly to YouTube, embedding the player in the waiting WordPress blog post.

For those attendees who asked about other content delivery options, Castillo also showed how to use TubeMogul to upload video content to a variety of locations, and uploaded two original 720p video files that he and I had recorded moments before the session at a well-known halal street vendor cart."If anyone tells you video on the web is of poor quality," Castillo said, "show them these clips in full-screen mode. There may be a significant amount of user-generated content out there that doesn't have a high production value, but the ability to deliver HD content on the web changes that perception significantly."

Monday also saw the first Content Delivery Network (CDN) Summit, which ran in parallel to the pre-conference sessions at the New York Hilton. A large number of attendees, from telcos to service providers to end customers, were treated to two content tracks that addressed a variety of topics we will cover in a future article. Dan Rayburn will also be posting more about the summit on his Business of Online Video blog.

Streaming Media East 2009 runs Tuesday and Wednesday, May 12-13, 2009, at the New York Hilton.

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