Web Video Spotlight
Figure 3.14 ON24.com specializes in producing live and on-demand Web video
presentations for corporate
clients, such as this one for Fujitsu.
In 1999, Patrick J. Kriwanek was the head of the motion picture program at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco and had produced numerous music videos and corporate projects. "One day, several former students approached me to join them at their new dot-com startup company," he recalls. "The startup turned out to be ON24."
Kriwanek describes the first step in ON24's production process. Before the producers start on a project, they discuss the customer's Web video needs in a preproduction meeting. As Kriwanek explains, "We have a checklist similar to what a pilot of a 747 airliner goes through before takeoff. By the time we're done with that list, we know everything that we need to produce the program."
For a live Webcast, an ON24 production team travels to the location of the event to shoot it with Betacam cameras. They use a transmission system from Polycom (www.polycom.com) to encode a TV-quality video stream and send it over an ISDN line (a high-speed phone/data line) to the ON24 office in San Francisco. (A second Polycom unit is required to decode the high-quality stream at the San Francisco end.) That signal is then compressed into RealNetworks' RealOne Player and Windows Media Player video streams and sent out to PCs everywhere from streaming video servers at the ON24 server farm in Sunnyvale, California. If it's a big production, with thousands of Web viewers, ON24 may hire a company like Akamai Technologies (www.akamai.com), which maintains a worldwide network of thousands of servers to speed delivery for large streaming media and e-commerce sites.
Kriwanek points out that streaming through corporate firewalls is an ongoing problem: "IT [information technology] people hate streaming coming through the firewall because it takes a completely different skill set to manage it, make it work, balance itand everyone hates them when it doesn't work."
ON24's staff of 50 producers and engineers delivers a major live event almost every day. The professional services team integrates the streaming video into a Web page. Often the Web page includes related graphics and information, such as a PowerPoint presentation, alongside the streaming video. So far, ON24's media player of choice has been either Windows Media Player or RealOne Playeror both. Kriwanek says, "98% of our business and medical clients use one of these two players."
As for tips to budding Web video makers, Kriwanek says: "Don't let the jerky picture fool you; Web video is the most thermonuclear thing since the atomic bomb. It won't be long before the technology is here to make good-looking Web video the prevalent form of media communications."