Thursday, March 29, 2007
Rewiring the video slot machine
Currently a lot of time is being devoted to rewiring the tesla circuitry to deliver flash video files of our video library. We named our original LAMP (linux, apache, mysql, php) server Tesla to honor our favorite inventor of all time - yeah, basically the guy who gave us electricity and radio (what about Marconi? he was close, but tesla gets the cigar, sorry). Anyway, the task is quite a mighty undertaking, in that we're looking at many thousands of video files... probably close to 10,000 files have to get transcoded, and hauling that much byte bulk around is a bundersome bear. To make it a little easier, we got 3 terabytes of new hard drives. Some were 500gig externals (Western Digital Powerbooks) connected via FireWire while others were 500 gig SATAII made by Samsung. How delighted we were at the price of all this storage. Heck, back in the day - when we used to walk to school, this much storage would have cost over $35,000 easy. Now, it comes in at a mere $800 and change. We got some new firewire cards and also had to get a new fangled power cord for the Samsung hard drives. Since when did they change from the big blocky 4 pin job I wondered? Ouch, I'm getting old, I can't even keep up with power cord technology any more. Sometimes I feel like a 60 year old trying to skateboard and it's not a pretty sight. Or like the surfer who shows up with the insane 12 longboard woodie.
Some of the most interesting challenges ahead is providing streaming like functions, without a streaming server. Basically the way this is handled is via metadata that is inserted into FLV video files. It serves to provide a time map of the video and duration to allow the server to look at it as chunks of data. Wanna jump 40 secs ahead? It will just go to the approximate chunk based on your request. Without the metadata, and a little tweaking on the apache server, a dose of php here and there... it wouldn't work.
Some of the latest building blocks in development include - random lead-in, calculate parts to create a playlist based on how many parts, insertion of random ads between content clips, and a trailer post roll, again created at random. Here's a few samples for you to check out. Dragnet - Big Producer. Martin Milner, they guy who played the policeman on Adam 12, stars as a young kid selling pornographic pictures to school buddies. They trace it back to the source, the Mr. Big as it were - who gets busted by Joe Friday and his best donut buddy, Frank, played by Ben Alexander. Or how about Felix the Cat, or The Outlaw with Jane Russell, Rio - Billy the Kid's girlfriend. And there's Billy the Kid versus Dracula too. And on and on. it will take a little bit to stock the fridge, but it will be here soon enough. And so - back to work.