Ooyala--A Better Way to Stream Video?

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Last week I was invited to view a demo of a very cool web-based video delivery system. It's called Backlot and it's from a company called Ooyala. If you've never heard of them, don't feel bad; neither had I. It was started by 3 former Google employees (you've perhaps heard of Google?) as a project to monetize search and content delivery. While they were working on that, they built a video portal that turned out to be a great product.

Since I'm getting rather busy with job and life transitions, I haven't had a lot of time to play with the product yet. That will come later this summer, so look for a more detailed write up then. In the meantime, I'll share a few things that caught my eye.

First of all, the interface is simple and intuitive. If you can build a playlist in iTunes, you can upload and organize video files in Backlot. They have built a bunch of batch processing features into the interface, so you can upload a whole library of content then tag, organize, set up channels, groups and all sorts of other things with a few clicks. It's very quick and easy; in fact I noted during the demo that it could easily be done by a volunteer without a ton of training time.

Second, the video encoding is done intelligently. When you upload a video, the system breaks it up into short chunks and processes them in parallel. That's cool, but what is really great from a content provider standpoint is that the video is delivered in small chunks. This means two things; first you only pay for the segments viewed (or more correctly, the bandwidth those segments use). Second, because you can set videos to be encoded at multiple quality levels, the system can parcel out delivery at the highest quality the users bandwidth can handle--and switch dynamically on the fly if the bandwidth changes. There is little buffering, and users won't end up with stalled content while the buffer reloads.

The system also has a tremendous metrics module so you can see quickly how many people are viewing how many videos. Again, this is a huge asset for a church because if you're spending money putting content online, you had better know how effective it is. There is also very granular control over what Ooyala calls Syndication; essentially that lets you control where and when a video is available. Again, highly useful if you're dealing with performance licensing issues.

While it's easy to embed the player (and it's a pretty darn customizable player at that) into your website, you can also syndicate straight to YouTube as well

There is a lot more the system can do, and I'm really looking forward to playing with it some more once I get settled into my new position. Putting the services on the web is something that's already being discussed at Coast Hills, so my introduction to Ooyala comes at a good time. If you can't wait for me to review it further, check them out yourself.