Dmitry
15 April 2009, by Dmitry

Video Uploader. Why WMV?

Nowadays video content becomes more and more popular on the Internet. Social networks as well as corporate web sites require hosting of video content and playing it online.

The major problem for video content on the Internet is that current internet browsers do not include any video decoders. So if you want to play video online you will have to install some stand-alone platform. I would highlight two major platforms allowing playing video movies:

  1. Adobe Flash.
  2. Microsoft Silverlight.

Let us consider these two platforms in terms of video support in detail.

Microsoft Silverlight

We all know that Silverlight is officially supported on Windows and Mac platforms. Also there is Moonlight project which is Silverlight implementation for Linux platforms. Starting from the very first version Silverlight supports decoding of WMV format. Moreover, Microsoft has opened WMV decoder source code and granted its usage in Moonlight. So decoding of WMV format is supported on the major computer platforms.

Adobe Flash

During the last years Flash became standard de-facto for playing video on the Internet. The most of users know the video format supported by Flash as FLV but it is not exactly true. FLV is the video and audio container used to deliver video and audio content from server side to the client. The format of this container was opened by Adobe on May, 1, 2008. The container itself can contain the following video formats:

  1. Sorenson spark, minimum required flash player version 6.
  2. On2 VP6, minimum required flash player version 8.
  3. H.264, minimum required flash player version 9.

Now we know what video formats are supported by Flash and Silverlight. Let us examine licensing policies for them.

We get used that image formats usually have open format and reference encoder libraries. You can use these encoders for free. Video formats unlike images get the problem here. They all are patented and have an interesting trick. Decoding is free for end users and does not require any royalties though encoding is not royalty-free. So even if you get Mpeg4 format reference (H.264) and implement encoder by yourself, you will have to pay royalties for its usage. So then…

Video Formats

WMV format

It is Microsoft format for storing and streaming video widespread on Microsoft platforms. There is free for use Windows Media Encoder which allows encoding to WMV. The only limitation is that it works on Windows only.

Sorenson Codec

This video Format is extension for H.264 designed by Sorenson Media, the specification is not opened. The encoder is the part of Sorenson Spark SDK. It seems that this codec was licensed by YouTube and Google. Sorenson do not publish the pricing on their site but anyway it is not a free encoder.

On VP6

Like Sorenson Spark On2 VP6 is the extension for H.264 designed by On2 Technologies, the specification for this format is not opened too. This company sells encoders for this format as part of On2 VP6 Codec SDK and Flix SDK for Direct Show. On2 do not publish pricing on their site as well.

H.264

It is known as Mpeg4 format which is standard de-facto in the world of digital video. In contrast to the previous formats it has opened reference. Nevertheless it is heavily patented and there is a special company MPEG LA that manages licensing royalties for this format. We examined licensing policies and found that there are two major options:

  1. For decoder/encoder suppliers who integrate them in end-user solutions.
  2. For service providers like IP TV and so on.

In both these cases royalties are required either for each copy of product or for each movie transcoded and streamed server-side. There are a lot of codec suppliers for Mpeg4 format but it seems that they provide implementation only. The licensing stuff is a headache of the company which purchases the codec and wants to use it in its solution.

Video Uploader

Summarizing, we all understand that there are a lot of video formats worldwide in addition to listed ones. Nevertheless, if we want to play movies via the Internet we have to transcode them to formats that can be played back in internet browsers (using Silverlight of Flash). And the core feature of our Video Uploader is transcoding of video movies to a single format relieving server platforms of encoding operations. This way all operations with movies are shifted from server side to the clients simplifying server logic and decreasing server hardware requirements. We have chosen WMV format. Why? Since you do not need to pay anything if you use it on Windows platforms. Today when we released beta version of Video Uploader ActiveX and started getting the feedback from you, our customers, we are searching the way to implement Java version of the product and decide on the question with video-related licensing for our customers.

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