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BBC Unit Streams Into MPEG-4 Test

MPEG-4 has come into the fore at BBC News Interactive, as the United Kingdom online news outlet tests a new multimedia format with technology partner Envivio Inc.

The two companies have teamed up to craft a multimedia presentation delving into the war on terrorism, to be posted on the news outlet's online portal in the near future.

Titled "Can the War on Terrorism Ever be Won?" it consists of five segments from News Night
editors focusing on the campaign's economic, diplomatic, scientific, cultural and foreign implications.

The British Broadcasting Corp. unit is among the first media outlets to dabble in MPEG-4, the newest iteration of the Moving Picture Experts Group family of video standards. Designed specifically for interactive Internet applications, MPEG-4 can transmit video at lower bit rates and adds interactive elements, including the ability to manipulate individual objects within a visual frame.

"We understand the power of the MPEG-4 standard and its ability to create highly interactive content that is based on a single non-proprietary format," said BBC News ITV development manager Russell Merryman. "The principal of authoring once and publishing everywhere is becoming a vital part of our production systems for TV, radio and online content."

The BBC presentation is specifically designed to stream across a 500 Kilobit-per-second broadband connection using the Windows Media, RealOne or QuickTime player. It will offer viewers video and text, as well as links to additional information.

"As the presentation is going through, the user can pause the presentation and look at their supporting material," said Envivio vice president of sales Rudi Polednik, who supervised the BBC project. "And all of that supporting material is included within the MPEG-4 file."

Envivio, formerly a subsidiary of France Telecom, is providing the BBC with its Broadcast Studio software to create the multimedia content, as well as the streaming server to handle distribution.

"BBC is just one example now of having a complete implementation from the authoring to the playback and the server of this interactive specification," said Envivio president and chief technology officer Julian Signes. "What this enables — and what it offers the consumer — is a new way to consume media."