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Forbidden Technologies Brings Cloud Editing To Brightcove Users

Users of Brightcove’s online video platform are now able to edit video using Forbidden Technologies’ web-based application FORscene.

The deal is the latest in a series of expansive moves for Forbidden as this innovative UK company looks to exploit a potentially massive business in cloud-based video creation.

In the U.S., Forbidden is perhaps better known through graphics giant Chyron, with whom it has a marketing arrangement. FORscene is integrated into Chyron’s web-based graphics system Axis.

Crucial to Brightcove is that searchable metadata added in FORscene can be published with the video and used to direct targeted advertising.

"When content is logged in FORscene prior to editing, those same keywords come up automatically in a Google search so there’s no need to duplicate time writing keywords," explains Forbidden chief executive, Stephen Streater. "Published content is directed automatically as H.264 to the Brightcove platform for multi-resolution compression and hosting in the user's channel."

Streater demonstrated this with a search of the words "Cathedral Assisi Clock" which threw up a link to Forbidden’s consumer editing solution Clesh. This appeared number one of over 90,000 listing on Google.com. Clicking on Clesh displays the video, under which are a number of keywords related to the content that were input during the logging process.

"By increasing the accuracy of targeted advertising, this metadata provides added value to video content," he says.

Forbidden’s platform, based on a proprietary compression technology dubbed Blackbird, is gaining traction among the professional media community partly because of new functionality and codec improvements, and partly as cloud computing enters the lexicon of mainstream production.

"We have 1500-2000 hours a day of professional content going through our platform, and around a million hours of content in total since we started," says Streater. "That figure has significantly accelerated in the last couple of years."

The application has a Java front end so it can be installed in a wide number of corporate environments and runs on Mac, PC, or Linux. It is described as offering frame-accurate logging and editing as well as tools for color correction and eight-track audio.

Video can be uploaded straight from acquisition and logged by teams at another location. That metadata can then be used to begin rough scene crafting or specific shot selection, instantly available to work with online, and speeding up the lengthy and expensive process of tape-based workflows. An HD option will upload frames at anything up to 1080p to be conformed at full resolution on a FORscene server.

Broadcasters and independent TV production companies are increasingly using cloud-based web applications such as this. Streater says that for productions distributed solely online, FORscene is already being employed for fine cut editing.

"There are several genres like reality shows or observational documentaries which could be craft edited on FORscene for broadcast today," he claims. "Broadcasting is a very conservative industry. It is only just moving from tape. It took 40 years to move from SD to HD. while in the online world it took just a couple of years to make the same advance."

Forbidden boasts 2000 regular users worldwide, among them the U.S.-based Broadcast Interactive Media, which syndicates web-based video content to news channels nationwide.

UK producer CTVC recently used the software to post-produce four programs destined for ITV. An editor based in New Zealand cut sequences that were exported in Advanced Authoring Format (AAF) files to London, where CTVC conformed them before finishing on an Avid. Endemol's UK subsidiary Initial has also used the technology for the production of Football’s Next Star for Sky One.

A licensing arrangement for the technology plus storage costs £100 ($157) a month per concurrent user in the UK (which includes 100 hours of storage) or $4500 a year in the U.S.

Streater is the brains behind Forbidden. While completing a doctorate in artificial pattern recognition he co-founded Eidos, a data compression company that went on to develop a nonlinear editing system and acquire the Tomb Raider and Lara Croft games properties.

He pocketed a £4 million ($6.3m) stake (famously he only invested £4 or $6) and founded Forbidden in 1996, which floated on AIM in 2000 at the tail end of the dot com bubble valuing the firm at £188m ($296m). It refocused from video streaming to video editing when it launched the FORscene product in 2004 at a time when many people ridiculed the idea that professional video editing would ever be conducted online.

Today’s market capitalization is substantially lower, at around £14 million ($22m). In the first six months to June 2009 (the latest available figures) it posted sales of £138,774 ($218,748) which was nonetheless 344% up on the same period a year earlier.

Having concentrated on B2B, Forbidden now plans to widen its consumer proposition. "With 2 billion mobile camera phones in the marke,t imagine the scope for editing," says Streater.

It is also trialing a new codec, called Osprey, which delivers loss free compression and is claimed to eliminate the generational loss caused by putting footage through conventional editing systems.

Arguably the two kingpins of the professional post-production industry, Apple and Avid, stand most to lose if FORscene and similar collaborative editing environments from the likes of Cinegy and Maximum Throughput were to take off.

That’s one reason Avid bought Maximum Throughput last July (at the same time it enquired about a purchase of Forbidden).

According to Streater, "Avid’s problem is that we can do all the work of a normal Avid machine at a fraction of the cost, and if it were to develop a web-editing application it would cannibalize its own product sales."

One virtue of cloud-based tools is that they can be accessed by any machine, which may make the decision to purchase an Apple for purely editing work a little redundant.

"Any company that wants to get into cloud-based professional editing has to start with designing a codec," says Streater. "We needed control of the compression technology for editing where you need random access and real-time rendering of effects. MPEG-based codecs won’t work. Wavelet technologies use up too much CPU time. We have over a decade’s expertise in making it work."

Broadcast and post facilities that have made a business from large capital investment in equipment may need to rethink. If craft talent can work on material anywhere, perhaps the post resource of the future will be less a destination than a brand that manages a dispersed collection of individuals.

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