A Talk with Sorenson Media's Eric Quanstrom
COW Library : Compression Techniques : Jerry Hofmann : A Talk with Sorenson Media's Eric Quanstrom
Sorenson Media has always been a favorite company of mine, and my feelings for them haven't changed through the years. So I asked for an interview with Eric Quanstrom, Sorenson Media's marketing chief.
I wanted to clarify my own thoughts about Sorenson, but also wanted to talk about trends surrounding our industry and the growing trends in online video. From my perspective, that looks like something we all should be interested in. This year you couldn't buy a higher end TV without it being capable of connecting to the Internet without the use of a computer after all. Apple's making moves in the area, and we discuss that a bit as well.
Welcome to Sorenson Squeeze 6.
Click on above image to download a PDF of the highlights of Sorenson Media milestones.
To get a handle on the company and its history, here's a link: (http://download.sorensonmedia.com/360v2PressKit/Sorenson_Media_Milestones_0510.pdf) to a historical timeline that highlights the milestones Sorenson Media has reached over its 16-year history. The company is a true pioneer and innovator in the world of online video delivery. Witness the success of Sorenson Squeeze, Sorenson 360, and soon, Sorenson Squeeze Server. I continually follow the company's growth and success in this area of the industry, and am always impressed with the products and services that Sorenson Media has delivered to us year after year.
So let's get to the interview:
Jerry: What does a user gain by using Sorenson Media's products and services?
Eric: If you look at our history, you'll see that we mainstreamed online video literally from the beginning of the commercial Internet. We now have products all across the value chain from encoding to delivery, that make your life easier, more efficient, and help you deliver higher quality video with less headache. Obviously, we are not the only player in the Internet video industry, but many others provide "spot" solutions. We provide the necessary spot solutions from one trusted company.
Jerry: Right. So it's end to end. Encode, upload it, and put it on any website. Sorenson 360 actually serves the video, but the viewer on the Internet will think it's really coming from the website being visited.
Eric: That's right. We provide the entire infrastructure in a cloud backbone that get your videos delivered across the globe with the highest quality video experience available. You can customize the flash player to suit your needs or in an application framework, like if you're using an iPad, or some other mobile device. There's a synergy having all of the products work seamlessly together. If we know the device you're delivering to, we can customize the encode to fit the need.
If we know what your workflow looks like, we can plug into your non-linear editor. If we know your business we can plug in efficiencies for your entire workflow. So these are the kind of solutions we provide on a daily basis.
Jerry: How much does it cost and how scalable is this end-to-end solution?
Eric: Each of our products have different starting points, depending on what problems you're looking to solve. On a product like Sorenson Squeeze, it starts at $499 and moves up to our comprehensive solution at $799. That's a one-time traditional software purchase with subsequent upgrades. We're now on version 6 of the software.
We also have licensing costs associated with other products and services. Take Sorenson 360: Our monthly licensing fees there start at $99 and scale up depending on usage. Usage is determined by bandwidth consumed and total gigabytes stored. Our Sorenson Squeeze Server -- API Hosted service will be similar when the product comes out of Private Beta.
We also have licensing fees associated with our codecs as well as our specialized products such as Sorenson Smash (our app framework) and Sorenson Squish, our browser-based encoding widget, which we charge per asset encoded. With SquishNet, we charge by the number of assets managed. I won't go too deeply in the structure of these costs, but suffice it to say we have trained our sales team to customize a solution to suit your needs, based on the problem you're looking to solve.
Jerry: Don't you include a year of Sorenson 360 with your Squeeze product?
Eric: That's right. We give you enough bandwidth to understand the real value and the real power behind having a review and approval efficiency system, including the ability to post videos online, the ability to syndicate those videos wherever you want them to be, the ability to track whose using those videos in a secure way, or the ability to having them go viral out in the wild if you want.
We give a complimentary account to Squeeze users because, frankly, when we started 360, we had heard from our customers that they use our product to take video out of our non-linear editor, get it into a format that is consumable across the web, but then they had the headaches of wondering what player they should be using. How can they make it consistent across the board, so they know where and when and "who is watching the video?"
Jerry: Why would you want to use Sorenson 360 instead of say, YouTube, when you can upload to YouTube for nothing?
Eric: We don't think it's an either/or situation. We always refer to it as an "and" -- being that YouTube has licensed our codec... Ironically enough, our Spark codec was the first codec ever adopted by YouTube. We think of them as a partner, like with Google's WebM initiative.
YouTube is a fantastic destination site. Obviously the numbers bear that out. The scale and scope of their numbers are staggering. We also believe that when it comes to managing your own website, including your properties and assets, control actually matters. And it matters to most people to a great degree. Control can mean ownership rights to a given video. When you upload to YouTube, you lose those ownership rights. Then there's YouTube's branding, which doesn't drive your business, it drives YouTube's business.
There are tools associated with control, and in our view again, this is where if you go back to your own workflow and video production process we give you a seamless, easy way to take that same video, and really drive your ROI across your web properties. Every website is a reflection of who you are as a brand. You're trying to drive brand awareness, increase sales, and increase visibility.
There are a million different cases here, but when you decide to use a video strategy, suffice it to say that quality, control, and feature set all become really important.
Jerry: That's definitely the case, and I've heard that YouTube will recompress your video, no matter what. In other words, you can't send them a really high quality video and know that that's the actual stream that will be watched. They will recompress your video to make it smaller (saving them bandwidth costs). That's something that you won't do?
Eric: That's right, and we give you the full control to set those parameters as granularly as you'd like as a customer, and we are easier to use. We also offer sort of "black box" solutions: our default settings.
Jerry: Right, I love the web interface in Sorenson 360 where you can just drag a QuickTime movie say from FCP's native output to a spot on the 360 web site, and it all just happens: the encode, the upload, the whole thing. Anybody can use this with ease. Anyone in the organization can do this without any real knowledge of encoding and uploading.
Eric: There are a lot of companies, too, that want to own the experience. We just announced an exclusive video services partnership with Shutterfly. Shutterfly wants to monetize video just as they have been monetizing still photos. And so controlling that experience across their user base, and providing that additional security, functionality and additional branding that they want and envision for their brand and their customers, is really important. That's one of the reasons why they chose Sorenson Media; we gave them that sort of control, in a way that others couldn't do.
Jerry: Now for a really tough question. You have competitors who attempt to do the quality of service that you provide such as Telestream. How are you different from them?
Eric: Telestream is a formidable competitor. They offer a broader product line than we do, yet they don't really delve into the delivery or the space that Sorenson 360 occupies currently. So it's interesting because their customers still have to solve some of the problems we address with Sorenson 360. We evolved our product based on our customer feedback and in ways that they haven't.
I think very highly of them. I think they make very credible products. From an apple-to-apples comparison set, I think you can say we have more features along certain lines than a product like Episode. They have their strong points, and we have ours. Arguably we are a better value. In that space, it's good to have options, and they've been doing it for a while too.
Jerry: They really don't offer a product like 360 though. You have a delivery platform as well as compression software. It's all an end-to-end solution. I mean, you can compress with Episode, but you can't upload your video to them, then use hyperlinks on your website so your viewers see your video as if it were being hosted on your website.
Eric: That's right.