Monday, December 21, 2009 Video Player Powered by Vertigo

Last month, our team at Vertigo announced the release of the HD video player and Deep Zoom photo experience powered by Vertigo for NBC's coverage of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. These players are live today, and you can use them to explore a wide range of content from previous years, as well as interviews with athletes and other previews. See our post here for the full details.
Our team is pleased to announce that an additional set of features was released last week! A dive into those new features appears in the second part of this post.

Part 1: Original Features
The video and photo experiences for released in November featured:
Video Experience
  • HD-quality video using Microsoft's IIS Smooth Streaming TechnologyGorgeous HD-quality video in full 720p, streamed in a manner that adaptively adjusts to any connection speed.
  • DVR "Trick Play" control Direct your own video experience using slow motion, fast forward, and rewind. The "dongle" control also allows for more fine-grained control to find the exact moment you're looking for.
  • Rich Data Integration Go deep and find out all you need to know about every key play with Key Events and Play by Play data, including a fully interactive video timeline.
  • Embedded Player
    Embed a lightweight version of our player in your blog!
  • Advanced advertising integration A sophisticated advertising engine that includes support for DVR functionality. This also includes capability for affiliate branding integration.
  • Error handling and recovery We've put a great deal of effort into ensuring that the video our users experience is delivered in a highly reliable manner. If something goes wrong, our player has a lot of smarts built in that allow it to analyze problems and quickly recover or offer other options for viewing.
  • Logging The player powered by Vertigo will be one of the best instrumented web applications ever built. With so many users connecting to so much video, it is important to keep close tabs on everything that's going on. We're using the following logging providers:
    • Conviva for real-time health monitoring
    • Omniture and Quantcast for metrics and activity tracking
    • Nielsen for usage tracking
    • Microsoft for video health logging
  • Alerts Stay up to date with the latest events.
  • Boss Button Because sometimes it's just too tempting to watch all that great content even when you're at work…
Photo Experience
  • Slideshow mode allows easy one-by-one viewing of automatically advancing galleries.
  • Grid Mode allows free-form and quick navigation of larger galleries.
  • Scroll to zoom in and out of photos
Part 2: Extra Feature Set Released Last Week
This set of improvements consists of a range of goodies that enhance the video experience by allowing you to explore the tremendous amount of content available much more deeply. Let's take a look:

Support for live videoThe opening ceremonies on February 12th are almost here, and the player is now ready to handle streaming of live coverage of the Olympic games!

Video Content Explorer

The video content explorer (accessible from the "Explore More Videos" button) allows users to view the full range of Olympic video content within the full screen mode of the player. You can explore videos recommended to you based on what you're currently watching, the most popular videos across the site, featured videos, or hot clips under "Must See".

Top Athletes
The Top Athletes tab allows you to explore video content from a different angle – you can browse through your favorite international athletes and find all of their related video content.

Similarly, the sports tab allows you to explore videos within a specific Olympic sport.

When the Olympic games start, there will be a lot of activity to keep track of! Found in the "Inside This Video" overlay, the schedule view allows a time/schedule-based approach to exploring video content, and also provides a glimpse of upcoming events.

Related Athletes
If you're interested in more information about the athletes participating in the video you're watching, you can find full details in the Related Athletes pane, accessible from the "Inside This Video" overlay. If you want to explore even further, you can flip over each athlete's "trading card" to find a list of all videos in which they appear.

Keep tabs on the latest community buzz about the event you're watching with the built in Twitter client.

I'd like to send a big thank you out to everyone on Vertigo's Olympics team as well as our partner organizations for their dedication and hard work in bringing together this unique experience. We're looking forward to seeing it in action during the winter games in February!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Get Ready for Sunday Night Football!

I'm proud to announce the launch of NBC Sport's Sunday Night Football Extra live HD video experience, designed and built by our team here at Vertigo, in partnership with Microsoft and NBC. Tune in tonight, 2009-09-10 at 5 PT/8 ET to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Tennessee Titans on NFL opening day. Our team has spent the last couple of months bringing this compelling, immersive video experience to life using Microsoft's Smooth Streaming technology.

Follow the action tonight at Some key features:

• Stunning HD Quality video
Moving to full-screen mode allows you to access 720p at 3.45 Mbps - great looking HD video. Try hooking up your laptop to your TV and watching in full-screen mode!

• Adaptive streaming using Microsoft's Smooth Streaming technology
Your Sunday Night Football viewing experience will be automatically adjusted to best match your internet bandwidth and your computer's performance. If you have a fast internet connection, you'll automatically see the best quality video.

• Live Alternate cameras: Action from any angle
While you watch the action in the main feed, you can keep an eye on four alternate camera angles, showing you the action from the sidelines, the endzone, the center-field cable, or to focus on the stars of the game. You can switch these camera views into the main video window at any time to focus on the details.

• DVR controls give you the power to direct your own experience
With DVR controls such as slow-motion, rewind, fast-forward, and instant replay, you can create your very own Sunday Night Football experience! Want to see an instant replay of that great tackle Bob Sanders made? Want to see Adam Vinatieri split the uprights again in slow motion? Instant response as you move through the timeline.

• Interactive Timeline and Key Plays Menu
That timeline at the bottom of the video is smarter than your average video scrubber bar! The team-colored diamonds surrounding the timeline the key plays throughout the game, allowing you to quickly jump to the action. This markers track the action live, appearing as soon as the action happens in your video. Open the menu to get more details about each play.

• Interactive Q&A with NBC's Mike Florio
Wondering if Peyton Manning will miss Marvin Harrison this year? Chat with NBC's Mike Florio during the game, and have your questions get answered by the experts!

• Stats
Real-time stats data come in live with the game to give you all the info you need.

• Highlight clips
Highlights of the big plays come in soon after the plays happen so you can review all the best moments of the game.

I'd like to send a big thank you out to all the folks on this team and at our partner organizations for all of their hard work in creating this one of a kind video experience!

Obligatory screenshot:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Test for Multiple Cultures!

A Silverlight project I'm working on fell victim to "Ugly American Programming" this week – we neglected to thoroughly test the application in non-English languages. This is particularly important for Rich Internet Applications that run on each user's client machine. Each user can have a different culture set in the Regional and Language Options, which looks like this in Vista:

The problem we ran into was that European users were getting a FormatException when executing double.Parse(value) where "value" was set to a decimal number such as "0.05". In European cultures, double.Parse() expects a comma in lieu of a decimal. For example, when I change my regional settings from English to French, the format for decimals changes from "X.Y" to "X,Y". 



It's good practice to always specify "CultureInfo.InvariantCulture" as a second argument to double.Parse() to avoid these problems:

I should really know better – I see this number format every day on my drive in to work courtesy of the folks who programmed my Swedish car: