Monday, April 21, 2014

Three Really Big Deals (you may have missed)

Online video is now everywhere – mobile devices, over-the-top boxes (Roku, etc.), gaming systems and more. In fact, it’s become such a standard of everyday life that it may be hard to stay abreast of all the cool technology changes that have occurred in the past year or so. And it’s understandable – once broadcast TV became a household item, the technology essentially stood still for almost 40 years while we were obsessed with content: network shows, primetime, live newscasts, serials, stars – it’s no wonder the technology of the medium stagnated while we focused on the living room screen.

But the web is all about multitasking and parallel lines of development – so while we see more (and better!) content filling up our viewing time from sources we never imagined even five years ago (Netflix Originals, AMC, FX and a host of other new entries in the content space) – technology has continued to march forward on the background, even while this new parade of visual distractions keeps us focused on the now rather than the tomorrow.

Anyway, I spend a lot of time in this space – and I thought I ‘d take this opportunity to offer up my Top Three Technologies that you may have missed while watching Game of Thrones or Sons of Anarchy. Here’s the list (and why they’re important):

1) - At first you might say “what’s the big deal about THIS?”, but it’s really a game changer. Previously, the ability to manage large amounts of content in a real-time, scheduled environment was limited to Broadcast and Cable Facilities operating giant, expensive “playout” machines. Well, you may not have the content – but now everyone can be their own TV station complete with scheduling, commercial insertion, graphics overlay…all for around $400. Ok, while it’s true that no one might want to watch an endless channel of your home movies and cell phone clips – it feels good knowing you can do it! For those who don’t have the OTHER end of a broadcast facility lying around their backyard – there’s who feature Unistreamer Lite for around $600 which allows you to create a 24 hour-a-day channel (like the Broadcastplay folks) AND sends that stream directly to YouTube Live or a myriad of other live streaming services. I can’t personally vouch for either of these products as I simply don’t have enough compelling video clips to put them through their  “24 hour” paces – but someday…

2) MPEG-DASH – Another geek-only term that will really change the streaming / online industry. Already embedded in many current streaming platforms, MPEG-DASH stands for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP. What does this really mean? It means that the bandwidth / size / device / operating system nightmares that have plagued streaming video in the past are coming to an end. This open-source, player agnostic codec allows you to stream over HTTP – the same protocol as web pages while taking into account network issues – so your cell phone isn’t trying to play back a file encoded for HD playback on the big screen. This will make people’s lives a better place to be – and perhaps, one day in the distance future a small child will ask “Mommy, what’s buffering?” .

3) WebRTC – This is the killer technology you’ve never heard of, simply because many people just don’t know it’s there. WebRTC stands for Web (like internet, right?) Real-Time Communications – which essentially means that the video conferencing industry had better find something else to do. It seems Google bought a cool company that had a browser plug-in (think app for your browser) that allows browsers to talk to each other using VIDEO directly – without going through a bunch of encoding and de-coding and streaming servers and voodoo. And in their wisdom, Google just gave it away. They made it part of the Chrome browser environment so it works really well on PCs running Chrome and Android devices. It also works on some other lesser browsers but still hasn’t been adopted by Internet Explorer or Safari (even though the end product resembles Face-Time on an iPad) – BUT industry pundits say it’s only a matter of time.

So you can now run your own automated, 24-hour-a-day television station that doesn’t buffer while videochatting  directly with your friends through a chrome browser. Is the future a great place or what?


  1. Good stuff Jock. I've been out of the video loop for about a year (taking care of Dad who has Alzheimer's) and found your article very interesting. I'm always amazed how technology continually changes the playing field at ever increasing rates. Monetarily, the walls have crumbled allowing more people to enter the game, but content is still king.

  2. Yes, you still have to have good content or all the tech in the world won't make any difference. In a slight update - here's another company that offers a pretty cool playout / title / stream suite: - just got this link, haven't tested.