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The Moving Picture
Non-Linear Editing for the Corporate Web Site

Jeff Sauer

November, 2000 | Non-linear video editing manufacturers have been courting the elusive "corporate video" market for years. Lower entry prices and easier-to-use interfaces were the first strategies, but business solutions drive success more than better products. Now, Media 100 is about to link video editing with Web creation and, in so doing, may help set the standard for electronic media over the Web and how the corporate market sees and uses video. Moreover, if "i" is successful, it could go a long way toward changing the requirements for video editing in general.

Media 100's soon-to-be-released product, humbly called "i," will add an HTML track to Media 100's standard video editing interface, thereby allowing users to link HTML events–page flips, rollovers, graphics, Flash movies, Java applications, etc.–to specific points in the video. Using a technology not-so-quaintly dubbed "EventStream," the interface and the resulting video file will store metadata that, when played in a standard browser and media player, will trigger these extra-video media or information.

Admittedly, the term "corporate video" is more than a bit ambiguous. After all, some corporations–like Boeing or Ford–have better in-house video production facilities than most post-production studios. Generally, though, the video industry thinks of "corporate" as companies that might outsource a video project every now and again. Yet, in the case of i, Media 100 may actually have a video editing tool that's accessible to all classes of corporations that work the Web.

On the one hand, it seems like such a no-brainer. In the midst of the dot com craze, it's surprising that linking HTML with video is not already commonplace. Certainly, other applications have bit off various pieces of working with video. Web design tools can handily embed a video in a page and trigger "play" with various user actions. Macromedia's Flash can link moving visual events with other HTML page occurrences. And, SMIL, an industry standard programming language backed by RealNetworks, is designed to support many of the same capabilities as "i," though it has yet garnered little vendor activity in the form of professional creation and production tools.

What's more, Media 100 is not even the first to offer an HTML track in an editing application. In April of this year, Avid Technology announced (though not yet shipped) ePublisher, an inexpensive tool with a video, audio, and HTML timeline. Yet, Media 100 is clearly taking the video and HTML link somewhere it has not been before. Where Avid ePublisher is a fairly simple, standalone tool built from the core of Avid's now-defunct, home-oriented Cinema editor, it is inherently limited in its true editing capabilities. Indeed, the workflow Avid envisions is one of editing video in one of its more-powerful products, like Media Composer or Avid Xpress DV, then importing the result to ePublisher. Of course, that's fine for those first-try successes, but if your edit needs changes, it's less ideal.

Media 100, on the other hand, is inserting the HTML track directly into its full-featured editing interface. In fact, if you're not interested in the HTML features of "i," you might still buy it for the straight video editing. Media 100 i, however, will allow editors to create hotspots within a video frame so viewers can click on, for example, an actor's jacket and buy it. Chapter marks embedded into a RealVideo, Windows Media, or QuickTime stream will let viewers move more freely from one section of a video to another, much like DVD, or let different mouse clicks elsewhere in a Web page start specific sections of the video. And, with "i," programmers will be able to build rich interplay between a moving video and the Web site built around it, with updating text, changing graphics, and shifting Web pages all while the video plays.

Naturally, there are several questions yet to be answered about Media 100 i. For example, Media 100 hasn't talked about supporting caching and preload commands, so if a viewer has a slow connection, synchronization isn't completely lost. There are also questions about the pending workflow between Web designers and video editors. The company concedes in the early days before the product even ships that the market will probably need to help it smooth the interface and find the appropriate balance between the HTML tools then included in "i" and dedicated Web tools like Macromedia Dreamweaver, Adobe GoLive, and Microsoft FrontPage. It even openly wonders whether the video editor should be leading a cross-disciplinary design effort for the Web or the Web designer.

Yet, for Media 100, the answer to that question seems to be less important than getting a product to market that will allow video to be used in new ways for the Web. As the company sees it, if the Web tool vendors aren't going to add video editing, it needs to work the Web from within the editing app. Ultimately, the biggest question about the future success of tools like "i" may come from the Web as a whole. Thus far, Web video successes have been limited, due in no small part to the constraints of the still-prevalent, low-bandwidth connections used by most consumers. While rich media clearly has value on the Internet, if video bandwidths prevent surfers from viewing material, video can't take off.

Fortunately, the broadband dilemma is a common refrain and several companies are at work trying to solve it. If they do, get a demo of Media 100 i at a reseller near you.

Jeff Sauer (jeff@dtvgroup.com), columnist for The Moving Picture, is the Director of the DTVGroup, a research and test lab that regularly reviews tools and technology. He is an industry consultant, an independent producer, and a Contributing Editor to New Media Magazine, Video Systems Magazine, Presentations Magazine, and AV Avenue.

Comments? Email us at letters@onlineinc.com.

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