Television

Films Division launches webcast facility in association with Recreate Solutions

MUMBAI: This is a piece of news that represents a major leap forward in the area of streaming media. The Films Division, attached to the information and broadcasting ministry, has announced the launch of an online streaming catalogue of 700 films through the website www.filmsdivision.org.

Digital media company Recreate Solutions which specialises in digital content conversion, systematically captured the assets from various formats like beta, DVD and then web enabled them through the process of encoding, editing, indexing and meta tagging. The website is easy to navigate and has Indian classical music playing in the background to give it a feeling of authenticity.

As reported in March by Indiantelevision.com, Films Division selected Recreate Solutions to archive content into a digital form. Speaking to Indiantelevision.com about the webcasting strategy Recreate Solutions president Rajendra Parmar said, "Films Division had given us this project sometime in end February to encode 700 movies which totalled to about 220 hours into two formats - Windows and Real. In each format there were two KBPS 56 and 128. It took us 31 days to complete the task.

"The main challenge facing us was to do meta tagging which to view a movie, make a title, make it searchable to capture the start and end time. For the films to come directly there when the user clicks you had to programme a player to come at that particular time frame where the surfer wants it to be at. We needed a high-end capture card to maintain a good quality of stream at such a low board rate. Normally encoders do not use this card very often. This helped us to maintain good quality even though we were streaming at a low bit rate.

"This is Ride, which is Recreate's interactive delivery engine. Another strong feature is the search video facility. Videos can be searched under year of release, director. The archive section helps one browse through the complete video list. The site is hosted on a server abroad with a 256 KBPS dedicated link."

Parmar also mentioned that Recreate was talking to other broadcasters for online media streaming. "We very strongly believe that online content requirement is there. For example you have news. Now in news there is a cricket match. You could show the place where two batsman walk out into the middle simply clicking on their names. We are talking to people to consider this product for their online newscasts and things like that."

As far as the future of streaming media was concerned, he said, "A moving picture is worth a thousand static pictures. It takes you to the place of action. So although streaming media even at a low rate can fulfil this function even if the quality is not very high." He also pointed that if Film Division had ambitious plans of encoding all 12,000 movies then they would have to go in for a pay-per-view model. Right now since the films are streamable mode they cannot be downloaded. FD will wait to see what the market reaction is in four months time and then proceed accordingly. Recreate could then develop the system in such a way that if a surfer wants to download then that would be possible only in a pay-per-view mode.

Canal Plus representative Sainath Iyer said, " While telecom companies like BSNL, Reliance, Bharti have enough bandwidth they look at getting returns on their investment. Therefore their current focus has been on corporates where you can get a large number of subscribers where you can get anywhere between 50-100 lines. A year down the line they will look at consumer homes. A copper cable will come to your home. In fact BSNL has already announced bids for people to put in audio-visual content on their network. "

As far as CAS is concerned, Parmar said, "Once the bi-directional communication link is established people will have video servers and on them you can house any number of movies. Any producer can contact us and get his movie encoded. We will web enable it, he can put it over there and we will create a pay-per-vie model." He also pointed out that convergence would take place when bi-directional fibre happens. "While many corporates have laid fibres on the streets they could be unidirectional or asymmetric. The latter means that while forward bandwidth is very high the return bandwidth is just to take a yes or no."

Recreate is evolving as a player in the niche interactive television segment. The company is working with major development platforms like Media highway and Open TV. As far as the future for itv applications in India is concerned Iyer said that broadcasters had sent out the message that six months after CAS is implemented and there are enough set top boxes in the market can interactivity can be implemented. This will depend on the cable infrastructure used. There will be a lot of glitches at the consumer's home as he may not get it properly at the start. Networking has to stabilise.

" Once that is done then we can look at the next level. Initially it will be one-way interactivity. The Electronic Programme Guide will come into effect. Bi direction however through cable or the telephone will take time but it will happen. Right now the set top boxes that have come in are vanilla boxes. They are basically pay TV enabled. For interactivity to happen the box needs more memory, hardware that would drive up the cost. Right now I am hearing talk that people are finding even Rs 3000 for a box expensive."

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