Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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7/31/2009
12:22 PM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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ReviewCam: Video Publishing Magnified

Magnify is a hosted solution for managing and publishing video on the web. It shares many of the traits that similar, competitive solutions have, but it's got two features that caught my attention. First (and this is a small one), it auto-tweets any new video you publish; second (and this is a big one), it lets you integrate your video with video on other public web sites. We've captured some of the nuances in a ReviewCam video.

Magnify is a hosted solution for managing and publishing video on the web. It shares many of the traits that similar, competitive solutions have, but it's got two features that caught my attention. First (and this is a small one), it auto-tweets any new video you publish; second (and this is a big one), it lets you integrate your video with video on other public web sites. We've captured some of the nuances in a ReviewCam video.;

I've been a video hosting customer of The Feedroom and Brightcove (our current provider -- and if you watched, or will watch the ReviewCam embedded above, you'll be viewing it through a BrightCove player . . . ironic, eh?). We also publish our video on YouTube; and one of our divisions has had its own, home-built, Windows-based video content management system. I've used the Yahoo Maven platform (now allegedly going away), and taken some looks at thePlatform. I recently published a ReviewCam on Delve Networks. In other words, I've got a little working knowledge.

However, while I understand some of the underlying media APIs these systems provide and publishers like us use (thanks to some of our programmers here, and having to use some of them for a few tasks), my expertise stops mostly at the user side of these platforms.

While my focus is there, it goes without saying perhaps that you need to have a system that is extensible. This means many things: the ability to build your own custom players, take feeds from the CMS using industry standards, integrating with your own CMS and with your reporting system and much more.

The platform you choose can be the easiest to upload, the fastest to transcode, and ding every bell and blow every whistle, but if it is a closed system or the underlying infrastructure is poor, you're screwed. While I have been a proponent of BrightCove, for example, we have had numerous Content Delivery Network (CDN) related issues (it uses Limelight) which have led to outages (unavailable video) in the East Coast . . . some of these have been the result of an occasionally corrupt cache. We've had issues with video quality: we upload a high definition, high quality video and it displays at a much lower bit rate; sometimes our videos look better on YouTube (which we pay nothing for) than they do on BrightCove! BrightCove supports dynamic delivery (delivery of different quality based on the user's bandwidth), but so far we haven't seen a noticeable uptick in performance.

I could write pages about what we've learned, where we've failed, and where we've become enlightened, but for you, it is imperative to get your programmers, webmasters and IT folks involved in the buying decision early on and not get mesmerized by those bells and whistles. Your video team needs to be comfortable with the workflow. And your business users must be happy with the end results, including how the video (and video player) looks and acts.

So caveats and advice aside . . . Magnify has been around since 2006. You can read all of its press clippings here.

Like many systems, it supports a multitude of video formats, including QuickTime, MPEG4, WMV, Flash and several others. You can extract all of the data through an MRSS feed, and there are both XML and Javascript APIs. This is fairly standard stuff, but it's good to know it's there. It also supports dynamic delivery. One notable point here: some define dynamic delivery as being able to change mid-stream depending on bandwidth fluctuations; Magnify does not support this.

Many systems work only with certain CDNs. Many will let you use your own, and Magnify is one of them. The company uses HDCloud as a transcoding engine, and claims this makes things ultra fast (the site's ticker says it does 900 simultaneous 100-Mbps transcodes).

Where Magnify shines is in how it allows you not just to publish your own video, but also to pull in video from sources around the web. The result is a much more varied user experience. Magnify uses the term "curator" and certainly that's what it allows a video publisher to become. You can search and choose from some 20 sites around the web, preview the videos, and then mix them in with your own however you like. Some sites won't want to expose anyone else's content, but most of the web has moved beyond this mentality -- if you want viewers to keep coming back, give them a great experience, and that includes being able to find a grouping of related video on a topic, no matter what the source. Magnify does this by accessing those sites' public APIs, or (like in the case of College Humor) doing one-off deals.

A couple other notes. First, Magnify didn't want to talk much about reporting. One can guess why. But the company said that it will be launching Omniture integration, and a host of video engagement analytics by the end of this summer. Let's hope it's better than some offerings we've seen; we've had some real growing pains with BrightCove and Omniture integration: it would only count a video view if someone watched the entire video from start to finish, for example.

The templates for players are very customizable -- but typically, for any of these publishers, that just means you can access a color pallette, change the thickness of lines, and other minor elements. Magnify does show a fairly healthy dose of options here though. The Magnify iPhone app is due imminently.

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