Exciting day! First one back in the office, seven days after surgery. Among commute, lunch out & some other stuff, probably put half a mile on the crutches. Feeling strong & looking forward to continuing recovery. Also looking forward to finishing this series of posts. Five straight days of identifying issues & writing opinions, while also doing the post-surgery rehab and trying to keep pace on the rest of the job. Phew.
Also exciting today were some interactions with customers to schedule meetings in a couple weeks to go over some new functionality we’re building right now. But there was also some interaction with customers about fact that our online service could be faster. Yes, it’s true. Apects of video.Market7 should be faster. And we’re on that too. This is a pivotal dilemma among software companies with emerging bases of customers — how to balance getting out the next set of services that drive higher usage and attract the next customers, with also constantly maintaining and enhancing the performance and reliability of what’s already provided.
As a start-up guy, I admit to a bias towards the thrill of conceptualizing and building new functionality in response to our expanding understanding of user needs. But as a maturing start-up guy I also increasingly recognize the need to complement that innovation with constant, diligent evaluation of how’s our performance and what we can do to optimize what our customers already have. So my deeply thought answer on this fifth day’s question is to balance constant emphasis on both maintain and build.
As our base diversifies, including expanding use on bigger budget production projects that tend to involve longer footage, customers increasingly request that our player functionality be immediately and comprehensively available for any portion of small or large video files. Our initial player functionality has been based on progressive download, meaning that once a video is requested, it loads in timeline order, and later portions of the video aren’t immediately available until the download catches up. As part of our assessment, and after experiments with a few commercial streaming servers, we determined the best approach for us is to engineer and implement our own approach to dynamic streaming, which we’ve spent the past month or so developing, along with a few other cool annotative player features, demonstrated here:
To assure good customer experiences, and even though we’ve already extensively tested, we haven’t yet turned on the new dynamic streaming for everyone, and we’re asking for volunteers. If you would like us to turn on dynamic streaming for (a) particular project(s) of yours, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com letting us know which project(s) and we’ll do so. Once we confirm that video play and annotative interactivity works robustly across projects, video files and users, we’ll turn on dynamic streaming everywhere, which should occur during February 2010.
Dynamic streaming, like its name indicates, allows users to click anywhere within timeline of a video immediately upon load, and play of video from that requested point is immediately responsive. Also, in implementing the architecture we have also allowed for Flash (.flv) and H.264 (ex: .mp4, .m4v) videos to be in-the-clear in our player so they do not get transcoded, meaning that they are immediately available for play upon upload, and that they are played at full quality of the source content with no modification. Videos of other formats do still have to be transcoded to Flash for our player, although from the File Actions button in our player, the original states of those videos can be downloaded with full fidelity for file-transfer purposes including to see un-modified in a compatible player. One more change we made to our player is allowing j-k-l keyboard shortcut navigation back-play/pause-forward, and the same for left and right directional arrows and space-bar, with additional benefit of visual fast-forward and rewind by holding down the appropriate keys.
The player enhancements are demonstrated in the screen-capture video towards the top of this blog post. Other enhancements with this release include:
Continuing last couple of months’ theme, we’ve made still more speed improvements, especially this time for loads of project home pages
Improved layout and presentation on printouts of pages from Script, Task and Event modules
Easier flow for inviting new members to projects
Activity feed reflects the first time a new member logs into a project
And again, please do email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com letting us know projects of yours you’d like us to move to dynamic streaming immediately so that you can try it out (and please let us know how it works for you).
Thought it would be clever to pair the catch-phrase from Days Of Thunder at the start of this post with the catch-phrase from Talladega Nights at the end, but imdb reveals a different Tom Cruise vehicle as source of the line above: Top Gun, of course. My bad. Anyhow, that need, for speed: we’ve been feeling too, just like Maverick, and probably also Cole Trickle (name of lead character in Days Of Thunder — I had to look that up).
We love regularly adding modules and features which we know address real challenges and desires in production of media. The collection of all of these elements is an application suite on which people rely for vital activities of theirs. And delivering such an application suite, with its feature richness, over the internet, to browsers, presents performance challenges. The past couple of weeks have been one of our periodic times of assessing and implementing techniques for faster performance, and we are glad to already be hearing from users noticing the improvement. We come out of this release with a few more acceleration ideas that we’ll weave into our work going forward.
Besides being faster, one other significant initiative of this new release is that when people who already have video.Market7 log-in access, and are added to new projects, it’s automatic & instantaneous with no need for such new project members to accept invitations (although they do receive emails notifying them of being added). A few of our higher-project-volume customers have requested this, and we agree, so there it is & thanks for the correspondence.
Anyhow, like Ricky Bobby would say, do shake-n-bake some content in our faster video.Market7.