Saturday, 10 September 2005

Open letter: Request and suggestion for super-low bandwidth pod- and vid-casts

I'm having trouble finding e-mails for some of my favourite pod- and
vid-casts so I'm putting this out there here:

Dear pod- and vid-cast producer,

Firstly congratulations on the success of your content, I'm an avid consumer
of it.

I wish to suggest the implementation of super-low bandwidth versions of your
content -- such as in the 3GPP mobile phone standard [1] -- for a number of
* To reduce bandwidth costs for everyone
* To increase your consumers by way of international and dial-up customers
-- not everyone yet has broadband and even for those who do, many
(especially internationally, I speak for Australia here) have limited
monthly data allowances and/or slower speeds to international sites.
* To increase the type of portable devices that your content can be viewed
on -- I very happily use my mobile phone on the train and bus for pod- and
vid-casts. High-bandwidth (even 128kbps MP3s) files are often not suitable
here due to limited internal memory of mobile phones.
* To retain compatibility with iTunes -- my suggestion uses QuickTime which
is native to iTunes so enables dial-up customers to get your cast through
iTunes should you choose (video included).
* To allow you to offer previewing of your casts directly from your site --
this is something no-one seems to have exploited with pod- and vid-casts, to
try something new requires downloading a whole large episode. A low
bandwidth file means people can quickly view and decide whether they want to
get the (possibly larger format) whole version of your cast.

I suggest using the 3GPP standard, which is supported by both Apple
QuickTime 6.5 [2] or later (Pro or by way of tools such as BitPlayer [3]),
and ffmpeg [4], either or both of which may already be part of your existing

For audio, you can encode to narrowband AMR (GSM Adaptive Multi-Rate codec)
at 12kbps, and for video 64kbps (56kbps MPEG-4 video, 8kbps AMR-NB or AAC)
are acceptable values which optimise downloading time, file size and

I've been doing this for myself for about a month now with great success but
it would be most beneficial for the cast producers to provide this, since I
am from the category (international, mostly on dial-up, broadband with
restrictive data volume) of users most affected and cannot continue to
transcode on my end with the increasing amount of compelling content being
provided. There are third parties [5, 6] offering this to a limited extent.

Feel free to communicate further on this, I hope to continue to enjoy your
casts into the future!

[4] (there are some limitations when using

Joshua King