Monday, November 2, 2009

Five ways to make your own live web tv!

Back at the turn of the century things were so messy - some friends were playing around with Icecast and similar contraptions to do streaming live web radio but someone was always lagging in the streaming, there was never enough upstream bandwidth to host any large audiences (read: three is a crowd already) and since it was tricky to announce a show hosts were speaking to empty halls most of the time anyway. Oh, and usually the shows were not usually (certainly not automatically) archived and hosted for perusal by late-comers.

Probably it was in late 2005, I even recall the setting when I saw the first article about Youtube and thought it seemed like a stupid idea, how could they ever attempt to house, and even less broadcast all that video?! Video, even the shortest clip you had tried to play around with, VCD's, MPEG4's and DVD-R, storage of it all and crap, it was just impossible to imagine to do it for a large crowd - over the web?! Hah.

Seriously, I was so wrong. The culture and technology surrounding "Web 2.0" of the last couple years has changed all of these factors. Chris Anderson's principle of "rapidly diminishing marginal costs" enabled Youtube, there is always a service there to host and process your data as well as willingly expose it to other sites, the same sites in which you broadcast your message to rapidly gather your friends as an audience as well as to spread the word when you have just found something great looking for an audience. Somehow... it just happened, and for those who don't touch twitter, facebook, google reader, etc., it must be very hard to grasp. But it has changed things, for sure.

Today, a large part of the radio or TV I enjoy is provided as podcasts or other live streaming online. Sometimes I measure widespread acceptance of technologies by how much my family are spontaneously using it - and judging from the appreciation when I send them a bambuser link to some debate they are interested in, or they go online for the replay of the show they missed, the gap between common mass media (sw. "gammelmedia") and user-generated content is closing. You can have a pretty successful radio or TV show nowadays without ever touching an ether wave except whatever is necessary for transmitting the IP protocol. My friend Björn Falkevik is using Bambuser (it is a common mistake to identify him with this Swedish/Finnish web startup) to prove this with their excellent reoccurring show "Sweet Sunday Web Crunch", and indeed it has become so easy, and so good, the sky and your imagination is the limit for what you can achieve with web video! Not with such high ambitions, but just to prove how easy it was to do it, I recorded a small clip:

The cool thing distinguishing Bambuser from Youtube is that it is live. When it's live, and you have an event with a reasonable audience, it opens up for the opportunity of a backchannel - a chat or similar way for the audience to comment and participate in the content. This can create extremely interesting dynamics - certainly one reason for why CNN chose to broadcast the Obama inauguration in collaboration with facebook.

Doing live streaming video well is a bit tricky to do well, but there are several options available for you to play around with, here are some:
Using slightly different methods but the same principles, Christian Rudolf of shows that with a whiteboard and a videocamera you can baffle the world:

Regardless if you choose to bite the bullet and contribute something of your own or stand in the audience, I think you will agree with me that this is exciting opportunities indeed.

Since quite some time I have been experimenting with transcoding and ripping online content (all with the justification of your liberty to enjoy content in the format you choose… and that post really ought to be updated) and recently I have been doing some transcoding actually using the Videolan VLM server for work. It's really cool! But it's also tricky - we're doing flash video to the web browser (to be played by a flash based video player like flowplayer) but VLC supports only HTTP pseudo-streaming it seems, and we're dreading moving to Red5 or similar for proper RTMP streaming. Not to mention if we want to start replaying and managing archived streams… Phew, seems I always end up at the bleeding edge of technologies!

( PS. Yes, five ways :-) )


Christian said...

I have had a blogpost in my head for some time with the headline "with a Twitteraccount and a wordpressinstallation you can baffle the world"

When I read your blogpost i realise I have to rename it "with a Twitteraccount, videocam and a wordpressinstallation you can baffle the world"

Carl-Johan Sveningsson said...

So true, so true... especially after listening to the soothing greyhat twitter magic of Jesper :-)

Anyway, just to be willing to face a video camera with any sort of quality production quickly distinguish you from the crowd and your message gets heard so much more!