Monday, July 04, 2005

 

Podcast Sync Revolutionized TV, not Radio

How many revolutions were ever completed and no one noticed? I can give you at least one example. Podcasting capacity to link audio with images using quicktime web tracks or other technology will transform public use of television, not radio. The discussion of podcasting appears blinded by the box of radio thinking. How does one use blog systems (podcasting) to duplicate or top what can be done with transmitter based radio? Rob Griffiths's lament in Macworld that podcasting is just more noise in the system is a case in point. His question seeking what folks like and do with podcasting now frames discussion within the early development potential based on existing knowledge of radio. Short term innovation is always overhyped and long term is undervisioned, but holds the real value.

Application capacity for synching images with audio is as old as quicktime (1991) and with iPhoto 4.03 has been around since August 5, 2004 in a linked but not in a form that allows the author to choose the sync spot for each image. The media podcast player called iPodderX will enable podcasting of an audio file and a set of images, but once downloaded they only play along with a set of photos, not synchronized to different places in the audio file. Like the iPod, iPodderX has one setting for the duration of images (not a different duration for each image). Flash from Macromedia and video editors are examples of programs that do handle the higher degree of synchronizing on an individual basis for each image. A free solution is Chapter Tool that can be found on the bottom of the GarageBand page. Also, Quicktime Pro 7 offers an inexpensive approach which works on both Mac and Windows computers.

These current solutions are too expensive or too complex (high geek index) for most blog users. Designs that are blog posting simple are needed, whether web-site tools or desktop applications. News of podcasting applications that move to this next level seems likely. When that appears for podcasting, more radical changes are possible.

For example, let's say the evening news wants to report a car accident and get it on the evening news quickly. At the cheapest, they roll a van loaded with a reporter and a camera holder (two salaries), a very expensive digital video camcorder, and very expensive satellite uplink capacity to get the high bandwidth information back to the station quickly which must be received by expensive equipment and a staff member to write a script that will be used by talking heads (more salaries). What they broadcast in a very expensive broadcast studio (more salaries and costly equipment) is 30 seconds of anchor "talking-head" before and after 30 seconds of the "in-the-field" footage. Half of what they showed on TV did not require the field shots, just some technology (in this case people) to get the script read. And what was in the 30 seconds of fields shots? A wide shot of the accident scene (a good photo would do); some close-ups from different angles (also replaceable by good photos of same), and an interview of someone at the scene (of which a single photo of their head would do). Oh, and then the viewer must wait until the TV station's allocated time for the 15 evening news broadcast (the other 15 minutes is commercials).

What would the alternative look like? Viewers don't really need video at 30 frames per second for the evening news; just audio with some synched still shots capture its essence. A good cell phone with quality photograph capture used by a net news service will not only outscoop the TV system in timeliness, but cut them off at the knees in terms of cost. A staff member at the "web station" or the reporter with their wireless laptop in the field will grab the phoned-in audio track, attach the phoned-in images to the appropriate places, trim some audio and be done with the podcast. Podcasting with its RSS technology will deliver notice of the news item's availability to your news aggregator (Itunes podcast player) as soon as it is available. This will work as well for the 56kb modem crowd as those that have broadband. Further, with some tiny tweaks to existing cell phones, anyone could play audio with synched still images back on what they have in their pocket.

Look out CNN. High-stakes TV news has had a stake driven through the heart of its technology. The technology revolution is over, won by webbies with better technology; however, the cultural revolution to spread the idea has barely begun. The only question remaining is when will anyone notice their independence, begin trade with the new entity and continue monetizing the concept? Almost every radio station, newspaper, corporation and public school system has the high-geek index people and technology in-house today to compete with the technology of broadcast television. Who will be first to market with the needed playback cell phones? Apple has a cell phone in the wings; I have some bets on what it can do. It's time for the entrepreneurs to get to work.

July 4's Independence Day celebrations are as auspicious a time as any to report on this new level of independence from standard TV. It took a long time for the U.S. to become the international powerhouse that it is today and so it will be for "radiovision", which will further extend Apple's reputation for leadership in IT. The audio/still image merger will be the basis to extend the revolution that so few have noticed.

It should be noted that podcasting with synched audio/images is just the quick cheap tip of the podcasting iceberg. Change the playback device from iPodPhoto or cell phone to a computer screen or TV set and rolling video can be podcast as well. That is, recent development thinking has also led to not only personal TV networks but personal media aggregators, delivering anymedia-vision. Got yours?
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