Archive for Caroline Pace

Project Report

Due to the nature of this project I feel that I am unable make my website live due to the video content and copyright restrictions placed upon these files. I have gained these video clips for the project in an unorthodox manner, as I do not have access to royalty-free video footage, which seemed to be the only option available to me. 

The finished prototype was not as I intended and because of this, I feel it could have been greatly improved. My intention was to create an embedded video player to my specifications that would coordinate seamlessly with the website design and not simply use a standard media player. I had intended to use SMIL formatting to achieve this, yet after much testing, trials and advice from my tutor I was unable to get the code to work in the preview mode of Dreamweaver.

User Testing and Accessibility

Once I had completed the website, I carried out a usability survey of eight people to discover how others found using the site. The majority of people liked the concept of the site, especially as half of the people asked live in a non-cable area and are only able to get Video on Demand (VoD) services online. Two people were uncertain of the design and found it “a bit bleak”, yet all liked the simplistic style. To rectify this, the design could easily be altered to have an all white background with brightly coloured links and navigation bars, providing a lighter and fun style.

QuickTime media player proved a popular choice with the test users, who all had the QuickTime application on their computers. However, it may have been better to use Flash media player, which is a universal application without operating system conflictions, but I personally prefer QuickTime.

Instead of forcing people into downloading a download manager onto their computers I would have liked to use something similar to the system that webassist.com uses. This is an integrated download manager on their website that can only be accessed through creating an account and receiving an email to the designated email account which redirects the user to the download manager page. This would be a simplistic method that could reduce piracy. Yet it would not group together files once the download process had completed and could create an unorganised download folder.

I was unable to test the website fully as I have only produced a prototype of the main areas of the website and was also unable to fully design some areas, such as the checkout and the community forum. However, these are common aspects found in many websites, six of the users were already familiar with the eBay/PayPal checkout service, and four had previously used forums.

Developing Employable Skills

Before starting this project, I had a very basic knowledge of using CSS in Dreamweaver and a bare minimum of embedding video content, partly due to new media not being my specialism. I have greatly developed my skills at using CSS by using tutorials and how-to guides to gain a better comprehension of how the process works. This includes using CSS to alter bullet points, a fluid layout, adeptly changing fonts and colours and learning the correct terminology. Something I am glad to have discovered is how to make a fully CSS navigational bar that has the look more professional look of tabs, as I have never been taught how to use Flash to produce an animated navigation bar. However, there are free flash navigation bar generators online that I could utilise to surmount this problem.

I have attempted to learn SMIL, something I had not heard of before this module, but I was not wholly successful. It appears to be an underdeveloped area of web design as there was little help or tutorials to be found online. If I were able to speak to an expert in SMIL to understand how to overcome the problems I encountered, I feel I would be able to competently use SMIL in the future.

Further Development Ideas

With time and money invested into this project I feel TV Heaven could become a valid website. As this assignment was to create a prototype, I saw little need in completing a full A-Z database of TV shows available to watch, as well as each programmes details. This would be a large undertaking and would most likely require a team of developers and researchers to complete the content.

It would also require negotiations with various production companies to gain copyright access to the programmes. This may prove costly and some production companies may not wish to be involved in the project resulting in an incomplete database of television programmes.

By hiring web professionals’ areas like the forum, creating a user account and a checkout system could be added. I was unable to do this, as through researching forums, it seemed knowledge of PHP was needed and checkouts required creating user accounts with bank details, which I felt disinclined to do for this assignment. In addition, greater anti-piracy methods could be developed to maintain a good relationship between the website and the television production companies. 

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a serious offence whether in a university, school or workplace and is the claiming of other people’s work as your own, deliberately or unintentionally. This can result in all your work being evaluated and if the case against you is serious, you may be kicked off your university course and be unable to reapply to any other university.
Reasons for committing plagiarism may be: lack of research skills, problems evaluating internet sources as public knowledge, confusion about paraphrasing or how to correctly reference/cite sources, poor time management or being unaware of what is plagiarism.

I have long been taught that I need to reference quotes, books, films and journals that I use in my essays and reports but, when it comes to practical work, the rules seem slightly murky and confusing. This is why I intend to make notes on where all my research has come from, include xhtml/html code and smil code. Although the code I will be using is fairly standardised, it is still not my own work and therefore can be seen as plagiarism. My notes will include the code I have found, the website url, the author, the date I found this information and my own take on the information found, reducing any risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Detailed Proposal

  • Aims

To design and create a website that features Video on Demand (Vod) and streaming video content of television programmes to respond to the current popularity of television online.

  • The Idea

I am proposing to produce a prototype website that takes advantage of the latest trend in television viewing, as it is moving away from tradition television sets and towards computers. This is occurring due to audiences desiring a greater control over their television viewing and to schedule programmes around their lives, not the other way around. I am focusing purely on television content as the marketplace for legal film downloads is stilled plagued by legal considerations.

  • “TV Heaven”

Although I will only be making a working prototype of this website, I have designed it in its entirety as a combination of the better features from competitors’ websites and unique features that I think will prove useful. The website will contain pre-recorded TV programmes and access to TV channels streamed online. This will be a mixture of free-to-view and pay content. There will be the ability to search for programmes available from other VoD websites so as to create an integrated website for the user. Overall, I wish to create a sense of community as is so greatly associated with television viewing. To establish this I will emplace a forum that is divided by TV genres, programmes and actors, the ability to post comments under a video and upload video responses. I will also provide detailed information on VoD and streaming media, as not all people are familiar with this technology.

  • Funding

To fund the maintenance and purchase of copyright to various television programmes I intend the website to be funded by a variety of means. Initially, revenue will be gained via programme sales. Secondly, throughout the various pages of the website users will come across advertisement banners sponsored by a search engine, Google for instance, flash advertisements and sponsored features. There will also be the ability for an entire series to be sponsored by a particular company and for adverts to be shown whilst the video is loading. In addition to this, at perhaps a later date, subscription may be a possibility to create ‘VIP members’ who will gain benefits such as money-off offers.

  • Applications

I intend to use Dreamweaver to create this website and Quicktime as my media player. I am using Dreamweaver as it is an application I have used previously and will be at ease creating a website with this programme. I have chosen Quicktime as it is a player that many users will have come across in the past as it is bundled with iTunes, a music player made popular by the corresponding portable mp3 music player, the iPod. It is also a format that is simplistic to use, has a stylish design and it will make it easier to reduce copyright theft as the application makes it difficult to save content by ‘right-clicking’.

  • Target Audience

My target audience will be anyone who wants to legally view high-quality television programmes over the internet. I cannot specify a particular age range or gender as I will be including a variety of television programmes targeted at the public as a whole. However, I believe that users would have to already be fairly competent with computers and the internet in order to know that it was possible to view television online.

  • Researching Competitors

There are many websites that you can use to watch television online however, many are link websites that take you to illegal content. In the UK there are very few places that distribute legal television programmes, and the majority of these involve downloading an application, such as BBC’s ‘iPlayer’. One website that is similar in nature to mine is MegaVideo.

This website has a clear design and easy tab system which helps the user find exactly what they want and has video content in numerous languages. It also features a ‘Premium’ membership which rewards members by allowing them to earn money through a rewards program, download original video files, and get advertising revenue with an Adbrite Publisher Account. However not all the video content on this website is legally obtained and the categories they use are extremely broad.
My website will have an advantage over MegaVideo by being a legal distributor, having clearly defined categories and assisting the fandom of programmes by creating a community.

  • Style and Design

The design of the website will reflect this simple mock-up, “TV Heaven” Mock-up (see Appendix 1).  It is a style that is similar to competitors’ websites but, the colour scheme will ensure the embedded media players are flawlessly merged into the website. Overall, the website will be simplistic in its look as users are more interested in the quality and variety of video content than a flamboyant website.

Draft Proposal

  • Project Idea

When I first approached this assignment I had little conception of what I could create as my prototype and knew even less about the specifics of television online, although I had briefly touched upon it as a web user and television scholar. In speaking with my tutor he suggested the topic area of Video on Demand (VoD) as a new direction of television online that would also relate to my specialism.

I have produced websites before but, nothing that features video content so I thought this would be an ideal opportunity for me to create something more professional than I had in previous assignments. It will also expand upon my expertise in television by adding another facet to my abilities, enabling me to provide something different to employees when I graduate.

  • To produce a…

In order to develop my idea further I researched into the technology of VoD, how it works, which broadcasters are using it, what applications are used to create and view video content and, most importantly, who are my potential competitors.

This wealth of research led to much brainstorming of what I wanted my project to achieve. Ideally it will be a website of television programmes, mainly UK and US based, that viewers will be able to stream to their computers. Although most of the content would be available for a nominal fee, there would be programmes available for free, but this is dependant on the copyright restrictions of each individual programme, especially in relation to US produced programmes.

  • Pre-Production

As I am still in the planning stage I will need to complete research into the format of streaming and applications I wish to use. I intend to use either Windows Media, RealPlayer or Quicktime as these are media players commonly used by websites and users. Once I have finalised this decision I will make sure I am able to use the technology correctly to ensure my prototype is to a professional standard. I intend to achieve this through using online tutorials, video lectures and text books to teach myself the skills I will need to use.

  • Addressing my Professional and Technical Objectives

This project will not only improve my skills in Dreamweaver but, also enhance how I create websites and the content I use, resulting in a higher quality project. I hope by experimenting with streaming video files and learning more about this subject it will help my overall knowledge of television online. It may also lead to creating a CV website, featuring my show reel, once I have graduated as a way of advertising myself to prospective employers.

I also want this website to appear professional in its design and content, something I feel I have not achieved in my previous work due to my inexperience. To achieve this I will timetable my week to ensure that I maintain work on the prototype throughout the semester and therefore not produce a rushed website.

Preliminary Idea

After initial and further research into Video on Demand (VoD) as a system, the applications used to create video media files, play these files and the delivery systems used, I have decided upon producing a website-based VoD service.

As I do not have the technical skills or knowledge to create a stand-alone VoD download manager and player, similar to that of Channel 4’s application ‘4OD’, I will create a website that has aspects of VoD. It will not be “true” VoD, as that is thought to be provided strictly by a television cable service, like Virgin Media’s ‘On Demand’ which offers customers an instantaneous response, from the time the program is requested to the time its being delivered. I want this website to compile the better features from other websites of a similar nature in order to create something that encompasses all aspects of television programmes online. I feel this will be the most productive use of this module in advancing my skills.

I’ve decided to use Adobe’s Dreamweaver to create the website and am looking into which application to use for playing the videos. I am inclined to choose a media player that has a simplistic layout for the viewer to use and works well with both Macintosh and Windows users. As a Macintosh user, I have found BBC’s ‘iPlayer’ and Channel 4’s ‘4OD’ being ‘Windows-only’ annoying, especially in light of the public remit each broadcaster is held to.

I am currently researching further into VoD but feel at this time that streaming video content will be the best delivery method for my website. Although I have utilised streaming audio in the past, I have yet to use streaming video but, intend to practice using this method in producing a ‘trial-run’ website.

As I researched into established streaming video websites that provide free access, I noticed a common theme of plain backgrounds, lots of text and continuous use of blue, black and grey. My examples of this are alluc.org, Megavideo, Sidereel and Veoh. This may be intentional in order to match with embedded media players that use these tones and create a seamless finish. As this seems to be the case I intend to use similar colours but will separate content by wide genres, making this clear by using different bright colours, similar to TV Link Vault.

Unlike the websites mentioned above I intend to make this website solely for the content of television programmes. I plan for these to be established television programmes, funded through a mix of sponsorship and payment by viewers. However, this could be changed to include newer programming if public demand altered.

VoD – Placing Streaming Video into a Website

Now you’ve made your streaming video file and want to place it on your website. There are two ways of doing this: Direct link and embedded file. It depends entirely on how you want the video to appear on the website, as to which one you choose.

  • Direct Links

Direct links enable the video file to be opened in the user’s default media player. For example, if you clicked a link to a Quicktime file, your Quicktime player will open and play the video. This gives the user control over which media player they use but, can be unpredictable and unsightly.

To add a direct link on your website you simply need to add a hyperlink which points to the video file.

Example:

<a href=”videofilename.mov” mce_href=”videofilename.mov”>Click here to view video</a>

  • Embedded Files

Embedding a video file will place the video file right onto the webpage in media player screen, providing a greater level of control over how the video is displayed.

To embed the file you must add HTML code to the webpage, dependant on your video file. This example is for Quicktime files.

Example:

<OBJECT CLASSID=”clsid:02BF25D5-8C17-4B23-BC80-D3488ABDDC6B” WIDTH=”320″HEIGHT=”180″
CODEBASE=”http://www.apple.com/qtactivex/qtplugin.cab”&gt;
<PARAM name=”SRC” VALUE=”videofilename.mov”>
<PARAM name=”AUTOPLAY” VALUE=”true”>
<PARAM name=”CONTROLLER” VALUE=”false”>
<EMBED src=”videofilename.mov” mce_src=”videofilename.mov” WIDTH=”320″ HEIGHT=”180″ AUTOPLAY=”true” CONTROLLER=”false” PLUGINSPAGE=”http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/”&gt;
</EMBED>
</OBJECT>

Notice that this method uses two tags: <object> and <embed>. This is for maximum browser compatibility. You will need to set the file name and attributes for both tags.

This tutorial is courtesy of Media College. For more information and HTML for embedding other video file formats, view the entire tutorial here.

VoD – How to Create a Streaming Video File

Let’s start with the basics – how to create a streaming video file that you can then place on your website.

There are two methods:

  1. Using a conversion utility programme
  2. Exporting streaming files from video editing software.

A conversion utility, like RealNetworks RealProducer, is a stand-alone programme that converts an existing digital video file into the streaming format of your choice. This involves simply opening the file and saving it in its new format.

Using video editing software is often the easiest method to create streaming video files. Adobe Premiere 6 will be used in this example, and the instructions are specific to this programme but can be used as a general guide.

  1. Open your digital video clip in Adobe Premiere 6.
  2. Select the File menu, then select ‘Export Clip’.
  3. Choose your export format. ‘Save For Web’ is a good default option.
  4. Choose which format of streaming video file you want. This depends on which software you will be using with your website.
  5. Now, upload your new streaming video file to your website!

This tutorial is courtesy of Media College.

Development of Television Online

After emailing an expert in the television online field, who shall remain anonymous for privacy reasons, I discovered that TV producers are trying to capture the new multi-tasking audience, in particular, the teenage generation. “Most teenagers don’t watch TV in a traditional way. They will have the TV on in the background whilst using their laptops to chat with friends on facebook or MSN Messenger”. But video on demand would not be good news for everyone as “when they are able to offer a reliable video-on demand service, it could be the end for bricks-and-mortar video rental shops”.

This information made me wonder if VoD was really going to take over from watching TV and Film in traditional ways. With a new report from Forrester Research saying on-demand sales will skyrocket over the next five years and will soon replace pre-packaged viewing (television schedules and DVDs) in the US, it seems likely that the UK will follow this trend with some immediacy. As this looks like the future of television in the UK I decided to conduct my own research into the applications used to create and view streaming video content online. Below is a brief list of some of the applications that I discovered.

  • Streaming media technologies

Adobe Flash
Microsoft Windows Media
QuickTime
ReelTime.com
RealNetworks
RealPlayer
SHOUTcast
Winamp
Philips Media Manager
Unreal Media Server

  • Stream and transport protocols

HTTP
MMS
RTMP
RTP
RTCP
RTSP
RealNetworks RDT
UDP

  • Streaming media content websites

(Users can upload their own videos to these websites)

Dailymotion
Google Video
Joost
YouTube
Veoh

Introducing Video on Demand (VoD)

Video on Demand (VoD) is one of the latest trends in the television and film industry and is in a bid to appease audiences growing demand for greater control, choice and immediacy over their viewing habits.

This introduction will refer to the television aspect of VoD which is divided into a television cable service and an online service, the latter being my main focus. VoD works by using either an application that connects to the internet or a website that acts as a database of video content typically available at a cost. The video content, usually in a programme format, is obtained by the user through either “streaming” the content, allowing it to be viewed whilst the data is transferred, or “downloading”, where the programme is transferred in its entirety and can only be watched when the download process is complete. Streaming is a popular format chosen for viewing video content and forms part of the peer-2-peer networks that UK television broadcasters use for their VoD services.

BBC’s iPlayer, Channel 4’s 4OD and Sky’s Anytime all use Kontiki’s Delivery Manager, a peer-2-peer network software that works by the user downloading the television programme from other users rather than a central server. The downloaded programmes are encoded with digital rights management (DRM) that protects copyright and restricts piracy.

For Audiences

Benefits include:

  • Convenience
  • Immediacy
  • Digital quality picture and sound
  • Can be used to preview entire series
  • Catch up on missed episodes
  • Watch programmes where and when you like
  • Freedom to watch which episode you like

Negatives include:

  • Uncertainty of new technology
  • Don’t understand how to operate it
  • Computer specifications aren’t compatible with software
  • Don’t have fast internet connection speed

For the TV Industry

Benefits include:

  • Can be used as a site for ‘first look’ of new episodes
  • Source of revenue through payment or sponsorship
  • Cheaper to set up than a new ‘free-to-air’ channel for established broadcasters
  • Worldwide audiences
  • Established VoD technology is advancing forward

Negatives include:

  • Some software is divided into Macintosh or Windows compatibility only
  • Possibility of hackers
  • Censorship/Classification issues

Useful links for further research

Watch a video clip
 from RealNetworks on how streaming media works

SearchVoIP.com (Explanation of Streaming media)

Streaming Media World (News, resources and online tutorials about Streaming media)

AOL video (Example of website using VoD)

Advice in Finding a New Media Job

One of the main pieces of advice you will be given when looking for either a new job or work experience, is to always phone the company you are interested in working for and be knowledgeable about what they do. Even though the new media industry is mainly based online this is still the case, as they are just as unlikely to respond to any email you send.

The Number One Skill?
Web designer and developer D. Keith Robinson believes that all new media professionals need to become adaptable, as this is the number one skill they will require. “We learn guidelines and best practices (remember there are no rules yet) and then we learn how to get around them, or adapt them to suit our needs and meet the goals of the projects we work on.”

Skills to Make you Employable 
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is a US association of more than 5,200 college career services professionals. NACE has compiled a list of the twenty top personal qualities/skills that employers request the most.

1. Analytical skills
2. Communication skills
3. Computer skills
4. Creativity
5. Detail-oriented
6. Entrepreneurial skills/risk-taker
7. Flexibility/adaptability
8. Friendly/outgoing personality
9. Honesty/integrity
10. Interpersonal skills
11. Leadership and management skills
12. Motivation/initiative
13. Organizational and time management skills
14. Real Life Experiences
15. Self-confidence
16. Strong work ethic
17. Tactfulness
18. Teamwork skills
19. Technical Skills
20. Well-mannered/polite

Tips for graduates
Although the majority of new media professionals tend to be self-taught, according to Paul Farrer, chief executive of the Graduate Recruitment Company (GRC), there has been a rise of 17% in the number of media jobs taking on graduates.

Natasha Bergg, a work place coordinator and recruitment communicator at the BBC, advises that although a degree isn’t compulsory on your CV, they do look for relevant skills, experience and an obvious passion for your area. So, make sure you know everything there is to know about your area and have a portfolio of your skills.

As a staring point, you can keep up-to-date with the latest in new media news at MediaGuardian.

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