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Building NBCOlympics.com with Silverlight

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NBCOlympics.com is one of the most ambitious projects on the web and one of the largest Silverlight applications today.  Eric Schmidt takes us on a technical tour of how the site works and how it was built with Silverlight 2 and Windows Media.

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  • Go Microsoft !!!!!!!Dovella Go Microsoft !!!!!!!
    Only for US Sad
  • figuerresfiguerres ???

    I will watch the video later but a question:

    the NBC olympics web site silverlight player does not seem to have the option of "ESC for Fullscreen"  why not?

  • Eric SchmidtEric.Schmidt Olympics Dude
    Sorry Dovella, NBC owns and manages the licensing rights for the areas that they have purchaed from the IOC e.g. in the case the US. 

    Have checked to see if your regional broadcaster is delivering content to the web?   

    Also, Google is delivering content (a limited set of video & not in the same video quality as NBC) for 77 countries - but I can't locate the list to see if Italy is on the list.

    -Eric
  • Eric SchmidtEric.Schmidt Olympics Dude

    Figuerres,

    Sounds like you are hungry for some full screen content Smiley  The implmentation of the NBC Silverlight player has a mode called Enhanced, that will take you into a fuller 16:9 screen. We don't go true full screen for a few reasons, one of which we don't want to stretch the video. The resolution you see in most cases is native aspect and size of the source encode - thus it looks super clean, no blocking, etc.

    Make sense?  

    Also in enhanced mode you can do PIP and live commentary - enjoy!

    -Eric

     

  • stevo_stevo_ Human after all
    Cool stuff, gutted I don't get to use it..

    The technology is interesting, obviously you don't want to give to much away about it all but is media streaming services in charge of sending the bitrate appropriate for the resolution thats being requested (plus bandwidth availability etc)? or does it just push the same resolution of video ti the player no matter the size (ie, in enhanced mode or not), or do you need to specifically transition to a different feed that is at the appropriate size?

    I get the feeling these are probably some of the basics of windows media streaming services, so I may well be asking a bad question here..
  • Eric SchmidtEric.Schmidt Olympics Dude
    For Live events, you get fixed stream of 650k in pop-up and enhanced mode.

    For "Rewind", you get 650k chunked HTTP bits.  This is less CPU intensive than streaming.  If you are having issues rendering 650k, we swtich to lower bit rate chunks of 300k.  You will see a message on the screen if this happens.

    For "Encore" (from TV and certain highlight reels), you get a variing range of bit rates depeding on the health of your PC and downstream bandwidth  (like I noted in the video).  This switching happens seemlessly i.e. no flicker or "stream" switch.  You will notice the video quality imporve or degrade dynamically depending on your situation.  We will have more to talk about this as we get through the event.

    Make sense?
  • William Staceystaceyw Before C# there was darkness...
    Nice.  I look forward to watching the casts on SL.  Today, it looked like some problems.  I kept getting error finding videos.  Maybe a server was down.
  • Allan LindqvistaL_ Kinect ftw
    why oh why do you encode in 4:3 aspect ratio...

    there is aboslutly No reason to do that! now on my 16:9 display the video is letterboxed even though its recorded in 16:9

    this a rookie mistake by any standards but c9 does this quite alot Sad please Please stop encoding in the black bars.. just encode in the same resolution as you record in.. its not that hard Smiley
  • Adam KinneyAdamKinney Agent of Change
    I'd love to post videos in 16:9 ratio, but the Channel9 system doesn't support it yet.  They've been focusing on other areas, but a few of the hurdles to overcome include a flexible media player, the larger file size and updating the whole encoding pipeline.  So its not that I wanted to include the black bars, its how the system is setup right now.

    I'll play around with it, I could eventually post an extra link to a 16:9 video.
  • stevo_stevo_ Human after all
    Yep, so the streaming just tries to send you the best bitrate it can regardless of the resolution you are using? so technically you COULD be streaming me a HD movie even if the video player size is the size of a russian hamster?

    I'm just interested in the technology because I wonder if the server can actually resample movies according to what client needs (at least in brackets of requirements), but it seems that the streaming technology doesn't take resolution into consideration?
  • Well i guess there is not olympic pride for Canadians, NBC has blocked us out!
  • Eric SchmidtEric.Schmidt Olympics Dude
    The CBC owns the rights to Olympics content for Canada.   http://www.cbc.ca/olympics/livevideo/

    Non-Canadian IP addresses cannot access thatcontent either. 

    There is lots of talk about "blocking" etc. - this is about rights ownership, which is dictated by geography among other things.
  • figuerresfiguerres ???
    Yep every one wants thier own slice of the pie,  in this case each region wants to sell advertising targeted to the region.
    but thats how it gets paid for.

    unless we start paying more for TV and web viewing directly to the creators of the media.
  • The multi-bitrate content that's adaptively streamed is all pre-encoded, so the server isn't doing any "resampling" on the fly. The other big difference about adaptive streaming from the way live streams are being delivered, and Eric talks about this in the video, is that adaptive streaming is done using regular HTTP downloads from regular HTTP servers. Windows Media Services isn't involved in adaptive streaming at all. The adaptive video streams are delivered as a series of small files, which the Olympics player then concatenates into a single, uninterrupted stream. It's during this process that the player can decide whether to fetch bigger (higher quality) or smaller (lower quality) chunks to match the user's bandwidth.

    Encoding resolution and bitrate are related in this case. The lower the bitrate - the lower the resolution. This is done in order to work around an inherent property of compressed digital video - macroblocking. Because VC-1 video is compressed in 16x16 macroblocks, insufficient bitrate for a given resolution can lead to obvious blocking artifacts in decoded video. The easiest way to avoid this is to lower the resolution whenever the bitrate is deemed insufficient to produce "block-free" video. It's still nearly impossible to entirely avoid blocking (after all, not all video is equally complex - just compare swimming action to chess action), but changing the resolution proportionally to the bitrate helps minimize it.
  • Now that the Olympics have opened, the site is working well!  Congratulations on pulling this off.    I experimented with some live feeds - they work well, but a cool feature to add would be PVR-like capability of Pause and Instant-replay for live feeds - with a typical buffer size of 30 minutes.
  • stevo_stevo_ Human after all
    Very interesting zambelli, thanks for the post.. I'm gonna re-read in the morning because its getting close to midnight right! I'm really interested in understanding adaptive video streaming, right now I obviously don't know a great deal!
  • I love the player... However there is a lot FUD going out there about MS forcing us to watch the olympics with silverlight.  "Sliverlight is not free" "THe site only works w/ Vista Ultimate so you have to upgrade to Vista Ultimate before watching the Olympics" etc.

    i don't understand why it matters if my service provider is Dish Network, Comcast, etc...

    Jonathan
  • So has Silverlight 2 been fully released? Is this using the official SL2 player? Or is it another Beta release (SL 2 Beta 3?).

    Thanks!
  • Adam KinneyAdamKinney Agent of Change
    The Olympics site is running on Beta 2, Silverlight has not fully RTM'd yet.
  • I am unable to view any videos on nbcolympics.com because my system is unsupported. I don't think that it was ready to be rolled out yet, especially for such an important event. I am not on old equipment, I just don't have a Windows operating system. The designer could have, at least have had a fall back option such as flash or any of the other well supported technologies. I would rate this project a failure because the technology that it rides on is not widely distributed nor fully supported.

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