FilmStruck and the Art of the App
December 6, 2016
A look at the tech that makes it the “must have streaming service” for film lovers.
Turner recently launched FilmStruck, its much-anticipated domestic subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service. FilmStruck features the largest streaming library of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films along with extensive bonus content, filmmaker interviews and rare footage. The reviews have been so solid the critics have called it the “must-have streaming service” for movie lovers.
Now that this unique library of films is available to the public on Amazon Fire TV, web, iOS and Android devices and Apple TV (and other platforms and devices soon to follow), we wanted to provide a bit more insight into the story behind the technology that makes FilmStruck.
The idea behind FilmStruck starts with the goal John Martin has set out for the company: to reimagine TV and make the customer experience central to our efforts. This requires a new way of thinking about the business, but also about how we use technology.
“The technological deployment of FilmStruck was a massive, global company-wide effort coordinating with internal and external teams across four continents and eight countries as well as with dozens of partners and vendors,” said Richard Steiner, VP, Digital Activation, Turner Classic Movies. “The significance of applying the potential for full motion design to accommodate thousands of films and supplemental materials across every device dynamically should not be underestimated.”
Based on You.i TV’s video app platform, You.i Engine, we created a common library for our front-end consumer application technology stack, which enables us to maintain a single code base for like capabilities. This then allows for the deployment of apps to multiple platforms (iOS, Android) on multiple devices (iPads, Android TV, etc) as opposed to writing (or rewriting) code for each platform – which is very labor and cost intensive.
As our Chief Technology Officer Jeremy Legg has said, “This allows us to gain maximum efficiencies, because we don’t have to recreate the wheel. The components can be used for other apps we are developing.”
The You.i Engine is an app platform built on the principles of video game rendering: design-centric, cross-platform code with graphics processor (GPU) performance. It ingests designs directly, and results in cross-platform code that runs fluidly on every platform by rendering graphics through the GPU. By abstracting the operating system layer, the FilmStruck app was designed right down to the hardware to allow greater performance and render directly from the GPU. Designers were able to focus on maximizing engagement and their creative pursuits without regard for common technology constraints.
The app also supports 60 frames per second - that’s full motion design that is both fluid and precise to the eye and gives a much more realistic sense for what’s happening on screen. In addition, we integrated the first multi-tenant, end-to-end Over-the-Top (OTT) publishing platform and workflows that support new types of publishing and content delivery not seen anywhere in market today.
"One of the things that attracted me to Turner and keeps me here is the willingness to leverage new technologies, like You.i TV’s video app platform, so that we can build innovative products quickly," said Joseph DeCarlo, a Principal Architect at Turner. "For this product specifically, we also embraced cloud solution Encoding.com, which is a big deal for a company that’s had a digital presence for quite some time.”
In addition to these advances in the technical foundation, we incorporated completely new concepts like multi-track audio, thousands of DVD bonus assets, hybrid channels, and other multi-media assets not seen in other OTT services today.
There is a lot going on via the backend too. By using You.i TV’s platform, the integrations and business logic are packaged in a single cross-platform codebase, enabling an intuitive search function, elegant navigation and a “watch list” structure that is seamlessly incorporated into the user path. Turner is also providing High Definition (HD) content that has copyright protection using iStreamPlanet’s digital rights management service, Atlas DRM.
All-in-all, we took a similar approach to the technology as did the producers and directors of the critically acclaimed films available on FilmStruck: We had a vision that never involved creative compromise.
“FilmStruck was designed from the same spirit that made Turner Classic Movies successful: a unique, hard-to-find film library, comprehensive and in-depth programming curation, and a deep love of cinema as an art form,” Steiner said.
As the media landscape continues to evolve and people consume content across multiple platforms and devices, we wanted to make sure viewers have the ultimate viewing experience, regardless of when, where and how they are watching.