Online Video - Digitizing previously produced analog videos


Opportunities exist for museums, PBS affiliates and other non-profit owners of analog video (VHS programs) to digitize their pre-recorded content for either downloading or online streaming presentation, both often referred to as Video on Demand (VoD). 300 videos+ that are potential candidates for conversion are included in TFAO's Videos catalogue. TFAO offers financial assistance for art museums and other nonprofit organizations enabling them to encode and stream their copyrighted VHS videos. [1]


Support services for encoding and streaming

SCCtv in Seattle, WA, a division of Seattle Community College, provides enterprise-level solutions to non-profit organizations including encoding (digitizing) analog content (tapes) and delivering the resultant VoD product on clients' web sites. See the SCCtv Services page on their web site. Ross Davis, General manager of SCCtv, explained to TFAO in July 2005 that the annual cost to encode and distribute a 1/2 to 1 hour program is about $125. In addition there are per view charges in the range of $.20 to $.80 per program. Per view costs are billed monthly to clients. Streaming costs are steadily falling. Mr. Davis suggested that longer programs be indexed in shorter segments for viewer convenience. SCCtv does not create original content. Clients of SCCtv include Annenberg/CPB (see above), League for Innovation in the Community College's iStream service and the Coast Community College District.

Other colleges and universities may be of help. While the I&IT Division of Cal Poly University, Pomona is unable to serve off-campus non-profit organizations, for production and editing services, they may be able, however, to provide encoding and/or streaming services similar to those provided by SCCtv. A contact at I&IT is Mr. David Levin. He indicated in a January 6, 2005 conversation with TFAO that Summer months may provide a time period to perform theses services as the I&IT team is then less occupied with campus projects.

Of interest to museums is that Brightcove, according to a November 23, 2005 Motley Fool article by Tom Taulli, will soon offer an on-demand Internet TV (IPTV) "self-service product that allows smaller content creators to distribute and monetize their work." The same article states that according to a Kelsey Group study the cost of delivering a one-hour stream of video is $0.09.

In March 2005 MPEG NATION announced a low cost encoding and streaming service for online video. They accept both digital files and analog content such as VHS tapes. TFAO estimates that if a museum wishes to use an existing 1 hour VHS tape for conversion to a digital file and then stream the file the costs would be approximately: As of June, 2005 there is a $45 one time charge for the VHS tape conversion plus an initial six months of streaming service with unlimited simultaneous streams for $53. This initial six-month streaming service fee would include: three video formats (Windows Media, QuickTime and RealVideo) each with streaming speeds of 150k, 300k and 700k; no advertising next to the viewer's stream, and monthly viewership reporting. For an additional $7 the stream would be password protected (if the museum wants to restrict viewing to select audiences such as members). A six month renewal of the service would be about $5 with price breaks for longer term service agreements. In summary, a six month test with all of the above features would cost about $105.

CyberTech Media Group offers a 17-point check list for those seeking to compare the quality of the products of streaming video services.


Software solutions

Once video files are digitized, there are ways which circumvent players such as Media Player, QuickTime, or Real Player to take the files from that point to actual streaming on a museum's web site. For instance, a company named TopNet Solutions offers a software tool priced under $50 named "V2F " that makes it possible for museums with digital video files (.avi, .mpg, .wmv, etc.) to convert them to Flash files which can be then played on the museum's web site. The firm's owner, Shawn Pringle, claims that a demonstration video clip, offering VCR-like controls, was processed and placed on their web site in 3 minutes.

XFormx, Inc. offers an inexpensive software program for PCs named ShareGear 2004 that allows museums to share narrated slide shows and movies over the Internet without the use of a separate server. A museum PC is in essence turned into a web server. Invitations for viewing using a URL generated by ShareGear can be sent to selected individuals, such as members of the media, by email. Alternately, the URL can be placed in a Museum's web site as a public link. If more than one viewer on the museum's web site elects to view a video at the same time, buffering time for all of the simultaneous viewers will be increased. If a museum expects few simultaneous viewers, this limitation may not be a significant problem. The company's ShareGear web site says "Quickly send any sized photo slideshow, digital video... to your family and friends -- without uploads or email attachments and without requiring recipients to install special software, join an online service, or be subjected to advertising and spam." PC Magazine, in a November 1, 2004 article cautions however: "The only major catch is that ShareGear has some difficulties with firewalls. If your PC is sitting behind a router or personal firewall, you'll have to jump through some hoops to configure access. And ShareGear won't run from behind a corporate firewall at all. That's not the case with Grouper (our Editors' Choice among file-sharing apps and services), which also embeds a handy IM client, so you can chat with those you invite to your private P2P network." Also, some of the video examples shown on the company's web site did not play on a TFAO Macintosh computer using the Safari browser.

Grouper, from Grouper Networks, Inc., is another peer-to-peer (P2P) Windows-based software application. It offers up to two simultaneous audio streams from the host PC. Grouper queues additional file download requests on a first-come first-served basis once active upload sessions are complete. Up to 30 invited group members can browse, download or streams files with each other. The firm's FAQ page on its site adds:

During the group creation process you are given a choice to make your group Listed or Unlisted. Choosing the listed option will allow you to set up your group for publication on our public directory (this feature is pending). You will also be given a URL that you can post on your email, blog , or website. People clicking on this URL will be taken to an invite request page that allows them to petition you for inclusion in your group. As the group leader, you will always have the final say on who gains admittance to your group.


New approaches for content distribution

Privately held Akimbo provides Web-downloaded videos for viewing on TV sets via a monthly subscription fee. Content is received through a subscriber's broadband connection to a set-top box called an Akimbo Player that holds up to 200 hours of programming.

Akimbo provides on-demand programming from cable channels such as National Geographic, BBC, Food Network, CNN, A&E, History Channel and the Biography Channel. Other programs are from smaller niche Internet sources. A wide variety of content is available with the basic subscription fee. Other programs are available at an additional charge. Three flavors of additional-fee "Premium Services" are available: subscriptions, memberships and show rentals. Akimbo says "A Subscription is a collection of related programs automatically delivered to your Akimbo Player on a periodic basis (daily, weekly or monthly). A Membership gives you access to a particular channel's entire library. You can pick and choose at your convenience the shows you want to watch and download them directly to your Akimbo Player at your convenience. A Show Rental is just that: you can rent a single movie or show and watch it as many times as you like within a certain time period." As of April 2005 no art-related programming was referenced on Akimbo's web site.

Other TV-like web sites are springing up. For example, a May 27, 2005 article by Nat Ives in the New York Times says: "Television programmers are looking to make the Web a lot more like TV. On Tuesday, the emerging-media group at Scripps Networks, part of the E. W. Scripps Company, plans to introduce an all-video Web site that will use programming from its Food Network, Fine Living, HGTV and DIY Network brands, as well as new clips." A May 16, 2005 press release from Scripps Networks explains its broadband channel plans:

Scripps Networks, which has been at the forefront of providing content for emerging platforms, will introduce two to three broadband channels in 2005 with plans to launch as many as 10 over the next two years.
"With more and more people accessing video through high-speed Internet connections, we see an opportunity to expand our reach by offering new online channels, programmed to targeted niche audiences within the home, food and lifestyle categories," said John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks. "We will be leveraging the power of our lifestyle brands and their popular websites to 'super serve' audiences with specific passions related to our cable networks.
Lansing said the recent explosion of broadband -- now in more than 40 million households with annual viewing of video streams surpassing eight billion, according to AccuStream iMediaResearch -- makes this the right time for Scripps to launch this new business. In addition to distributing its branded broadband content through MSN Video and, Scripps Networks also has seen significant growth in broadband viewing on its own websites -- which collectively are viewed by 12 million unique visitors on average each month. Scripps Networks currently is delivering more than seven million video streams per month on its websites compared with only one million per month in 2004.



1. An opportunity exists for non-profit copyright owners of previously produced VHS or DVD videos, many of which which are no longer producing significant sale revenue, to generate a new financial support stream through placement of sponsorship messages from corporate and other sponsors preceding or trailing the streaming content. This makes sense for non profit organizations such as PBS stations who have historically generated substantial content. This concept is analogous to the decision of Warner Brothers's November, 2005 decision to reap a new revenue stream though attaching commercials to free streams of the episodes of 100 old television shows. The new web service is named In2TV and will produce revenue from old programming no longer widely syndicated. America Online will distribute the service through its Web portal.

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rev. 11/28/05

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