23 Comments

Summary:

Anyone who has watched YouTube — and who hasn’t — knows that the short-form video that currently breaks up the monotony of a work day simply sucks. The quality of the video shown in tiny windows is maybe okay for giggles, but can get quite tiresome […]

Anyone who has watched YouTube — and who hasn’t — knows that the short-form video that currently breaks up the monotony of a work day simply sucks. The quality of the video shown in tiny windows is maybe okay for giggles, but can get quite tiresome after a few minutes.

Enter HD web video. While some companies, like DivX, have tried to their hand at offering higher resolution web videos, it is still an exotic curiosity. However, that will soon change, mostly due to technical progress being made either in the labs or by some start-ups.

Over the weekend, the news broke that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Clear Communications co-founder Red McCombs invested in a start-up called HotSwap. For now full of car videos, the site was started by UC Berkeley students, and demonstrates their digital compression technology for boosting the quality of online videos.

If companies like HotSwap are attacking the compression technologies, Adobe has taken steps to make Flash HD-happy. (Check out this video to get a better idea of where Flash is headed.)

And while these developments unfold, there are other good reasons to expect better-quality video: the falling prices of video streaming and looming price wars in the CDN business. At present, standard-resolution streaming costs up to 15 cents an hour, but there are P2P hybrids from the likes of CacheLogic that can lower that to 6 cents an hour. CacheLogic is boasting that it can do HD video over regular 6 megabit connections.

“Web video is entering its third era, TV quality,” writes our good friend and broadband pundit, Dave Burstein in his latest newsletter, DSL Prime. “Costs to deliver video are coming down 70-90% over the next 12 months if you can accept a delay of a few seconds.”

I, for one, am happy to dream about higher-quality video. Nothing like Filipino prisoners performing Thriller in near-HD quality!

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  1. As youtube is way less than standard PAL (or NTSC) resolution (SD), HD currently is a step too far: an upgrade to SD would be a first step in the right direction.

  2. This is a double-edged sword — since, improvement in the resolution being pushed through will only INCREASE showing off the generally poor quality of most internet video — whatever flaws are inherent to the original shoot, are only magnified.

    Even for professional content in this space, due to budgets, there can be problems. For example, if you originate in HD, you’ll need a make-up artist who has experience in this area, and, they can often charge a premium (in excess of what most budgets can afford). But, the alternative, is showing every facial blemish imaginable (and, that becomes the focus of the end user, because it’s SO NOTICEABLE). Nearly everyone will need to migrate to 24p, in order to derive some visual texture and quality (and, those cameras cost more, etc.)…

    UGC and professional content are actually deriving some benefits from the low-resolution/crap bit rates and smaller frames, in terms of “forgivability.”

    Will the “HD upgrade” be what kills the watchability of UGC? Or, will we all get used to nightmarish detail levels we never wanted to see in the first place?

  3. GigaOM Nanosolar, Web HD Video & Personal Productivity « Monday, July 30, 2007

    [...] The quality of the video shown in tiny windows is maybe okay for giggles, but can get quite tiresome after a few minutes. Enter HD web video. Is Web Video ready for an HD upgrade? [...]

  4. Dan Rayburn Monday, July 30, 2007

    Hi Om, standard-resolution streaming, for one hour, at 300kbps, on average costs only 3 cents per hour for the major studios. anyone who is paying 15, is getting ripped off and not paying the going rate. so cachelogic and others will need to do a lot better in pricing if they are going to be raising content providers delivery bills.

  5. Dave Burstein Monday, July 30, 2007

    Om

    Thanks for including me in your reporting.

    Dan, in the previous comment, and I, actually agree. To reach standard definition (SD) like decent cable TV requires 1.2 meg to 2.0 meg at state of the art MPEG4 encoding rates. So his three cents an hour quote for 300K (YouTube-like) is nearly exactly the same as the fifteen cents an hour I quoted for SD. At 6 meg HD rates, I’m finding traditional pricing at something like 30-50 cents an hour today, again matching what Dan (who’s the expert on this) is seeing.

     We'd all be very happy to see the jump to 1.5-2 meg from where we are today, and I believe Liz has already reported on ABC's beta at 1.9 meg. I believe that's one of the first of the new generation, hybrid p2p , server technologies (More Networks) and exactly what I see coming soon. Going from there to HD is going to be a step only for the adventurous, but the technology and economics are ready.
    

    The higher demands for HD production mentioned in another comment are real, so HD isn’t for everyone. Even some programs at major stations haven’t swutiched. But for all those with movies and HD content, including all the netowrks, good to know they can deliver it to you. A surprising number of “little guys” are also shooting in HD, with some amazingly good cameras from $2,000 to $9,000. Jennie took her $3,000 Sony FX-1 to a fashion show and found herself shooting HD side by side with a major cable network using the same camera.

    Chips like Ambarella will be bringing true HD cameras down to under $1,000 next year. With care and skill, they'll be great. 99% will continue to be garbage, as your commenter notes.
    

    db

  6. Le News del 31.7.2007 | tommaso.tessarolo Monday, July 30, 2007

    [...] Il video online è pronto per l’HD? L’Alta Definizione vedrà nella rete il vettore di trasporto per eccellenza. Nuovi algoritmi di compressione, la diffusione del P2P faranno si che a breve comincerà a nascere una nutrita offerta di contenuti NETV in HD. (tags: HD altadefinizione Highdefinition video online nettv) [...]

  7. Hi,

    I think the dollars raised by the likes of Joost, Veoh, Babelgum, etc. also goes a long way to show how much the tech and media industry at large are gearing up for enhanced viewing on the web. I think the market is truly ready for online HD and will pay for it.

    Have any of you tried ABC’s latest offering – their HD channel on the ABC Full Episode Player? It is truly amazing! They are streaming full 1080p at 1280 x 720 resolution. I’ve read about that for some time now but they actually pulled it off!

    As they use MOVE networks, it will throttle the bitrate based on your hardware and bandwidth but ABC has built a cool HD meter that indicates if you’re actually getting the full resolution. I was quite impressed this weekend when I saw it.

    Thanks OM. As always.

    Sav

  8. The “start-up called HotSwap” uses DivX, so what’s the point?

  9. I too was wondering where HotSwap’s “technology” is.

    It seems that P2P CDNs don’t support Flash (or Flash doesn’t support them, whatever), so this may be a roadbump on the way to bandwidth nirvana.

  10. Comparativley I’m pretty impressed with what DivX has done with Stage6.com. Quality wise it far excels passed YouTube, it has solid content and could serve as a good platform. Granted it has a few bugs, but for qualities sake, its HD streaming is right up there.

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