Skip to main content

Compared to many trade shows last year, Streaming Media East, which took place December 10-13, looked relatively healthy. Perhaps this was due to organizers' decision to lump the show together with Internet World. Nevertheless, it looked like there was enough movers and shakers as well as regular guys to fill up the massive exhibit hall in New York City's Jacob Javits Center. MPEG-4 was on everyone's minds this year, and that topic was explored in several conference panel discussions as well as in product demos on the show floor. Content management was a hot issue as well. As for product offerings, it didn't seem as though there were many new gadgets at company booths. Perhaps this was due to the anemic economy or executive decisions to hold off on major product announcements until NAB. Even so, many of the products showcased, whether new or established, demonstrated a solid future for streaming media.

MPEG-4's Big Splash

The buzzword of the week was MPEG-4. Many companies were showcasing products that used the increasingly popular standard in various types of streaming applications. One example of this was Envivio, which demonstrated its new plug-in for RealNetworks' RealSystem suite of products. The MPEG-4 plug-in allows users to view standardized MPEG-4 audio and video as well as mixed media through the RealPlayer and RealOnePlayer and enables content owners and creators to stream MPEG-4 audio and video. Envivio also demonstrated a collaborative streaming solution with Sigma Systems, which distributes MPEG-4 content via Envivio servers and encoders to devices enabled by Sigma's new EM8470 decoder chip.

Although the show hosted a few sessions related to MPEG-4, the most thorough and comprehensive discussion of the standard and its real world applications took place at a session entitled Mixed Media With MPEG-4: Solutions. In it, panelists from Envivio, Philips, and iVAST discussed using MPEG-4 to integrate audio, video, and interactive elements into streaming media. Everyone on the panel agreed that in order for streaming media to lend itself to truly profitable business models, there needed to be a standard for implementing mixed media in that space. While they acknowledged other standards such as MPEG-1, MPEG-2, H.263, and H.251, as being applicable to streaming media, the consensus seemed to be that MPEG-4 was the frontrunner. For many of the panelists, the main obstacle to the implementation of MPEG-4 was user ignorance about the standard and how it relates to mixed media. Ben Silva, vice president of Worldwide Sales and Business Development for iVAST commented, "I find it very interesting that a lot of people haven't seen true MPEG-4 mixed media implementations." With that statement, he presented a demo of MPEG-4 mixed media to the audience. The demo, which was a movie clip running at 250 Kb, was of a very high visual quality and included sound as well as interactive links to commerce and educational information. Silva noted that the entire clip, including the sound and interactive links was running in one MPEG-4 stream.

Another roadblock to full implementation of MPEG-4 has been digital content protection issues. Julien Signes, president and CTO of Envivio, brought up the Intellectual Property Management and Protection (IPMP) standard, which his company advocates for use in MPEG-4 applications. He spoke specifically about Envivio's plug-in for the RealNetworks applications mentioned above, which, using the IPMP standard, allows users to protect their individual content streams and gives the application an interface for third party payment systems.

Asset Management's Day In The Sun

Another topic explored at the show was asset management. In a session entitled Effective Solutions For Media Asset Management And Integration, panelists from BroadJam, Deluxe Video Services, Sesame Workshop, and PBS Interactive spoke about the latest in content management technology as well as their experiences in implementing and/or helping others to deploy it.

Rob Schuman, director of Technical Operations for Sesame Workshop, spoke about his experience helping to deploy his company's asset management system, which was designed in-house. "We built it ourselves because at the time, there was nobody else out there with an end-to-end solution," he told the audience. The system, which will eventually contain the company's entire video and audio assets, including every episode of Sesame Street, is accessible to any Sesame Workshop employee via a Web interface. Users searching for particular items can view both stills and moving clips of the assets. Schuman advised those in the audience interested in implementing content management "to have your asset stored in the highest quality possible." This, according to him, would facilitate user access to the archives into the distant future.

Several panelists brought up the complaint that while there are many asset management solutions out there, very few offer a complete end-to-end solution. Dan McLellan of Deluxe Video Services noted, "Very few players in the digital content management space have put all the pieces together." Similarly, Schuman noted that before deciding to embark upon the monumental task of designing and building its own asset management system, Sesame Workshop made a futile attempt to find an all-in-one solution.

New Product Offerings

Aside from the panel discussions and workshops, there was a plethora of companies on the floor showcasing both new and established streaming products. Anystream demonstrated the newly-released version 2.0 of its Agility streaming automation software line, which includes the Agility Workgroup CE, Agility Workgroup SE, Agility Workgroup XE, and Agility Enterprise products. New features of the line include live and tape-based media acquisition capabilities and host-based pre-processing. Cyber Operations displayed its Video Enhanced Compression for Transmission and Recording (VECTAR) encoder/ decoder technology that allows for live television content to be streamed to the Web via satellite or LAN. Discreet (Autodesk) took its newly-refurbished cleaner 5.0 product to the show. The product, which creates streaming video and audio for the Web via transcoding of digital content or video formats, was recently acquired by Discreet from Media 100. Snell & Wilcox had on hand its IQ Modular series of products including the IQDMSDP decoder product, which reduces noise on all types of images, including streaming media. Virage had a new webcasting product on the floor, the VS Webcasting solution, which allows for the simultaneous webcast management and realtime indexing and archiving of a live event.