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Adobe Media Player: A new way to deliver high-quality content

by Jim Stoneham

At the NAB show this past spring, Adobe introduced Adobe Media Player (AMP) as part of Adobe's Internet TV platform. AMP enables users to enjoy their shows whenever and wherever they want, while enabling new ways for content providers to create, deliver, and monetize high-quality content with advertising through a customizable, cross-platform player that supports both downloaded and streamed media.

At its core, AMP is a desktop video player with a simple user interface centered on video content. There's a catalog of available shows from which to choose, the user's selection of favorite shows, and basic tools to manage subscriptions and other preferences. The subscription options enable users to start watching a show from the beginning or just watch the latest episodes. Users can also use AMP to manage their personal collection of videos stored on their local hard drives.

Like Adobe Flash Player, AMP supports streamed video content, but the real focus of AMP is on downloaded video files that can be viewed at the user's convenience — with or without an Internet connection. Unlike other download-based video services, AMP is designed from the start to allow for an ad-supported business model, so users can enjoy a wide range of content without a per-video fee while content providers can still build a business based on proven web-based advertising approaches.

AMP can be used across a variety of applications — from large-scale Internet TV broadcasting (see Figure 1) to delivery of internal corporate training to an affinity video channel documenting the outreach of a nonprofit group in a local community. If you are a video, advertising, web design, or rich media developer, AMP creates a new set of creative and business opportunities — either through your direct use of AMP or through supporting other organizations that are embracing AMP as a key part of their content delivery.

All in all, AMP is a major evolution in the fusion of TV and the Internet — and is a powerful new way for content providers to engage more deeply with audiences. A prerelease version of AMP is now available on Adobe Labs, so it's a good time to share a brief introduction to AMP and what a content provider or creative professional needs to do to prepare their content for use within AMP.

AMP is a major evolution and fusion of TV and the Internet
Figure 1: Example of large-scale Internet TV broadcasting using AMP
CSI imagery provided by CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

A little more about AMP

Adobe Media Player is an application based on Adobe® AIR™. As such, it offers key Adobe AIR features, such as cross-platform support, auto-updating, and connectivity to both the Internet and the desktop file system. This in turn enables users to add videos easily to their AMP library, both from the Internet and their local file system (including background downloads of video files), publishers to reach a broader audience with one set of content that will run cross-platform, and Adobe to bring new, innovative features to AMP user experience.

AMP also provides anonymous measurement of key usage data, such as when and how often a video has been viewed, where the user starts and stops the video, and advertising impressions. This even works when the user is offline: the next time AMP is launched while online, the usage data is uploaded to the publisher's Flash Media Server servers. Users are given control over what level of anonymous information is shared through preferences, similar to cookies in a browser. Also, users can set demographic preferences (such as country, age, etc.) that content publishers can access; then the publishers can set up their playlists to deliver certain content (like ads) for certain demographics and other content for others. Everyone wins: users get free content with ads that are more relevant, publishers can make their content available free for download, and advertisers reach a more receptive audience for their promotions.

Underneath the hood, AMP is an RSS aggregator, and AMP consumes standard Media RSS feeds to notify and deliver video content to users. Adobe has defined some extensions to the Media RSS specification to provide for branding assets, and documentation of these extensions has been posted on Adobe Labs.

Preparing content for AMP

So what new knowledge and tools do you need to prepare content for use in AMP? If you have experience delivering content for Adobe Flash Player and have prepared banner web advertisements, you have most of the skills and tools required. Here are the key elements to consider:

Video formats

AMP supports FLV and H.264 video formats and MP3 and AAC audio formats, in both streamed and downloaded form, up to full 1080p HD resolution. FLV and MP3 are the formats that have been supported by Flash Player to date. On August 22, 2007, Adobe announced a new version of Flash Player with H.264 and AAC support, and AMP will also support these formats (at this time, the prerelease version posted on Adobe Labs does not have H.264 support integrated).

Preparing content for AMP

You can create FLV or H.264 video files with Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, Adobe After Effects CS3, and several other applications, including Apple Final Cut Pro. Creative Suite 3 will also be updated later this year to provide deeper support for both H.264 and AAC across all the relevant applications.

Branding

Branding provides context to consumers watching your shows. The first generation of AMP will enable branding of shows using background images, banners, logos, and overlays. These elements can be synchronized with the video that is playing to display them when contextually most effective.

Figure 2 shows the four general branding asset types supported in AMP, along with an example of an overlay advertisement (advertising support in AMP requires a direct agreement with Adobe):

A: Show half-banner: an image displayed at the top of a list of episodes.
B: Show full banner: an image displayed above the Content area.
C: Show background image: an image adjusted to enhance contrast with text and buttons on top.
D: Overlay ad: an image displayed in the lower left or lower right corner on top of the video.
E: Network logo: an image defining the network logo.

Branding and advertising
Figure 2: Branding asset types supported in AMP
Imagery provided by Viacom Entertainment

All of these branding assets can be provided in GIF, PNG, or JPEG formats. Detailed specifications for the sizes and uses of each asset can be found on Adobe Labs.

RSS feed structure for AMP

AMP supports RSS 1.0 and 2.0 as well as Atom 1.0 feeds. In this Labs release, to be valid and work with AMP, your feed must contain either FLV or RTMP stream enclosures, and optional branding assets within the feed.

There is more detailed documentation on Adobe Labs, but as a taste, the following example shows an RSS feed with a single item that includes an RTMP URL:

RSS feed structure for AMP

In closing…

I encourage you take a look at AMP on Adobe Labs. Grab the documentation on content preparation and take your high-quality content, along with advertising, to the next level through Adobe Media Player.

To download AMP and for more detailed information, visit Adobe Labs.

 


Jim Stoneham is a consultant to Adobe’s Digital Media Organization, creating the marketing strategy and marketing programs for Adobe Media Player. Jim’s company, Tangibility, works with companies of all sizes to define great products and services and then bring them to market successfully.