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Independent Video in the Information Age

One of the primary obstacles for video content distribution over the Internet is the cost of specialized software required to encode video. Video encoding consists of converting video content into compressed digital data that can be easily distributed electronically.

There are several software development companies that sell closed source software for video encoding and content distribution. The cost and available features of the different software packages vary. Some software companies require additional royalty payments for use of their encoding software.

Thanks to the efforts of several software developers, there is free software that does not require royalty payments. This software can be used for both commercial and non commercial projects.

NullSoft Video

Justin Frankel, the creator of the Winamp media software player, also developed NullSoft video. This format was specifically designed for distributing video media through the Internet and is based on the Shoutcast Internet protocol.

Both open source and closed source video codecs are supported by NullSoft video. Codecs are software programs that allow media to be digitally encoded or decoded using a specific compression architecture. These video codecs include the VP3 open source and the VP6.1 / VP6.2 closed source. The MP3 and AAC audio codecs are supported as well. The VP3 video and MP3 audio codecs are included with the NullSoft video tools download.

A free set of tools for encoding and streaming video through the Internet using NullSoft video was also created. You can download the NullSoft video tools package direct from the NullSoft web site. (http://www.nullsoft.com/nsv). You can download a updated version of the NullSoft video tools here : (http://www.scvi.net/software.htm). This update includes the latest Lame MP3 audio encoder, software improvements and access to a updated version of the VP3 video codec.

NullSoft video content can be streamed through the Internet with the following free media server software :

Shoutcast DNAS (http://www.shoutcast.com/download) Icecast (http://www.icecast.org) Steamcast (http://www.steamcast.com)

(http://www.scvi.net) is the unofficial information resource website for NullSoft video. You can find many tutorials, guides and third party software tools to download here.

There are several media software players that can view the NullSoft video format. These include :

Winamp : (http://www.winamp.com)
Video Lan Client : (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/)
Mplayer : (http://www.mplayerhq.hu)
Xine : (http://xinehq.de)
X box : (http://www.xboxmediacenter.com)
NullSoft video can also be deployed with ActiveX components for web site use. This will allow people to watch NullSoft video without the need for installing additional player software.

Theora Video

The Theora video project is being developed as a complete open source video solution. The group behind this project is (http://www.xiph.org.) This format uses the Theora video codec (http://www.theora.org) and the Ogg Vorbis audio codec (http://www.vorbis.com).

The Theora video project uses the Theora video codec which is based upon the VP3 video codec developed by ON2. The Theora video codec offers core architectural improvements to provide better video encoding and playback performance.

Both live and pre recorded video can be distributed via the Internet using Theora video.

Theora video content can be streamed through the Internet with the following free media server software :

Icecast (http://www.icecast.org)
JRoar (http://www.jcraft.com/jroar)
Flumotion (http://www.flumotion.com/download)
Steamcast (http://www.steamcast.com)

There are several media software applications that can play the Theora video format. These include :

Video Lan Client : (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/)
Mplayer : (http://www.mplayerhq.hu)
Xine : (http://www.xinehq.de)
Xbox Media Center : (http://www.xboxmediacenter.com)
Real (Player) Alternative : (http://www.free-codecs-com/download/Real_alternative.htm)

Theora video can also be deployed with Java components for web site use. This will allow people to watch Theora video without the need for installing additional player software.

Tim Gnatek of the New York Times wrote a article entitled "Internet TV: Don't Touch That Mouse!".
(http://www.friends.ca/News/Friends_News/archives/articles07010402.asp)

This article highlights some of the problems associated with content delivery via the Internet. These problems include how independent broadcasters will be able to "keep up with viewer demand, given the cost of the servers and Internet connections required" in addition to "How do you get it (video content) from your garage to the Web?''

These barriers on the information superhighway are being removed by Internet video stations using alternative media distribution methods.

Some of these alternative methods include :

P2P video streaming

P2P video streaming does not require a centralized server architecture for content distribution. Each client that views the video content automatically relays it to the next person requesting access to the video. This greatly reduces the need for large amounts of bandwidth for content delivery.

Unlike P2P file trading, P2P video streaming can be used to broadcast live video content using several encoding formats and is supported on various computer operating systems.

Video podcasting

Video podcasting allows people to publish video content via a web host with no specialized server software. A specialized data client using Really Simple Syndication provides users access to the most current video content. The video content can be downloaded on a computer or hand held media device for viewing at a later time.

You can use both NullSoft video and Theora video for video podcasting.

Dave Childers is a freelance Internet broadcast consultant, writer and the webmaster of http://www.scvi.net, the Winamp TV / NullSoft video information website.

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