What you don't know about Internet video

Web developers, business managers, software developers, marketers and hobbyists realize the benefits of delivering video content on the Web. As appealing as it sounds, the process can be unclear and the learning curve difficult.

Damien Stolarz, author of “Mastering Internet Video: A Guide to Streaming and On-Demand Video” took a few minutes to explain is view on the future of video on the Web and why he wrote his book.

Q: It seems like Internet Video is still very difficult for most to understand? People struggle with how to create, edit and distribute and even view Internet video. Did that motivate you to write your book?

Damien: From the executives to the marketing people and the sales staff – all would tend to have to go to their expert (to learn about Internet video). Even venture capitalists would have to talk to their resident expert on video and ask them to translate it for them and tell them what it is and if it was cool or junk. What I wanted to do was come up with a sort of coffee table book that could be read cover to cover and go, “”Ah! Okay, now I can make a decision. I’m going to spend my dollars here.” The book wasn’t just going to be about how to click the wizards for this one particular program.

Q: How does your book differ from other Internet video books?

Damien: I found that most of the books were partisan, where they said, “This is the Real book, or this is the QuickTime book or this is the Windows book.”

Q: Then you have this huge library of books that you can never get to.
Damien: Exactly. There is no Rosetta Stone to translate between them. We don’t know whether “instant on” or “fast start” is the same thing, for example.

Q: So the book isn’t a nuts and bolts thing. It takes a higher level view?

Damien: It takes a higher and lower level view. My approach was to bring somebody totally up to speed. So instead of the book telling you, “Here’s what to do,” we give you all the theory on it and the practical and then you go, “Oh, I know what I need to do for my particular situation.” I just boil it down and take away the mystery.

Q: For me, one of the biggest challenges is all the formats. You’ve got the .avi, the mpeg4. What do you think is the most confusing aspect of online video that you would like to clear up right now?

Damien: One of the things I spent a long time doing is differentiating between what’s inside and what the name of the box is. For .avi, .mov, .wmv, .rm, mpeg2, mpeg4 you actually have two concepts. You have the thing that holds the stuff and you have the stuff in it. You could have mpeg4 compressor for video. You could store mpeg4 in .avi, mov, .wmv, .rm, mpeg2 or mpeg4. So if someone asks you how to play an .avi, you realize it’s a completely ambiguous question since it’s not really the .avi you’re playing – it’s what’s inside.

Q: Do you see the online video area moving more towards the download model or is streaming going to hold its own over time or will streaming become more of a high-definition type of solution? It seems with the bandwidth growth we are seeing online, we’re going to be able to get files so quickly that streaming will be irrelevant.

Damien: I have very strong and well-developed thoughts on this and I will try to summarize. TV is an established model. Video on demand is a new product. People looking at the Internet want what they want, when they want it so they would tend to be more excited about a video on demand solution.
Also, with video on demand, you don’t have to worry about the lowest common denominator. Whatever you paid for your bandwidth, you get as much video as you can.

On the other hand, the democratization of people’s ability to put up their own TV stations I still view is going to be an intensely important part of our future. I continually work on that. My own passion is to get TV up on the Internet. It keeps not happening because they’re just aren’t people with a weeks worth of content. You need 24 / 7 to start a channel.

As soon as the first person says I’m going to do my own cooking channel and have enough production tools, which increase every year – now a $1000 computer has more power than any TV studio ten years ago in terms of video editing ability –it’s going to get where TV becomes interesting. However, TV uses far more bandwidth than on demand, so you’re not going to see people just leaving the light on, so to speak, and letting hundreds of people watching their unrenumerated TV shows and just spending bandwidth.

You might have a South American channel that, in five years, says, “Let’s not build this infrastructure. Let’s not licensed this satellite. Let’s just put this straight online -especially in Korea where they are just wired like mad.”

Q: I like how you say democratization – it doesn’t matter your country, your economic level, what your economy can support.

Damien: Yes, I really see a long, overriding future for live TV on the Net. Here’s one more data point on it. At the beginning of the Internet there was a question whether the content provider or the consumer was going to determine what a Web page looked like. The first version of HTML was all about you customizing how you get the text and graphics. That all went away and HTML is completely rewritten so it’s all about a desktop publishing language so that the content provider can give you the exact experience he desired.

The same thing is going to happen for video. Disney is going to want you to have the exact experience that they have prescribed, and you downloading and watching the content on your time is not what they want. They want you to watch it how they want it, when they want it. Streaming is a way to keep the content on their servers, not on your client machine. I think that’s always going to be interesting to technologist.

Information about “Mastering Internet Video” can be found at masteringinternetvideo.com. Information about Damien Stolarz is at his blog at www.oreillynet.com/weblogs/author/179 and his Website at www.robotarmy.com. For more conversation with Damien Stolarz, the full interview will broadcast Saturday, Aug. 14, at 11 a.m. on KLAY 1180 AM and will be available at WebTalkRadio.com starting the same day.

Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.