While CES' high-tech Magi journey to Las Vegas bearing their gifts of entertainment for the consumer king, let me turn your attention for a moment away from the visions of transformational media dancing in your heads and toward the emerging challenges created by the brave new video-centric world.
Entertainment content providers aren't the only folks facing the "three screen" delivery imperative. With video becoming increasingly important to the communications mix, just about everyone you can think of — schools, businesses, public agencies — needs to include delivering content to the mobile screen. Two companies, Telestream and Wowza, aim to make it simple for organizations to create, manage and distribute video content to a multiplicity of devices.
"There's a new wave of video content coming from traditional broadcasters and large content creators, as well as from a host of educational, governmental and religious organizations," says Telestream marketing vice president Barbara DeHart. And they all need tools to distribute that video content.
"In enterprise and education applications, you have very diverse and geographically dispersed viewers, and they have any number of devices they can view content on — cable TV channel, Web browser, mobile phone," DeHart explains. "Our focus is taking complexity out of the mix: Putting tools in hands of users to produce great content and distribute it easily to multiple devices, and in a timely way so it doesn't require a host of people to do it."
Wowza Media Systems CEO and co-founder Dave Stubenvoll echoes DeHart in the company's recent press release. "Hosting providers truly appreciate where the market is going as it relates to delivering video to any screen, be it a computer, television or mobile device. They recognize that the adoption of video and its consumption is continuing to grow and their customers want to take advantage of this…[and] cash in on burgeoning demand for video."
Telestream's integrated systems include workflow automation, transcoding "farms," ingest and file exchange, video capture and encoding, and distribution across multiple platforms in any format. "At the core of everything we do is video quality — making it appropriate for the medium," Telestream's DeHart says. "We look at the process from the viewers backwards to the [producer] end point and make that process easy. One we set up the workflow, the rest of it happens without any additional help. "
The company's Wirecast desktop application, for example, lets you carry the production tool on a laptop and stream video live as well as archiving a copy for on-demand viewing.
"You can take content from another computer — for example, project PPTs — and set up formats you want — Web, mobile, PC — and use the cameras that you already have," DeHart explains. Rather than being locked in a predefined format, "as the event is going on you can switch between multiple formats and shots, add graphics and lower-thirds, choose user device format, and save the content — all on the fly. And it's distributed and available automatically."
One Telestream customer doing exactly this is the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which uses Wirecast to conduct a variety of multicamera, multigraphic source webcasts and press events.
Introduced last November, Wowza's new Media Server 2 Advanced unifies all streaming media delivery on one system that delivers content to PCs, netbooks, mobile phones and IPTV set-top boxes, without the need for separate, client-specific technologies for each.
Higher education is one of leading adopters of streaming media technology to supporting the "virtual" campus. “Performance and extensibility are especially valuable in the collegiate setting…where the appetite for streaming media across multiple player platforms continues to outpace the level of available IT personnel and technology resources," explains Wowza's Stubenvoll.
For example, Britain's University of Sussex delivers televised lectures to Flash desktop players and iPhones using Wowza's streaming technology. Texas A&M uses Telestream's tools to produce on-demand micro-lectures for iPods and iPhones that are delivered via 3G.
"It's becoming increasingly important to repurpose content," says Telestream's DeHart. "People have been focused on the Web the last couple of years. Mobile is the next thing. It's amazing the video quality available on handsets. In next few years the world will look much different than it does today; that's what makes it fun to be in this industry."
Both Telestream and Wowza offer free trial versions of their software.
Wowza's Dave Stubenvoll discusses the past, present and future of streaming video delivery in this interview from last November's Streaming Media West Conference.