effective online video

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The internet is full of streaming video options. What is the most effective way to serve video files online? For users downloading with 28.8 modems? For users downloading with broadband cable modems?

-- Not Still Art (nsa@improvart.com), August 28, 2000


In the Oct. 2000 issue of Digital Video Magazine, Nels Johnson (p. 126-130) discusses a new streaming media liason between Quicktime 4 and RealServer 8, which he thinks is the best of all worlds.

To quote him: "The way things seem to be going , it could wind up costing a bundle to store and serve (let alone encode, back up, and archive) massive amounts of broadband digital media. One estimate I heard from a SAN provider is $100,000. per year, per terabyte, online. Maybe not a big deal for Turner or NBC.com, but it's something to think about for many smaller Webcasters."

Is there a way to encode/stream video continuously, like a broadcast TV station, so that it doesn't need to be stored, backed up, archived? Would this make the delivery more reasonable and within reach to artists/art organizations?

-- Not Still Art (nsa@improvart.com), September 07, 2000.

It's my opinion that video shouldn't even be attempted over analog phone lines. Analog phone lines are barely adequate for reproducing intelligible human voice, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that pushing video through these lines with any reasonable fidelity is impossible. I doubt anyone will ever fetishise the look of streaming video as pixelvision has been, because the look of streaming video over analog phone lines is ugly and disorienting to watch. There's no consistency or symmetry, just haze and unpredictable coarseness of motion. It's my opinion that pushing video over phone lines is giving internet video a bad name and should be stopped.

Broadband connections like DSL and Cable modems, however, are another story. These connections have 30-50 times the bandwidth of analog modems, and they don't cost much more to operate because they both use wires which are already run to most people's homes and will soon be commodity services like telephone, water, and power. Broadband connections DO have adequate bandwidth for moving decent quality digital video through the internet. Microsoft and Apple have both done a good job of bringing compression technologies which improve the quality of video over these connections to a mass audience and we'll continue to see improvements in this arena. "television quality" video is soon to be a reality through these services, and as a result, it is expected that broadband internet access will emerge as a distinct mass media venue in the near future. Bring it on.

Dan Summer DVLABS

-- Daniel Summer (dvdan23@hotmail.com), August 31, 2000.

The figures mentioned for storage of video online by Nels Johnson are very misleading and aren't at all a good reference point for the true costs of hosting video online. First off, SAN technology is extremely expensive stuff and simply isn't necessary for hosting video online (neither of the top internet hosting companies use this technology). Without using SAN technology, one can put together a terabyte of online storage for well under $50,000 flat. This is a huge amount of storage though and only relavent if you're looking at making hundreds of hours of video available on demand. Yes, it IS possible to simply stream video constantly, without ANY archival or storage.

The more relavent metric in determining costs of hosting video through the internet is teh cost (and availability) of IP bandwidth. IP bandwidth on the open market costs between $500 and $1500 per average megabit monthly. Large, popular video sites can push in excess of 100 megabits per month, depending on the data rate of the video they are hosting and the number of people "tuning in". Streaming video hosting companies like Akamai basically value-added resellers of IP bandwidth, who buy bandwidth in bulk and operate streaming media servers which utilize that bandwidth. Last I heard, Akamai's rates can be as high as $2400 per megabit. If your site starts pushing over 100 megabits, there's your real cost.

As far as I see it, here is the most important factor in determining the economic viability of video over the internet; the ratio of hosting costs to monthly banner ad CPM's. Basically, for a video site to be self-sustaining, it has to be generating more revenue from banner ad placement than the hosting fees. This IS possible, but not with the hosting fees charged by today's top streaming companies. One site my company works with had been pushing video through the top video hosting company, and had been spending four times as much on hosting services than they were bringing in with banner ad revenue. We've managed to flip this ratio in their favor, however, by significantly driving down their hosting costs so that they now bring in more money on banner revenue than they spend on hosting.

This isn't necessarily going to be possible for everone starting up a video web site immediately, though, because to get a good CPM rate (cost per thousand impressions of banner ads) a site needs to have a LOT of visitors. New sites with a small audiences (as most good art sites would probably have) will get much lower CPM's than established sites with heavy traffic.

As other new companies like ours bring competition to the video hosting services marketplace, video hosting costs will come down, and it will become easier for more sites to have a favorable revenue to expense ratio. As this trend continues, I don't see any obstactles to hosting video to anyone so long as they have the money or the willingness to use banner ads.

This is topic for a completely different discussion, but it seems to me this is decidedly NOT the case with traditional broadcasting, where airtime is not accessible to just anyone who wants it and can pay for it.

Daniel Summer DVLABS

-- Daniel Summer (dvdan23@hotmail.com), September 07, 2000.

Found this tech question on the eye candy list... can someone here address it?

From: "cat" Save Address - Block Sender Reply-To: eyecandy@egroups.com To: Save Address Subject: [eyecandy] Streaming Servers Date: Sat, 9 Sep 2000 15:57:44 +0100

Hi all

I've just started a new job that requires me to find the best server for streaming broadband video not to particluarly large audiences, well not just yet! I've found a number of different places but I was wondering if any one had experience in this field that might help. The brief requires world wide access so is the solution a number of smaller servers around the world or just 1 high spec'd one? Monthly band width allowence seems to be one sticking point! Cheers


-- Bleu Leit (bleuleit@hotmail.com), September 10, 2000.

Just a few interesting observations. The discussion so far is focusing on use of internet streaming providers to push one's video out on to the internet. I've been looking at alternative methods of distributing video work online. I'd ideally like to have a home-based server with all the video I can stuff on it (I've even got an older computer up to the task) and have it with a dedicated IP address and a web site.

Here's the limitation of that. The commercial broadband providers (cable companies and telcos offering DSL) operated networks which are assymetical, meaning they offer more download bandwidth than upload bandwidth. From a marketing perspective for those companies, it makes sense, since they can expect most people to have no reason to upload vast quantities of data such as video. Of course, this makes things difficult for the home entrpeneur who simply wants to present artwork on some sort of regular basis. The providers aren't set up for this. What's more, some of these providers won't even allow you to put streaming content on your site which is on their system. TCI (now part of AT&T) with the @Home cable modem service explicitly forbade streaming video. It seems the cable companies also wanted to monopolize the content being served on their networks (since many of them also own entertainment networks).

So is it possible for a small art site to utilize a home server on a broadband service provider even with the upload bandwidth limitation? If one is envisioning a non-profit operation to simply present content without banner ads and a limited viewership, is this a cheaper, more viable alternative to going to a streaming service provider and paying thousands per year?

Any thoughts?

-- Greg Bowman (offline@lightlink.com), September 20, 2000.

Even with the advent of broadband, I don' fiond the web suitable for presenting the high-quality immersive physical experience that my work entials.It is more potentilly useful as a way of promoting such work, making visitors aware of it, and perhaps even sell a tape or two.

-- Dr. T. (emile@foryourhead.com), September 20, 2000.

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