Posts in Category "Adobe TV 3.0"

Why Hulu’s New Player is the One To Beat

Hulu‘s player, IMO, has always been one of the best models of simplicity, functionality, and aesthetic harmony (defined in my book as “not getting in the way of the video”). This remains the case with the new 3.0 player which recently went live.

In it’s default “play” state it’s 100% clean, with the exception of the very unobtrusive copyright notice and “more options” tab.

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On the rollover state (i.e. when your curser moves over the video), a standard set of player controls and timeline appear overlaid on the video, and a row of options appears flagged off the upper-right-hand corner. I really like the arrangement of these particular player controls, as they tend to get visually detached from the player on other sites.

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In the above screengrab, I had clicked the “Video Settings” icon, which brought up a dialog allowing me to save a default preference for any of the 3 available bitrates, or for dynamic bitrate switching (which they define as “Auto-select the best quality for my bandwidth”). You need to be logged in to save as a default, but since certain Hulu content is behind login anyway (for “mature” themed content, e.g.) this won’t be a barrier for most users as we tend to be logged in anyway.

This new capability to save a default resolution does fix one of the more annoying aspects of the previous player, which defaulted to delivering the 360p stream, and required that you manually click on the 480p button at the beginning of the video, and you could only do this after all pre-rolls were completed. When you watch as much content on Hulu as I do, this is a very, very nice improvement to the UX.

Another welcome improvement is dynamic thumbnails on the timeline, which they’re calling “Seek Preview”:

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It is really, really fluid, As you move your curser left and right over the timeline, it updates the timecode as well as the thumbnail. I’m fond of Netflix On Demand‘s timeline scrub feature, as it shows you 5 frames as you scrub through, which can definitely help you locate the scene you’re looking for much quicker, and I think Netflix may still have Hulu beat on this one (although Hulu’s implementation is really darn responsive).

Finally, the all-important Fullscreen state has 2 new features I really like. The first is the clock showing the time-of-day, positioned in the upper-right corner which is exactly where the OS clock appears on my Mac’s desktop. This means I don’t need to leave Fullscreen to check the time. Nice.

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Second, in the upper-center you can see the state of the buffer. Unless I’m semi-passively watching a video (e.g. I’ve got a ballgame on as I’m getting some work done) I like to control the bitrate I’m getting, and make the necessary pauses to buffer if necessary to sustain the quality I want.

There are some other great features in the new player, but these are the ones that stand out to me, in the way I use Hulu.

The New Adobe TV is On The Air

It’s everything you asked for and more. But don’t take my word for it, have a look at the brand new Adobe TV website here.

Or watch this for a rather dubious explanation:

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If you’re involved in creating any type of product or service, listening to your customers is the most important thing you can do. They will tell you what they need. Oh man, did that ever sound cliché . . . but let me tell you something — we’ve gotten tons of feedback over the past year from users of Adobe TV, via research where we bring users in and talk to them, and via the daily flow of messages we get from people who click on the “Send Feedback” link which appears on the bottom of the Adobe TV website (I personally read every single one of those e-mails, even those that arrive laden with expletives).

So what have we learned from all this listening? Well, what clearly works are the videos themselves – people love them. We’ve now got over 3,000 videos on Adobe TV (with new ones added daily) offering tutorials, tips & tricks, demos, and inspiration on an ever-increasing variety of Adobe tools & technologies. There’s no doubt that we delivered on the promise of “expert instruction and insight direct from the source” which is the most important component of the Adobe TV charter.

What isn’t working as well as we’d like is the Adobe TV website itself. When we launched in April ’08 with 210 videos, the site architecture we had in place did the job. But as the volume of videos grew, as we increased the number of shows & channels, and as we added new navigation options the site began to come apart at the seams.

Those of you who’ve used the Adobe TV website know what the pain points are. Believe me, they drive me nuts as well. I’ll be elaborating on this in upcoming posts.

Where does this leave us today? Well, there are times when a house can benefit from a remodel (such as the site redesign we launched back in September ’08). And then there are times when you just need to bite the bullet and knock the house down to build a new one.

This August we will be launching a completely re-architected, re-designed Adobe TV website, which is being built to address everything you & other Adobe TV users have told us you need to make Adobe TV a world-class online video experience for you. The current Adobe TV site will remain online until then, and we’ll continue to add new videos to it every day as we always have. We’ll also continue to refine and improve it where we can (in fact we released an update today which vastly improves the search functionality within the site).

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In the coming days I’ll be giving you more insight on what has & hasn’t worked and why, and how the new version fixes what hasn’t worked and improves on what has. I’ll also be sharing some sneak previews and showing you how we’re putting it all together. You’ll be interested to read about this if you’re either A) an Adobe TV user and/or B) are in the business of online video yourself.

So, as the old TV cliché goes, “stay tuned . . . we’ll be right back.”