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Streaming Media's Gear of the Year, 2014-15

The 12 products and technologies described in this article reflect what four of our writers found when they unraveled the industry developments of the past 12 months and picked Streaming Media's Gear of the Year.

In his new novel, The Poser, Jacob Rubin introduces Giovanni Bernini, an unsettling young man who becomes famous for his unique gift: the uncanny ability to perfectly impersonate anyone’s voice, gestures, and bearing within moments of meeting them. Asked by a reporter in the book’s opening scene to explain how he can do what others can’t, Bernini says, “The miracle of the world … is that no one’s disguise is perfect. There is, in every person … a thread curling out of them. It’s like a pimple that rouge cannot cover up, a patch of thinning hair. Often, it’s the almost unnoticed thing that’s the thread: a bit lip, a look askance. But when pulled by the right hands, it will unravel the person entire.”

In a way, Rubin seems to offer “pulling the thread” as a metaphor for what fiction writers do in conveying a simulacrum of an entire person with a few carefully chosen gestures or features. But the idea might even apply to technology magazine reviewers and columnists, when their editors ask them to look beyond the hype, the marketing bluster, the blue-sky predictions, the online pseudo-information glut, the morass of fawning unboxing videos masquerading as reviews, and various other noisy cross-currents, and pull the thread of a complex industry to identify its most significant developments and enduring trends.

This is exactly what I’ve asked three longtime contributors, Anthony Burokas, Shawn Lam, and Tim Siglin to do once again this year in Streaming Media’s second annual “Gear of the Year” feature. I’ve asked them to reflect on the year that’s passed since the last installment—more specifically, since last year’s National Association of Broadcasters conference, when many the video industry’s key vendors introduced technology and products that may or may not have come to market and/or proven their mettle in the intervening months. All of these writers have sifted through the products, tools, and technologies they’ve seen, tested, and implemented over the past year and picked four most likely to change the game or make it flow more smoothly for their fellow online video pros.

In real-world trade magazine writing, “pulling the thread” isn’t quite the exact science (or otherworldly gift) that it is in The Poser. But I have little doubt we’ve got the right hands pulling the thread. The 12 products and technologies described over the next several pages reflect what our writers found when they unraveled the industry developments of the past 12 months and identified Streaming Media’s Gear of the Year.

--Steve Nathans-Kelly

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Rather than tempt you with the Next Big Thing, in this "Gear of the Year" feature we invited three contributing writers—and producers in their own right—to choose four products each, all released in the last year, that have proven themselves indispensable to professional online video production and webcasting workflows, or represent the best currently available choices in their particular category.