A S t r e a m i n g M e d i a P r i m e r :
H O W D O I M A K E ( G O O D ) S T R E A M I N G M E D I A ?
I think we'll defi nitely be moving to more VOD [video on demand], states Paulson. If
you think about it, how much of the TV that you watch is live, besides the news? There's
A TRUE STORY
a reason for that, and the reason is quality control. [Unless it's] breaking news you
want to take time to promote the event, you want to take time to optimize the encoding.
NASA (the U.S. National Aeronautics and
That way, when you deliver it, you're delivering the best quality product, and you can
Space Administration) is incorporating
defi nitely remove some of the uncertainty that goes along with the live Webcast.
streaming media into its communication
strategy. With 15 separate centers across
the country, reports Streaming Media
Magazine, the agency hopes to use stream
Perhaps the most important difference in planning for streaming media vs. traditional
ing media to help weave together the
media productions is in the area of managing expectations. Make sure everyone has
efforts of its far fl ung staff, while adhering
the same objective to put a specifi c video and/or audio production on the Web, for
to the fallout of post Cold War budget cuts
reasons that make sense e.g., the Web is really the best way to distribute the production
that mandates fi nding ways to do every
to your intended audience. Make sure everyone with a vested interest in the success
thing faster, better, cheaper.
of your streaming media venture knows what to expect in terms of the quality of the
On January 11, 2001, NASA chief admin
fi nished production, as it is likely to be seen by your intended audience.
istrator Daniel Goldin and chief engineer
Brian Keegan entered the auditorium of
Know your audience; know your limitations
the government agency's Washington, D.C.
Before you pick up your camcorder to shoot, establish at what data rate your video
headquarters for a streaming videoconfer
will be streamed. If you are targeting a broad range of Internet users, the overwhelming
ence. After screening a pre recorded inter
view segment, the webcast went live, and
majority of whom, in 2001, are still connecting with 56K or 28.8K modems, then you
Goldin and Keegan responded directly to
should defi nitely stick to a very simple video design plan. If your audience is comprised
staff questions about a failed Mars mis
solely of viewers on a corporate intranet, or only those with high bandwidth connec
sion and a report highlighting NASA's
tions, you can plan to take a little bit more license with motion and transitions. But even
high speed connections sometimes suffer from network congestion, so you should still
Agency engineers encoded the video
plan your streaming production to be comprised of just a few, fairly static, shots.
feed from NASA's Betacams and sent it
through the agency's wide area network
to more than 300 employees in 13 facili
ties throughout the United States This
The next phase in the workfl ow is Creating and Gathering Raw Material. This phase
was the fi rst time Goldin had used web
casting to discuss a controversial agency
may involve selecting pre recorded footage to incorporate into your streaming project
wide report with his staff. It was a test
or shooting original material. Creating or selecting video can be very exciting, but it's
case for NASA's use of streaming media.
extremely important to remember that when it comes to streaming media, not all good
video is going to shine temper your enthusiasm and your creative impulses with an
The Streaming Media Magazine article
recounts how NASA Webmaster Charlie
understanding of what will and won't work well.
Redmond and a NASA computer engineer,
It's a balancing act: complexity vs. quality
Alan Federman, got the agency on track for
streaming. Managing the expectations of
Minimalism is a an artistic style or technique that is characterized by extreme spareness
the head honcho was a critical part of
and simplicity. A minimalist approach most often makes the best streaming media.
their planning process.
In other words, keep it simple!
In December, Redmond and Federman
One reason is the small size at which most streaming media will appear on the end
showed Goldin streaming video at several
user's computer monitor. Lots of busy detail simply won't be seen.
different bandwidths. When he spoke on
camera about the Mars report, Goldin
The other big reason has, at its core, compression a full discussion of which we'll
wanted staff to `see his eyes move.'
reserve for a later section. But, in order to understand some of the whys and wherefores
Clearly, 56Kbps would not achieve the
of shooting good video for the Web, you need to understand some basic principles of
desired result. `When you're talking to
compression. Succinctly worded by Logan Kelsey and Jim Feeley in their article for DV
someone about a crucial aspect of their
Web Video Magazine, Shooting Video for the Web, the following two statements are all
job, gestures like frowns and squints
are signifi cant,' says Redmond. 'Dan likes
you really need to know about compression in order to shoot good video for streaming:
namic Medianamic Media
meeting small groups of staff in person,
The simpler the information is within an image, and the more each frame in a
face to face, and he wasn't happy with
sequence resembles the frames before and after it, the easier the image and the
jerky, low bandwidth video '
sequence are to compress and the better the resulting compressed video will look.
The more complex the information is within an image and the less each frame
obe Dobe D
2001: A Streaming Odyssey
in a sequence resembles the frames before and after it, the harder the image and
Streaming Media Magazine26
sequence are to compress and the worse the resulting compressed video will look.
25 Webcasting Live Events, by Kevin Seal, DV Web Video Magazine, November 2000
26 2001: A Streaming Odyssey, by Jason Thomson, Streaming Media Magazine, May 14, 2001, http://www.streamingmedia.com/article.asp?id=7315
27 Shooting Video for the Web, by Logan Kelsey and Jim Feeley, DV Web Video Magazine, May 2000