Sorenson Media, the specialists in video compression and broadcasting tools for the Web (and the company behind the compression technology included in QuickTime), have rolled out Vcast, a new service that will allow users to register online and send video (live or on-demand) to anyone in the world. And they say it fits in perfectly with Apple’s “digital lifestyle” focus.
“The service is designed to be easy and affordable,” Matt Cupal, Sorenson vice president of business development, told MacCentral. With Vcast, there’s no need to worry about software, servers, bandwidth, delivery, or content management, he said.
“We’ve taken our expertise in the areas of tools, video compression, and streaming and used them to fashion a service we think that the market needs badly,” Cupal said. “The barriers to mass market adoption of steaming on the Internet have been that it’s too hard and too expensive. Vcast will offer a personal broadcasting service that enables people to affordably stream video on the Web.”
A public beta will be available on April 23. The final product will be released this summer.
“This innovative product brings streaming media to the mass market, and will revolutionize the way consumers and businesses approach what was, before now, reserved for Web professionals with large budgets,” Cupal said. “Being the patriots we are, we’re enabling all users to be able to broadcast out over the Internet.”
After downloading the Vcast client and filling out an online registration form, a user can stream live video from a camera connected to their computer, or compress existing video content with Vcast. The content is then posted to the Internet for Vcast to stream. The total cost of the broadcast is based on the number of viewers the user anticipates will watch the event.
When you go to the Vcast Web site to fill out the registration form, you’ll need to enter some personal data as well as info about the streaming you need, such as the number of users you expect and the length of your video content. Once you’re registered, you can plug a video camera into your workstation, send a URL-like movie reference to users, and you’re set. Normally, your video will be hosted on your own Web site. Also, when you register to purchase an event, the Vcast client, the tool used to get content into the system, will be downloaded.
When the users access the movie reference, they’ll see your video play in the QuickTime Player (yep, Vcast is QuickTime-based). The Vcast client itself, which is Mac and Windows compatible, will hide the complexities of the whole operation from both the broadcaster and the viewer.
“Vcast becomes the underlying delivery mechanism,” said Brandon Black, product manager for Vcast. “The purchaser of the service can monitor the usage of the broadcast, such as how many viewers there are, how much storage is needed, and how much bandwidth is being used.”
The Vcast client is basically a simplified version of Sorenson Broadcaster, which enables users to stream video and audio using QuickTime. Unlike its “parent,” the Vcast client has lots of presets to make it easy to use even by those who know little or nothing about video production and streaming, Black said.
“Until now, streaming over the Web has only been viable for a small number of people because of bandwidth limitations and cost issues, not to mention the complexity of streaming technology,” said Jim Sorenson, CEO of Sorenson Media. “Vcast changes all that. Now anyone with video content and an Internet connection will be able to utilize the Web to educate, communicate, and entertain through streaming media.”
Vcast users will benefit from the most innovative and comprehensive reporting mechanism available for streamed events, he said. They will be able to see real-time stream statistics, a geographical representation of viewers, average view time, and a breakdown of streamed bandwidths viewed.
The Vcast system will be launched at this month’s National Association of Broadcasters trade show. Pricing will be based on the number of users included in a stream. Although the final fee schedule hasn’t been established, you can expect to broadcast a 10-15 video stream to approximately 25 people for around US$25.
“The initial version will let people purchase the service by event,” Black said. “But we plan to evolve so that users can buy a monthly subscription, as you do with a cell phone. Then if you go over your entitlement, you can pay for the difference.”
Ed McGarr, vice president of marketing and sales for Sorenson Video, said Vcast is and will be used to meet the needs of education, entertainment, and communications. He said that a small hospital in Utah is using a preview version of the system to stream surgery over the Internet. Educators can use it for distance learning courseware. And, for example, real estate firms could use it on their Web sites to offer video-based walkthroughs of properties, McGarr said.
“Vcast was designed in alliance with Apple’s goal of simplicity for the rest of us,” Black said. “We want to make this service easy to use.”
Also, work is progressing well on the next version of Sorenson’s industry-leading codec, Sorenson Video 3. Sorenson Video 3 (Macintosh and Windows) will purportedly offer a significant increase in compression speed and quality over Sorenson Video 2. Sorenson Video is a QuickTime compatible video codec designed for developers of applications or web sites that require compressed video segments.