Archive for September 6th, 2010

Live reporting and remote directing

I had this idea the day of the New Zealand earthquake. How cool would it be if people with smartphones (or camcorders with Bluetooth that can connect to their 3G smartphone), could report live from the epicenter? Or, any other event of interest (where the cell towers would have more luck being up and running).

I imagined it kind of like the current Qik and Ustream services, but much more focused. For example, the system would automatically band together videos from a similar geographical location, into a master stream, when a lot of people are searching for videos for that location/event. Depending on which individual videos are viewed the most, they would get shown more into the “master” stream. So the viewers can view either individual streams, or the master stream, which would result in much more information on the event since it would be switching to different cameras.

Viewers can also request the camera operator of a particular stream to move the camera left or right, and based on enough such requests, the system would request from the camera operator to move the camera accordingly.

Streams that get selected to be on a master stream, should stay on the servers for at least a week. Less popular individual streams can be deleted in 24 hours if storage is an issue. If the camera-man prefers it, each time his video is shown on a master stream, his username can also be shown as the channel logo (or below a channel logo).

Basically, this idea is remote “directing” of a live event, based on viewer statistics aggregation (crowd-sourcing).

Monetization is easy: ads on the bottom of the video feed on the client-side for the less popular events. Selling full master feeds to TV networks and big news web sites should be the primary goal though. Profits are split 50-50 between the streaming web site and the camera-men of a given master feed. Copyright of each clip remains the ownership of its camera-man, however the streaming web site can have an non-exclusive license that includes reselling (youtube and Vimeo already have such a clause, so that’s nothing out of the ordinary).

TV networks could potentially argue that this is destroying their business. However, it might just make their business better, because not only they would have more footage to show, but they won’t have to also pay for their own camera-man. Also, they could start broadcasting images from the event immediately, something that is not possible today (usually, we get live reporting from an event hours after the fact).

Of course, there’s a lot to be researched within such an idea. For example, how do you trust your users regarding abuse? Or, what if there’s a political event, and half of the viewers select streams that yield towards one opinion, and half on the other opinion. Should we let “democracy” determine how the “news” are reported, or the master stream should always be impartial and objective? How do we achieve that?

Hopefully, someone will come up with such a service. YouTube seems to have the bandwidth/servers, established mobile software, and engineering power required for such an idea to take off, but we haven’t seen anything like it from them yet. Hopefully they will wake up, will try to create something as fresh as this, and potentially socially important as this, rather than whoring their ass to Hollywood for movie content.