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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Video and the net an explosive mix
Internet law professor Michael Geist says the growth of sites such as YouTube reflect a seismic shift in the way video is consumed - and one day paid for.

Diet Coke and Mentos experiments, AP
Fritz Globe and Stephen Voltz repeated their experiment on TV
The combination of Mentos and Diet Coke may seem like an unlikely pairing - a mint-flavoured sweet together with a diet soft drink. Through a quirk of chemistry, however, mixing Mentos and Diet Coke creates an immediate chemical reaction - a beverage geyser spurting several metres into the sky.

The fizzy combination has created a veritable genre of short videos experimenting with mentos and soft drinks.

Online sites such as YouTube and Google Video are home to hundreds of these videos, yet none compare with The Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments, a three-minute video created last month by two Maine residents, Fritz Globe, a professional juggler, and Stephen Voltz, a lawyer.

Likened to the waterfall show at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, this video provides an entertaining example of the power of online video distribution.

Mainstream media is also turning to YouTube with increasing frequency

Released for free on the internet in early June, Globe and Voltz are featured combining 101 two-litre bottles of Diet Coke with 523 mentos. Less than two months after it was first posted, the video has attracted an audience of millions and has become a commercial success story.

Filmed with a $300 budget, it has already generated nearly $30,000 in advertising revenue for the two creators. Globe and Voltz posted their video on Revver, a new video site that places a short advertisement at the conclusion of user-generated videos (Revver shares the resulting revenue with the creator).

Further, Mentos has since become a sponsor of the video, estimating that the value of the positive free publicity associated with the video - Globe and Voltz have appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and the Today Show - may eventually exceed its $20 million annual advertising budget.

Not everyone is excited by the video, however - Coke has not embraced the phenomenon, noting that it hopes "people want to drink [Diet Coke] more than try experiments with it".

Cash call

While the Mentos success story may sound like a fluke, it is better understood as part of a growing trend toward innovative online video distribution models, the majority of which operate outside traditional broadcast regulation.

Revver's ad-supported model holds great promise for individual creators seeking to effortlessly generate sponsorship revenue.

Screengrab of Revver homepage, Revver
Revver aims to share ad revenue with video makers
YouTube does not insert advertising into its videos, yet its enormous audience is responsible for several success stories. For example, the once-aptly named Nobody's Watching, a television comedy pilot that languished without network support, has found a big audience on YouTube, leading several broadcasters to consider picking up the series as a regular show.

Mainstream media is also turning to YouTube with increasing frequency.

After French soccer star Zidane head-butted an Italian player in the World Cup final last week, the New York Times Online coverage of the game pointed to a video-replay of the incident posted on YouTube.

Google Video, which supports longer videos (YouTube caps its videos at 10 minutes in length) has become a favourite home for documentary and feature-length film makers. Many are distributing free versions of their movies on Google Video and through peer-to-peer services such as BitTorrent, while separately offering the option to purchase a higher-quality DVD version.

Technology is also facilitating new collaborative video creation models. Machinima, which brings together hundreds of video game players simultaneously to create new video shorts, combines animation and music in a manner that would not have been possible before the internet.

Screenshot from Halo: Combat Evolved (Microsoft)
Machinima uses game graphics to make movies
The growth of online video has clearly caught the attention of conventional broadcasters, many of which are racing to offer their shows online.

The Apple iTunes store in the United States now features dozens of shows with every major network offering its most popular programs for $1.99 per episode.

In addition to the download model, many US television networks offer streamed versions of the same shows for free.

Those free streams compete not only with online video sites but also with hundreds of video bloggers, who release daily videos in a range of formats designed to play on personal computers, video iPods, and even cellphones.

The end-result is an incredible array of video choices where established, professional productions compete with inexpensive, amateur creations for audiences and advertising dollars. In this environment, it isn't the power of broadcasters, big-budgets or technological controls that determine the winners.

All it takes is a little candy, some soda, and a lot of creativity.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law.

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