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‘Game of Thrones’: A New Night Vision Feature Could Have Optimized ‘Long Night’ for Mobile Screens

Game of Thrones” fans may have a few more reasons to be upset these days, but before Sunday’s episode, the biggest gripe about this final season of the show had been the lighting. Or, rather, the lack of it. Especially “The Long Night” episode, which aired in late April, incensed fans who couldn’t make out what was happening for long stretches of time.

That was doubly true for anyone who watched the episode on mobile, where consumers typically have fewer options to optimize playback settings. VisualOn, a San Jose, Calif.-based streaming technology startup, wants to solve issues like this with a new feature it calls Adaptive NightVision for online video.

VisualOn’s Adaptive NightVision applied to a “Game of Thrones” trailer for demonstration purposes.

“Content that’s designed for movie theaters and high-end entertainment systems is very, very difficult to watch on mobile devices,” said VisualOn senior vice president Michael Jones. “It’s a pretty big problem.”

VisualOn aims to solve this by analyzing videos in real time, and then tweaking contrast, brightness and color accordingly. VisualOn’s current implementation of its NightVision feature would add an on/off switch to mobile video players, and allow consumers to further tweak settings with a slider bar.

Jones said that his company initially got some push-back from industry insiders who were suspecting that these types of settings might ruin the artistic intent. However, he argued that consumers have long been able to tweak video settings on their TVs. “You can make a color video black and white, and nobody minds,” he said.

The company first demonstrated the Adaptive NightVision at the NAB show in Las Vegas last month, and is now offering customers the ability to add it to their own video players and apps. “Everybody who sees it likes it,” said Jones, adding that the feature could also help with other types of content. “Even in bright scenes on a mobile screen, it looks much better,” he explained.

VisualOn has been developing video players and other technical solutions for companies in the streaming space for 15 years. The startup counts companies like Netflix, Amazon, Verizon and AT&T among its customers, with Jones explaining that it provides a wide variety of services to the industry, ranging from implementing new codecs to ad insertions and analytics.

The company’s night vision feature isn’t the first time media companies and streaming technology providers have been thinking about optimizing online video for mobile viewers. Netflix has been considering to produce mobile-specific cuts of its shows that would zoom in on main characters. And Quibi, the mobile video venture run by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, is reportedly looking to optimize its productions for mobile screens from the get-go.

Not every streaming provider will have the money to make these kinds of investments, and video optimization on mobile devices could help to bridge that gap. Said Jones: “Nobody is making a lot of money in OTT.”

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