Obviously, latency is the most formidable enemy of video-over-IP technology.
But we are confident that the solution is not multiple air cards or more expensive equipment. Instead, the solution, as we have always maintained, is in the software.
To that end, we have released Uselabs Live v.3, a version of our streaming software that guarantees negligible latency levels.
Now, the photographer can select her/his transfer rate based on the available signal in the field and lock-in a shot with no latency. Although the quality of the image may fluctuate with varying transfer rates, your audio and video will stay in sync and streaming in real time.
Although this upgrade is a major step forward in a march toward parity with satellite transmission, we understand that we are limited by the capacity of cell towers. But we are confident that our latest upgrade leverages every bit of data that streams from your camera and back to the newsroom.
As you can see from the sample below, it is possible to eliminate latency and do a live stand up with talent in the field using Uselabs Live v3.
Last week’s trip to the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference, NAB 2010, proved four things to me about video over IP solutions:
1. Streaming video over IP is the future
2. Despite the recession, broadcasters are ready to buy new technology
3. The marketplace is full of overpriced, cumbersome solutions
4. Limited bandwidth is the only impediment to low latency streaming over IP
Streaming video over IP is the future
Although 3D providers were ‘Belles of the Ball’ this year, most visitors were looking for a streaming video over IP solution. The 3D technology attracted shoppers, but streaming over IP technology attracted buyers. And I am happy to report that buyers who were looking for broadcast quality video and low latency solutions were more interested in performance than price.
We were very pleased with how the features of Uselabs Live stacked up against other streaming products. On average, our technology costs about 1/10 of what our competitors charge for monthly license and usage fees.
Despite the recession
This year about 88,000 media professionals attended the show, up from about 82,000 last year. About 24,000 attendees traveled from 156 countries to be at NAB 2010.
It appeared that most of the attendees with whom we spoke were armed with more research and information than usual and asked lots of ‘buying’ questions and fewer ‘shopping’ questions. In other words, the attendees came to make buying decisions.
The Marketplace for streaming over IP solutions
Although the field of solution providers for streaming video over IP is growing, the average price for systems who stream broadcast quality video is still relatively high while the latency is at the mercy of network providers like Sprint, Verizon and AT&T.
We saw systems that cost as much as $60,000 for the encoding and decoding devices, plus about $2,500-$5,000 per month for multiple cellular service contracts.
Viewers’ eyes are more forgiving than you think. Most of the time, viewers just want to see video of what happened as soon as possible without regard to resolution. Notice how more big stories, like the Iranian election protest are being captured with lower resolution devices.
The secret is not getting the highest quality video, but getting the most compelling video. And getting the most compelling video often means getting to the scene of a news event first.
Viewers expect feature stories like hot air balloon races in New Mexico to be in high definition. Viewers are more forgiving with crime scene and natural disaster coverage, so they will settle for any resolution.
Recently, viewers were engrossed by grainy, cell phone video from Iranian election protests. I heard lots of viewers talking about the dying woman in the video, but none of them complained that it was not in HD or not in focus. Nor did I hear complaints about the length of the video or that there were no reporters doing interviews from the scene.
Of course, most viewers, myself included, prefer HD, but I’ll take any resolution in a pinch.
Today’s viewers spend much of their day navigating between high and low resolution video on television, YouTube, computer games and cell phones. Even toddlers can recognize the most minute detail from pixilated video that used to take experts to decipher.
The human eye sees about 10 million bits of information per second. About 40 bits per second reaches us on a conscious level.
As media professionals, we should focus on making the 40 bits more memorable instead of stressing over the 9,999,960 that we so often cannot control.
Instead of disqualifying streaming video-over-IP solutions based on resolution issues, most media outlets should embrace compact, streaming solutions for their ability to get to the scene first.
For young and older readers alike, content is still king.
Readers will read compelling content in print or online. Viewers will view compelling content online or on-air.
Compelling content is information that the public feels it must have.
So why do so many media outlets use the new generation’s interest in multiple content channels to say that young people won’t read or view their products?
Young readers are a convenient scapegoat for media companies who cannot create compelling content or change their business models to deliver content on multiple channels.
Young people stand in line for hours to buy a 700-page Harry Potter book because of its compelling content.
Young adults stand in line for hours to buy the latest Madden NFL game because of its compelling content.
Old and young readers alike read their favorite bloggers everyday because they are compelled by the content. Ironically, most of their favorite bloggers’ content is taken from the hard work of newspapers, television stations and first-generation reporting web sites.
So why do Harry Potter, Madden and bloggers succeed and newspapers and television stations struggle?
By definition, ‘newspapers’ and ‘television stations’ are outdated. There is no such thing as a newspaper company or television station. All companies who produce content are media companies, regardless of their delivery platform.
This is an important distinction because poorly-defined companies breed poorly defined business models. And poorly-defined business models create poorly defined content. Poorly-defined content does not sell in print, online or on-air.
Don’t get me wrong, first generation-reporting outlets are an invaluable pillar of our democracy. And they are one of the few businesses sectors in the world who produce a brand new product everyday.
If you are programming in DirectX and you are seeing this annoying window. Is because the Active Movie Window is your default renderer. You should feel proud, this is your Debug renderer window. This way, you can see what you are capturing in the dark…Well… if what you want is get rid of it. You simply need to change the renderer pSink filter from NULL to an actual filter that does nothing, when calling your RenderStream method.
So, a line like this:
hr = g_pCapture->RenderStream (&PIN_CATEGORY_CAPTURE, &MEDIATYPE_Video, pSrcFilter, samplegrabberfilter, NULL);
Should be like this:
hr = g_pCapture->RenderStream (&PIN_CATEGORY_CAPTURE, &MEDIATYPE_Video, pSrcFilter, samplegrabberfilter, nullrenderer);
And the nullrender filter that does nothing can be defined this way:
IBaseFilter * nullrenderer = NULL;
g_pGraph->AddFilter(nullrenderer, L"Null Renderer");
Below is an example of how ‘latency issues’, were overcome by a nimble producer, anchor, reporter and photographer. Instead of giving up on the live shot, the producer timed the toss to account for latency.
Latency and broadcast quality footage have been ‘knocks’ on video-over-IP for use with live, breaking news coverage. Advances in technology are quickly overcoming these issues.
The quality of streaming video over IP has already reached broadcast quality, particularly for breaking news, where viewers are willing to trade image quality for immediacy.
Latency will decrease as networks are upgraded from 3G to 4G and beyond. Also, users will learn to adjust settings in the field to account for fluctuating network speeds and encoder and decoder processor speeds.
Like all new technology, streaming video-over-IP will benefit nimble early adopters and cost more time, money and resources to those who choose to play catch up later.
In 1987, I attended a computer graphics conference in California, where I met a group of very talented animators. This group was developing extraordinary tools that I thought could be applied to news graphics.
I ran back to the newspaper where I worked as a graphic artist and said “I have seen the future. We HAVE to find a way to work with them.”
I was laughed at, ridiculed and the Design Director ordered my Macintosh removed from my desk. He said that computers were a distraction.
Furthermore, I was told that the company would never invest in such a ridiculous idea as animated graphics because they were betting on newspapers being read on television screens, so they invested millions of dollars into scrolling text-over-television technology. The company also said that animated graphics were useless because there was no way to deliver them to the public.
My former employer and the Design Director could not have been more wrong. The animation company was Pixar. The newspaper is now bankrupt. And the Internet has been very effective at delivering animated graphics.
The lesson is clear: Listen to the change agents inside your organization. Change agents within your organization may seem ‘flighty’ at the times, but they can be like canaries in a coal mine who warn of imminent doom.
I do not profess to be an oracle of technology, but I was able to take the same approach to a different newspaper, where we created one of the first newspaper-based, multimedia graphics departments in the U.S. The difference was that the second newspaper embraced new technology and listened to change agents. The newspaper went on to become one of the most decorated multimedia departments in the U.S. even after I moved one because they continued to evolve.
My 6:00 a.m. Freshmen swim class in the depths of a Wisconsin winter taught me two very valuable lessons:
1. Dive in and the frigid water’s initial shock is brief.
2. If you wade into cold water the shock is long and torturous.
And so it is for broadcast, online and print journalism’s march to streaming video over IP from the field. Those who dive in and embrace new technology will evolve quickly and beat the competition. Those who wait will have a long torturous trek to catch up with their competitors.
News breaks. Station 1 has an IP-based streaming solution, so they dispatch a photographer immediately. There is one point of failure: the photographer. Station 1 is on the scene immediately, broadcasting live, capturing and holding viewers.
News breaks. Station 2 takes extra time to scramble talent, a photographer and a live truck. There are three points of failure: the photographer, the talent and a truck. They inevitable arrive after Station 1 and could potentially be ‘roped off’ by police tape, outside of the perimeter without a shot.
Why take a chance with breaking news?
Why not dispatch the solo, mobile photographer with an IP-based streaming solution, like Station 1 and send a team, like Station 2, later?
IP-based streaming solutions are not designed to completely replace talent and live trucks completely, but they are nimble enough to beat your competition to the scene and start broadcasting first.
As bandwidth expands and television stations’ budgets shrink, a solo journalist with a 3G air card-equipped laptop is a very practical and inexpensive option for covering breaking news.
Below, is footage from NewsChannel 5, Nashville, TN that shows how aerial coverage from the station's helicopter and streaming video from an air card-equipped laptop on the ground were combined to cover weather and traffic.
(Above: NewsChannel 5 (Nashville,TN) recently used video-over-IP footage to augment it’s weather coverage during a snow storm.)
Let’s face it, a solo, mobile journalist with a dashboard-mounted camera can capture traffic and weather by simply driving around the city while streaming video back to the station. The same mobile journalist, news photographer or reporter can dismount the camera and stream breaking news footage back to the station.