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Digital Discussions: Getting on Screens Everywhere

Getting on Screens Everywhere

By Tom Inglesby


Tim Napoleon

The buzzword is “second screen,” but that doesn’t really tell the tale. Producers are looking at many more than two screens to show their work. From theaters to televisions to smartphones and tablets, people are getting their entertainment when and where they want it. So, how do you get your production on all those screens?

Tim Napoleon is chief strategist at AllDigital, (www.alldigital.com), a company that provides both cloud-based services and digital media distribution options. His take is straightforward: “I think at the end of the day the role of the producer, whether you’re a one-person production company or you’re a larger agency, you want to get whatever content you’re creating in front of a target audience. What we’ve seen in the marketplace is that those targeted audiences are moving toward connected devices. Digital once meant getting a clip that would work on your client’s website. Today, clients are asking for content to be in front of their audiences, which means on connected devices, such as smartphones, tablets, desktops, and connected televisions.”

And that can be done how? “People are shooting with such sophisticated equipment today, and they’re creating beautiful HD productions, so they want to maintain that quality across this multitude of screens. That’s where the cloud comes into play.”

The cloud is important because there is a massive amount of processing power needed to take that video and make it play on all of the various screens, Napoleon explained. “We handle the media formatting and then that’s all secured by our infrastructure, our digital cloud. At the end of the day, from a producer’s standpoint, they don’t have to change much. They create one master file and then they can quickly have that available on multiple connected devices.”

People used to plan on a trip to the theater for a movie once a month or once a week. Now we expect to have our entertainment available at a moment’s notice and it better be there, in HD and stereo sound. “Today, users expect something as sophisticated as a Netflix experience, virtually on any device,” admitted Napoleon. “If you want to provide a modern video experience on these connected devices, you have to emulate all the different bit rates and coding settings, and do it literally in minutes after post is finished. So the speed of a producer’s workflows needs to react to this demand.”

As an example, Napoleon painted this picture: “Let’s say someone is on a professional editing station, they would effectively mix down a self-contained movie file, and they could keep it in the production codec – say an Avid codec – and that could be a very large file. The file could be as big as 11 gigs if it was a very long show. Uploading that over traditional technologies like FTP or a web browser would take too long. Instead, there’s special AllDigital software they could install on their computer that places a folder on their desktop that would transfer that large file at very high speeds to the cloud. And our cloud would understand what workflows they wanted to apply to that file, and it would transcode to all the different derivatives – for the iPhone or for Android, or for Samsung televisions or for Google TV. The producer then could view those videos in our player, or they could have some code snippets that they could give to a developer where it would play back inside of a native app.”

According to Napoleon, that process could be faster than real time. “If the end user has a pretty fast bandwidth connection, we could actually have that file delivered and encoded in less than real time; meaning that if the video is one hour long – we have some customers that have pretty fast computers and bandwidth – we’re able to do that in one-quarter real time, including the entire process of transcoding, upload, and delivery.”

Speed and multiple screens, what more can the client want? We’ll probably find out pretty soon. That’s the way technology grows.


March 14, 2014