New RealPlayer – Who Cares?

Post ImageThere aren’t many technology companies that I try to stay away from completely, but there a few, and RealNetworks is one of them. I have never liked their software, and frankly, I’ve never quite understood their reason for existing. I mean besides Rob Glaser getting to do his own thing, what has RealNetworks accomplished? They created media formats that no one wanted to use, so they switched to reverse-engineering their competitor’s formats. Oh and they took Microsoft for $460 million for beating them with “monopolistic power”. Nevermind that Microsoft’s software/technology was and still is superior.

Anyway, after a relatively long period with no news, RealNetworks has announced a new version of RealPlayer:

How is the new RealPlayer different from previous versions? Let’s touch on a few highlights: The most notable difference is visible across tens of thousands of web sites immediately after installation. On-demand and live streaming and progressive video in the four major formats – Flash, Windows Media, QuickTime and Real – is now downloadable through a very simple download button that temporarily hovers near video content as it plays.

Ignoring the fact that there are already dozens of ways to download YouTube videos, why would I want to? The quality is usually pretty horrendous. I suppose downloading live streaming content is cool, but not when you consider that most live feeds are posted in downloadable form later anyway.

Seems to me like this is a last-ditch effort to make Real relevant. If you’re really interested for some reason, Scoble has a video interview and demo with Vice President Jeff Chasen.

I think Jason Cox said it best in a comment on Scoble’s post:

Real? How about no. Friends dont let friends use Real.


Read: RealPlayer Blog

Video Stuff: Vlog Blind Date, Mesh 07 Contest, Soar & Wow

Post ImageHere are a few interesting video-related posts I have come across in the last day or so:

Vlog Blind Date
This is a really funny and well done video featuring Justine Ezarik. She goes on a blind date with…it’s a surprise! You have to watch to find out. The video was made to promote JumpCut from the looks of things (and with their help, evidently).

The mesh Video Contest
Want to go to mesh for free? Have a talent for creating great video? Then this contest is for you! All you’ve got to do is submit a video that captures the essence of Web 2.0 – “whatever that means to you.” If you win, you get flown to Toronto for free, with the hotel and conference tickets all taken care of. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

Comparing “Soar” and “Wow”
In this post, Long Zheng takes a look at two commercials: one for Windows XP, and one for Windows Vista. It’s quite amazing how different they are. While both are good, I think the Windows XP one is better.

Spider-Man 3 HD Preview Clip

Post ImageIf there’s one movie I am looking forward to this year, it’s Spider-Man 3. Even though I have high expectations for the movie, I am confident it will exceed them. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to learn that would have a special preview available tonight after Heroes aired. I just downloaded and watched the largest option, a whopping 285 MB for seven and a half minutes of 720p HD content.

The preview contains a scene with Peter and MJ, a scene with Peter and Aunt May, and the rest is an action sequence featuring Peter and Harry. And yes, the preview does end with a bit of a cliffhanger. It’s a fairly good preview, despite not giving us the goods (no Venom, no Sandman, etc)! If you want to download the clip, you’ve only got until tomorrow at 9 PM pacific time. Though I’m sure it will be up on BitTorrent by then.

The video took me about 8 minutes to download, which is pretty good considering I wasn’t even using our fastest connection. Looks like Sony is using Limelight Networks to serve the video.


Pocket HD Video Recording

Post ImageIn the marketing presentation I gave on Monday I mentioned that podcasting will increasingly take advantage of advances in mobile devices, as well as high definition recording. When I put that idea into my presentation, I was thinking about the mobile and high def parts separately, but if this little video camera is any indication, they might come as a package deal:

The research kids in Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute just announced a tiny new video camera capable of shooting at a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution and a variable frame rate up to 60 frames per second.

Pretty damn intense. The camera will be on display at CeBIT in March. I can just imagine the possibilities a small, high quality camera such as this would make possible. Bring it on!

Read: Engadget

Google Video searches YouTube

Post ImageGoogle announced today that it has integrated YouTube results into Google Video. This is the beginning of a transition for Google Video from hosting provider to search. Liz over at NewTeeVee wonders if this is necessary:

In thinking about video search, we’ve been concerned that with the huge number of videos coming into and and video streams coming out of YouTube, there would be little need for — well — video search.

I think there’s a huge need for video search. Just because most of the videos are in one place doesn’t make the search good or effective. There’s lots of things Google can do with it’s video search product to make it the destination. I’m thinking about speech and visual recognition to improve accuracy, and other really complex things.

When it acquired YouTube, Google got more than just a video hosting site. It got unfettered access to one of the largest test beds for video search around. That’s a big asset to have when you’re trying to build an excellent search engine.

Read: NewTeeVee

Pluggd is cool, but not yet perfect!

Post ImageExaggerations make for good headlines, but often are less than accurate. VentureBeat ran a post last night about audio and video search startup Pluggd, announcing that the company has raised $1.65 million in funding. The post also says that Pluggd declared it has “perfected the user experience” for audio and visual search. This morning, I came across this NewTeeVee post that sets the record straight:

While we like what Pluggd is doing, that’s a bit of an overstatement.

Video search is often attempted by analysis of the soundtrack, rather than the picture, and we expect that’s what’s going on here. But mainly, we take issue with the claim that anyone has “perfected the user experience” in this area, because a big part of user experience is having a product that works.

Writer Liz Gannes goes on to explain the obvious – that speech recognition technology is far from perfect (though it is getting better). I’m fairly certain that audio and video search will be perfected eventually, but not we’re not there yet.

To their credit, Pluggd commented on the NewTeeVee post:

Matt’s coverage of our technology on is one of the most thoughtful and complete descriptions of our technology that I’ve seen, but I was also a little startled when I saw the word “perfected”.

While they have lots of work ahead of them, I am sure the new funding will help Pluggd improve their offering! I am looking forward to their technology going live.

Read: NewTeeVee

Rendering Frames at Pixar

Post ImageI recently agreed to help a colleague with a video project, and we met this week to go through some of the raw footage. While we were chatting I mentioned that the animated movies that are made today take longer to render than those of ten years ago, simply because they are becoming so much more realistic. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember where I had read or heard this, nor could I recall the exact numbers involved. From a post today on The Long Tail:

On 1995 computer hardware, the average frame of Toy Story took two hours to render. [A decade later on 2005 hardware] the average Cars frame took 15 hours, despite a 300x overall increase in compute power. The artists have an essentially infinite appetite for detail and realism, and Pixar’s resources have grown over the decade so it can afford to allocate more computers to the task, allowing each to run longer to achieve the artist’s and animator’s ambitions for the scenes.

Once again the blogosphere comes to the rescue!

Read: The Long Tail

How could Zune's software suck so badly?

Post ImagePerhaps you’ve heard on the news recently that Microsoft’s new digital media player, the Zune, is hardly flying off the shelves. I guess that’s not too surprising given the early reviews the device has received. Now I know Microsoft is pretty good at hardware (Xbox, mice and keyboards, etc.) but they are still a software company. How is it then, that they could have screwed up the software side of the Zune so badly?

Now I haven’t seen or tested a Zune, so I can’t say I have had similar experiences. And granted, not all of the reviews are so negative (indeed there are quite a few positive ones), but still. A software company should have gotten the software part absolutely right, don’t you think?

Zune doesn't hate podcasting after all?

Post ImageIt may be true that Microsoft’s upcoming Zune device doesn’t explicitly support podcasting, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t copy a podcast episode to it yourself. In that sense, it’s a lot like any of the other Windows Media based devices out there.

Until today, I was more worried that Microsoft and the Zune would snub podcasting altogether. No mention of podcasting in any literature, marketing, or other materials. No hope for future updates to the Zune to support podcasting. That sort of thing. Today however, Microsoft launched and put my fears to rest:

Zap! You’re connected to your best friend and send the new song your band recorded in the garage last weekend. Another friend gets the hilarious podcast your kid brother made at school…

Emphasis is mine. See! They don’t hate podcasting!

Maybe there’s hope for V2 after all.


Comedy Central smarter than the average bear!

Post ImageOver the last few days word has spread that Comedy Central asked YouTube to remove clips of the Colbert Report and the Daily Show, under terms of the DMCA. When I first heard about it, I was really disappointed in Comedy Central. It seems they only decided to make a fuss now that Google owns YouTube. I thought they were really shortsighted, and indeed stupid, for ignoring the fact that YouTube is a huge buzz machine for its shows.

Today however, Jeff Jarvis is reporting that they didn’t ask YouTube to remove all clips, just some of them. Further investigation shows that only clips longer than 5 minutes have been removed.

I think it is really in Comedy Central’s best interests to allow clips to appear on YouTube. Not entire episodes certainly, but short clips. Even if they don’t make any money from the clips immediately, it would be a good experiment. You’ll never understand how to take advantage of the fast changing media distribution landscape until you try something new.

Read: BuzzMachine