Category Archives: video

Thoughts: Open Standards and Technology for Movie Rental Business

I have been thinking about open-standards for movie-rental business. I searched to find about such standards but I couldn’t locate. Do you know of any?

Basically, a set of specifications/protocols which can be implemented by different players in movie-rental chain. Players include studios, distributor, application-developers, portals, et. al.

Rough thoughts:

  • A studio/distributor implements this specification/protocol and exposes API  for metadata/streaming(or playback)/file-access from their own server
  • Third party developers use the API to to pull metadata and play the content
  • Third party developers can charge the user and split the revenue with content owner
  • Or, studios/distributors can enable payment-gatway APIs as part of their offering
  • Content is always played directly from studio/distributor’s server
  • Studio/distributor have total control over their assets and also charge based on subscription/per-access
This would solve many problems (billing, stats, etc.), however, there would be concerns:
  • someone (end-user, third-party developer) might try to cache/save streams as file and distribute
  • and other concerns?
Once we have specifications and protocols in place – a stack using open-source technologies can be built as template, and made available so that everyone in chain can use/customize it to build their part.
I wanted to talk about it on twitter but 140 chars were too short to express my thoughts. Anyway, it’s good to have a blog post in place.
Please share your views.

Open Source Media Framework (OSMF)

A few days back, Adobe announced Open Source Media Framework (OSMF), which was known as Strobe earlier.

A few minutes back, I received an email confirming that Open Source Media Framework website is up with all the information, specification, developer-documentation, source (Subversion repository), downloads (binary and source) and bug-database.

Open Source Media Framework (OSMF) has an interesting list of features and goals. I like it’s plug-in architecture, that would allow a lot of extensibility and various amazing plug-ins from different providers in coming time.

If you are a developer spending a lot of time developing various work-flows around online media-players (audio, video, images – players), I strongly recommend you to check out Open Source Media Framework (OSMF). I am sure, you would find it worth start using it and also contribute back whatever you can.

Following are the reasons, I am going to use OSMF and give up my existing frameworks:

  • It’s open-source
  • It would solve core issues (video playback, delivery and workarounds for various limitations in Flash Player, etc)
  • It would adopt various standards (playback, cdn, advertising, etc)
  • Larger developer base, that means bug fixes and various features would be available very often
  • I love open-source and see myself contributing to OSMF in future, beyond my current projects.

TVersity: Media Server

I am sharing my experience while finding a good media-server (software that can store, transcode and serves various media formats to devices – computers, mobile, apple-tv, etc).

We all (parents, brother, sister-in-law, sister and myself) stay together, which means we have got more than one TV, various devices (mobile, computers, laptops, etc). We realized, it’s useful to host the media at one central computer.

  • Storage
  • Wiki – to jot down the links and ideas
  • Development and Testing – when we work at/from home
  • Media Server (software that serves media to various devices in home)

Most of the requirements (above) are sorted out except the last one “Media Server”. I looked at various options, some of these are listed below:

I found myself more comfortable with TVersity, though it’s not opensource and only runs on Windows, for following reasons

  • Ease in administration:
    • anyone in my family can add/remove media using it’s easy to use administration interface.
    • admin tool runs using Adobe Flash Player, has been built using OpenLaszlo framework and executable has been created using Zinc like tool.
  • Ease while using:
    • Web based interface for administration – runs on Adobe Flash Player
    • Web based interface for media library
      • Simple HTML
      • Flash based (built using OpenLaszlo) – where media is transcoded and played using Flash Player, awesome, isn’t it?
      • iPhone friendly interface
  • Support for Open DLNA and UPNP
  • Automatically detects (most of) devices, transcodes and serves media, if required
    • That means, ffdshow and other tools can be used to add subtitle and apply various filters before serving the videos.
  • XBMC/Boxee that runs on my macbook and apple-tv worked really well with TVersity

You can find the complete list of features on TVersity website.

So now life is simpler and easier, we all store our media at one place and can see it anytime and on most of our devices. Having web-based access to media makes life easier. I also feel, it’s lot easier to extend web-interface, which I plan to do in sometime.

I would love to post about detailed comparison between various options (media-servers and tools) mentioned above, perhaps in another post, sometime in future. Another post would be there to share how our home network looks like. Hope, I can spend sometime drawing diagrams which would be lot easier to understand.

Apple TV + Boxee.tv = Great Experience

I own an Apple TV for quite some time, I just loved the form factor of the device and figured out, it’s really good stuff. I could see all the photographs, watch all podcasts/videos and listen most of music, more often on Apple TV than before.

As we all know, Apple builds innovative products but at the same time, it does suck by keeping it’s platform very closed. Be it iPod, iPhone or Apple TV, it’s just really hard to do anything except the ones Apple wants you to do.

Anyway, thanks to the great community of hackers, who spend hours figuring out things and building some great stuff. Some great hackers came up with various ideas to open the closed Apple TV, well initially it was physically opening up the box but later on smarter solutions appeared. Now it’s so simple, one can patch (enable SSH and install some apps) Apple TV by using patchstick, it doesn’t require you to open the box physically.

I can mount my USB disks and use keyboard/mouse in the patched Apple TV. Well that opens to a lot of possibilities.
With the simpler patching process, a lot of applications for Apple TV started appearing, one of such products is Boxee.tv, which is a media-center application. Of course, Boxee is available for all other platforms (Windows, GNU/Linux, OSX, etc) but I believe, it’s the best companion of Apple TV like devices.

I have been having good time using Boxee on Apple TV. I can not only play all my media (pictures, videos, music) in much better way but also enjoy online stuff (music, videos, podcasts, pictures, etc), be it recommended by my friends in Boxee social network or various other channels/apps available on Boxee.

Boxee can download movie-subtitles and show with a great ease. It can also fetch a lot of metadata (covert-art, album-art, thumbnails, information, ratings, reviews, etc) for videos/music from various online databases (f.ex. IMDB, etc).

The latest version (still in testing: 0.9.9.5324 build) allows you to easily install various applications made for Boxee by community or Boxee developers?

I even noticed, Boxee can run applications that are based on Adobe Flash Platform, yeah Joost or MTV feeds/apps are Adobe Flash based.

The best thing, Boxee is based on XBMC, an open-source application. I think, it’s worth writing a post about Boxee, hence I just did that. Boxee.tv rocks!!!

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Available for consultancy, training and development

I am available for consultancy, training and development services. Following is the rough list of things, I can provide consultancy, training or development services for:-

  • ActionScript 1.0, 2.0, 3.0
  • Adobe Flash/Flex
  • Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR)
  • Training on Adobe RIA technologies
  • Architecture for RIA
  • Web Application Development
  • Design and Architecture
  • Development for LAMP
  • Integration Services for Flex/AIR with existing Web Apps
  • Development Setup for small teams
    • Subversion Version Control
    • Bug Tracking System (Trac, Wiki)
    • Training on Development Life Cycle
    • Backup Strategies
    • Development Sandbox Setup for RIA development

    JFYI! You can check out my linkedin profile to know more about me. I am based in India and have around ten (10) years of experience, during this period I have worked for Macromedia/Adobe, Yahoo!, Mixercast and TIS and worked as independent-consultant, freelancer, trainer and co-founder. I have been working on various technologies/platforms (some listed above).

    I am a programmer who enjoys solving users’ problems whatever it takes (technology is no constrain). Having said that, I am passionate about ActionScript/Flash/Flex/AIR and Web (in general) which happen to be my core competencies.

    PS: Do you think, this is a shameless sales pitch :-)

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    iDesktop.tv

    What is iDesktop.tv?
    iDesktop.tv is an incredibly cool dynamic web 2.0 application, with a terrific modern design, that brings you a better way to search and watch YouTube videos. Not only but you can download YouTube videos!
    This is basically adding functionality and experience to what “should be” there. The possibilities of the site reach far beyond that. It gives you the chance to create your own environment for watching video clips, saving them and sharing them with friends.

    I liked the neat and clean interface, which is mostly done in AJAX (=DHTML), Flash Player is used to play videos from YouTube. Entire experience blends well and user-interface is pretty intuitive.
    Features like video downloads in various formats (wmv, mov, mp4, zip, exe, etc) and smart/intelligent playlist creation are cool.
    iDesktop.tv increases the quality of user-experience, makes it easier to navigate, personalize, share and store the videos.
    I thought to spread some words about iDesktop.tv, which is no doubt one of the coolest web-app, done on top of YouTube’s platform and blurs the line between AJAX and Flash, as an user I didn’t notice any difference when AJAX or Flash was in action.
    BTW! This web application is created by the guys behind flashjester, if you are Flash vetran (like me ;-) ), you know what flashjester meant to us in those days, still means a lot to many today.
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    YouTube announces Upload API, Chromeless Player with JavaScript API and H.264 videos

    YouTube has announced a lot of new features:-

    This is really amazing, we can build kick-ass applications that would use YouTube’s platform for media upload, conversion (trans coding) and delivery, seamlessly.

    I am yet to confirm, how easy it is to load and control YouTube’s player in our Flash/Flex apps? Controlling loaded SWFs is hard, unless it allows cross-site scripting through Security.allowDomain (“loaderdomain.com”). I hope, some day Flash Player would have more Security APIs, which would let us expose a set of interfaces to loaders (SWF loads another swf from different domain).

    In any case, we can overlay iframe/div to show the video. That’s what I am doing for Yahoo! Live Mashup.

    Update (March 12, 2008): YouTube’s chromeless player can be loaded in Flash/Flex applications and can be controlled. That’s what I heard Geoff Stearns, Flash Engineer in YouTube and SWFObject developer, saying in this video.

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    Mogulus Grid

    I have talked about Mogulus in past, they keep on innovating. I love Mogulus Grid on their homepage. It’s just a nice way to see channels.
    I had an opportunity to meet Mogulus guys, when they started started development in Bangalore, during our first Bangalore Flex user group. These guys have been working hard, I hope, Google buys them.
    Right now watching hazarTV :-)
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