The Agency Record Blog

Catching Up with Carter Harkins, Part 1

We spend a lot of time writing about our individual levels and areas of expertise, but this time, I wanted Carter Harkins to express himself through a series of questions and answers. He has a pretty varied background, and it was a lot of fun to pick his brain. Here is part 1 of my interview with him.

Jonathan Sanders: How did you get started providing Audio/Video services for the web?

Carter Harkins: I am a musician from way back, and I play keyboard/synthesizer, so I have always been pretty connected to the technical side of the arts. When the world wide web came along in the 90’s, I immediately got interested in how computers could be used to musically collaborate across distances. These days, it’s no big deal for a bass player to lay down his part in Chicago one day, and put it on the web for the saxophone player in London to add his part. But back then it was The Holy Grail.

Video came later as I started experimenting with digital imagery as part of marketing musicians I worked with.  And at some point, I realized that I had the skills to be able to handle the audiovisual web for clients, so I just hung out my shingle and opened for business. It’s been a lot of fun, from the early days until now, growing into a full-service marketing firm people are taking seriously.

JS: Are there any common misconceptions about how audio/video works online?

CH: There are a LOT of small technical things that, if not understood properly, can add up to something that sounds or looks awful.  I’ve done a lot of podcasting for clients, and the number one misconception is that the audiences are all listening on iPods. They aren’t. They listen in front of their computers on those dinky little monitor-mounted speakers. So engineering the sound for that environment means that my recordings always sound better to people.

In video there are still way too many codecs and formats for the web, and people tend to only publish their video for the platform they own (PC or MAC), ignoring the other platform entirely. If the video is going to be seen on the web, I go with Flash video, because it is completely cross-platform, and the only format that in natively installed on about 98% of all computers worldwide.  Mobile content is another story these days, so lately we are encoding videos in multiple formats, aimed at and optimized for the devices that are popular today.

But perhaps the biggest misconception about a/v content on the web is that you can do whatever you want to with it. Copyright laws have NOT kept up with the internet explosion, and technology makes it super-easy to rip music and download videos, but just because you can do those things so easily doesn’t mean that it’s legal.

JS: There are a lot of web video standards now, with H.264 being a particularly strong competitor to Flash. Nonetheless, Flash is still the most used format for video on the web. Where do you see Adobe taking it?

CH: Flash now utilizes the “H-dot” standard natively, so there’s no real competition there any longer.  What has always made the Flash environment more interesting to me than other ways of doing video is how it can use video in a rich, data-driven way to deliver user experiences that are built around visual content.  In these applications, video is just the content that fuels other interactions.  HTML5 is starting to touch on these tools now as well, but Flash has been doing it for years.

We have begun to see the full version of Flash supported on phones, tablets and handheld devices this year. That opens up an entirely new playground of fun to be had. Even with Apple and the Flashless iPad and iPhone exploding in popularity, and HTML5 standards making many of the features of Flash less attractive in the browser, Adobe doesn’t seem to be resting on the fact that it has always had market dominance. Things change fast in the online space, so Adobe is still pushing the envelope. It’s still a strong contender for multimedia applications.

Stay tuned for more of this interview.

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