2010 Editors’ Picks
Our annual list of the most innovative, most important, and just plain coolest stuff in online video
When the end of 2009 rolled around, we were faced with the annual challenge of coming up with our Editors' Picks, our choices for the top 10 technologies, products, and services in the world of online video. It had been such a huge year for our industry that we found ourselves a bit overwhelmed by having to make the choices, so we did the only sensible thing: We procrastinated.
Of course, in the meantime, a few new candidates emerged, which made our task that much more daunting. On the other hand, we think the list we arrived at does a better job of capturing what's hot in online video than we could have done 4 months ago. Taken as a whole, the winners indicate not only the technological advances that were made over the past 12 months or so but also the growth of online video in the mainstream.
Debuting in November 2008, Amazon's entry into the CDN market quickly became a major player. It's still not a threat to Akamai or Limelight, but the addition in December 2009 of Flash streaming to its offerings could truly disrupt the market. Even without Flash, though, CloudFront was winning customers based on its pay-as-you-go rate structure and its self-service model; take a look at Larry Bouthillier's "How to Get Started With Amazon CloudFront Streaming" to get an idea of just how easy the service is to use. As Dan Rayburn wrote on his Business of Video blog, "Amazon will be in the driver's seat to own the market for small and medium sized content owners who need simple delivery at a great price."
As Sherm Schlar wrote in his review in the December/January issue, BoinxTV transforms a desktop Mac into a full-blown video production studio, for a fraction of the price of doing the same thing on a PC.
The software can capture from multiple cameras and microphones via a variety of inputs (USB, FireWire, composite, HDMI, and SDI), and the output supports up to 50 layers and effects including text crawls and video filters. Add the built-in chromakey feature and custom backgrounds, and you've got everything you need to assemble a professional video production on an amateur budget-BoinxTV sells for as little as $159 for a "sponsored version" that features the BoinxTV logo in any output; the full version without the logo goes for $499.
At the beginning of 2009, it looked like cloud transcoding was about to explode in much the same way that online video platforms had the year before. But while a handful of others have entered the market, there's already a clear leader of the pack. Encoding.com, as Dan Rayburn writes in his Stream This! column on page 14, has got everything going for it; the company understands what its users need-fast, easy-to-use, and reliable transcoding to multiple formats-and has poured all of its resources into doing that better than anyone else out there. In the past few months, the company raised $1.25 million in Series A funding and rolled out plenty of new features, including an Adobe AIR application that lets customers drag-and-drop files to be encoded right on their desktops. No wonder they're doing an average of 30,000 transcodes a day.
It's hard to think of a type of content that's better suited to video presentation than the how-to variety. As anyone who's ever done any technical writing (or anyone who's tried to assemble children's toys) will tell you, text is a surprisingly limited medium when it comes to walking someone through a given process. But if you give that same frustrated parent a video, then putting together that toy is a piece of cake. So it's no surprise that we've seen more than a few instructional video sites pop up over the past 5 years, but Howcast has risen to the top by being smart about the content-it pays freelancers about $50 for a 3-minute clip, and it provides them with scripts and graphics to help them out-and about the business-many of the site's videos feature advertising overlays, but most of its revenue comes from branded content from sponsors such as 1-800-Flowers and Kodak. What's more, the videos are as entertaining as they are instructional. Where else can you find both "How to Mill Rough Lumber" and "How to Impress the Crap Out of Your Doctor"? One million downloads of Howcast's iPhone app can't be wrong.
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