There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. -- Ursula K. LeGuin

Web-Accessible Digital Video

Downloadable Video is the most common approach to high-quality online video. The video file is downloaded from a server (or servers) to your own hard drive. It may be played as it downloads or later. It can take up a lot of room on your hard drive:

  • Downloadable YouTube (small) videos. The popular technology educator Ian Jukes has a site with downloads of several interesting videos. In contrast to most such sites, he has captured the YouTube videos and offers them for download from his own server (a .Mac account). Try a few to see how they behave, how long it takes them to download, their image size, and their overall impact. (hint: is text clearly legible?) A school or class could easily create a site such as this with simple video files on a web server.
  • Downloadable Movie Trailers. Apple Computer hosts perhaps the largest variety of current movie trailers from Disney, Pixar, and many other companies. Each trailer is available in a variety of sizes to be compatible with a wide variety of screen sizes, download bandwidths, and disk storage capacities. While the movies begin playing shortly after they begin downloading, they are not streaming but rather playing while they are downloading. By default the movies download to your web browser cache, and they are automatically purged when the cache becomes full. Note that by right clicking on the movie, you can download the movie to any location on your hard drive to play the movie later or to archive it on your computer.

Streaming Video is the technology used by YouTube and many other popular video viewing sites. A streaming video file is played by your computer as it flows from a streaming server to your computer. Just like a stream of music on a radio, the file is not stored on your computer at any time. The stream may be halted during a period of congestion, but the file never takes up any space on your drive. You do, however, need to have adequate bandwidth to handle the stream. For that reason, most streamed videos have small images sizes and lower quality, both of which reduce streaming bandwidth requirements. In theory, streaming video permits users to view, but not save or retransmit, copyrighted video. Windows Vista includes a mechanism to enforce this restriction. In practice, it is often easy to capture and save a streaming video. Live and lengthy video productions are often streamed so that users don't risk filling up their hard drive to view a two- or three-hour video. Any live video image viewed over the web would use streaming video technology.


The talking pictures are very crude as yet. It will take a year to perfect them and my new invention.
-- Thomas Alva Edison, Interview in the New York Tribune, September 1913.

About Web-Based Video

There are three ways to access video over the web:

  1. Downloadable video files
  2. Quick-Start files for viewing while downloading
  3. Streaming or live video
Downloadable files are treated as just another large data file transmitted from a server and saved on your hard drive. Quick Start videos are designed to be viewed while they are being downloaded and stored on your computer system. Streaming video is like a TV show, radio show, or phone call that is watched, but not stored, on your computer. Live webcasts are a common example of streaming video.

The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.
-- Harold Goddard (The Meaning of Shakespeare)

View WALL-E Trailer & Clips

A camcorder set to stream live video

Streaming Camera ~photo by jobeone