2007 Editors' Picks
We see a lot of new products here at Streaming Media, and a lot more press releases about new products—all written, of course, from "industry leading" companies with "groundbreaking" new technology that will "revolutionize" online video. In fact, we publish a fair number of them on StreamingMedia.com after we remove the hyperbole. Sooner or later, we figure, the market will separate the bona fides from the baloney; as a news source, it’s not up to us to prejudge which is which. Besides, as the great pitcher Satchel Paige once said, "It ain’t bragging if it’s true," and there have got to be some truths amongst all the claims that are mere marketing hype.
But when we get a chance to actually spend some time with the technology—well, that’s a different story, and what’s the use of having so-called "expert" contributing editors and writers if they’re not going to help our readers zero in on the the things that might actually be worth their money? So, for the second year, we’ve polled those writers to find out their picks for the best, coolest, or just most noteworthy products and services to appear in the last year. You’ll note that a few of them are still in beta; their appearance here is a testament to the track record of the companies behind them, successful testing of the pre-release versions, or both. Maybe in a year we’ll look back and wonder what we were thinking, but my guess is that all of them will still be going strong.
Still, caveat emptor. Don’t take our word for it—test, compare, and make the best purchasing decision for your needs. And to all of our "picks," congratulations—but keep in mind something else Satchel Paige said: "Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you."
As part of a complete overhaul of its Production Studio suite—which also includes Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and After Effects—Adobe built a brand new audio-editing and soundtrack creation application. We know what you’re thinking: "Aren’t there plenty of those on the market already?" We thought the same thing, until we saw the way Adobe approached Soundbooth—through the eyes and ears of a video editor rather than those of an audio specialist, which means its tools resemble those in Photoshop rather than those in Audition, Adobe’s professional audio tool. The best of the bunch is Soundbooth’s equivalent of the healing brush, which allows users to visually "paint over" unwanted sounds. It’s in beta until April 2007, but it sure looks like it’ll be worth the wait.
Say you’ve got a website devoted to the interests of aviation professionals and hobbyists. Say you want to increase the site’s value to users (and its revenue potential for you) by adding aviation news video from across the globe, but don’t have the budget to create a worldwide network of aviation news reporters and production crews. Enter Clip Syndicate, a division of television search company Critical Mention. Clip Syndicate is just what it sounds like—a video clip syndication service that gives customers access to content from the Associated Press, Bloomberg Television, Clear Channel Televison, and other sources. Customers either pay per clip or earn 5% of the revenue from ads that Clip Syndicate sells and includes in the clip. And the service just got better, with RSS alerts and automatic publishing based on predetermined filters.
DoubleClick DART Motif for In-Stream Advertising
DoubleClick has long been the gold standard for serving, targeting, reporting, and forecasting display and rich media ads online. DART Motif for In-Stream Advertising offers a multitude of metrics—including average view times, full-screen views, mutes, midpoints, pauses, and restarts—out of the gate, as well as a number of video effects like telescoping, clickable video, and bugs that float on top of the video content.
Inlet Technologies Semaphore Pro 2
Inlet founder and CEO Neal Page is no stranger to innovation; after all, he was behind the introduction of the Osprey encoding card back in 1994. With Inlet, he’s still pushing the encoding envelope with Fathom, but the company’s biggest advance so far has been in the realm of video quality control. Semaphore software allows video content publishers and broadcasters to automate their quality control process with customized analysis criteria, automatic processing via a watch folder, and clear, concise reporting as well as a graphical representation of the frames at the bottom of the GUI to indicate bandwidth spikes and other data.
Microsoft Expression Media
Sometimes, a product announcement is as important for what it signifies as for the product itself. That’s certainly the case with Microsoft’s Expression Media. Announced in December and hopefully available by the time this publication is in your hands, Expression Media is a powerful asset management tool that’s compatible with more than 100 media formats and provides off-line access to visual catalogs, which means that users can search their files without having to be logged into the server on which the media is stored. It also includes Expression Media Encoder, a separate but integrated app that allows for encoding Windows Media formats in the background or on parallel workstations. Good enough, but just as valuable is that the announcement strongly suggests that, after years of treating video as a second-class citizen, Microsoft is once again making it a high priority. That’s good news for Microsoft, but it’s great news for Windows Media customers.
Digital Rapids StreamZ Servers
Contributing editor Tim Siglin summed it up best in his review in the September issue of Streaming Media (pp. 76–77): "If your workflow requires both a transcoding and an encoding solution, and speed is paramount, strongly consider putting the StreamZ on your short list." With support for all major formats, and available in multiple configurations—including digital/analog and HD models—the StreamZ series of servers are perhaps the most versatile and powerful out there.
Sling Media SlingCatcher
Apple TV might have gotten all the attention during the week that marked both Macworld and CES this year, but Sling Media’s SlingCatcher was the really hot news. While Apple TV can send your iTunes content to your TV, it leaves any other video trapped on your desktop or in your laptop. Not the SlingCatcher, which is the first tool that will make it easy for the average consumer to take any downloaded or streamed video and watch in on a television screen. Now comes the real work for SlingMedia: getting content partners and all those average consumers to notice.