Launch of Live Interactive Video Player

Friday 29 June 2012, 19:59

Alex Perry Alex Perry Product Manager

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The live, interactive video player combines HD video with cutting edge data to enhance your viewing

I want to tell you about a new live interactive video player that the BBC is launching for this summer's Olympics.

We rolled it out fully today after a period in beta testing when we were able to assess its performance and get your feedback.

As product manager for this player, I've been defining exactly how the finished product should function and what it should look like, working with colleagues from editorial, design and technical teams.

One of the main impetuses behind the project is the incredible video rights package that the BBC holds for London 2012.

The BBC is the sole rights holder for the Olympics in the UK and we are able to offer users live video from every venue on every day of the Games.

That means up to 24 different streams of live sporting action at any one time.

So we wanted to take this opportunity to build a video player that would offer the best possible desktop video viewing experience to do justice to that incredible breadth of live content and would also provide a lasting legacy to BBC Online and our audiences in the years to come.

That means making the video available in high definition and then enhancing it with some extra functionality that in terms of added choice, rivals anything you would have experienced before while watching sport on your TV.

The key features in the new player are:

• Every sport available live and on demand in HD quality on every day of the Games
• Easy switching between up to 24 live streams at any time
• The ability to pause and rewind live video or jump straight to key moments you may have missed by using chapter markers (eg the Men's 100m final)
• Alerts for the key events that have happened or are coming up so you don't miss the moments that matter to you
• Extra facts and info on the sports and competitors you are watching alongside the video

The video player combines the video with the associated data that is available to us, creating a much richer experience for our audiences. The types of information and data provided includes:

Olympics Live: worried you'll miss something happening at another Olympic venue? Olympics Live alerts viewers to interesting moments happening live across the 24 simultaneous streams, making sure you don't miss any key action

Athletes: discover more about the individual athletes, including information on their performance and previous times, while you watch

Sports guides: wonder how a specific sport works? This feature gives you the info about the individual sports, with five key facts offered for every discipline

Match stats: key real-time statistics about the event

Where we are able to show athlete performance data, the key thing is that we synchronise the data and video together so that you always see the stats appropriate for the point in the video that you are watching.

So if you decide to watch a video from the start, we won't give you the results from the end. And if you are watching live, we won't show the result of the Men's 100m before you've had a chance to watch it!

You may already have had a sneak preview of the video player as we've been trialling a beta version on recent events including Formula 1 and Euro 2012.

Today we took the decision to separate Sport's live text commentary page and the video player in order to make sure it is fully tested at load before the Olympics kick off.

For now you will be able to watch in HD quality once the bit rate ramps up, pause or rewind the live action or jump to chapters using the buttons below the timeline.

And by clicking in the top left hand corner you can choose from any of the streams we're offering for Wimbledon, the Euros or our other events on the BBC.

You can watch our video player on your desktop computer and certain tablets that support Flash. On mobiles and iPads you will be able to watch the video but without the extra functionality.

I'd really like to hear back from you about your experience of using the video player.

I'd be particularly interested if you have any problems with the performance of the player or the quality of the video you are seeing.

Alex Perry is Product Manager, Interactive Video Player, BBC News & Knowledge

Watch this video of Gary Lineker explaining the features of the interactive video player.

You must have a TV licence to watch live TV streamed on your computer. A 'live' TV programme is defined as a programme which is watched or recorded at the same time (or virtually the same time) as it is being broadcast.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Is it right that full screen has a black border left, right and bottom?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The BBC is NOT the sole rights holder for the Olympics in the UK. Eurosport also has the rights and has done for years. Infact I prefer thier coverage because they have less talking heads and better picture quality. Eurosport will also be transmitting over 100 hours of the Olympics in 3D, putting the BBC's pathetic 3D output to shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Forgot to mention that Eurosports 3D is live where as I understand the BBC's will be delayed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I would like to pick up on comment #1. I can see why there is a black space at the bottom - to fill in the stats and the extras and whathaveyou - and how this then forces the black bars on the sides in order to keep the video in the correct aspect ratio. But personally, I hate it. Half of the screen is wasted! Why can't the video be in full screen with the extras bit overlaid or when the extras twizzler is clicked, the video momentarily shrinks to the size it does currently and then goes back to full resolution when the extras is turned off again.

    And just one more thing - I think the bit rate of 3.5Mbps may be too low for sporting events. Whilst watching the Helsinki athletics yesterday there was a lot of artifacting and blockiness on the video even though the on-screen graphics with the names and results was crystal clear. 3.5Mbps works perfectly for Wimbledon where there is very little movement in picture but I don't think it's enough for fast-paced events like athletic sprinting.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my comment.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Good to see the streams are in a good resolution, but are there any plans to improve the framerate? Even in 'HD' the framerate isn't great, with a much less smooth picture than a regular SD 'red button' stream. Also I have the same issue with black bars around the picture, using Google Chrome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I am afraid that the BBCs idea of what HD is different from the rest of the universe. The simple fact is that live HD is simply not possible at these low bitrates. It is possible to get much higher quality using software encoders and hand crafting the encoding. Unfortunatly not possibe with live transmissions.

    I agree that the black lines in full screen are horrible. They have probably done this to make the resolution look better than it really is.

    For several years now the BBC has been too keen to cut quality in favor of bitrate on all platforms. I think the BBC sees the internet as a cheap transmission medium in as much of the cost is paid by broadband subscription. The best way to watch these 24 channels will be by satallite kindly provided for by Sky. It will be interesting to see if SKys streams will be a higher quality than the BBCs own HD channels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Crashes on 64bit Windows 7 with Flash 11.3 r300 without playing any video

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Comments 4 and 5 pretty much sum up my experience. Love the little bar with key moments in, but not at the expense of 1/4 of the screen being permanently black.

    Also, as with regular iPlayer, it keeps freezing and takes ages to restart. ITV's player, much as it's far more low tech, rarely if ever does this to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I was having a lot of reliability problems with it yesterday. I really do like the concept, but reliability needs improving. I'd say that the video played fine for about 4-5 minutes, then it'd pause for 10 seconds (buffering perhaps?) then it resumed for another 4-5 minutes or so. Then, suddenly and without warning, it'd change to a "This content isn't working, please try later" error - thus forcing me to refresh the page to get the player back. This must have happened about 4 times during the first half of the football alone.

    My browser is Firefox, I have the latest patched version of Flash player, and I'm sitting on an 8mb Internet connection (that actually connects at 8mb).

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Video plays with sound but no picture at all

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    It's a great player, but it doesn't zoom in a linear fashion with the rest of the content - at my default level of zoom I use on the BBC site to accomodate a 1680x1080 screen on a 24" monitor with reasonable text size, I lose the controls and the bottom 20% of the video - I either have to have a wee postcard video, or full screen, neither of which lends itself to optimal viewing experience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Possible minor bug: When not maximized on my 1400x900 laptop screen, the player cuts off the bottom of the screen, as per the image below.

    I'm using the latest version of Firefox and Flash, and this doesn't happen on my desktop with the same setup, but higher res screen.

    Apart from that, looking good :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Just seen post #14. Mine turns out to be the same issue, as all pages are zoomed on my laptop... took the zoom off and the player window's normal again.

    Have also noticed that a double-click doesn't toggle the maximize setting, which it does on the current iPlayer (and most players).

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Post #13 I mean :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Could the full screen for watching sports (ie for the Wimbledon tournament) be completely full screen so it maximises the screen size. At the moment there is still the URL bar and the bar with news, sports, weather etc. much appreciated. Also, when you go onto a live stream, for the first 20 seconds it is blurry before it gets more focused. Again much appreciated, thanks

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Guys... why - in July 2012 - are you Beta-ing a new delivery system based on Flash?

    There is an ever-increasing number of devices that do not support it, and - when you add the further hurdle of requiring compatibility with the latest version of Flash - as you've done, congrats - my computer is one of them.

    HTML 5 has been here for ages for goodness sake, wake up & smell the Earl Grey.

    Regardless of which, a national broadcaster having its delivery strategy for the Olympics dependent on having the latest version of a proprietary technology?
    Come on, that is an accessibility fail of embarrassing proportions. What kind of a tinpot country are we living in?

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    It's remarkable to think the people behind this 'project' would think of it as an improvement. To make peripheral stuff like onscreen statistics a priority over the actual size of the picture is absurd. Now we have a stupid big black border on the bottom and sides of the screen making the picture at least 25% smaller, probably more. A disastrous change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Getting good quality video on it & playback has been fine.

    However I don't like that you can't go proper fullscreen, in fullscreen you still get black borders round the sides. thats one of the only things that i think needs changing, give us the option to go proper fullscreen without the borders like on the old live video player.


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