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How To Brand Your Video With A Watermark

Brand marks are everywhere. A glance around the office brings Ralph Lauren, Polo, and Tommy Hilfinger to mind. At street level, Nike's swoosh "Just Do It" streaks by without words. Nike founder Phil Knight paid a college student $35 for that doohickey back in 1971. In 2001, Nike's brand equity was estimated at $7 billion by Interbrand and BusinessWeek. Citigroup's red umbrella logo is so valuable that the trademark was deemed a non-negotiable in the 2002 split with Travelers Property Casualty insurance. Like a breast-pocket monogram, the Nike logo, or the NBC peacock, a brand symbol reminds people of what you stand for. Superimposed on a video image, that little semi-transparent watermark provides viewers with instant recognition of the video's source even as it builds further brand awareness.

Streaming media broadcasts can take advantage of watermarking, too. One way to do it is to simply encode it with the source video signal, the same way a TV broadcaster would. Many encoding tools and some video capture cards now include the ability to "burn" a watermark directly and indelibly into an encoded video stream. But if you ever want to remove that burned-in watermark or replace it with a different one (for rebranding of syndicated content, perhaps) you'll be out of luck. Why not leave your video file intact, and overlay your watermark non-destructively at delivery time? After all, one of the unique features of streaming is that it allows you to easily do dynamic assembly of media elements on the fly.

In our example, we'll use the SMIL language to overlay a semi-transparent gif image on top of a video stream that plays in the RealONE player. Since SMIL supports powerful features for interactivity and animation, we'll make things more interesting by adding a couple of interactive features to the example. First, if a user passes the mouse over the watermark it should become opaque – an effect that will look like it's lighting up when moused-over. Secondly, we'll want to let a user click on the watermark to load our Web site in their default browser.

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