Thing is, clichés usually become cliches because they're true, because they capture a notion that's worth reminding ourselves of when we lose focus on what's really important. So there, I've used it, pride be damned, because it's the phrase that kept coming back to me when given the charge of writing this inaugural STUDIO STREAMING, the newest addition to EMedia's roster of columns.
Those of you who've been following EMedia from the beginning remember the days when the titular "media" referred to the tangible, physical kind. First as Laserdisk Professional, then as CD-ROM Professional, then as EMedia Professional and finally EMedia, the magazine made its name by presenting an authoritative voice on all manner of optical media, with a heavy focus on standards, disc mastering, replication, duplication, and drives. Back in the 1990s, that was exciting stuff.
It still is, for those who are professionally invested in those market sectors. But a funny thing happened on the way to the new millennium: DVD authoring came to the masses, and those doing the authoring were as likely to be jack-of-all-trades post-production professionals as they were specialized, spec-steeped authors. So EMedia expanded its purview to take in the entirety of the digital studio, donning and doffing their producer, editor, effects creator, and author hats as the needs of their varied projects demanded.
A similar sea change had affected the world of streaming media. Ten years ago, it was the domain of tech-savvy engineers obsessed with bits, byteSTUDIO STREAMING will help you ask the right questions and make sense of both "big picture" topics as well as more hands-on, "How do I get it done?" concerns. s, codecs, and protocols. Streaming media was cool, but watching a postage stamp-sized video clip on a computer monitor was more dazzling for what was going on inside the machine than what was playing on the screen. Today, however, the ubiquity of eminently watchable streaming media means that even if everyone isn't creating and delivering their content online, just about everyone with a PC is watching it. And now, with easy access to encoders and players, you'd be hard-pressed to find a digital studio pro or videographer who isn't at least thinking about how to harness the tremendous power of straight-to-desktop video.
Of course, just as there are many folks still obsessed with the never-ending DVD format wars, there are many in the streaming community for whom the choice of codec is a matter of near-religious commitment. Just ask EMedia contributing editor Jan Ozer, who sparked a firestorm of controversy among StreamingMedia.com's readership when he had the gall to declare that "MPEG-4 is dead."
For most of us, however, what's really exciting is that streaming media is finally yielding some return on investment, whether it's for event videographers who use it to promote their business by putting samples of their work on the Web [see "Streaming for Videographers" in the August issue], independent filmmakers who do evade traditional Hollywood distribution channels by taking their work online, or corporate communications pros who use rich media as a way to reach more people for less money.
All of which is the long way of explaining the time is right for EMedia and its readers to pay more attention. STUDIO STREAMING will examine the issues, trends, and challenges in the world of streaming media as they apply to the videographers and post-production crowd that's now embracing streaming as an
indispensable weapon in their formidable arsenal of ways to get their content to their customers. You won't read much here about algorithms and architectures. If you're looking for that—and here comes the shameless plug—you can always visit the Web site I edit, StreamingMedia.com, which covers all aspects of the industry. But even at StreamingMedia.com we've seen a market reaction similar to what the DVD industry has finally figured out: end users and content creators don't much care about whether the media is +R or -R; they just want it to work.
As StreamingMedia.com assistant editor Geoff Daily reports in his news feature in this month's EMedia, "Player Penetration by the Numbers," enough consumers now have most or all of the major players (QuickTime, Real, Windows Media, Macromedia Flash) that the issue of which format to use is nowhere near as important as making sure the content you deliver is produced to maximize streaming's benefits (quick, easy access) and minimize its drawbacks (compared to DVD, it's still lousy for high-motion sequences). "As long as consumers can enjoy the content they want, at a high enough quality, when and where they want it, they won't care," Daily writes. "This is the ultimate goal, regardless of what codec you use to deliver your content."
Beyond content production lie the even bigger issues—and greater challenges: How can you use streaming media to improve your bottom line? What's the best way to protect your content from unauthorized use? Which tools and service providers can best satisfy your particular needs? How do you put together a live webcast? And how can you tap into the ongoing PC/CE convergence to get the biggest delivery bang for your buck?
STUDIO STREAMING will help you ask the right questions and make sense of both "big picture" topics as well as more hands-on, "How do I get it done?" concerns.
And we'll try to stay away from clichés.