How can we make an online video channel that behaves like a pre-TiVo TV channel?
September 20, 2009 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Need help finding a very specific online video function: the ability to remove playback controls.

So some friends want to create a "video channel" using content that they have full rights to use. They want to upload this content, playlist it, and have it "playing" at all times, so that if you go to the page at any given point, you come in at whatever point the playlist is at that moment - i.e. the video does not start, but is already in progress.

The idea is to make this web channel more TV channel-like, if that makes any sense.

That means removing from the user the ability to fast-forward or rewind, or specify which clip to play next. It literally needs to be like a TV station.

I had planned to set them up with a channel, because I love the service and the interface. But it doesn't do the "faux TV channel" thing, and frankly, I'm not aware of any other service that does. Any ideas?

To reiterate: they are NOT just making playlists of things that exist online already, they will be uploading WMVs and MOVs and playlisting them to make this "channel."
posted by jbickers to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know of any service that would provide this for you.

In terms of the technical requirements, I think what you'd have to have for this is the video to be, essentially, constantly playing on the server side, or at least a representation of this video (a.k.a. a timeline counter matching the video or playlist duration) playing on the server-side. From there, you'd have to have a way to bring up the video up on the client when they hit the server, so you'd index the videos and load the video at the right spot based on when they made a page request. That would at least approximate it.

Removing the playback controls from some free flash video widget shouldn't be too hard, like this one, but I don't know for sure. It's also not super hard to build your own simple FLV player in Flash, especially if you want less controls rather than more...

Anyways, bottom line, I think this is a roll-your-own dealy, not something you'd easily find a service providing you the tools to do.
posted by dubitable at 9:40 AM on September 20, 2009

The technology you want to investigate for this use is called "video streaming."
posted by majick at 9:41 AM on September 20, 2009

The technology you want to investigate for this use is called "video streaming."

majick, this is not entirely correct, or rather, not limiting enough--most online digital media providers use streaming. This doesn't imply the sort of "TV" experience jbickers is talking about, at least not on its own.
posted by dubitable at 9:52 AM on September 20, 2009

UStream will do this. Indeed, that's the entire point of it, largely for webcasting live events, but I'm sure you could stream a set of pre-recorded files over it. Note, however that there's literally no way to prevent someone recording the stream, if they really want to do it.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:55 AM on September 20, 2009

Yeah, streaming isn't actually the right word; what you're looking for is live streaming which is supported by most of the large players, e.g. Adobe Flash Media Streaming Server. RealNetworks also has a similar offering. This will result in the video being delivered over RTMP instead of straight HTTP like 99% of most video sites, which also means you need a dedicated machine (or VPS) to run the server since it's not a standard Apache/IIS HTTPd. They also cost a lot of money. And you'll definitely have to transcode your WMV and MOV files into something else, i.e. Flash or MP4 if using Adobe, RealVideo if using RealNetworks'.

You could also just fake it. Make 'n' copies of your content, each starting at a different point in the loop. Serve the one that closest matches the current wall-time modulo the length of the loop. I'm pretty sure players like JW player will let you customize them to remove the play controls -- if not you can always create your own player in Adobe Flash that has no controls. But you'd still have to transcode.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:17 AM on September 20, 2009

Something you might want to consider is that many users might find this rather annoying. Not specifically the lack of control over content, but not being able to pause the playback. On a slower connection pausing to allow a video to buffer is really neccesary, and being unable to do that may very well make the content unwatchable.

Also, what happens when someone comes in halfway through a clip they really like and they want to watch it in it's entirety? Do they just wait and hope for it to come on again? Is there a programming schedule so they'd know when to tune in? I know you want to make it like TV, but people use Tivos and watch programs on Hulu because they want to decide when to watch things, and want to be able to pause playback and come back to it later. Removing this functionality might lose you a lot of viewers.

Just something to think about.
posted by Jawn at 6:39 PM on September 20, 2009

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