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HomeMovie.com Streams Home Movies for Families of Troops Overseas

Staying in touch with friends and family is a constant struggle for soldiers, especially those stationed on the battlefield in hotspots like Iraq and Afghanistan. While long-distance phone cards are standard issue, local long-distance providers often charge exorbitant connection fees, making phone calls to the U.S. prohibitively expensive. But even when phone calls are priced more reasonably, audio-only communication only goes so far in keeping families in touch, especially when there are children involved.

That’s what drove an online service provider to decide to offer its services free of charge to the families of troops overseas. "About 90 days ago my wife was listening to NPR when she heard about a woman who had an 18-month-old baby and was sent to Iraq," explains John Larsen, HomeMovie.com’s CEO. "My wife said, ‘I can’t imagine having to be over there and not be able to watch my kids grow up.’" So John discussed it with his business partner, CTO Lars Krumme, and they came up with a plan to employ their services in an effort to lessen this unfortunate reality of war for "any troops in Afghanistan or Iraq," says Larsen. "Their friends and family can send in a 30-minute tape, and we’ll encode it and make it available via StreamingDVD."

StreamingDVD is a proprietary format developed by HomeMovie.com that displays streaming video through the same chapter-based user interface as a DVD menu. "We’re not really from the streaming industry to begin with. When we looked at how to allow people to share video online, it seemed like they’d want to do it the same way they use a DVD," says Larsen. "We see DVD as the driving technology behind how people will want to watch video."

This special offer for the troops started on February 14. To get the word out, "we’ve been working with our state senator here in Washington," says Larsen. "And we currently have contact with some of the groups within the Armed Forces that have access to three-quarters of the troops over there." But unless you’ve got a family member or friend in the military or you’re reading this article, you may not hear much about this initiative. "It’s really not a big marketing arena for us, but we thought that this would be a great technology for this application," says Larsen. "It’s our way of helping out and trying to ease some of [the soldiers’] suffering. Sometimes a breath of fresh air from home is just what they need."

HomeMovie.com is a subscription service that receives customers’ home movies on tape, encodes them in the Windows Media format at both 150 and 250kpbs, automatically generates a StreamingDVD of the content with 30 evenly spaced chapters, and then makes this content available through their Afiniti player. Once the video content is available online, users can perform simple edits through the Java and HTML-based player; they can also grab clips from multiple tapes to create brand-new videos. As long as they stay active members, users will have all of their content archived on HomeMovie.com’s servers. Besides offering videos via StreamingDVD, HomeMovie.com users can also author DVDs of their videos through the Afiniti player, creating custom menus and personalized artwork for the DVD and packaging.

HomeMovie.com’s ultimate goal is to "get our platform into every household in America and become the vehicle of the future for deploying your personal video in a secure environment," explains Larsen. "Our strategy for our consumer market is to have a very low threshold for entry. The procrastination effect of having these videos sitting on the shelf and not doing anything with them is a disaster; these tapes are turning into dust." Besides preserving old memories, Larsen hopes that HomeMovie.com can also work towards furthering the acceptance of streaming media. "The whole premise of the company is to provide access to long-format streaming, trying to take the streaming world out of the realm of little clips," says Larsen.

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