Fox is releasing a so-called hypertrailer for its hit show Glee today that allows viewers to friend characters of the show on Facebook right within the video player while watching a preview for an upcoming episode. The key to this integration of additional web content within the player environment is technology by San Francisco-based start-up Coincident.tv, which is slated to officially launch at the NAB Show in Las Vegas later this month.
Coincident.tv’s CEO David Kaiser called the Glee trailer “very short and modest” when I talked to him on the phone late last week. However, the technology under the hood is pretty interesting, and it could be used to one day not only enrich video on the web and various devices, but actually to add another dimension to transmedia storytelling and make the experience of watching shows like Lost or Flash Forward much more immersive.
Coincident.tv has essentially developed an XML-based metadata framework dubbed Cue Point Language that makes it possible to add additional content, links or even various types of actions to any predefined point of a video. Cue Point Language is meant to be platform-agnostic, so one could imagine using this within a PC-based web browser, on a set-top box or even a mobile device.
At this point, the company is concentrating on Flash, but it has already done some proof-of-concept implementations in HTML5 as well, and it has ported its player to Android devices. Cue points are saved in a file separate from the video data, and adding them to clips can be done with an editor that Kaiser described as similar to Premiere or Final Cut, or with the help of a Perl library.
So how does all of this look in practice? Kaiser gave me a demo of various implementations that the company has been using to pitch its technology to Hollywood and beyond, and one example that he said went really well with the studio crowd was an application that enhances episodes of a TV show with additional material — for example, documentary clips explaining the fashion or the politics of the time in which a show is set. “It’s very much a DVD-like experience,” Kaiser explained, with the obvious difference being that DVD extras are static content, whereas this solution not only makes it possible to dynamically add new content, but actually to also add new episodes of the show as the season progresses. Think of it as a desktop application that offers you a season pass to a show, complete with added extras.
Another reason Coincident.tv that could be very compelling to Hollywood is its ability to add text messaging and robo-call features to online content. Kaiser demoed a clip that featured a character sending a text message, and seconds later a message appeared on my phone. The same could be done with a robo-call. I know, sounds annoying at first, but think for a second about the possibilities.
What if a show like Flash Forward that features a very complex storyline, with lots of clues along the way, called some of its most hardcore fans just as they’re watching the scene of a main character receiving a phone call, only to give them the exclusive chance to hear the other side of the conversation that is not featured in the video itself? Calling people while the show is on TV doesn’t make sense in the age of Hulu and Tivo, but cue point-based actions could help to break down the fourth wall and possibly even enhance Alternate Reality Games like the ones previously built around shows like Lost and Heroes.
Kaiser also told me that he sees a lot of potential in enriching educational and corporate videos, but it looks like Hollywood will be first to embrace Coincident.tv. The company is scheduled to announce further partnerships later this month.
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