A live webcast and chat with Paul McCartney on May 17, 1997 marked the
largest and the most significant multimedia event by a recording artist.
It was the first time that an artist of this stature had combined video
and interactivity, and it attracted a record-breaking three million
questions from fans in 23 countries.
The event combined a television broadcast with a webcast, where fans
were able to ask questions and participate in a discussion with Paul
McCartney as well as chat with each other. More than 9,000 fans logged-on
for the webcast, which used Java software and leading Netra i servers
from Sun Microsystems to deliver live video, audio and chat instantaneously.
US television company VH1 Online teamed up with capital Records to produce
the live webcast and chat prior to the release of McCartney’s new album
Flaming Pie. The New York-based new media company Kaufman Patrieof Enterprises
(KPE) coordinated the various technology options in association with
VH1 and Capitol.
McCartney answered questions on a wide range of topics during the webcast,
from which Beatles song was the hardest to write, to what new music
he likes, to the whereabouts of the 27-minute version of the song ‘Helter
Skelter.’ Commenting on the event McCartney said, "It was the first
time for me, but I can see how you could get addicted to the world on
How they did it
Webcasting describes sending targeted information to people on the internet
or an intranet/extranet with push technology. Previously, the user had
to pull information from the network by browsing through the available
sources. The push model simplifies things for the user and has the potential
to simultaneously ease network traffic by sending only relevant information
Linking to the internet
The Paul McCartney Webcast was linked to the internet via a 2MB line
from AT&T, with a back-up 64K line. This provided internet access
to receive questions emailed to the musician during the chat session,
publish McCartney’s answers, and broadcast Webcast pictures in the Viewing
and Playback (V&P) area.
Computer systems from Sun Microsystems were used in the London ‘Newsroom’
where the television broadcast took place. A Sun Netra j server and
three JavaStations accessed the Flaming Pie Web site and a Sun Ultra
1 system plus JavaStation were monitoring machines. Two additional Ultra
1 systems and one Ultra 2 system provided the musician with fully-screened
questions; one system for the typist to type McCartney’s answers, and
one for screening. To show the webcast in the V&P location, two
Ultra 2 systems with Creator 3D graphics and one Ultra 1 system were
VH-1 filmed the hour-long event, which was webcast live followed by
30 minutes of internet chat. The compressed video signal was fed to
the US via satellite by Grahma Technologies (GTS). The video stream
was relayed across the internet to proxy servers in the US using Genuity’s
network and Hop Scotch program, which automatically sends users to a
server with less traffic if necessary, so they get better service. The
video signal was also relayed to a proxy server in Amsterdam connected
to AT&T’s backbone network.
Widest possible viewership
To make the event accessible to all internet users, GTS provided video
broadcast viewing software called ‘JPEG push’ that does not require
downloading additional plug-ins to work with a web browser. Any Java-based
browser could access the broadcast. Sun UltraSPARC servers provided
5000 simultaneous video streams to support the wide viewership.
GTS’s broadcast network, enabled by the company’s own audio and video
streaming technology, makes multimedia available on the internet for
the mass market. It takes advantage of the latest compression technology,
higher bandwidth availability and the Java Media APIs.
The internet chat was provided by E! Online on a Sun Enterprise 4000
server, while the web site itself was put together by KPE in New York.
Users only had to connect to the Flaming Pie web site and view the webcast.
The video was fed to them by GTS via the least crowded server. GTS used
new compression technology to accommodate low-bandwidth connections.
In to the digital world
Java is playing an increasing role in media solutions today. Digital
technology makes management and distribution of commercial media far
easier and cheaper than ever before. Sun’s Java technology takes electronic
distribution to a higher level using the internet, enabling Sun to play
a major role in the media, communications and entertainment industries.
Sun recently announced Java Media APIs to add increased functionality
when creating enterprise-deployable multimedia applications that run
The tremendous response to the McCartney Webcast has created a new model
for the entertainment industry. The historic event attracted more than
three million questions, making it "the largest response in the
history of the Internet," according to VH1 interviewer John Fugelsang.
"The astounding three million questions sent in by fans clearly
shows that the web provides a real community for users. It really demonstrates
how the music industry is leading the digital age, with music and media
companies making the most creative use of technology. Sun Microsystems
is working closely with a number of major artists to help create new
connections with their fans."
Case Study: HeadSpace
With Java Sound,
Sun is vaulting everything-from education to advertising-into a new
era of web interactivity.
In a dramatic convergence
of leading technologies, Sun Micro-systems teamed up with musician Thomas
Dolby Robertson and his company HeadSpace to create Java Sound, a playback
engine designed to be the audio subsystem for the web. When combined
with the Java Sound application programming interface (API), large numbers
of professional musicians and sound designers can build sound applications
that run on any platform, ensuring fidelity across the internet.
"I’m very much in synch with Sun’s approach to Java. I wanted (Java
Sound) to be open, extensible to anybody, and at the same time to be
secure and very flexible," says Dolby, CEO of HeadSpace. "It
didn’t take me long to figure out that Sun was an ideal partner."
The importance of sound and music have been recognized in Hollywood
for decades. The television and film industries are replete with examples
of how high-quality audio adds impact. With the extraordinary capabilities
of Java Sound, Sun is vaulting everything from education to advertising
into a new era of Web interactivity. The internet will become a richer,
more engaging experience that is also more effective at getting its
message across. "Sound and music personalize the user’s experience
when interacting with a computer. They involve and pull the user in,
and make a better case for the message that you’re trying to convey,"
Java sound provides a real-time, truly interactive, sound-enhanced experience
on the web. Because it performs consistently on any computing platform
that has a Java-enabled web browser, Java Sound promises to become the
de facto standard for sound and music on the internet and intranet.
Overcoming limitations of previous methods
Why have internet technologies done such a poor job implementing high-quality
sound till now? The answer can be traced back to the evolution of the
PC-the main device for sending and receiving information over the internet.
Over the years, desktop PCs have been designed primarily for basic business
and personal productivity tasks like word processing, spreadsheets,
and databases. Sound and music seemed to be an afterthought or an optional
Bringing robust sound to the internet wasn’t an easy job. The universal,
cross-platform audio playback engine had to be compact, efficient, secure
and multitasking. It also had to reorganize pre-existing file formats
and allow developers to continue authoring with their current set of
tools. In short, any new audio subsystem would have to incorporate superior
technology and adhere to open standards.
An engine for all audio formats
Java sound is designed as an ‘umbrella’ over existing industry standards
to support the internet’s leading audio file formats: MIDL, AU (Sun),
WAV (Windows), AIFF (Macintosh). The Java Sound engine is a 32-channel
wave table synthesizer, executed entirely in software within the Java
virtual machine. Updates are easily downloaded over the web, expensive
hardware is eliminated and maintenance costs are dramatically reduced.
With Java Sound, a user’s input to a web page produces a real-time soundtrack
that responds to where they go and what they do-something not possible
before on the web. For the first time, users enjoy a significant level
of control over the sound and music process.
With Java Sound, musicians can use any java-enabled desktop, such as
a MIDI sequencer on a Macintosh or PC, to create the same sound on all
platforms. Musicians writing a MIDI tune can deploy it at once, or use
the Java Sound Engine to preview it.
How java sound changes the internet
Advertising: Previously, lack of sound prevented the web from
being as effective for advertising as television or radio, and was consequently
less attractive to advertisers. Today, Madison Avenue is excited about
adding music and sound to their web-based campaigns. The most effective
ads pull in the user, inviting them to interact and participate. And
advertisers leverage the audio equity they have been investing in for
decades by enhancing their cyber-ads with well-known sound bytes and
jingles that play consistently across platforms.
Entertainment: The possibilities for Java Sound in entertainment
are limitless. One example is a Java Sound ‘regional music map’ of the
US: mousing over Miami would hit an up-tempo salsa beat, Chicago could
slam out some deep house blues, and Seattle might deliver some raucous
Instant Notification: With Java Sound, a busy stockbroker can
be alerted when the Dow Jones Industrial average falls below a certain
threshold by sound automatically generated from a live feed to their
desktop PC or Webtop. A receptionist can send email that triggers an
audio message to inform recipients they have a guest in the lobby. Cafeteria
menus and specials can be broadcast over the company intranet prior
to the lunch hour.
Training: In the business environment, training videos have long
been a convenient vehicle to disseminate information. But in today’s
rapidly changing business climate, videos are expensive to produce,
distribute and update. Now, running Java Sound on the company intranet
improves the video scenario in three ways: distribution and modification
are immediate, no incremental deployment costs are incurred, and the
experience is interactive.
In the future, multiple users will be able to deploy Java Sound to interact
musically over the internet. Musicians worldwide might jam together
from remote locations. Java Sound can also serve as a vehicle that enables
artists to display their work to a much wider audience. Elaborate sound
clip libraries of music and sound effects offer musicians and content
creators a range of short passages to complete musical backdrops. "Really,
the world of sound is pretty wide open," says Dolby. "Java
Sound will enable users to add sound to their web presentations in a
fun, creative way that has never been possible on the web before."