Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fancy Features for Video Players

What features and controls would you most like to see added to online video players?

How about a button that enables you to watch the video at a slightly accelerated speed without voices sounding like chipmunks, so that you could watch a four-minute video in three minutes? (Can you tell we fast-forward the car chases and romantic montages in our Netflix rentals?)

Or how about the ability to text-annotate scenes or segments, thus enabling viewers to click directly to that scene without having to fast-forward or drag the slider to it -- just like you can click on a scene on a movie DVD? And, to go one step further, how about providing a simple way for users to tag the beginning and end of a specific segment of their choice, and then generate copy-and-paste HTML code enabling others to embed or link to that segment?

We found a video player that provides all those functions at Bloggingheads.TV, a site devoted to split-screen debates ("diavlogs") on current events. True, it's all "talking heads," which lends itself to these particular features -- nothing is visually hampered if you watch while fast-forwarding, and self-contained segments are easy to delineate. That is less likely to be the case with videojournalism stories. But it's still incumbent upon online publishers to invest in developing new features that will enhance the viewers' experience, and upgrading their embarassingly outmoded video players.

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