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What's Next for Streaming Video?

A couple minutes of buffering, a couple seconds of playback. You press pause. And wait… and wait. The video stutters along as the pixelated rollercoaster car climbs painfully up the lift hill, which in 240p, looks like a dark, steep pyramid stretching interminably into a washed-out sky. Finally, the progress bar has inched along far enough, and you watch with delight from the front seat as the coaster plunges down the near-vertical drop at blinding speed.

What’s your first memory of streaming a video? For me, it was loading the tiny, grainy onboard testing video of Millennium Force, the tallest and fastest rollercoaster in the world when it opened in 2000, on Cedar Point’s website. With a 28k dialup connection, this two-minute video took at least a dozen minutes to consume back then—but that didn’t stop me from watching it over, and over, and over, until I finally got to ride it for real the following summer. 

When I hear the word “streaming” today, that kind of experience still resonates a tiny bit in the back of my mind. Streaming was a process, a slow trickle of pixels from the worldwide web into my computer. A process that took patience, but one that was filled with endless possibilities. Sure, you could barely make out any details in the picture, and the audio was atrocious, but you could sense that it was the beginning of something big. 

Today, of course, that trickling spring has become a roaring, life-sustaining river. From entertainment to communications, we’ve grown increasingly reliant on the trusty flow of video to our screens—and conditioned to its perfection. When you press play on Netflix, you expect a flawless 4K image to fill your screen. Buffering? I’d bet that most Gen Zers, born after Millennium Force thrilled its first riders, don’t even know what that means.

This brings us to a core challenge for our industry. Everything in your consumer life just works; shouldn’t pro solutions be just as simple? In AV Technology, we take a look at ways that video communications are being elevated to meet and exceed their consumer counterparts. From livestreaming (opens in new tab) to enterprise video (opens in new tab), industry experts weigh in on ways that AV aptitude can be applied to reach a level of quality that Magewell’s Nick Ma calls “technical invisibility,” where the experience is so natural, the user doesn’t even think about it. 

It’s been a long climb from the humble days of the early web. According to some estimates, video will soon account for almost 85 percent of all internet traffic. We’re at the top of the hill, and there’s only one way down. So put your hands up and embrace the ride.

Matt Pruznick is the former editor of AV Technology, and senior editor for Systems Contractor News and Residential Systems. He is based in New York.