Digital Video for the Next Millennium

This publication is copyright 1999 by the Video Development Initiative (ViDe). The document may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without written permission from ViDe, except that a single copy for personal use may be printed by the reader. Please direct all comments to the author of this white paper.


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At the end of 1998, networked digital video was very much a work in progress. Digital video files could be created, shared and stored but not in the robust, transparent manner that computer users expect and receive for other applications. Digital video client/server systems supported modest implementations but did not scale to adequately support high-bandwidth traffic or shared services among multiple locations. A critical issue for digital video client/server systems was their inherently proprietary nature. Moving assets from one system to another could require re-encoding of video assets, or at the very least, re-authoring of Web pages providing access to the video assets. File format support required specific encoder systems and decoders at the client. Asset management and file indexing capabilities were generally weak. Digital video vendors are very committed to product development, with the result that innovative services are announced almost daily. The state of the art is fluid and exciting.

Five institutions University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Georgia Institute of Technology, NYSERNet, and North Carolina State University established the Video Development Initiative (ViDe) in 1998 to identify and prioritize digital video development issues. This ambitious goal involved issuing an RFI to vendors to identify and evaluate the existing state of the art and then selecting partners among responding vendors to develop highly scalable, functional, interoperable and robust access to video resources, across platforms, client/server systems, institutions and countries.

The Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA) awarded ViDe a grant for Phase I of this multi-year initiative. A key Phase I objective was providing information and support for colleagues implementing digital video projects. Several Phase I deliverables addressed the need for digital video information in the academic community. The Video Conferencing Cookbook was released in February, 1999. A SURA- and ViDe-sponsored workshop was held in Atlanta, Georgia in March, 1999. This white paper, Digital Video for the Next Millennium, provides an overview of digital video on demand -- the underlying technology, the client/server capabilities currently available and development areas for the near future. In the coming years, ViDe will partner with selected digital video vendors to develop critical capabilities for highly functional and available digital video in the academic community.