Olympic Torch Relay Website
Even if you joined the torch relay live, you can now drag the scrub bar back and see what you missed
Couple of news flashes before I start – firstly, UK users can now watch live torch relay video, or #bbctorchcam as it’s known by many, on their iPhones. Secondly, we’ve just enabled "live rewind" functionality on the live video stream for the standard website. So, if you’ve just started watching the morning relay session on the site and missed the Olympic flame go past your house 10 minutes ago, then never fear, just drag the player scrub bar 10 minutes back and hey presto, watch the moment.
Well, the Olympic flame began its 70-day journey across the UK on 19 May and I’ve been delighted to see the generally positive reaction to the site from our online audiences. The site enjoyed 7.8 million page views for the second half of May and, as 2012 online editor Mark Coyle has already mentioned, "BBC torchcam" has become cult viewing.
While national and local TV/radio are dipping into this exciting event as appropriate and live coverage of some sessions has been added to the BBC Red Button schedule, the online site has established itself as a "one-stop shop" for round-the-clock live coverage and torch relay information.
Covering and broadcasting the 8,000-mile whistle-stop tour has been no mean feat, but it doesn’t end there. Although the relay is well under way now, my team is still making enhancements to the site and aiming to make new features available. My main focus is video, both in terms of device availability and new functionality.
BBC Torchcam is now available on iOS and Android devices
I’ve worked for many years on video propositions for the BBC and am always keen to make sure our content is available on as many platforms as possible.
So I’m pleased to announce we’re finally offering live video coverage of the relay on iOS devices, such as iPhones and iPads, using HLS (HTTP Live Streaming). We already have BBC torchcam available on Android phones and tablets, so this means we should have a much fuller range of coverage on devices from desktop to tablets to mobile.
Also, the torch relay offers us an important opportunity to spearhead the video technology we’re developing for the Olympic Games themselves.
"Live rewind" is a major step forward for us, enabling users to navigate backwards through a live session and find what they want to watch.
The main challenge here has been to make the morning and afternoon video sessions available as HDS (HTTP Dynamic Streaming) video streams and create a customised player to play them on. Thus, the more eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the new video player on the desktop torch relay site, with session tabs at the top and a new play button, to exploit this functionality.
“And”, as comedian Jimmy Cricket likes to say, “there’s more”.
Having enabled live rewind HDS streams, we next aim to implement live-to-VOD (Video-On-Demand) and ‘share the moment’ functionality.
With this functionality, live video sessions would automatically turn into video-on-demand assets and become available for previous days. Providing the pictures were streamed live by BBC torchcam in the first place, you’ll be able to watch them again on demand, going all the way back to day one.
This means you can watch the relay live and, when you see a moment you want to share, you can send that exact moment to your friend, whether it’s live or in the past. Even if your friend doesn’t pick up your email for a couple of days, they’ll be taken to the exact moment you wanted to show them.
I look forward to your questions and comments.
To address one issue - our live online streaming is at the mercy of the 3G signal being used to beam back the images from the media truck. As we’ve seen along the way, the picture sometimes drops out, usually in heavily populated areas where excited onlookers are crowding out the signal with their tweets and Facebook updates.
Basically, we’re recording "as live" so if your "moment" was during one of these "blackouts", then unfortunately for now, they’ll remain blacked out, even as on-demand video. Not ideal I know, but we’re working on it, and hopefully there’s still enough of the 70-day/14-hour-a-day coverage for you to enjoy.
Mike Burnett is Olympic Torch Relay Product Lead, BBC Future Media