Posts tagged with ‘flash’

Catching Up with Carter Harkins, Part 2

I’m back with part 2 of my conversation with Carter Harkins. Here we talk more about what a client should think about with their video, and how the different video formats work both online and with mobile technologies.

Jonathan Sanders: What are considerations potential clients must take into account when thinking about adding a/v to their website?

Carter Harkins: Audio and video are sometimes viewed as being expensive, but the initial costs will provide many years of continued value for the business that uses them. In order to make the most of an online video strategy, I like to help my clients think about offline ways the same content could be used, or to see if there is a strategy that makes sense for purposing the same content across multiple marketing channels and projects.  This way of thinking helps to unify the brand message, and keeps costs considerably lower while increasing opportunities for exposure across many additional mediums.  It’s a large commitment to deploy video on a web site, but the returns have been huge for several of our clients.

More than just offering video production services, we are content strategists.  It’s about the process of evaluating the core activities of a business, and devising a plan to put video to work in roles such as making more sales, answering more customer questions, and telling powerfully motivating stories, among other things.

JS: Are there any formats you prefer to work with (.mov, .wmv, .flv, etc.)? What formats do you find to be more reliable?

CH: I think I let the answer to that slip out in a previous question, but yes, .flv is still my format of choice for web-browser-destined video. I use .mov and .wmv for other purposes, but usually more as an intermediate format for client approval or personal offline use.

This is probably getting a bit geeky now, but since it taps into your previous question about the future of Flash, I must say I am thrilled that Adobe has baked in the H.264 codec for HD quality video at super-low file sizes. I have been amazed at how good some of these large-format videos appear at full resolution, and it really does show that Adobe gets it, and is responding to the changes in its marketplace.

JS: To enable web video we’ve tried faster connections and more compressed video. Now that more services (Hulu, Netflix, Amazon.com, etc.) are streaming long format video, what do you think needs to be done to improve the experience? Do you think we need an upgrade in network infrastructure or more innovative compression techniques?

CH: Perhaps a little of both.  Streaming technologies become much more important for long-format video, so that viewers can jump around quickly to different sections of the linear timeline without having to download the entire file first.  Again, Flash excels here, in my opinion.

There are certainly a lot of companies, both established and startups alike, that are putting their best minds to work on the issues of content delivery.  As “out of the box” TV moves more and more into the mainstream of viewing habits, I anticipate that we’ll start to see motherboards with dedicated HD video chipsets. This would keep the decode/encode load off the main processor, and provide a better viewing experience for most users without sophisticated and expensive after-market video cards. It would also mean that smaller, highly compressed HD video files would be possible for real-time viewing at full resolution without the typical “hiccups” encountered on playback of certain compression schemas, including Flash in the browser.

JS: How have mobile technologies affected audio/video development for the web?

CH: It’s been a pretty profound shift.  We now sometimes maintain several file versions of the same video content, in order to deliver the best experience to each viewer, depending on their device (Android, iOS, WindowsMobile, etc.).  Social video sites are also doing this automatically with uploaded videos now.  The mobile revolution we see unfolding is making it easier to watch video anywhere, anytime, but for content producers, it has made publishing for all these new devices a lot more strategic and labor-intensive. Safeguarding a unified viewing experience across so many devices, screen sizes and resolutions is a myth.  We just stay with industry best practices for each device right now.

Having said that, I am hopeful about the future of mobile internet devices.  When I put my entrepreneur/innovator hat on, I see a lot of opportunity right now.  Seriously, this is a good time to be building apps in the mobile video space.  Know any investors that I should be friends with?

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.