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"universal" digital delivery format

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Scott"universal" digital delivery format
by on Feb 20, 2006 at 4:40:13 pm

Our department produces many equipment training videos for the various forklifts the company makes.

Now, some of our customers are asking us to deliver these videos in form they can "stream" (assuming they, in fact, really want to stream it and not just watch it on a computer) Previously, we delivered these videos in VHS and DVD only.

We are trying to figure out the best format to provide these customers. The caveats are:
-- Video must be of at least "VHS quality at SP playback speed" (This is largely driven by legal who is understandably concerned that everything in video still be legiable, clearly seen, etc.)

-- We provide all customers just one format so we don't have to do this differently for every client who asks.

-- Clients can then take what we provide them and transcode to meet their technical requirements using nothing more expensive or complicated than something like Cleaner.

Given those constraints, I am leaning toward something like a high-quality MPEG4, after we tested WMV and MPEG1 formats. Windows Media looked remarkably awful given it's file size and data rate. MPEG1 was ok, but not quite as nice looking as MPEG4,and MPEG4 was much smaller file size.

I am aware that MPEG4 requires a bit more horsepower and special software to view (i.e. Windows Media Player does not natively support MPEG4 playback)

What would you recommend?

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Dean SteinmannRe: "universal" digital delivery format
by on Feb 21, 2006 at 4:07:16 am

Why don't you offer the service of developing a website that will allow the video to be seen online by anyone whom you wish to have access? Instead of producing expensive and environmentally unfriendly discs, the file can be viewed online. Simple to do. And fast.

The videos can be compressed into flv's (Flash files). All the viewer needs is the Flash plugin and a highspeed connection.

Any fine print that the legal department needs to have on screen can be displayed beside the video screen in Flash or HTML.

We do this all the time and our clients love it.


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ScottRe: "universal" digital delivery format
by on Feb 21, 2006 at 3:22:37 pm

I agree that it would be a great idea if the company were to invest the resources necessary to develop, impliment and support a streaming site -- but I just don't make those kind of calls. I do hope that within five or ten years the comapany may do something like this, but until then...

Still, one major issue is that many of our customers do not have high-speed connections anyway, and if they do, they are not likely to have them available on the shop floor or warehousing facitilities where the operators work. This is an industry where training on how to use expensive, dangerous and heavy material handling machinery is often viewed as a necessiary evil, best done quickly so they can put the operators to work. (Hey, You and I know this is stupid, but it still happens no matter how insame we think it is) Our customers range in size from Wal-mart to mom-n-pop shops, all over the world.

Now, with the current state of the internet, streaming a variety of 15-50 minute videos to who knows how many different asynchronous simultanious end-users without any glicthes or hiccups in that hour is simply an unrealistic expectation. Heck, you're doing good to get a solid 20 minutes, and that's from sites like MSNBC which is an internet company. Ours is not, nor, as I have been told many times, does it wish to be.

Thus you see where we are: we want to provide our customers with a digital file they can use however they can, but we don't want to get into the business of being a media conversion company. Dontcha wish you had my job?

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Dean SteinmannRe: "universal" digital delivery format
by on Feb 22, 2006 at 6:30:01 pm

I see what you are up against. Sounds like the management may be reluctant to change from what has always been effective in the past.

But if you wanted to make a pitch to them on how they can improve (and perhaps get that long overdue raise!), here is my experience:

I am not sure how many simultaneous streams would be demanded by your viewers, but you would be surprised how inexpensive it can be to provide this service.

In one case we were developing video training for a client and they were sending out over 5000 CD's a year to locations all over North America. The cost of replication, packaging and mailing the discs (each disc was mailed individually upon client request) was costing them $40,000 to $50,000 per year. We developed a chapterized interface and posted it to a dedicated server and now the client is sending out a few hundred discs per year saving them tens of thousands per year.

With the video being chapterized, the viewer can focus on specific topics that pertain to them without having to watch the whole video.

Now they can easily update the video and know that the viewers will always get the most up to date information and that there are far fewer outdated discs floating about.

-The cost of the server (depending on your needs) $1500 to $10,000
-Co-location of the server in a tier one hosting facility $150 per month
-Bandwidth costs vary but can be as little as $50 a month
-Interface development and video chapterization depends on the project.

The investment in this set up will save money and offer better customer experience (for those with high speed access. The others can still get their tape or disc mailed to them)

A survey of the type of internet access that your viewers have will quickly tell you how soon this will pay off for your company.

Good luck with that Scott.

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Mark SuszkoRe: "universal" digital delivery format
by on Feb 23, 2006 at 4:37:16 pm

You've already gotten the best advice, so all I can add is, look at this, if you haven't yet seen it.

Or google: "Stafler Fahrer Klaus"
AKA: "Forklift Driver Klaus, the first day".

For what it's worth, I think converting to flash is your optimum method now, second choice would be a quicktime file scheme.

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Dean SteinmannRe: "universal" digital delivery format
by on Feb 24, 2006 at 5:13:10 pm

Hilarious, Monty Pythonesque training video, Mark. May have to pitch something like this to one of our clients.


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Mark SuszkoRe: "universal" digital delivery format
by on Feb 24, 2006 at 8:43:38 pm

As sick and twisted and funny as it is, it DEFINITELY gets across the proper safety messages in a MEMORABLE way, without lecturing.
Funny you mention Monty Python, because John Cleese has a company that makes humerous industrial training films like this for that very same reason. He used to run it from Chicago, and it would be a kick to see him in town occasionally. Though he never did a silly walk:-)

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