Taking it (back) to the Tank

Here it is, the second, and more technical, half of the interview I did with Creative Tank.  As before, if you have any questions for the boys, get them into the comments and I’ll make sure they answer them in a subsequent posting. 

I wrote a piece that covered your Streaming Tank initiative with The Who that got a lot of page views, can you give us some more detail on what Streaming Tank is? 

No problem – Streaming Tank has three specialized offerings which are Video Streaming, Online TV systems and Video in Email.  We also have an email broadcasting division called Mailing Tank, that handles our email broadcasting and list acquisition services, a hosting service, and search engine optimization. 

Video Streaming is something that many companies are able to do, but very few are able to do it well.  Streaming Tank is the front end to a global network of 16,000 servers in over 70 countries, which enables us to ‘true’ stream incredibly high quality video directly onto our clients’ websites. Due to the amount of servers we use, we are able to host videos of any length or size. And unlike like smaller networks, our servers will hold up if they suddenly encounter and receive a lot of traffic and multiple simultaneous viewers. 

Each video is encoded for Dial Up, ISDN and Broadband connection speeds. The technology then works out what connection speed is available for each viewer, delivering the right version of the video to ensure that it plays flawlessly. While you are watching the video, you are never actually watching one continuous stream as the technology is constantly flicking between servers, providing the best stream possible.

What technology are you using to stream the video?

We’re using ‘true’ streaming technology as opposed to ‘progressive’ streaming.  This means viewers don’t have to download the video before viewing it, or wait for it to ‘buffer’. They can also scroll through the footage from the start, which is great for longer clips. As the footage isn’t being downloaded onto the viewer’s computer, the video footage can’t be copied or saved so it doesn’t block up the viewers system with unwanted video content.   

What media player to you use to stream your content? 

By combining ‘true’ streaming with Flash technology we avoided the need for viewers to download extra media players or wait for the video to download before starting. As a result, we can get our video content to start within 2 seconds. We’re able to stream in Windows, Real and QuickTime media players, but we found that Flash penetrates a far higher percentage (98%) of online viewers.   

What steps do you take your clients through to get their video online? 

To get video integrated onto your site, all you need to do is provide us with the footage and we do the rest. The video is encoded onto our servers which then produces an HTML code that fits into your own website code so it can be placed anywhere around your site. Or, we can stream into an iFrame.  Our latest development, Stream TV, is, in it’s simplest form, an online ‘video vault’ or ‘video library’. However, with the integration of e-commerce and pay-per-view facility, a content management system, ad servers, TV scheduling and ‘live’ streaming capabilities, we can help you turn a ‘video vault’ into a complete online broadcasting system.  

The video in email you mentioned before sounds like a pretty awesome viral tool – what sort of stuff are you doing in that field? 

Video in email is still something that is yet to be perfected as there are still issues that surround getting past firewalls and various security settings. However there are ways of working around these problems. With the technology we use, and the way in which we embed our video in email, we expect to achieve at least a 66% success rate for recipients viewing the video in the email itself. There are 3 ways of getting video into an email, by using Java, Flash or as a compressed WMV file.  

Through testing from our system, we found that by embedding a compressed WMV file into an email, we can avoid the problems associated with Active X warnings; which means we achieve a better success rate and greater compatibility with email systems. It isn’t 100% perfect, but we found it to have less problems in getting around most firewalls and security systems. As it’s a WMV file, the majority of Mac recipients will not see the video.

However, Mac’s are becoming more compatible with Windows Media and many of the latest systems come with a player installed.  If people can’t see the video, rather than having a blank space where the video should have been, we design an image to sit behind the embedded video. If the video is blocked, the email will appear as though there is nothing missing and the image will fill the space where the video had been, giving the impression that it is a standard HTML email.

We also always include a ‘click-thru’ onto the on-line version, either on your own site or a ‘landing’ site for the campaign, which then using our ‘true’ streaming technology, penetrates the 98.8% of online viewers.  

Chris Dabbs, CEO

Chris launched Creative Tank in 2003 with James Wilkinson.  Creative Tank (www.creativetank.com) is a full service agency network supporting the marketing and advertising industry.  The group includes a web development division, web hosting (www.hostingtank.com), and advanced online video streaming (www.streamingtank.com) and email marketing (www.mailingtank.com).  He graduated from Birmingham with a degree in Computer Studies, worked in magazine and music publishing, including running the media division of Boosey & Hawkes for four years. Chris started a viral and e-marketing company, Smoking Toad, in 2001 with Dave Vout. 

James Wilkinson, Business Development Director 

James Wilkinson graduated at the University of the West of England, Bristol with a degree in Business Studies. He started his career at IMG, where he worked with a number of clients, including Rolex, Robinsons and Nike, working as a research analyst for the sports sponsorship side of the European Tour. He later moved on to Mediacom, in TV buying. He assisted with European media buying campaigns for clients such as EMI and Polydor records before joining Smoking Toad in 2003 and subsequently launching Creative Tank with Chris Dabbs. He has been working as Business Development Director for the last two and half years.

Chris Dabbs and James Wilkinson


One Response to Taking it (back) to the Tank

  1. Russ says:

    OK guys…here’s the rub…I’m a videographer in South Australia with a good grasp of video/compression technology (Mac/FCP etc etc) able to make good vid/info/tvcom style products for govt and corp clients.

    1. I can hang my stuff on local ISPs — I don’t seem to have any problem (apart from firewalls, see below) – but is there better value in hanging stuff via your server – if so, what’s the value, and what’s the cost?

    2. Regardless of the technology, a lot of my clients hide behind firewalls. They can get all sorts of crap, but they ‘make the sign of the cross’ at webvideo, even though it’s the medium of the future. Can your system get past those blocks?


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