Producing Streaming Video (and Audio) for the Web

by Philip Greenspun for the Web Tools Review.

If you just want to record sound from a microphone and save it in RealAudio format, then you mostly need to read my article on production machines and software.

If you can't persuade the sources of audio and moving images to come up to your desktop, then you might want to think about a small portable machine that you can carry to the source. As far as I can tell, the best such machine right now is a DV camcorder with a digital output.

What kind of camcorder to buy

You can save a lot of money and aggravation by buying an analog Hi8 camcorder and a Macintosh with a "video in" connector. But you wouldn't be reading Web Tools Review if you just wanted to do the lame obvious thing.

What you want is a DV camcorder. This is a near-broadcast-quality format introduced by Sony in 1996. It records onto tiny leetle tapes that are almost impossible to buy. The same machine and tape can do

Why digital? Because you can copy without loss. Why do you want to copy your home videos 50 times? Because they need editing! Editing implies copying. Also, ultimately if you're a serious Web nerd, all you really care about is digital display. So you might as well keep the information in digital form right from the start.

All you really need in a DV cam is a digital output. For reasons that escape me, not all DV cams have digital outputs. This is variously referred to as a "DV out", "Firewire", or "IEEE-1394". It is all the same standard and connector and everything plugs together; only the names are different.

As of January 1998, there seem to be three camcorders that are interesting. I have a Sony DCR-PC7 which is relatively cheap ($1700) and fits in your palm. There is the Canon Optura ($2700), notable for making high quality still photos. Finally, there is the Canon XL1 ($4500), notable for offering interchangeable lenses and 3 CCDs. The latter feature is the most important and the hardest to explain. Let's just say that, though the specs on consumer camcorders are now actually better than broadcast quality, the image quality still sucks compared to what you see on the evening news. This is because 1-CCD camcorders try to capture three colors (red-green-blue; RGB) with one CCD array. I think that the way it is done is to stick a matrix of colored filters over the CCD pixels and then somehow try to digitally recover a color and intensity for each pixel. In the academic engineering world, this is known as a kludge. With 3 CCDs, you feed the same image to 3 CCD sensors simultaneously. So now you have true RGB for each pixel, just as you do when you output a digital image to a monitor. Anyway, all TV production is done with 3-CCD cameras and if you have the money and care about quality, you should do the same.

A good/cheap/honest place to buy a camcorder is B&H Photo.

How to pipe DV onto your computer's bus

Historically America's brilliant hardware engineers have doubled processor speed every year or two. People who build computer hardware are always concerned that users will stop upgrading their machines and/or simply buy very cheap computers. After all, if you're only doing word processing, do you really need a desktop computer that is ten times faster than the machine used to run the American Airlines reservation system in 1975, a machine that served thousands of users? Fortunately for hardware engineers, Bill Gates came along and yes you actually did need 200 million instructions/second to run Word. Maybe more.

Andy Grove is paranoid, though. Now that he's cut a deal with the hardware geniuses who build the Hewlett-Packard Precision Architecture (the chip that has just served you this page and historically one of the best CPU designs), he's worried that the software idiots at Microsoft might not be able to keep up. It is conceivable that a $1000 PC would be fast enough to Windows98 and the rest of the usual desktop bloatware.

Andy Grove's solution: put an IEEE-1394 interface on every PC. Consumers won't be able to resist piping their kid vids into their PCs. As soon as they see how long it takes to compress and email 20 seconds of baby waving hi to grandma, they'll toss their $1000 PC in the rubbish and will be willing to pay almost any price to upgrade to a P8/MMX.

[It is worth noting that, like most of the brilliant ideas in the Wintel world, this one was ripped off from Apple. The Macintosh guys came up with this whole way of looking at the world half a decade ago and gave the hardware bus the name Firewire.]

Unfortunately, it seems that there are precious few PCs today with Firewire inputs. In fact, I can't find any in the HP, Dell, or Gateway Web sites (January 1998). I think the best thing to do is call up B&H Photo and ask them what their favorite board du jour is. I got a Spark card from DPS. This came bundled with Adobe Premiere for about $800. It is a PCI card and took approximately 60 seconds to install in an NT 4.0 box (it took a week to install a sound card in the same machine, after trying both PCI and ISA cards, so there is obviously something good about the DPS product).

One obvious limitation of the DPS hardware/software is that it only supports writing to Windows AVI-format files. The AVI format can only handle two audio tracks, so if you ever were able to get a camcorder that could do four tracks, you'd lose two of them. Another limitation is the AVI files can't be more than 2 GB long, so you won't be recording clips longer than 9 minutes.

How to pipe DV from your computer's bus to the hard disk

Analog video capture hardware/software can adjust to the lameness of your machine. If you say "I have a slow wimpy hard drive" then the board will capture only 160x120 pixels and compress the bits in some way. Thus, your system is not overloaded by the flood of data coming from the DV camcorder.

The DPS Spark capture hardware/software does not have too many smarts. It can only reformat the 3.56 MB/second data stream that comes from the camcorder into a .avi file. So even if your ultimate goal is to publish no more than 64Kbits/second of video (so that the dual-ISDN or better crowd can view your video), your disk subsystem has to first swallow up the full DV data stream.

There ought to be a certain amount of buffering in both the card, the DPS software, and the Windows NT file system such that the disk can pause for a moment here or there. On average, a standard Seagate Ultra SCSI disk drive these days is spec'd to transfer 20 Mbytes/second (40 Mbytes with a 16-bit SCSI connector like SCA). If the disk pauses for too long and the buffers fill up, then there is nowhere to put the latest video information and "a frame is dropped". In the bad old days, disks were supposed to pause every now and then to do "thermal recalibration". So you'd buy an "AV-compatible drive" that promised not to stop and inspect its navel. With the superfast disks that are standard nowadays, this is theoretically not a problem. IBM, for example, says that all of their hard disks are AV-compatible.

I tried shipping data directly to a 4.2 GB Quantum Atlas II drive, a 7200 RPM high-performance drive hooked up to the SCSI controller on my Quad PPro's motherboard. The drive is is supposed to be able to transfer 40 MB/second, 10 times the DV requirement (though there is a disturbing note in the site about "sustained throughput of 9-15 MB/second"). Quantum's Web site says that the drive is perfect for video editing and also brags about how they were the first to solve the thermal recalibration problem. The first file I transferred worked fine. The second transfer resulted in no complaints from the DPS software about dropped frames. However, on playback it was obvious that a lot of audio had been dropped. It was noticeably choppy. It is tougher to tell with video whether or not frames have been dropped, but it sure looked that way.

The same server has a Mylex hardware RAID controller. This yokes together 5 disks (plus a hot spare) into a RAID-5 configuration where all 5 disks can be written at once for allegedly monster speed on sequential writes, probably something like 30 MB/second. So I tried capturing to a file on this RAID. The DPS software reported that it was dropping frames. The resulting AVI file was useless. Only two or three frames out of 30 were being captured and the result was comically jerky.

More research: using Explorer, copying a 600 MB file from the Quantum disk to the RAID took 7 minutes and 30 seconds (450 seconds). So my RAID is apparently only capable of doing writes at a little more than 1 MB/second. Copying the same file back took 160 seconds. So the Quantum under NTFS is capable of handling just shy of 4 MB/second and might conceivably be adequate. Out of curiosity and a general desire to show how badly Windows NT sucks, I marched over to my $500,000 HP K460 Unix server and tried the same copy (600 MB file from one disk to another). It took nearly 5 minutes (290 seconds)! I think the reason might be that I'm running a journaled file system with 1K blocks. Every time you write to the disk, the file system also has to write a journal entry in case the machine is powered off and the file system needs to be rolled forward or back to a consistent state. This is much more robust than the standard Unix file system but also apparently rather pokey. So I tried it on a $150,000 SPARC/Solaris machine and the standard Unix (unsafe, unjournaled, 8K blocks) file system: 200 seconds, or 3MB/second.

A few weeks later, I tore apart my Quad PPro and took out the DPS card. I put it into my desktop HP P6-200 Vectra system. I bought a brand new IBM 18 GB Ultra SCSI disk drive. Per the suggestions of DPS support, I verified that the Spark card got its own interrupt. I enabled the write cache on the disk drive. I verified that Ultra SCSI was enabled. I copied a file using Explorer from the main disk (FAT) to the new 18 GB disk (NTFS): 40 seconds for 240 MB (6 MB/second). This was lower than Adaptec SCSI Bench's measurement of 15 MB/second for the IBM drive but still almost twice what I needed for DV. I fired up the DPS Spark 1.04 software. It dropped frames (though it did not complain). I downloaded their 1.05b1 beta software from the DPS site. It dropped frames.

What's the solution? I wish you'd tell me. I have a lot of fast computers and disks. It seems that none of them can keep up with the data rate of DV. Suffice it to say that the $500 camcorder and $1500 A/V Macintosh are looking like smart options at this point.

April 1998: My friend Rob bought a Miro DV-300 board. He took it home, plugged it in, and captured video flawlessly from his Canon XL-1.

Preparing DV-originated audio and video for the Web

Assuming I ever figure out how to get dropout-free DV files into my computer, the question becomes how to serve them on the Web. Users aren't going to want to download a 2 GB AVI file.

There are three ways to attack download time: downsizing, compression and streaming. Downsizing = reducing the video screen to 360x240 or 180x120 pixels (1/2 or 1/4 the full DV standard) or, in the audio world, cutting down to mono from stereo and/or 22 KHz from 44 KHz. Compression = throwing away information that is redundant, e.g., frames 2-30 in a one-second still where the content doesn't change from frame to frame. Streaming = a protocol whereby the user can view content as it comes in.

As soon as you decide to go streaming, there is no download time for users. There is only setup time. Your user's client has to make a connection to your server. After that, it is a real-time show. The decision to stream means that the user's Internet connection speed affects the quality of his experience. You have to use downsizing and compression to fit your content into his available bandwidth.

First, you have to decide the level of crippledness you're going to accept for user connections. My personal choice is to say "they have to have 28.8 to get voice; they have to have 128K (dual-ISDN) to get video". As far as I can tell, it is possible to do good quality monophonic voice over 28.8. You have to throw away a lot of higher frequencies (downsizing) and also compress. I choose to do the downsizing and compression with the Real Media, a proprietary system and then serve it with their Real Server 5.0. Real Networks is making some attempt to standardize at least some portions of this system as the Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP). They've got a huge list of companies supporting RTSP. Everyone is on the list except for Microsoft, which presumably has something of its own that they are bundling into their OS and that won't work on Unix or Macintosh. I guess I'll look at it if I can ever get IE4 to install on my NT 4.0 box without reinstalling the operating system and all of my programs (Microsoft tech support's helpful suggestion).

There is a free version of Real Server 5.0 that gives you 60 channels. It is not a reasonable choice if you have existing users who've already installed the Real Player. That's because the free version of the server won't talk to the old clients. So you are forced to beg your users to upgrade or beg someone for $6000 to buy the not-free version of the Real Server 5.0. Or maybe you should just use HTTP streaming and a standard Web server. This has the advantage that content will get through corporate firewalls and proxies, unlike the Real Server's UDP packets. HTTP streaming will not use bandwidth as efficiently, a consideration for modem users. Nor will it work for real-time broadcasts. Nor am I sure that it will let the user go back and forth within a file.

Authoring Audio

You have the server installed. You have the AVI file from your Spark system. The easiest way to get to a .rm file for the Real Server is to grab the RealEncoder or RealPublisher from You can just open the AVI file and say "save for 28.8 mono voice" (or one of about 50 other targets). It takes a few seconds on a Pentium Pro to strip out the audio track and compress 90 seconds of audio.

If you want to get fancy and edit sound files, Sonic Foundry's SoundForge will read in the AVI file and write out Real Media format painlessly.

Authoring Video

Once you have the server installed and all of your users have gone through the pain of installing the 5.0 player, you'll be pleased to note that everyone can do video with the same setup.

You want to be a bit careful with video. Remember that if you compress down to 100 Kbits/second, you will use up a T1 line with only 15 simultaneous users. So even if all of your users have T3 connections, you might not want to go wild delivering them video.

I was so pleased with the way the RealPublisher system took my .avi file and produced a .rm audio file that I just pulled down the "dual-ISDN video, voice" option instead of the '28.8 audio, voice" option. RealPublisher obliging opened a .rm file and then... crashed.

I thought "maybe it doesn't like the 720x480 full DV size". So I dragged the AVI file into Adobe Premiere and wrote it back as a 180x120 (quarter-screen) AVI file, uncompressed (per the Real Networks instructions). The quality, even before doing any compression, was terrible. Premiere had completely trashed the pixels while squeezing them. This is a topic that gets scant coverage in the 316-page Premiere manual, except for page 158: "The Resize filter resizes the image to the output frame size using interpolated scaling. This provides better scaling than Video for Windows or QuickTime can achieve when it adjusts the size during the Make Movie process." Oh.

Anyway, the good news is that after you "Make Movie" in Premiere and get these blurry, blocky pixels, it is easy to export to RealMedia format. The resulting file was viewable with the RealPlayer. It looked about 100 times worse than the examples published on the Real Networks site.

Leave those Quad Pentium IIs at Home

I installed all of this crud on my big noisy Quad PPro server because I thought it would use SMP to run all the video encoding and filters and so forth 4X faster. However, watching the NT Performance Monitor revealed that none of the applications I ran were ever able to use more than one CPU. I would have done just about as well with a single-CPU machine.

I guess I'm used to programs like AOLserver and Oracle (see Database Backed Web Sites) that are able to parallelize their operations. Check your video tools carefully before investing in a monster multi-CPU box for video production.

I'm still losing

This is where I'm supposed to say: I solved all of these problems and now you can look at streaming video on my dog's home page. But I can't because I haven't solved any of these problems. I checked and it seemed that hardly anyone else has successfully transferred DV to hard disk either.

Links to Experts

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Reader's Comments

When it comes to I/O performance, I've said it before and I'll say it again: BUY SGI.

I didn't have a 600 MB file handily lying around, but I did have a 280MB index file (which is almost 1/2 of 600 MB). Copying it from one disk to another on an O200 took 95 seconds and change, twice.

The O200 runs a journaling (i.e., safe) filesystem, xfs. So this clocks in at about the same speed as your unsafe Solaris machine, and almost 50% faster than your HP.

Note that the disks on this machine are Barracuda Utra-SCSI, which means that things could go faster with the newer 18GB disks...also, there's only one SCSI controller, though with an XIO add-on card, it can drive four channels simultaneously.

Finally, there are only 2 processors, not four, though for $500,000, it could be upgraded 25 times over.



-- Michael Tiemann, March 19, 1998

I've had similar experiences, but only when working on the pc. To me it seems as if PC video software just isn't too good. On the mac, Quicktime has been a standard for a long time, and the editing software on this side of the platform is a lot more mature and easier to use than on the pc.

For extremely good video rendering quality (such as scaling video down) I recommend Adobe's After Effects (as opposed to Premiere).

Also, if you're frustrated at Realvideo and their software, take a look at the newly released Quicktime 3.0 ( QT3 now has very good video codecs aimed at the net, and looking at some test I've done and the demo files on the Apple site, it looks like it's pretty safe to say goodbye to Realvideo on most projects...


Jussi Haro Grey Interactive Helsinki

-- Jussi "Sulka" Haro, April 6, 1998

I just got a Sony PC-1 dvcam, with firewire out, but haven't bought a firewire card yet - still trying to decide which one.

I repeated Philip's explorer copy test with my inexpensive Wintel system. I got sustained 7.2 MB/sec. I have a BX based mothterboard, PII 400, 2 UDMA-2 ide drives - a Maxtor 17gb and a Seagate 6gb - both formatted fat32. I dragged and dropped a 648mb file and it took an average of 94 seconds.

I think a clue to not dropping frames might be the use of dma mode on a busmastering controller. I'm running win98, which, by default, installs a busmaster capable driver for the bx motherboard ide controller. You have to go to controlpanel->system->devices manager->disk drives and open each of the ide disks, choose the settings tabs, and check the 'dma' checkbox to make it run in busmaster mode.

When I ran a read only disk benchmark with dma turned off, the drive could read 7mb/sec. When I turned the dma on, it jumped to 24mb/sec.

More significantly, the benchmark claimed 94% cpu utilization during the non dma test, and ONLY 4% CPU UTILIZATION during the dma test!

I suspect that dma mode ide disk i/o takes so much less cpu, as well as being faster, that it might make the capture card work better, since it wouln't be as cpu starved.

I believe NT4 also has ide busmaster support, but I haven't experimented with it yet.

btw, FAT32 seems to be MUCH faster than NTFS, allocates space in nice little 4k blocks, and with a handy $40 utility from called FAT32 for NT, NT4 can read and write to FAT32 partitions very nicely, making dual boot 98/nt systems able to share big drives nicely. Just make sure you leave the first gig of your boot drive FAT16, and make sure \winnt is on it. The fat32 addon for NT4 won't let you boot from a fat32 drive...

I just picked up the Maxtor 17gb ide for $349 through, incredible how prices have dropped...

-- Steve Bliss, February 16, 1999

You were of no help and i am dissapointed in the lameness of your page. and by the way, a maxtor is a really shitty drive. try a western digital.

-- Abraxsus Hellfire, March 3, 1999

I just got a Radius MotoDV capture card. It works incredibly well. Never dropped a frame. It comes with MotoDV and PhotoDV (for motion and stills), and was the only card I could find that supported the 9:16 mode of my camera. During capture, it said it could write to my drive (maxtor 17gig UDMA2) at 17meg/sec. It also comes with Quicktime 3, which has a dvstream .mov file spec - it's supposed to be able to get around the 2gig segment limit.

PhotoDV does a pretty poor job of extracting a frame from a moving sequence, but if you press the 'photo' button on the camera, causing it to write the same pixels to about 7 seconds of tape, PhotoDV does some multi-frame interpolation magic that makes stills as good or better as any digital camera I've seen. Here's an example from my Sony PC1 and the MotoDV board, using the PhotoDV software.

The board and software were only $319 at buycomp.

-- Steve Bliss, March 4, 1999
We are working with an Osprey 1000 capture card in a DELL XPS 200n with a 4.2GB Atlas Quantum for some video work with Real Networks Products.

Lessons learned:

Digitize Real Media from AVI, don't expect TV grade quality, buy more hard disk space, expect to suffer a little, be disappointed with the output.

A CIF (Common Intermedia Format, 352x240) video at 24 bit color, 15 fps(not 30) will kill all available space on your 4GB hard drive in only a few video minutes when captured as an AVI file. Dropping to QCIF (quarter size - 176x120) will allow you to get about 5 minutes of video per gigabyte. The Osprey 1000 will go to 30 fps, but the real network system supports only 15.

Why AVI? With AVI, you get better quality input to feed to the Real Encoder. You are capturing in one step, and encoding/compressing in the other, so your video card is not dropping frames while the processor is busy compressing. You can encode live, directly to Real Media files, but your frame rate will in the single digits, as opposed to the 15 obtainable with the AVI file. (You can't get more than 15 fps with Real Networks software) Also, your CPU (200 Mhz in this case) will work 100%. The Dual or Quad Pentium may be able to add more horses to the wagon, and reduce the frame loss rate. Same for the 400 mhz boxes coming out. (The Osprey also has an SBUS variant for Sun.)

After the resulting AVI output is fed into the Real Encoder, you get decently sized files, quality depends in your input. Talking heads work well. Water skiing videos shot from the back of a bouncing boat, with the skier and background changing all the time are poor enough to question the worth of the effort spend encoding.

The roadtrip to multimedia onto the web wasn't without it's potholes. The Real Encoder doesn't work in Windows on this V3.51 NT box without crashing on takeoff, so it must be run off the command line in a MS/DOS box. It will run on a V4.0 NT box we have nearby, but that box doesn't have a capture card. If you are running in DOS mode, which is handy for those on V3.51 or who prefer not to compute by cartoons, you must leave the Windows NT VIDCAP32 application open otherwise the Real Encoder can not find the DLL files it needs to open the AVI file you created. This one problem resulted in the waste of several days of R&D time, and is not documented on their web site.

Is it worth it? The video quality isn't there, and you won't be serving quality video to modem users. Real Networks products are currently (V5.0, 1998) are restricted to 500Kb/s output files, video and audio combinied. Full motion video requires 6Mb/s which means there loss right away. Multimedia streamed in this fashion is already somewhat handicapped -- now run 6Mb/s down to a 20Kb/s modem line and it's time to run for cover.

Is there hope? Network connections to the households are expected to increase in speed over time. Creating your video in several formats may allow those with higher speed connections to enjoy your work today, and be in place for tomorrow's users of cable modems or other higher tech. Deferred streaming may allow you to cram a slightly larger stream into a smaller pipe by giving up time, if your users will be patient. It depends on how bad they want to see it.

One perception experiment indicated evidence towards the following outcome: Given an equal picture and different audio systems, better audio resulted in a perception of better video. So, squeezing in a good quality sound track may help offset some user complaints about the picture, but don't count too much on it. The encoding of the Real Media format allows selection of the audio bandwidth first, then gives the rest to the video. The frame rate, and image quality are the two variables it works with. If your image quality is too poor, try reducing the bandwidth you've given to audio. Chances are, unless you're encoding a music video you won't need stereo.

We're probably going to continue to digitize video and see what the response is. It may be a dancing bear at this point -- not very good, but enough of a miracle it works at all.


We've moved the Osprey 1000 to a NT4.0 DELL 450Mhz with 9GB Ultra SCSI drive. The system is capable of encoding at speed now. Still, for multimedia, NT is not a real good platform. We are currently spec'ing out a new box for video encoding for a distance education application, and are looking at a PIII w/18GB x 2 and the Osprey card. We will probably run it as Win 98.

-- Rich Emmings, April 1, 1999

(1) DV cameras do not record MPEG. They record their own format which is more like JPEG in that it is single frame based (no frame-frame dependencies). It differs from JPEG in that it has some alternative DCT stuff to handle interlace, and some weird packings of the bits both to smear the image out over the tape so small tapr dropouts lead to whole-image small quality loss rather than an obvious localized spot of garbage.

(2) DV is still not perfect. There are arguments going on right now between different manufacturers about what the ranges of the YUV data encoded are supposed to be. Until the relevant parties get there act together it is quite possible that the DV you import from one camera will look nasty (under/over contrast) when played on another camera or through software.

(3) One of the better ways of getting the video down to a decent size is to drop the frame down to 8fps (if originally 24fps source) or 10 fps (if originally 30fps). At 8-10fps the playback is smooth enough to get fusion. (8 is tight---may want to go to 12, but 10 is pretty good.) The trick, however, is that the frames have to be perfectly spaced. Just grabbing some random 10 of 30 frames (which is what most crappy digitizers will give you) isn't going to do a very good job.

(4) On the playback side, QuickTime does a pretty good job of software rescaling of video, while many video cards do a job ranging from pretty lame to outstanding. The problem here is that most video on the web is authored by morons. The video is placed as this tiny postage-stamp on a web-page so that the user gets to see it in glorious 120x160 with no option to resize it. Video done RIGHT on the web would either appear in a separate (resizable) window, or, if placed on a page would be authored at say 120x160 but scaled via the HTML to cover 240x320 pixels on the page.


-- Maynard Handley, July 13, 1999

You folks may want to check out the FastTrack66 UltraATA66 RAID controller from Promise Technologies ( I have not yet tested it with my video capture but for data storage it has worked wonderfully. It offers RAID 0,1 and 0+1 in a bus mastering PCI card for about $120 to $150. It allows a custom block size for each volume and the manufacturer recommends 64KB blocks for video.

They claim a burst transfer rate 66MB/sec... It is compatible with Win95, 98 and NT and Linux and doesn't conflict with onboard IDE controllers. Windows NT sees the board as a SCSI controller. I have yet to test the card in a DV capture scenario but in typical file transfers it seems to perform as expected and installation was a snap.

I'm tired of paying too much for SCSI drives and SCSI RAID controllers and most onboard IDE controllers do not support large ATA66 drives without installing block mapping software. Additionally, Win95 and Win98 do not offer software RAID so even software striping has not been an option in these environments. This card seems to offer an affordable solution to all of these problems and may solve the throughput problem with the video capture as well...

-- Christian Jackson, November 19, 1999

There is a reliable software and hardware solution for recording/ editing DV, in the new iMacs and apple desktop computers. The $1200 iMacs have DV i/o and a very slick consumer video editing program. Of course Media Cleaner Pro will do a very good job output just about any web format you could want. Macs are commonly used for this sort of work.

-- Kai-ming Mei, December 15, 1999
I found this page after I'd worked out my own solution. Fortunately the maxim of an "analog Hi8 camcorder and a Macintosh" is basically what I ended up with, except for Win9x. To shorten a long story considerably (original is at, I've found that a reasonable analog camera (mine is the Sony TRV-6 which works great in low light) combined with the Pinnacle Studio DC10+ card and included software quickly creates videos that are great when destined for web viewing. They're probably not great for recording back to video tape, but that's not what I needed.

The biggest gotcha is sound. So far most videos have been baby shots, and the on-camera microphone gets lots of us encouraging the baby to say something - and very little of her responses. So the next purchase should be a solution to that - once I work out what that is (if we give a mic to her to hold she'll just try and eat it...).

-- Michael Mee, March 3, 2000

Just wanted to pipe in with a quick note for now. For those of you who are interested, an Apple G3 or G4 running Final Cut Pro (I got mine for $900; great program so I don't mind supporting the product) is a fully professional grade editor capable of DV straight out of the box. Plug the firewire into the camera and the other end into your box and edit away. With an information transfer speed of 3.4Mb/s onto your hardrive you can get away with almost any hard drive around. Final Cut Pro (FCP) can, once you have stored your video on the hard drive, edit your images and sound with 99 layers of both. Among its many other great features is full support of Photoshop layers, take that Premiere! When you are ready to output you can return to tape, or FCP will give a variety of options to compress your edited material into a QuickTime stream complete with compression that you can then post to your website. FCP has various compression codecs and some images will compress better than others due to the mechanics of such things. One note: the manual that comes with FCP is totally hacked and almost usless. Good luck with all your streaming.

ps. This took me 2 minutes to pull off my desktop, compress and send to Philip's site. Also, corporate types: the included video is less than 8 seconds long and has also been redited by Michael Yecies and should not represent any copyright infringement.

-- Michael Yecies, April 2, 2000

I got myself a MiroVideo DV300 card about two years ago (1998) when it had just come out. It combines a FireWire interface and an Adaptec SCSI UW controller (similar to the 2940) on a bit of bus with it's own PCI bridge.

I paid another (then) truckload of money for an AV grade 9GB UW SCSI disc with 7200rpm... those were VERY expensive in those days. By connecting this to the SCSI interface, you basically bypass much of your PC when collecting the videostream and putting it on the hard drive.

With a 400MHz Pentium II PC and 64MB of Ram I get excellent results in working with video. I have edited a couple of video's so far. However, when I am in a serious editing session, I do make sure that:

1. I disable all frivolous programs that run in Windows 98 (including for instance Palm's Hotsync manager)

2. I defragment the hard drive before copying the video down

3. and before spooling the video back to tape I defragment again to make sure it is as contiguous as possible

I note the occasional dropped sound (when overlaying and mixing more than 2 audio-sources) but all in all it works pretty well.


-- Peter van Es, April 3, 2000


I might as well say it as it is: I hate DV. people will gladly pay 1000+ US$ for a camera because a salesperson has told them it's the newest in digital video, and since it is digital the quality is perfect.. CRAP! for 1000+ dollars I could easily find you a camera that could kick an equally prices DV cam off the throne. he.. and these sorry sob's then go on to complain about dropped frames and jerky video when they try to capture their video at 3.6 megs/s to their crammed IDE harddrive with FAT32 in tiny clusters. Dammit.. and talk about getting it out to DV again.. well there are import restrictions on DV in Europe so you have to buy a widget, which is a form of ROM hacking device to get your DV port to work in both directions.. by default they must be locked so that consumers can't input DV to the camera. (because it has the potential of high quality piracy), and they seldom work properly.. and all these people wanna do is to stream a little video out on the web now and then.. well, then just buy a 50$ TV tuner card or something.. actually just about any device that lets you grab RGB24. then they can set up their Windows media tools or Realencoder or whatever to capture in realtime from that.. Actually with an Athlon 600 and a crappy TV tuner card that had composite inputs, I have been able to compress directly to DivX with mp3 audio in virtual dub.. this would ofcourse not stream anywhere, but it proves what is possible with software compression nowadays.

This was my View.. FZ Kuno

-- FZ Kuno, February 19, 2001

Digital video is the answer. Analog video will be out, hopefully, very soon. DVD players are so prolific that companies are giving them away with mobile phones, dishwashers... DV camcorders are down to low prices. Unfortunately, the Apple software and hardware that are vital to the process are still expensive. That is where the corporate expense account comes into it.

At my school, we bought a stack of DV cameras and iMac DVs, so that kids could record and edit their videos easily. The 14gb hard drives and 64MB of RAM seems to satisfy the kids need but I wasn't really content. So if you just have basic editing needs, a cheap DV camera and an iMac DV will be plenty for you - and then you can burn your videos onto CD with the builtin burners in the iMac DVs.

To fill the gap, we ordered one of the new dual processor G4s, with 512MB of RAM, numerous high speed disk drives and Final Cut Pro. Pulling the video off the DV cameras is lightning fast. Editing is amazing, with either iMovie or Final Cut. Where the G4 really comes into its own, however, is with the DVD burner. Now, we can produce real live DVD videos, with all the menus and everything. Very impressive. Unfortunately, when we got it it was one of the first in Australia and Apple tech support hadn't seen one, so weren't helpful.

The best thing about Final Cut Pro is that you can set an output size. I'm sure you've all seen those video CDs that float around Thailand markets - they have beautiful video quality in a 600MB file. Final Cut will do the same - you set the max output to 650MB and leave it running for a week and it will produce you a (relatively) small video with top quality. Of course, the piracy potentials of this are horrific, but I suppose no worse than the DVD burner.

-- Alex Campbell, December 28, 2001

See There are a lot of DV and Now USB 2.0 solutions. Or else Pinnacle DV solutions at

If wintel is not there, except for the elites owning white elephants, billions(!!??) of common man would not have touched the qwerty. As for the Mac, where is it? Don't waste giga & tera bite bandwidths on blabbering about Mac or linux. Venk@ Tmilnadu Agricultural University, India.

-- Venkat Ram, November 5, 2002

I am a real beginner with this stuff and there ain't no way for me to know the difference between a SCSI/ROM BIOS or a WTF-are-you-talking-about add on interface for my Plentium4 MMX DooHickey, BUT, I have played around with streaming video for the web and I actually got it to work.

Real no longer offers the free Real Producer Basic. It has been replaced with the new Helix Producer Basic. I tried that and and it was NFG. I got next to nowhere with it. Nearly every button I clicked replied with a little popup that said: "To access this feature you must upgrade to the full version". Luckily I have a copy of Real Producer Basic on my old desktop PC. I am using MGI's VideoWave4 for editing(approx.a c-note, probably even less now that 5.0 is released), and the book I ran out and bought, Sams How To Use Digital Video(ISBN 0-672-31923-3)filled me in on the how. Save the video as a .AVI file, and run it through RPB. In my latest project I did it twice, once for 56K dial-up and again for 225K broadband. RPB creates a .rm and a .ram file. The .ram is the meta-file(I think) and it is not editable. I think it really is if you know how to use the command interface. I did and re-did the RPB step many times because if I did not name my servers path just right in the wizard, the .ram file was incorrect and the video would not play, the file could not be found. Like I said, I could not edit the .ram file. I am using a Sony Mavica still camera that will shoot a 5, 10 or 15 second mpeg at 320 x 240 px and save it on a floppy diskette. The version for dial-up can be really fuzzy because of the loss during compression so from now on I plan on making at least 2 versions of each file. Here is an example of a lossy dial-up video: . Maybe I could improve things by diddling with the movies frame rates etc. I know a second drive dedicated to video, a better editing program like Premiere, firewire and a real DV camera would help, but I am making do with what I have to hand without spending any more dough.

Anybody know of any free software to create streaming video for Windows Media Player?

-- Pete F, November 5, 2002

Pete asked: "Anybody know of any free software to create streaming video for Windows Media Player? "


Final Cut Pro 2 (full version, not sure about the upgrade version) comes with a complete copy of Cleaner 5. I do not know if the same is true with FCP3. Cleaner 5 (which retails for $599) will provides encoding for a variety of codecs. (See for more details.)

If anyone out there has recent experience in encoding 2gig QT files down to 15mb RM files, or such, with good results, please let me know.

Thanks, Beth

-- Beth McElhenny, November 13, 2002

Although dating back to the late 1990s, this is still a valuable resource. RealPlayer may be at v. 10 rather than 4, but the principles involved are still the same. I still use RealProducer successfully to create audio that's low-res enough to load quickly (I use the 28K rate) but with decent sound.

I am still putting my Real versions alongside MP3 versions on my site. I would like to see comments comparing the pros and cons or MP3 and its video equivalent versus streaming files from RealMedia or others.

-- Ted Knight, June 22, 2004

I found this page years ago and I still come back to it for insight. However, with this being 2005, what I have found to work best on this day is using the Pinnacle AV/DV Capture card with Studio 9 fully updated. I use firewire for capturing from our miniDV camera and the card to capture from a DVD/VCR player. Works great. Also using Windows XP with a gig of ram on a lowly 2.0 Celeron Gateway. But it works great. I also would tell anyone using Studio 8 and having troubles to trash it and get away from it and go to 9, do not wait.

-- Robert Spain, March 1, 2005
Fascinating how far it's come - I just installed Adobe Premiere Pro 2.5 and find myself looking at producing both HDV and micro format projects for such things as the Apple video-capable Ipod. To that end I am looking at a Sony HVR-Z1U, currently (2006) at a $4400 price point. However, I still have a Sony TRV-320, which is a Hi8 camcorder built around 1995 or so, which looks excellent as an individual streaming video source. I use it with a Pinnacle USB capture box, which cost $60, and output content I have edited to the Hi8 tape. I am then able to stream it (in VTR mode off tape) to one or two people, as a training aid, while on MSN Messenger's video conversation feature. The picture is far superior to any webcam I have seen, and the audio is great as well. From the portable video craze I think there could be a revival of analog shooting sources mated to inexpensive USB capture utilities, since the portability is really the main thing. Who wants to lug around a laptop with a 17" screen anymore? Things change. The bottom line - good shooting and editing will still prevail over super-high tech gadgetry, and as long as there are small formats and well-planned content, people will appreciate the old stuff. Certainly, we will eventually have micro-LED watch projectors in addition to LCD screens and solid state portable memory in the 100s of gigabytes, coupled with audio ray beams that enable flat flexible materials like paper and plastic sheets to function as surround sound... and when that happens, portable video will need to be produced like any other media - bigger and better. But by then, a thin video sticker will be developed, and we'll still need to be able to shoot and edit well for the small format.
Attachment: sony pictures 037.mpg

-- frank francis-chythlook, January 30, 2006
Hi Phil, I met your site on 1998 regarding FlashPix format. About video streaming for the web, I would like to say you that VideoVista enable you, at low cost (free for personal use), to easy streaming video on the web without dedicated server for long time videos as well; it's not just progressive download, it's true streaming an it is virtually visible on any platform as it plays on JVM.

Hope this comment could be useful.

-- Fabio Busa, February 19, 2007

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