(Note, since the SL client doesn't really handle videos itself, but relies on the QuickTime player installed on the user's machine, you can't watch OTHER types of videos--such as *.wmv or *.swf files, in SL.)
For example, in a very useful tutorial by Torley Linden on converting YouTube movies for use in SL, Torley writes:
Now here's where things get a bit more difficult: you'll need a hosting server to upload to. I use Dreamhost and FTP it, but if that sounds tricky, look into uploading to another online video service like Blip.tv, which will retain your original file and can be directly linked to.
Even SL's official information doesn't make it entirely clear whether a streaming server is required. In the SL Knowledge Base, for example, it says "The movie must exist as an active URL link on a hosting web server" and then later gives a list of resources for "Hosting Solutions" that are all about streaming servers. (https://support.secondlife.com/ics/support/KBAnswer.asp?questionID=4434; this link won't work unless you are already logged into the SL web site with a valid SL account.) Does "hosting web server" mean the same thing as "web server," or does it mean "streaming web server"?
In any case, I wasn't sure I believed the "common knowledge," since I had viewed some "mov" files from the American Memory collection (and I didn't think those were streamed), and so in the first draft of a chapter I'm writing about the Affordances of Second Life for PreK-12 Education, I wrote:
Any Quicktime-compatible video on a web server can be shown in SL, again using the Freeview, simply by putting the URL of the video into the menu of the Freeview.
One of the book's editors (who certainly knows more than I do about the technical aspects of Second Life, but who shall remain nameless here), inserted the word "streaming" before the phrase "web server." I, being the skeptic I am and the general "know-it-all" that I pretend to be, wrote to her:
Are you sure quicktime movies have to be one a “streaming” web server for them to play in SL? I think any quicktime will play; you just have to wait for the load if it isn’t a streaming server. But I am not absolutely sure.She immediately wrote back,
That's a great question. Why not try to access one that is just sitting on a website and not streamed?So I did. I happen to have a QuickTime movie on my web server. I use it to teach some aspects of video to my Technology in Education students, including how to put a QuickTime movie into Flash. Here's the video:
(It just so happens that I am a somewhat closeted fan of Britney Spears. While I could take some time now to explain WHY I am a fan, and why my fan-ness has perhaps faded in recent months, that isn't really the point of this blog post.)
For those of you who don't want to take the time to watch the video, let me just say, it's a Pepsi commercial that Britney made and that was shown originally during the Academy Awards in 2001. Britney is beautiful, of course (this was way before her current troubles), and this video doesn't ignore that fact. What's really interesting, however, is that this ad was actually the lead-in to another ad, aired during the same Academy Awards show, that contained the same footage, with interspersed cut-aways with various slack-jawed viewers (including some Coke employees and even Bob Dole (!) and his dog. You can see the other video here and read a critical review of the pair of videos here. Not to say, again, that is the point of this blog post.
What IS the point (reminding myself not to be so slack-jawed) is whether you need a streaming server to play a video in SL. So, following my editor's sensible suggestion, I tried it in SL.
I use a tool known as the "Freeview", an image and video viewer created by Crystalshard Foo, a designer in Second Life, and widely available free of charge in SL. The Freeview will show any SL texture (either by dragging it from your inventory onto the screen, or by dragging a group of textures onto the "Contents" tab of the Edit panel; this allows a series of images to be displayed automatically in a series or loop, or to advance when the Freeview is touched). It will also play QuickTime movies, either from a list available at http://slguide.com or by entering a URL (with a "/1 " prefix) into the chat bar.
(An aside: I spent a little time trying to locate an easy way to obtain a Freeview from the web, and failed. There is a very similar, perhaps more up-to-date, product, available, known as the SLGuide Player. More information about that player, and a link to a place where you can get one, is available here: http://www.slguide.com/help/.)
So, I logged into SL, rezzed a Freeview on my land, Touched it and chose "Set URL," copied the URL of my Britney Pepsi video, typed "/1 " and then pasted "http://craigcunningham.com/nlu/cah/Britney%20Spears%20Pepsi.mpg" into the chat bar, and then Touched the Freeview again, and chose Play from the menu. After a few seconds, lo and behold, it played!!
In the meantime, my editor had consulted an even-more-technically-minded friend and wrote to me:
Now, that [videos had to be on a streaming server] was true in 2006 and early 2007. The product changes so often that I have learned not to be sure of anything. It is quite possible that it no longer requires streaming. **** is online right now and she streams..I'll ask her.... She says you have to have a streaming server.Well, I thought, maybe not. I wrote back:
Nope. Doesn't have to be streamed. This URL isn't streamed: http://craigcunningham.com/nlu/cah/Britney%20Spears%20Pepsi.mpg. And it works on my Freeview. It's a little choppy, because it has to wait for segments to download.She immediately wrote:
Ahh so the lack of streaming means choppy video... now the question is, do you recommend it?Well, THAT is a really good question. I noticed that when I played the video again, it was less choppy. I figure there must be some sort of caching going on, either on my local computer, or within SL.
But, would I recommend this way of showing videos in educational settings? Since many teachers don't have easy access to a streaming server, and there are LOTs of useful QuickTime movies available (on American Memory, for example, where you can find lots of historical videos, such as this one showing Hopi Indians dancing for Theodore Roosevelt:
there's no sound in this one--, by the way) that I would think the ability to show a video in SL without a streaming server would be quite useful to teachers. However, soon my editor wrote to me:
Yes, your method works fine for one user. When you have several users, some will not see the content without a streaming server. Here is how to set it up: http://www.mediacollege.com/video/streaming/overview.html And this is from a discussion with **** **** who runs our audio streaming server for SL:Upon some further searching for useful information on this topic, I found this Electric Sheep blog by Chris Carella: http://blogs.electricsheepcompany.com/chris/?p=206. Chris's post makes things very clear: if a QuickTime video has been saved with the "Fast Start" option, it downloads to a client "progressively," starting with a portion of the video has downloaded. No streaming is required. However, the thing about progressive downloads is that each person viewing the video in SL sees it differently, depending on when they first clicked the "play" button in the SL window. Streaming servers allow multiple users to experience a video at the same time. Chris recommends this link from Apple that explains the differences.This is what I read on it when I was trying to set up a video server. You can get the client to do a progressive download to a temp file, from a web page, but it'll do that buffering thing you were talking about. Unless he has an unusually large bandwidth pipe, you can't get more than one or two working that way. For actual "streaming" you need a stream server, in order to display to 5 - 10 - 50 however many clients, depending on available bandwidth.
UPDATE: Here is another useful URL about streaming video and SL: http://land-answers.wiki.zoho.com/Streaming-Video-in-Second-Life.html
So, the answer is, "YES," you can play a non-streamed QuickTime movie in Second Life. But if you want a group of people to see the video at the same time, or to have more than a couple of people watch it at once, you'll want to put it on a streaming server.
You certainly want to to do EVERYTHING in your power to share your favorite videos. Even if your favorite pop stars have had a bad few months.