The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Archive for June 3rd, 2010

Up To Half Of All Media Sites Plan To Support The iPad And HTML5 Video I think that amounts to a bandwaggon!

So it’s not just iPad, that’s support for iPhone and iTouch as well. Those 50 million or so devices without Flash have caused a definite trend.  But it’s not quite as clear as it might seem. H.264 MP4 video is also playable in Flash and Silverlight and some H.264 encoded video is for those targets.

According to the survey, 49 percent plan to support HTML5 video on their media sites by the end of next year, and 36 percent plan to support video on the iPad either through dedicated apps or an iPad compatible Website.

At first blush, these two numbers don’t seem to make much sense. If 49 percent of media sites are going to support HTML5 video, then by default they will also support the iPad. But if you drill down into the survey responses on whether they plan to support the iPad specifically, a full 19 percent wouldn’t disclose one way or the other. Add that to the 36 percent who say they will support the iPad, and you get close to half, which is the same as how many say they will support HTML5 video. What this tells me is that either there is still some confusion on the part of the Web video industry or that there is more support for broader standards like HTML5 video which will work across different devices like Android phones and tablets.

As a long term user of an Apple TV (useful when hacked) and reading recently about the Google TV and adapter boxes to come, as well as other ventures into merging “internet Video” and “The lounge room experience”. These approaches almost always have a 20′ interface: one that can be read from the comfy chair remote from the screen.

Apple’s minimalist approach certainly fits that screen factor, but there’s no real way to get Internet content there, other than where there’s a special deal, such as with the YouTube access. But here we run into the fundamental problem with this kind of interface: try searching for a video in YouTube, or heaven forbid (if you’ve hacked the Apple TV with ATV Flash to get a browser), actually typing in a URL!

Yahoo and Google want to bring a “social” presence to the big screen, as do Boxee and others, but I think they’re fundamentally going about it the wrong way.

Why do we watch TV on that big screen anyway? I think there are two fundamental reasons why we watch TV on a big screen instead of a computer screen (and one of them may indeed be bogus): a bigger image and watching socially.

In our household we have an old G4 laptop that serves as the primary media server via an Apple TV to the biggest screen in the house: in the living area. We frequently watch shows on our computer screen instead of the big screen, particularly when it’s a show I might enjoy, but my partner may not. Or I watch old TV episodes while scanning slides or processing images. But we watch some TV together and when we do that, we watch it on the big screen. Why? Because we’re watching communally.

When I’m watching TV communally I’m already involved in a little social networking with the person, or people, across the room. If I wanted to tweet my approval (or not) of a particular program, I wouldn’t want to do that on the communal screen, I’d do it on a personal screen: in my case my laptop.

The big screen argument may well be bogus: where I’m sitting right now I have a view of our main TV and my laptop screen and my laptop screen takes up approximately 4x more of my field of view than the TV. I would have a bigger screen experience watching on my laptop at 3′ than a big TV at 20′. So, for a lot of content, it’s really only the social aspect that requires the large TV.

I simply don’t want Twitter/Facebook etc. on the program screen. (That big TV.) And I don’t really ever want to explore web video on a big screen TV display without a keyboard or better input device.

And the it hit me: Apple and Google (et al.) are going about it the wrong way. The program goes on the big screen. Period. The interface is on our laptop, or iPhone, or iTouch, or (the killer one) an iPad. All have a keyboard for easy entry of urls and search; there are social applications that work just fine on those existing screens.

Trying to put the interface on a screen 20′ away without a keyboard (and wireless keyboards aren’t really an option) is just wrong: not only is it the wrong place, I don’t want to clutter my program communally (which presumably I’m watching because I enjoy it) with social media that’s personal.

The two screen approach makes much more sense. Put the program on the screen – uncluttered like  the program’s director intended – and put the control and any desired interactivity on another screen. An iPad would seem to be perfect for this, but since I don’t plan on getting one, an iPhone or iTouch or Laptop could also run the interface anywhere on the same local area network.

It turns out that an interface designed for a 20′ experience works equally well as a 2′ experience, but with touch and keyboard at hand.

Ironically a display designed for 20′ all works well at 2″ on a smaller display.



How to get people to pay for content?

How to get people to pay for content? They never did, but they will pay for access, which is what they have done!

The simple answer is that people probably won’t pay for content, but that’s OK because hey never have. People have paid for access to content (cable TV, DVD rental, newspapers, CD/LP/Cassette) but rarely paid for the sort of content we’re now thinking of charging.

Now that we know that, it’s time to revise, rethink and revisit business models; particularly considering that access to content in digital form can also be freeish (you’re still paying for the Internet connection).

In all this they’re not paying for data. They’re paying for access to content, the data plan or the subscription just happens to be the way they do it. That’s why when I’m advising a publisher or programmer, I encourage them to focus on access. Make more content available, on more devices, in the most convenient ways possible. Today, that might mean developing a beautiful iPad app for a magazine, but tomorrow that means developing a new content experience altogether, with personal clippings, recommended stories, all of it socially enhanced to reflect not just what I what to read but what my community is reading and discussing. That is a type of access, too, and it’s one that goes beyond what Google can return as a search result.

Why you should always encode from the highest quality source! Upload to YouTube, rip, upload (and re-encode) 1000 times.

I expect that everyone knows by now that, no matter what you upload to YouTube, they re-encode it. Even if it was a file that YouTube just encoded!  YouTube user “canzona,” whose personal website is here literally did it 1000 times, so the end result is 1000 lossy generations down.

The result is so abstracted from the original that it is it’s own thing (and that is what the creator was going for, apparently), but it is an abject lesson that we should always encode from the highest quality source available, and only send YouTube high bandwidth, high quality source for them to encode.

June 2010
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