Welly start-up uses Silverlight to capture TV content

Existing .Net skills extended with rich internet technology

Digital media start-up Mabode is using the new Microsoft Silverlight 2 to build a broadcast-capture application that will help users capture, record, share, publish and manage television content.

Wellington-based Mabode specialises in Microsoft’s digital media technologies, video-on-demand technology and IPTV, says founder Jay Templeton.

Over the last year, Silverlight, a cross-browser plug-in for creating rich internet applications (RIAs), has come along as a useful tool for the company, says Templeton. From a business perspective, Silverlight offered an easier transition for his staff into a world that has been dominated by Adobe Flash, he says.

“With Silverlight, my developers could step into that world without having to re-skill. It allows us to use existing resources and technologies,” he says.

Mabode, which has four core staff based in Wellington, partnered with Australian development company Mobilewares to build the application. Mobilewares owner Niall Ginsbourg says that Silverlight is a step forward for Windows developers who may previously have been challenged by other RIA systems.

It enables a “very smooth transition from traditional Windows programming” in that it allows developers to leverage existing code and infrastructure within the .Net framework and the Visual Studio 2008 environment. It features all the things developers are used to, such as testing and debugging before releasing code, says Ginsbourg.

The release of Silverlight 2 is very much around incorporating the .Net framework, which makes it even easier for .Net developers to use, says Ginsbourg.

Because Ginsbourg’s team and Mabode used the beta of Silverlight 2 when building the application, there were some challenges in terms of waiting for fixes. “There are some things that could be added in the future,” he says.

The application, code-named TVNet, is about extracting event clips out of broadcast coverage, says Templeton. Its main purpose is to monitor and record broadcast television, and allow for watching the content by live steaming. It also helps manage the clips after they have been extracted, when people want to share the content and manage the information, he says.

The system uses Windows Media Services (WMS), a streaming media server that is part of Windows Server 2008, to stream the content to anyone using Silverlight, says Templeton.

The system is also searchable by keywords or by finding other clips that have been tagged, he says.

The project started six months ago and Mabode currently has two customers using it, says Templeton.

Last year, the company created the All Blacks Vista sidebar gadget.

With Silverlight 2, Microsoft has made a subset of .Net 3.5 available inside the plug-in, says Nigel Parker, web development advisor at Microsoft New Zealand. The advantage of this is the framework install size is just 4.5MB, compared with the 50MB full-blown framework, and it enables .Net programmers to write code in a language they are comfortable with (rather than using, for example, JavaScript) and have it run on the client, says Parker.

Silverlight 2 ships with support for C# and Visual Basic .NET, but Microsoft has also made available as open source a Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR), says Parker. By installing the Silverlight Dynamic Languages SDK, developers can use dynamic scripting languages, such as JavaScript, Python and Ruby, for Silverlight, he says.