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 21.

    Audio plays with no video, as with post #12 and perhaps #8. Thanks BBC...

  • Comment number 22.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    With annual Blackberry sales in the UK alone of over 4 million, what does it say about the BBC's public service remit that it does not provide these new streaming services for Blackberry users. Will the BBC continue to privilege iphone and andriod at the expense of others?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    @mrg17, @DK, @F1_Dave - As DK has suggested, the black bars in full screen are to accommodate the 'Extras' panel at the bottom, and because we don't want to clip the video it means that you may also get bars left and right. It's a similar approach to when you watch a film in a letter box format on a 4:3 screen because we want to be able to show the full picture. That said, we are seeing some inconsistencies with the way it's working so we are investigating.

    @Edward - You mention the video is blurry when it starts up. We are using a technology that adapts the bitrate of the video you are watching depending on the speed of your connection in order to give you the best experience. The rate starts low and ramps up to the appropriate level which is why the video quality may look poor when you join the stream for the first time. We are working to make this experience more seamless, and one thing we've seen is that if you leave the video running in a tab in the background, the rate can drop and may take a while to pick up again. We hope to improve the way this works shortly.

    @Truffles - We've had a few reports of people getting audio but no video. All have been Windows 7 users so I'm keen to know more about your set-up. If you can let me know your browser, OS and Flash version that would help. Can you also try turning off hardware acceleration and let me know if that fixes things?

    We've also had feedback from people saying that the control bars at the top and bottom sometimes don't fade away. This shouldn't happen. Try moving your mouse so the pointer is out of the activation zone. If that still doesn't work, try clicking on 'More video' in the top left corner and then clicking 'Back to video'. This usually seems to resolve the problem. It's not ideal, I know, but hopefully it will mean you can get round the issue until we are able to fix it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Audio plays but no video... it appears a theme may be emerging.
    Love the idea of skipping to different parts though. If only I could see them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    @Alex Perry
    So the borders are to accomodate the Extras panel at the bottom. Your analogy with 4:3 films is flawed because though they have borders, they do not have borders on both the sides AND the bottom! That reduction in image size is just not acceptable nowadays, surely you can see that, yet we are not given the option of just watching the image without the extras. I'm not interested in enhancing my 'experience' - I just want to watch sport. You've actually taken away the viewer's ability to watch a proper full size picture - a major step back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    "the black bars in full screen are to accommodate the 'Extras' panel at the bottom"

    Fair enough, However would it not be better to have an option where you can either have the extras bar & the smaller video or to turn the extras bar off & just have the fullscreen video.

    In everything I've viewed using this player so far (F1 & Tennis) there has been no extra data to display at the bottom so no need for the video not to take up the full screen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Good idea but it requires a bit of fine tuning focusing on picture quality and frame reload speed both which are, in my experience, not as good as the normal iplayer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I found the quality of the video to be brilliant. One comment would be that as you make it possible to rewind and watch slightly behind live, when you move the mouse the bottom bar is revealed so it is not idea to put the bookmarks on there for goals which you haven't seen yet, if watching 'behind' live. Thanks, Ian.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Just tried the player again. I have 24" high def screens side by side one with the satellite picture and the other showing the test player. First this time there was no sound with 64bit windows 7. The definition was about the same as the BBC 2 SD picture but with more artifacts. I also compared the picture with BBC HD and as I expect you know there was no comparison. The player cannot be described as HD and the BBC should stop miss discribing this as HD.

    The black lines are totally unacceptable. Full screen means full screen. I am amazed that this player is in such a poor state of development only 2 weeks before the event.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    "18:59 UK time, Friday, 29 June 2012: We rolled it out fully today. So we wanted to take this opportunity to build a video player that would provide a lasting legacy to BBC Online and our audiences in the years to come."

    As of now (02:21 2 July 2012) your interactive player won't interact at all - something about "We are unable to bring you any video at this time, please try again later.". So when you say "The ability to pause and rewind live video or jump straight to key moments you may have missed by using chapter markers" should you have added "providing you start watching before it's finished"?

    As this is a roll-out of the finished (tested) product that will provide a lasting legacy, can you clarify what you mean by "Every sport available live and on demand in HD quality on every day of the Games"? Does that mean every sport or only just every OLYMPIC sport? If you had full, live coverage of F1 (for example) [which of course you don't] could I watch that on your new whizzy player? If so, why only during the olympics? If not, why not (leaving aside the fact that this is one of those increasingly rarer instances of BBC sport having rights that no-one else has)?

    BTW, - when you say it has been tested - is real testing or just the sort that was done for the release of the BBC Sport website?

    Can you expand on your concept of time and/or logic? When you say "For now you will be able to watch in HD quality once the bit rate ramps up" does that mean we can now (for now you will be able to) or cannot (once the bit rate ramps)?

    I would also like you to explain how you know that, despite living in a city that is in the top 20 in country in size, I will be able to watch a 3.5 mbit HD stream with my 2 - 3 mbit ADSL service. When you say "For now you will be able to watch in HD quality once the bit rate ramps up" are you referring to my bit-rate available, your bit-rate available (averaged per user) or the capability of your system?

    Given the predilection of BBC-types with the olympics and the amount of work (and money) that's gone into covering them (and flooding all channels), what do you think this large number of people will be doing by the end of the year?

    Surely there's a self-evident case for a headcount reduction - unless the BBC can dream up some other way to spend huge amount of our money?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    31. At 21:19 2nd Jul 2012, I Want To Post wrote:

    This comment is awaiting moderation. Explain.


    And yet ....


    All posts are reactively-moderated.


    So - What does this mean? Can someone explin to me please? Are they reactive or proactive?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Please please please give us the option of watching these events with the old player for those of us who do not like huge pointless borders on the screen and don't have the broadband speed to stream HD without choppy playback. Please don't ruin it by forcing this on us just three weeks before the event. I was really looking forward to using the BBC player for the Olympics hooked up to my TV from the laptop, and now with these changes, I can't do that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    @30 Trev

    The definition of HD is just that the images need to be a higher resolution than SD and iPlayer HD meets this definition. There are no HD standards for internet HD services.

    The BBC HD bitrates are comparable with many other online commercial HD services: It is generally accepted that online-HD has a lower quality than broadcast due to the network capacity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    BBC iPlayer Desktop.... is dead... New 'interface' so will assume it got updated somehow... but none (and I do mean NONE) of the buttons work now... All my programmes are wiped... won't even let me add a programme from iPlayer? What's going on?

    I did manually update Adobe Air - thinking that may help... nada...

    Hope it gets fixed before Silverstone! :-/

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    The flash players settings aren't storing anything, so I think this is at least partly why there is too much stopping and buffering going on. BTW I am using Windows 8 Consumer Preview with the latest Flash Player update on Google Chrome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    The video player doesn't scale properly when you zoom in on the web page with Control+Scroll Wheel. All other BBC video services can resize themselves fine, including iPlayer. It works fine in full screen, but I'd like to be able to watch the normal view without half of the video being cut off, including all of the bottom controls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Oh dear. I'm not happy to read that the black bars are part of the design.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    #32, that usually appears the first time someone posts on a blog, first posts are vetted.

    Anyhow, wouldn't a better idea for the black bars being to squash the video up slightly ala the Channel 4 "next on channel 4" bar that appears at the end of programmes? Then it'll avoid both the overlaying of content but also the irritating postage stamp effect.

    Course it does mean enduring a few moments of fattyvision but as it is only whilst you use the interactive gubbins it won't be like the time you go to a relatives house and sit patiently waiting for the moment they walk out the door so you can edit the settings on their sky box to stop it outputting a 4:3 cutout image to their HDTV.

    Only me that does that? Not to worry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    My experience of watching the video has been good so far. However, I just found out that the new system is Flash-based... good God, why? My flash-blocker must have an existing "allow content from BBC" exception, or I'd be moaning that I couldn't even see your new content!

    My other moan is about the navigation. I don't think it's particularly helpful to have rewindable video and live streams in the same place... it's just confusing. I've just watched a few minutes of Murray/Cilic warming up, until I noticed the clock was wrong and realised I was watching yesterday's coverage.

    Finally... is there going to be a pop-out player? I'd like to be able to squeeze it into one corner of my screen (so I can, ahem... "work" at the same time, without having to resize a browser window to fit)


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