This document is a supplement to
Editing for Clear Communication
Copyright 1996-1999,
Thom Lieb

No portion may be reused without the author's permission.

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Further Reading:
Kevin Edwards, "How to Add Video to Your Site," C|NET, 28 October 1997

Steve Outing, "Newspapers and Their Advertisers Take a Liking to Video," Editor and Publisher Interactive, 19 Augut 1997

Wendy Owen, Video Broadcasting 101, Webmonkey, 2 July 1997

Dave Pearce, Streaming Video, Webmonkey, 14 Mar 1997

To learn more about
this college editing textbook or to order
an educational review
copy, please visit
McGraw Hill.


Editing for the Web

Video on the Web

Web users have long been able to access video clips. Until recently, however, doing so required users to download AVI (Windows) and QuickTime (Mac) clips to their computers — slowly, slowly, ever-so-slowly — before they could play them back. It's hard to convey the excitement of waiting an hour to download a video clip that plays back its grainy footage in a teensy window and is over in a few seconds.

Obviously, there had to be a better way to deliver video, and there is. The answer was streaming video. Just as RealAudio clips can start playing audio after delivering just a bit of data to get things going, so too do the latest technologies let video clips begin playing long before the entire file has been transferred.

Not surprisingly, at the forefront of the pioneers in streaming video is the same company that created RealAudio, Real Networks. RealVideo is actually now bundled into a single plug-in player capable of delivering both audio and video. While video transmission is possible over 28.8 modems, RealVideo is designed to take advantage of the new 56,000 bps modems hitting the market, as well as faster cable modem and T1 lines. While other companies have developed competitive streaming video systems, RealVideo has been adopted by C-SPAN, the FOX News Network, Warner Bros. TV and many other major music, news, sports, film, television and business Web producers.

About the best of online sites using RealVideo so far is — no surprise — CNN Interactive. Randy Harber of CNN emailed me that streaming video is redefining how his site uses video. Without streaming video, he noted, "there are time concerns because of bandwidth ... So, just as with television, producers are pushed toward short but dramatic clips." But Harber recounted how the new technology is changing that:

"We ran an interview shot in Moscow with Dr. Michael DeBakey, the famous heart surgery who consulted with the Russians about Boris Yeltsin's quintuple heart bypass. That interview ran eight minutes. We put it all on the server and the end user could look at as much or as little as the user wanted. With downloaded video, no one would consider pulling down eight full minutes of what was basically a talking head."

CNN offers clips in RealVideo as well Microsoft's ASF format. Both formats can be played in Microsoft's free Windows Media Player format.

The latest version of Apple's Quicktime Player also is available for free downloading, and now runs on both Macintosh and Windows platforms. In addition, the player now offers a pseudo-streaming capability — the video begins playing as soon as it begins to download — as well as virtual reality capabilities.

At least three other companies — VDO (VDO Live), Xing Technology (Streamworks) and VivoActive (VideoNow) — offer competing video delivery technologies, but none is a serious challenger to RealNetworks, Microsoft or Apple.

Even with these new technologies, video on the Web offers more promise than immediate benefits. Producers have to struggle to figure out why someone would want go through all the hassles required to watch poor-quality video on a computer screen — turning on the computer, connecting to an Internet service provider, connecting with a Web site, waiting for the initial download — rather than just turning on the big-screen TV in the next room. One of the more effective attempts at using video on the Web is Dissect An Ad from PBS, which lets viewers analyze political ads.

For now, video on the Web poses little threat to television — but future innovations could change that.

Hey — put down that remote!

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