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Workshops Kick Off Streaming Media East 2004

If there was one theme to which Mack kept returning, it was "use a tripod." "Even if you’re a 30-year veteran professional camera guy, just by having a heartbeat you’re moving the camera," he said. "And every little bit of camera movement means more pixels for the codec to deal with."

The afternoon session on Monday was led by Nico "Nico" McLane, president of On-Demand, Inc. She used her 8 years of experience in producing events for streaming delivery to give a presentation entitled "Interactive Streaming Media Technologies in Action." From the beginning, McLane informed the audience that she wasn’t going to rehash what Mack already said: this was a session that best served those with prior streaming experience. She split the presentation into three scenarios: a weekly update with audio and slides from behind a firewall; a monthly video message; and a large scale, interactive event.

Nico McLaneBefore getting into the specifics of each scenario, McLane gave a host of helpful tidbits to anyone charged with setting up a streaming event. "The first thing you need to know is what your connectivity is," says McLane. She recommends using a simple netstat command in DOS to accomplish this. Much of her emphasis during the set-up phase revolved around what she calls her "streaming certification ritual," which consisted of a checklist of hardware and software issues that she goes through one by one before every event to assure that everything works. She also stressed the importance of understanding the environment from and to which you are streaming; you need to take your audience’s connection speeds and expectations into consideration to create an effective event. And with the omnipresent Murphy’s law always in play, McLane strongly suggested overestimating the time and budget that it will take to set up an event.

While attended by a near-capacity crowd of about 120, these numbers worked against McLane, who expected to be leading a small, how-to, hands-on workshop. Even still, her jerry-rigged HP Media Center edition desktop (equipped with a Simulstream-enabled Osprey 230 video card) passed muster, providing a multi-bitrate, multi-format encoding platform for under $2000.

McLane’s format of choice comes from her largest client, JPMorgan Chase, for whom she produces a variety of streaming events on a Real system. Much of this session could have doubled as a Real encoder tutorial, as she stuck with the single format for all of her examples. For some, this highly technical, program-specific information wasn’t applicable to their jobs/interests but as time went on they felt more at ease asking specific questions about problems that they had faced in the real world. Throughout the session, McLane answered capably and comfortably as this back-and-forth Q&A style was a better fit for her laid-back, personable presenting style.

(In a third workshop, Creative Bubble senior engineer Jens Loeffler focused on the new streaming possibilities offered by Macromedia’s Flash Player. Unfortunately, we were unable to provide coverage of that session, although audience feedback was almost universally positive.)

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