Author Archive: Steve Wolkoff

post-MAX update

(Here’s where I just start posting again and pretend that I didn’t take a 4 month break)

Owen wroteabout the lack of support show for FMS at MAX. While there were only a few sessions on the product, I was amazed at the diversity of uses showcased – everything from basic streaming media to complex, Flex-based, real time communications applications. I gave two sessions on “Introduction to Flash Media Server” and really enjoyed them. Hopefully those who attended did as well.

What was most fun and educational for me was to try to approach FMS as a beginner would and find what the common missteps and hangups would be. Things like understanding why your “Streams” folder is inside your Instance folder; or why you don’t use the “.FLV” in the stream name when calling NetStream.play();.

The learning curve for FMS is pretty steep, and I think we can do better.

In a bit, I’ll creatte an FMS.NEXT open thread to gather feature requests and suggestions for future versions of FMS. In the past few weeks, there have been some organizational changes within Adobe that will really benefit the FMS team. We’ll have more Dev and QE, resources, more marketing, more training, docs, demos, etc. It will take time, but I believe that Adobe is committed to helping FMS grow.

Above, I wrote about the amazing range of ways in which FMS can be used. I met customers at MAX who use FMS for everything from foreign language distance learning to live cattle auctions. It’s an insanely powerful and innovative piece of technology and I don’t think we’ve even begun to see how big it can get. Ever since the Tincan days I’ve wanted a chance to work with this product team, and I’m now lucky enough to do so, and to do it during a period in which the “perfect storm” of online video, user created content, and real time communications are becoming main uses of the web.

Exciting times ahead.

err…

pick one of these

ABC Launces Full Episode Streaming

On Monday, ABC launched an ambitious experiment – full length episodes of prime-time TV shows, streamed on the web in Flash Video format.

While this is billed as a two month experiment, it’s hard not to be excited about what this means for the future of online video.

I’ve aggregated a bunch of public feedback on the ABC project, mostly from blogs. Click on the extended entry details for the quotes.

A large number of positive remarks were directed towards ABC, for creating a clean, user friendly experience and not towards the underlying Flash technology – and that’s a good thing. Flash has a tremendous amount of credibility around being a technology that “just works”, and to extend that ability into the notoriously non-working world of streaming video is a great achievement.

The tech savvy crowd was impressed at the quality of the audio and video, and that it worked on browsers/platforms that are traditionally ignored by “Big Media”. The non-techie crowd made several mentions of video that “didn’t need a player” or things to that effect. The transparent platform of Flash video, the message of “you own your brand” is really shining here. In fact, that Flash technology is barely even noticed many viewers spoke volumes to the quality of experience that Flash Video and FMS provides. Even the tough-to-please Slashdot, Digg, and Metafilter crowds were very receptive – again the general theme was a mix of “ABC gets it” and “that’s good quality video – and it works on my Mac!”.

Somewhat surprisingly, given this crowd, the highly interactive Flash ad units that combined audio, video, text, forms, and PDF download received a generally positive response. Again, the attitude of “we don’t mind ads – just don’t insult us with dumb ones”.

———-

http://www.fastboot.com/wordpress/?p=22

“When I heard ABC was going to offer a way to watch their shows online, I was fully expecting it to suck clowns. I figured it would be something sucky like DRM’d wmv streams or real media streams. I am happy to say that they chose Flash Video.

I can’t say enough good things about ABC’s new service. The ui is sexy, the code is optimized, they use new flash 8 features, the backbone is Flash media server, all in all it is the best implementation of flash video i’ve seen in a long time.”

http://www.flashinsider.com/2006/05/01/abc-gets-flash-video-right/

ABC gets Flash video right

Finally someone has taken our advice and started displaying premium content via Flash video with embedded ads. As I have said in this space before, content providers need only create Flash based video content to distribute their stuff to viewers and then they can grab the largest online viewing audience of any video app. Larger than Windows Media Player, larger than Quicktime, larger than all other video types.

http://kungfurodeo.com/2006/05/01/abc-launches-free-tv-online/

“whatever video format ABC decided to go with works seamlessly in Safari, so the majority of people viewing wouldn’t have much of a problem, I imagine.”

http://www.paidcontent.org/first-look-abccoms-ad-supported-streaming-experiment

“Initial take: It doesn’t look or feel like an experiment.”

http://ekle.us/index.php?title=abc_full_episode_streaming&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

“I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it works. The video streaming is done entirely inside a browser window, with apparently no special video player required. There were no pauses or other signs of lag in the video. The sound quality and picture quality were both quite good.”

http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2006/05/abc-full-episode-streaming

“This is perhaps the nicest looking Flash video I’ve ever seen. Not only are the video dimensions nice and large, but the picture is extremely clear and not choppy at all. You can tell a lot of work went into the encoding and delivery process. It’s also interesting to note that this is 400k and 700k Flash streaming and not progressive download. Progressive download has been a lot more common than streaming in the past and it’s nice to see such a great example of true broadband Flash streaming in action.”

http://journals.tuxreports.com/lch/archives/003556.html

“I predict that ABC’s streaming offering is going to be one of the hotest video sites for UMPCs this year. I just checked it out on my Toshiba M400. The video is wonderful. It’s brighter and clearer than that from my Slingbox. “

http://www.digitalbackcountry.com/index.cfm/2006/5/1/Flash-Video-Revolutionizes-Media

Today saw the launch of ABC’s Full Episode Streaming and along with it a glimpse of how Flash is going to rock the future of the internet. For a long time “video on the web” has been the next big thing, but it wasn’t until Flash came along and showed how easy it could be that people really started taking notice. Flash allowed content providers a way to easily stream high quality video across any platform and nearly any device. Once people realized how powerful this tool was, it was just a matter of time before the big companies picked up on it.

http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/05/01/194220

from comments

“Wow. Smooth, fast, works on OSX, little to complain about.
Beats Google video by a mile. Well done.
This is hands down the best no-direct-cost online video experience to date.”

http://www.digg.com/technology/ABC_Launches_Free_Online_Episode_Streaming

many positive comments:

“Now THIS is the future. Watch the hell out cable!”

“i am in agreement with all of these people. when i first heard about the service i imagined a small window like we get on places like Launch Music Videos but no, they actually give us 2 sizes and the “high def” size is actually very nice. next step is adding streaming 5.1 audio and full-screen video. but all-in-all, MAJOR thumbs up ABC!”

“I think I’m gonna try this out .. You guys can wait 2 days for bittorrent to download just so you can watch it on the big screen in your mom’s basement.”

“if anyone from abc is reading this. best free streamplayer out rigtht [sic] now.”

Bravo ABC! At last a TV network listens to the consumers!”

“I know you could pirate the episodes, but it takes hours to download them. I clicked on ‘alias’ and it was ready to play in about 5 seconds. Almost no lag if you
pause and then play again, as well; at least in comparison to streaming real player/ windows media things where you have to wait for it to ‘buffer’

“Good God..It is Mac compatible. Thank you ABC for being one of the few major streaming companies that is Mac compatible. This service is amazing.”

http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/51306

many comments focused on the ethics of advertising, and other such navel gazing. However, even among the non-believers, positive comments on the experience.

“I’m impressed, I imagined something much less flexible than their current offering … The video quality is fairly good also, definitely better than iTunes

Well, come Thursday, I’ll be giving this a shot for Lost. I don’t think it’s too much to be asked to watch a few ads to see a TV show.”

“take it from someone who has spent some time fiddling with web video and streaming technologies … I have seen the future and it *is* Flash

http://whatdoiknow.org/archives/002714.shtml

There simply isn’t another cross-platform, browser-based, video delivery platform that provides this level of user experience or quality in one complete package. And the 16:9 videos look outstanding (I’m sure this will be the first time some non-HDTV owners will see their favorite ABC shows in this format).”

http://blog.hipmojo.com/?p=131

“Interestingly, the entire world is expecting ABC’s parent Disney to emerge as a leader in digital video after its acquisition of Pixar brings Steve Jobs on board.  In fact, many people expected Steve Jobs to start throwing around his weight at Disney.  The decision then to favor flash video instead of Apple’s AVI does suggest that Flash is onto something.”

http://www.randomculture.com/random_culture/2006/05/update_abc_epis.html

Overall, I’m impressed by how ABC has executed this initiative. It seems for now that they’ve solved the technical issues from yesterday’s barrage of visitors (at least until LOST airs on Wednesday) and the streaming is good quality with intuitive controls.”

http://www.smorty71.com/2006/05/abc-launches-free-streaming.html

Overall, I think the service looks promising. The interface makes it very easy to switch between shows, the video quality is really good and the price is just right. There is just no way I am going to shell out $2 to watch something on my iPod.

http://www.tuaw.com/2006/05/01/abc-launches-free-streaming-experiment/

from comments….

“Totally impressed with the quality! Even glad it sits on a black screen. They really could have flubbed this with animated banner ads all over, but they did it right.”

I’m very impressed with the quality and speed of this. And the commercials aren’t that bad. I like that it gives you a countdown til when the show is back on. I was watching last weeks Alias. Good stuff, ABC. And gotta love that it works on the Mac and makes great use of Flash video.”

http://www.rwjonline.com/index.php/42/welcome-abc-to-iptv

“Thanks ABC for giving consumers a choice in how they get their favorite shows!”

Comcast Fan 3.0 Beta

Comcast has opened a public Beta of version 3.0 of their innovative, Flash based video application called The Fan.

Great use of Flash Video (the new On2 VP6 codec looks great) and Flash Media Server for some of the interactive elements like playlist creation.

FMS Order Fulfillment

I’ve heard some scattered, general rumblings about long delays in purchasing or upgrading to FMS. If you have specific examples or issues, please leave a note in the comments, and I’ll do my best to assist, thanks.

Stickam and FMS

Stickam has been getting some serious buzz the past few days. it’s kind of a myspace, youTube hybrid – a mix of a social networking hub as well as an aggregation point for multimedia content. Throw in some real time communications and presence tools, and you’ve got a really cool, innovative application.

Most commenters are focusing (rightfully so) on the features of Stickam – however, I would like to highlight one excerpt from their “about” page

AVC [Parent company of Stickam] provides Web communication services that enable greater productivity and cost-efficiency across the enterprise. AVC Video Conference services are powered by Macromedia Flash Media Server, designed for the delivery of multimedia Web communications. This advanced technology enables carrier-class services that integrate voice, video, and data to offer true interactivity and Web communications across multiple geographies and platforms.

full disclosure: Up until reading this page, I had no idea that Stickam used FMS. This is just another great example of how developers can use FMS and Flash to rapidly develop innovative applications.

FMS 2.0.1 Released

Flash Media Server 2.0.1 (Dyna mo) was released to web on Thursday, 16 February.

It contains the new licensing profiles for the Professional Edition, outlined here

Direct Link to Download Page: http://www.macromedia.com/support/flashmediaserver/downloads_updaters.html

I’d like to thank the Dynamo Customer Advisory Board for their help, patience, and guidance in developing a better license model for Flash Media Server. Their advice was a constant reminder that we are building a product for REAL PEOPLE to use – people with stories, ideas, jobs, personalities (oh, boy do you have personalities) and a passion for FMS that was truly eye-opening.

Also, the FMS Dev and QA teams did an amazing job of getting a number of important fixes into what was supposed to be a simple licensing update. Thanks, as usual, for being great at what you do.

Enjoy!

slow posting this week

I probably should have put this up earlier in the week: Posting here (and probably on most of the Adobe blogs) will be slow this week since most of the technology groups are in San Jose for a global technology summit.

One Key Takeaway(TM): Adobe, like most other tech companies, should be investing much, MUCH more in training staff on public speaking and presentation design. If I were running things (luckily, I have no such authority, or Adobe would have on-site bocci ball courts, a line of luxury formalware, and a Ronco Showtime Rotisserie Grill in every kitchen) I would offer free classes in film making , acting ,information design and graphic design – all of the essential skills needed to make really good presentations (after all, presenting is just storytelling).

PowerPoint takes the brunt of the blame, and deservedly so, as it is a really fantastic tool for quickly and easily making terrible presentations. However, public speaking and presentation is a skill that can be taught and learned, and it’s tragic that companies invest so much in other areas, yet expect developers to be able to flip a switch, get on stage in front of 400 people, and turn in a great presentation. Others have written on this more extensively (and articulately), but there’s some disconnect at these conferences: The developers are passionate about their product. The people in attendance are interested in the product and desparately want the presenter to do well. Yet, somewhere in the ether between them, these twinned purposes become seperated, the presenters fall into “presenting” mode, the audience falls into “well, better catch up on email” mode, and all of that passion and indivuality gets compressed into a few bullet points (or, in the worst cases, lots of bullet points).

On that note: go read Presentation Zen

a few quick links

a few things i have been reading:

An interesting interview with Adam Gerber, a VP at the buzz generating internet TV startup Brightcove. They have a talented group over there, and I’m very interested to see what kind of impact Brightcove has on traditional media and advertising.

Joel Spolsky of the eponymous Joel on Software blog is writing a series of essays on “Great Design”. The first few are posted, and are, as expected, great reads and thought provoking.

Attack of the Zombie Copy. stop writing mindless things like “leveraging best-of-breed technolg…..Mmm…brainssss.”

The beauty of simplicity from Fast Company. Nice, if slightly fluffy, article on how simplicity in design is teh cool.

that’s it for now … hopefully I’ll get to post something a bit more meaty tomorrow.

Dynamo: Flash Media Server 2.0.1

I posted some information on the ChattyFig Flashcomm list about the upcoming release of Dynamo, Flash Media Server 2.0.1.

The chattyfig list is open to anyone who’d like to register, but the archives are not publicly viewable, so I figured I’d re-post the Dynamo information here.

The FMS team has spent the past 3 months working on a project called Dynamo.

The purpose of Dynamo is to introduce a more flexible licensing model which will allow individual developers to have more choice over how their FMS installs are licensed.

more inside …

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