BBC do synchronised media as it should be done

I noticed today that the UK BBC has a broadband offering available at The site looks like it may still be in testing, as it’s pretty confusing with a lot of ‘click here’ text and quite a few links that don’t lead anywhere useful.

That aside, there are some really interesting pieces on it, in particular the Iraq Crisis Special Coverage. It’s a good example of a collection of video and other material that really provides depth to the subject.

The synchronised media is well executed as is illustrated with Road to War/UN adopts 1441 piece. As the video plays, a link appears at the bottom on the right hand side about a ¼ of the way into the video. When this link is clicked, the video that was playing is paused, a screen-grab thumbnail representing it is placed to the right of the video playback window and the full-length footage started to play in the main video playback window. Clicking on the thumbnail takes the viewer back to the point that they left off in the main video. As the main video is coming to its end, a new link appears on the bottom right, taking viewers to a click-able map of Iraq that it overlays the main video area.

This is the kind of work we did at LemonTV using Real and SMIL but, because of the vagaries of streaming video, the delivery over the Internet weren’t as polished as the BBC are now achieving.

I found it very interesting that they are using Flash to deliver the synchronised media including the video. Until now, the BBC has exclusively used Real to delivery its audio and video material, but given the normal poor delivery of the BBC streaming, and streaming generally, I’m glad they’re looking at other areas.

Here’s a quick list of advantages I see for them in using Flash over Real

  • Faster starting videos by using progressive download
  • They’re in total control of the format and the player
  • Copying the video is hard
  • They can pause video and bring in other video quickly
  • The interactivity can be incorporated in to one display area
  • No re-skilling to SMIL, they can use current Flash talent
  • Standard web serving – no need to pay for extra streaming server licences
  • Possibly there may be less bandwidth used

If this is a taste of what’s going to be coming out of the BBC, all power to them.

[BTW, if you’re trying to view the broadband content from outside the UK, you’re going to hit a problem – according to the BBC FAQ, it’s not available to non-licence payers.]