New Medium Business Opportunity: Make a standard format for grouping video clips and text

by phil on Friday Nov 28, 2008 2:59 PM
ideas for business

Here's an opportunity that would be good for library science graduates, new media graduates, professors, entrepreneurs, and innovation-minded technology or media companies.

Executive Summary:

Create a standard for mixing large quantities of text (let's say, 100-300 full pages) with large quantities of video clips (let's say, 20-100 clips). The goal is to make it easy to create, archive, reference, and transmit these packages.

Why this is opportune:

The "clip" has emerged as the dominant way of viewing video, which has overtaken the "reel" or "stream." In the "reel" or "stream" model, users sit down, tune down other distractions, and watch TV or a movie. Whereas with "clips," users watch them on-demand, often quitting them mid-way through, all while distractions are going all around.

Just like text has the book (or it's digitial equivalent, the PDF), and reels have the DVD, what do clips have?


Let's say I'm an anthropologist and I want to create something similar to the 21 accents video or the cash-counting video. But instead of one video, I want to have maybe 30 videos, each highlighting many paralanguages of different cultures. For example, you have one video that shows differences in crying, another that shows handshakes, another on pointing gestures. I also want to accompany the videos with extensive text and research. The goal is to then send this multimedia package to a colleague, journal, or classroom.

Here's how I'd think to do this:

In the Old Way, I would create the large document first and then reference time markers (or now DVD chapters) in a separate video. So I would have to create two archivable objects: a paper and a video. And I could then give those to a library or journal which could then be peer-reviewed.

A deficiency of this is that there's no good way to e-mail this. You could, theoretically, send a PDF and an attached video file. But then you have to worry about whether the other person can play the file. In academia, this may not be too much of a problem because you could send a QuickTime movie and expect everybody else with macs would be able to open it. If they're running a PC, they may have to go through extra steps to do this.

However, sending a separate movie is clumsy. You would have to reference different seek-positions, making the user fiddle with the video player's read-head or use bookmarks. Plus, there would be a lot of application switching between the video and the PDF.

Maybe you could try PowerPoint or Micrsoft Word. Both document formats allow you to embed all sorts of multimedia. But then again, you have the problem of whether users can view it or not. Also, those formats are not considered serious enough for archiving. You have to make a PDF and a DVD.

Or you could create a web page. This presents an initial challenge because you have to discover what options are available for creating a collection of clips. My first guess would be that Final Cut Pro or other video software have automatic templates for creating clip collections. Once again, though, web products are not considered serious enough. Would you then zip up the web site and give it to the library?

You could host the website, but what if your server eventually goes down, and two years later you want to send the resource to a friend? Do they have to have the proper browser at the time? And how will you store the clips. If you put the clips on YouTube, are you going to have to worry about it later being unviewable?

How a standard could come to be:

Someone creates a library website that is infused with university partnerships to create a standard way to present clips along with text. They could then create their own internal format/system, and then the model could be duplicated at other libraries. Perhaps they can create a proprietary system internally, but use contemporary methods for distributing. So you submit a paper, with links to video (with seek times), and the accompany videos, and this library figures out the best way to archive it. And then when you want to retrieve the package, the library provides you the best way (at the time) to do this. So in today environment, the library could generate a web site that uses flash and modern browser technologies to display your content. Ten years from now, it displays it in another format. And they make it really easy, permanent, and accessible, so you feel like your content is totally yours.

Someone creates a new format/reader. This is obvious, but then how will adoption happen?

Hardware drives the innovation, such as through Kindle. Amazon could make their e-Book reader view movie clips, and they would then have to create a format for this. And if they're long-range thinkers, they could make the format an open standard, and maybe everybody adopts this.

Digital paper drives the innovation. When we have books that are their own little mini Kindles, maybe people will trust shelving these books and calling that "archiving." As a side note, some of the same problems with archiving multimedia video/text are the same problems with archiving video games.

Google Video drives the innovation. Google is not your ordinary company, and for some reason, Google Video seems like the best place to upload a video if you want it to be available for a long time on the Internet. There may be no actual reason why this is the case, but psycologically, it seems like Google Video is the place to do it. They could create an option of allowing video alongside PDFs.

Some sub-ideas:

Think about legacy. The mp3 is a good format, because you know that 20 years from now, all your mp3s will all be playable on computers. The same with PDFs. And you also think the same thing of avis and quicktime movies, as long as you believe that a VLC-like player will always be available. A zip file of html may be problematic because we've already seen that newer browsers aren't the best at being backwards-compatible. So your web project may decay 20 years from now. Flash is also a shaky system.

Think of the most elemental design. One thing I like about Google Video is that there's no extra stuff, it's mostly just a video. As a result, it psychologically feels more archival. If you can somehow identify what are the core aspects of navigating a text and referencing clips, and simply provide that, then it may make it easy to adopt. For example, the first thought of mixing clips with text is to have the clips embedded along with the text, like in boxes, with the text wrapping around it, like a web page or a Word document. However, it may be easier to just remove that feature and allow people to click a link that brings up a clip in a new window. So you remove embedding, and focus simply on a video plus seek-positions embedded into links in a PDF. So you could, for example, make a separate format that allows a PDF to be bundled with an associated video (along with the codec?), and hyperlinks in the PDF simply jump you around in the video.

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