I-Studio lowers bar for video streaming

Video networking company FVC.COM last month launched a product that delivers a wide range of streaming video applications over any Internet protocol network and is designed for easy installation.

The company's I-Studio streaming video product accepts video from cameras or other devices and delivers it to PCs over a local- or wide-area network. It also enables agencies to record video for broadcast at a specified later time or for playback at any time as a video-on-demand application.

I-Studio runs over any network infrastructure and takes only an hour to install, said Mark Cowtan, director of marketing at FVC.COM. It is not necessary for a World Wide Web or network administrator to deploy I-Studio or set up broadcasts, he said.

"We want to make it easier for agencies and department managers in agencies to start to take advantage of video using one-way communication of information," Cowtan said. "We're trying to make it as simple and painless as possible."

In addition to cameras, I-Studio can take video from VCRs, digital video discs or CDs, TVs, and satellite or cable feeds.

Among the groups the company is targeting are government agencies and schools because many do not have the funding to build broadband networks to handle two-way videoconferencing applications, Cowtan said.I-Studio is suitable for applications such as training, internal communications and news delivery, Cowtan said. "There are different types of communication that cannot be addressed through e-mail or other static forms," he said.

Also, I-Studio does not burn up bandwidth because it supports Internet Protocol multicast, which controls how much bandwidth a video stream will use. Switches and routers that support IP multicast send the stream only to clients who request it.

The product comes with a free client viewer, which allows a user to record incoming video or audio streams, and a dynamic program guide, which displays the schedule of available programs in real time.

The guide can operate alone, or it can be integrated with a Web browser. I-Studio supports H.263, H.261 and MPEG-1 streaming, and it accepts input from National TV Standards Committee and Phase Alternating Line standards. The product is based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT server platform. It connects to the network via Ethernet or Asynchronous Transfer Mode interfaces.

Andrew Davis, an analyst with market research firm Forward Concepts Co., Tempe, Ariz., said a product such as I-Studio should help more people turn to video streaming technology because it takes a "do-it-yourself" approach.

"For [video streaming] to permeate, it has to be able to sidestep central administration," he said. "If you need to go to a Webmaster to implement this...then deployment of video streaming will be significantly delayed."

Training is one of the most popular video streaming applications, followed by corporate communications, Davis said. "Video streaming is still in its infancy, but because it addresses general communication, advertising and training, it has great potential," he said.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center plans on using I-Studio to conduct project reviews for the Earth Observing System (EOS) project, which is part of a massive project to study the Earth's land, water and atmosphere.

Gary Veum, a network engineer with Raytheon Systems Co., working on EOS, chose I-Studio because it supports multicast and unicast capabilities. Multicast involves one-to-many streaming, while unicast involves point-to-point streaming.

"Not all networks support multicast, and we have a lot of international customers potentially. I-Studio is the only product we found that supports both capabilities in one box," Veum said.

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