The guys at Neokast have given me an early sneak peek at their video streaming beta service, and first impressions are that this could be an extremely cool piece of technology once they iron out a few wrinkles.
This is not another Joost clone, it’s a full-on television type video streaming service – think Shoutcast or Live365 for video. The service has a number of standout cool features:
- Once you’re set up with an account and you’ve installed the player/broadcaster plugin, setting up a live video feed (or QuicKast) is a matter of clicking three buttons. You can use your webcam or a proper camcorder via the Firewire port, and you have a choice of resolutions to use. This is a superb feature.
- Because it’s P2P technology you can leave a stream running 24/7 with no problem, either repeating a video segment or streaming live action. The company will offer a free service and a professional one for those who want to make money out of their streams.
- The quality can be excellent depending on the capture and resolution choices you make. For an example of the type of high quality broadcast you can achieve, take a look at this Cringely interview segment. You don’t need a Neokast account to watch, although you will need to undergo a fairly long install of the player components (see below). This interview is a 512K stream, with the video settings at 852×480, 24fps and it streams pretty well for the most part on a standard ADSL 2 mbps line, even on an older DELL laptop. Remember this is an early beta process in progress.
- You can embed a video channel on your own website, or use the Neokast site or both, and videos can be archived or left ‘in the network’, for people to access when they want.
- It’s totally tied to Windows at the moment. The install of the player can take anything up to 20 minutes as you need to install .Net, the Windows 11 codec, the player plugin itself and a bunch of stuff you don’t see, which may or may not be related to DRM. That’s not so bad for a broadcaster getting set up – although it sucks to have to revert to Internet Explorer – but for those who just want to watch a channel this is going to be a major pain. Hopefully it will be addressed before the service goes live.
- No control. This is strictly a one-way streaming service. There’s no rewind, nor can you select to watch a stream from a certain point. There is a pause button however, which is a start.
- It does appear to be a bit of a bandwidth hog at the moment. In other words it doesn’t seem to play nicely with any other download activity going on (unlike Joost, say, which seems to ignore things like email downloading in the background).
Overall this is a hugely interesting piece of technology and it will be really interesting to see what it’s like when it launches officially. The idea of fast, simple Net broadcasting for everyone, at enticing price points (i.e. free and up) is a pretty compelling idea right now, and there’s a huge potential constituency out there who will drop the cumbersome video server alternatives like a hot brick if the right product comes along. Definitely one to watch. My main suggestion would be sort out the cumbersome install and offer a non-Internet Explorer player as fast as possible to encourage the early adopter crowd. If they give me any beta test invites I’ll pass them on if you register your interest in the comments. [Update: they’ve just sent me a special Neokast sign-up link for Ferret readers to use. Enjoy. And thanks Noah!]