<videovortex> A Search Engine With a Real Eye for Videos

Michael Verdi michael at michaelverdi.com
Wed Nov 19 16:24:37 CET 2008

Here's an interesting article from ReadWriteWeb about YouTube as the
next Google:

On Wed, Nov 19, 2008 at 8:54 AM, Sabine Niederer
<sabine at networkcultures.org> wrote:
> http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122705795052039617.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
> best, sabine
> A Search Engine With a Real Eye for Videos
> Web video has transformed the way the Internet is used, but finding the
> exact clip you want can be incredibly hard. And it's no wonder, considering
> that sites like YouTube conduct their hunts by looking at a clip's
> "contextual metadata" -- tags, video title and description -- and thus can
> often be misled by false information. For example, a homemade video about
> cooking might be inaccurately tagged with a popular search word like "Obama"
> so as to get more traction.
> This week I tested VideoSurf.com, a site that claims to be the first to
> search videos by "seeing" images that appear in these videos. The company
> says its technology can analyze a clip's visual content, as well as its
> metadata -- especially when searching for people. VideoSurf has analyzed and
> categorized more than 12 billion visual moments on the Web to understand who
> the most important characters and scenes are in a video, and it uses this
> knowledge to sort clips according to relevancy.
> Search results on VideoSurf spread out videos in a filmstrip-like format,
> distinguishing one scene from the next. Users can choose an option to show
> only faces, which helps if you're looking for a specific person in a long
> video or movie. And when looking at videos from certain sources, you can
> select a scene from the filmstrip and jump ahead to that scene rather than
> sit through the entire clip.
> When it works, VideoSurf is one of those technologies that make you wonder
> why someone didn't think of it sooner. The site aggregates content from
> about 60 sources, including YouTube, CNN Video, Hulu, ESPN and Comedy
> Central, and a sorting tool weeds out unwanted results like the irksome
> slideshows that are labeled as videos. VideoSurf can find videos on all
> kinds of subjects, but it really shines when it finds well-known people.
> But VideoSurf has some rough edges and doesn't always work as it should. In
> its defense, the site is still in its public beta, or trial, stage, and
> plans to be full-blown by early next year. Right now, one of its best
> features, the ability to jump ahead to specific scenes, works with video
> from only a handful of sources including YouTube, MetaCafe, DailyMotion and
> Google Video. Videos from Hulu.com confusingly allow jumping ahead only from
> certain screens.
> Additionally, I came across a couple of videos that were no longer
> available, though they were listed in search results. And a customizable
> VideoSurf home page for users with accounts on the site saves searches but
> not specific clips; VideoSurf plans to fix this next week by adding a
> favorites page where users can store and share favorite videos with others.
> Still, I really grew to like VideoSurf's clear way of displaying content
> that would be otherwise buried within videos. Rather than trying to guess a
> video's contents by looking at a single representative image, VideoSurf's
> filmstrip views showed me exactly what I'd be watching. In many cases, I
> viewed a video I might not have otherwise watched because its filmstrip
> showed shots of scenes that looked interesting.
> On the left-hand side of the search-results page, VideoSurf users can narrow
> results according to Content Type, Categories and Video Sources to see just
> what they're looking for -- or, often more important, what they're not
> looking for. Content Type, for example, includes slideshows, Web series,
> full television episodes and full movies; a search can include only videos
> in a particular category (say, slideshows) or exclude that category
> altogether by unmarking the box beside it.
> Most search-results pages include tiled still images at the top representing
> the characters in the videos. By selecting one of these characters, users
> can refine search results to show only videos with that character. For
> example, I typed the title of a favorite television show, "Brothers and
> Sisters," into the search box and saw the names and images of seven actors
> on the show at the top of the screen. I selected Sally Field and was
> redirected to results of videos featuring only the mother she plays on the
> show.
> I used VideoSurf to search for Beyonce's "Single Ladies" music video, and
> then changed the date parameters to find only videos posted this week. This
> retrieved a Saturday Night Live skit in which the pop singer spoofs her own
> video with help from three men in tights -- including Justin Timberlake.
> While the SNL skit ran, a list of related videos appeared in a column on the
> right, including clips of J.T.'s past SNL skits.
> Occasionally, annotations appear on videos, but these come from the source
> -- not VideoSurf. If overlaid text appears on YouTube videos, it can be
> turned off using an icon in the bottom right of the YouTube screen.
> Video-sharing sites that use introductory pages such as pre-rolls before
> each video will still show those pages.
> VideoSurf makes it easy to send specific clips of videos to friends. I did
> so by selecting a Share option and adjusting slide bars to trim the clip to
> start and end at scenes I preferred. Clips shared with friends via email are
> sent with the VideoSurf filmstrip, giving others the ability to also know
> what the video will include so that they, too, can discern whether or not
> they want to watch it.
> Clips can be shared on social-networking sites like del.icio.us, MySpace and
> Facebook, though VideoSurf's helpful filmstrip didn't show up on these sites
> like it did in emails.
> I also tested an add-on for the Mozilla Firefox browser called Greasemonkey
> that works with VideoSurf. When installed, this displays VideoSurf's helpful
> filmstrip beneath search results from Google Video, YouTube, Yahoo or
> CBS.com. Once installed, filmstrips illustrating important scenes appear
> along with the normal text results for videos, and some of the filmstrips
> enable jumping ahead to specific scenes. This somewhat techie Greasemonkey
> extension can save people the extra step of making a separate visit to
> VideoSurf.com to watch a specific clip.
> VideoSurf uses smart technology that can save people the aggravation of
> watching videos that aren't what they appear to be. Since so much Web
> content now includes videos, a visual search tool that can better assess
> videos like VideoSurf is a good idea. When this site improves its now-flaky
> ability to jump ahead to specific scenes in videos, it will be even more
> valuable.
> —Edited by Walter S. Mossberg
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