Monday, January 09, 2006

Windows Media Streaming

I'm having to dive into the Windows Media world for a live event site. Winnercomm's core business is sports television production and they are the largest provider of outside content to ESPN. One of their clients would like to show the preliminary rounds as a pay event. Makes a lot of sense since the gear is already there for the final rounds which are broadcast.

While I've done projects with Flash Communication Server and Quicktime, I haven't paid much attention to the Windows Media side. This project needs to be higher quality than Flash can deliver live and there is some interest in leveraging Microsoft's DRM. Personally I think the DRM needs are overstated but it's not my call.

The live Flash based streaming is really a disappointing situation. The new Flash 8 codec from On2 is high enough quality and it would be great to leverage the other Flash Media Server features but there is no way to use the new codec in a live situation. The older codec is not very good quality on live material and in live mode is really designed for video conferencing. I think Macromedia assumed the main use of flashcomm would be for business apps (like their own Breeze platform) and not for online broadcasts. The biggest problem is that the speed of the video fluctuates and the audio changes pitch as it tries to catch up after the bandwidth chokes up. This makes sense in a videoconference where you are trying to keep a conversation synced up but is awful for an event broadcast. If the event has music it is a disaster.

I've heard that On2 is working on a live solution but it doesn't look like it will be ready in time for us to use it. By the time it comes out we'll probalby be entrenched on Windows Media for this project at least. I'm a big fan of how the Flash Media Server is architected with support for server side coding and the additional push features like Shared Objects so I wish we could have used it.


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6:08 PM  

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