Video Vortex Conference 2008 (1 of 2): Open Source Ways Of Producing, Distributing And Promoting Online Video

Text of my presentation at the conference incl. all links and a few additions (27.01.08 – note that in my presentation the part about copyright was much shorter and did not include some of the arguments I mention in this text version!):

• As a film maker I am now more interested in online video than traditional (contemporary) cinema (and of course TV).

• (video shown) Indiworks Channel (2007, 1 min.): a trailer for my work. While I also uploaded this to the non-profit Internet Archive this link goes to the trailer’s page on my blip.tv account – blip.tv, which focuses on shows, is a good alternative to YouTube because they support Creative Commons licenses, have pretty good Flash Video (seems better than the one on YouTube) and offer the optional download of the uploaded video file.

Think about making a trailer that represents your own work…!

• Have a blog (mine is of course this one right here). If you are new to blogging a commercial solution like Google’s Blogger might be easiest to get started with. I would like to be able to recommend the open-source WordPress (since end of last year Movable Type is also open-source), but so far for me WordPress has too often been a frustrating experience: I find the admin interface inconsistent and confusing and for some strange reason the blog editor is too buggy to be really useful for more than just very basic text editing. My workaround solution for publishing to my worpress.com blog: the Firefox extension Scribefire.

Note that the free blogging host wordpress.com works slightly differently than if you were to install WordPress (the software) on your own server – some limitations that I encounter on wordpress.com (embedding of Flash Video from blip.tv or the Internet Archive not supported for security reasons) are possible if you have WordPress running on your own server. I find it unfortunate that wordpress.com has this limitation because it sheds a bit of a bad light on WordPress itself…

• What I showed next at the conference might have appeared a bit too simple for some to be worth demonstrating, yet I think this is a key concept you should be familiar with if you want to distribute your own works online:

How-to make your own channel (creating your own video RSS feed):

(There are of course other ways of doing this, here one very simple method.)

– Upload your video – if you are willing to share your work (free, non commercial distribution) you can upload it to the Internet Archive’s Open Source Video (Movie) section (upload works via ftp, just follow the instructions).

Example for an uploaded video’s page on the IA (my own video): At the Open-Source Pond. Like on blip.tv I choose to use a Creative Commons licence for publishing my work, in this case the license allows you to remix the video for non-commercial purposes.

– Once the video is uploaded I go to my Video Bomb account and add it to have it appear on my submitted videos page (basically a playlist): on top of the page there is the orange RSS feed icon and the video I added is now in my feed (= channel).

Now you can advertise your feed (the URL connected to the orange RSS feed icon) on your blog and your fans can subscribe to your videos. This works in any feed aggregator like e.g. iTunes (“Advanced” > “Subscribe to Podcast…”) or the open-source Miro (from the Participatory Culture Foundation, they are also the ones behind Video Bomb).

Check out Miro, it’s not perfect yet (feels too slow on some systems, for Flash Video on the Mac you will need at least OS X 10.4), but together with the IA’s open-source movie section and blip.tv this is one of the best tools for independent online video and movie distribution.

Make sure to submit your own feed to the official Miro Guide. You can also submit your feed to the iTunes podcast directory, but there will be one little extra requirement for doing this: even if you never intend to use it on the iTunes store, participatory culture à la Apple is only meant for those who own a credit card…

• For me online (RSS) film and video distribution is a dream come true: it was never this easy to get your work out to a world wide audience!

Example for online film distribution (my own movie): Vincent (44 min., ’96/’03). I see this is a slow but long term distribution. In the first year I had about 300 downloads, in the second year 1500. No idea yet what I’ll have at the end of December 2008 but I’ve had more downloads in two years than there were guests at the premiere.

• (video shown) E.T vs T2 (2006, 1 min., 19 sec.): a trailer mash-up by digital_kevin, his blog is a document of the real digital revolution between spring ’05 and winter ’06 (scroll down to the first blog entry to find a link to the .pdf file/archive of the first offline part of the blog).

I showed E.T vs T2 as an example for the absurdity that I think is traditional copyright. This video, while in my view a visual discussion and possibly more to the point than a written analysis could ever be, might be illegal to produce, distribute and posses (and all of that at least in a let’s say possible 20 or 30 min. version…).

Since knowledge is power and copyright restricts the distribution of information (= possible knowledge) copyright is a tool for those who have to make sure that those who have not will stay uninformed/uneducated/unentertained. Information wants to be free and therefore (traditional) copyright is morally wrong.

The Creative Commons model is a good first step in the right direction because it allows you to basically water down the copyright for your own work: you still can make sure that e.g. a big company won’t steal your project but at the same time you can e.g. allow free, unlimited copying of your work for e.g. non-commercial use…

There is an ever deeper going argument against copyright: when you think about it in all its details I believe you can only come to the conclusion that there is no way that any human can invent anything on his or her own, or more precisely: no one can actually invent anything at all, what we do is discover things for ourselves, our time, the society we live in. The ancient Egyptians already had batteries… Leonardo da Vinci “invented” among many other things the prototype for a car, different flying machines and if a newer theory is correct he could even have taken the first picture with a camera obscura… Those who first “invented” the wheel were just the ones who first discovered its usefulness (on our planet…). Composers like Vivaldi are still remarkable talents and have achieved a great deal, yet it seems unlikely to me that there is not at least one other composer in the universe who at some point did not come up with a combination of notes similar to what Vivaldi came up with: there is a seemingly endless repertoire of items you can combine, but not all combinations make too much sense and so nature with its trial and error approach makes sure that the most useful or pleasant combinations are found and passed on from one generation to the next. Excessive copyright protection like it happened with the Mickey Mouse Protection Act is simply theft and shows how corrupted those in charge can be.

Nature does not care about copyright – if it did evolution would have been stuck in a never ending legal battle with itself a long time ago and we would not be here today.

• For many more links and how-tos to online indie media distribution have a look at the P2P Audiovisual Guide (a project from the P2P foundation) that I maintain.

• In June 2006 I started learning/working with the free and open-source Blender, a fully featured 3D modelling and animation program available for Mac, Linux, Windows, Solaris, FreeBSD and Irix. There is a lot of free online documentation available for Blender, a good starting point is the Blender Wiki.

Blender is simply amazing. A couple of months ago (after learning Blender for about a year) I took part in a two months long 3ds Max training and just could not believe how much this “industry leading” package is behind Blender in terms of usability and in many many aspects also in terms of features. Apart from the fact that Max will cost you about € 5000.- and that you then can’t even change the code if you need it (Blender is free, the code is open-source) Max only (!) works under Windows (and now also under the DRM friendly Vista…).

There is one little Blender story I did not have time to talk about at the conference: Blender also has a cool, simple non-linear video editor – it is not perfect (yet) and since I am an editor I took some time to write a short analysis of the Blender NLE from my Final Cut Pro point of view. Now about half a year later I got an email from the main Blender NLE developer telling me that some of the features I suggested are now in CVS (so if all goes well they should make it to the next official Blender release). Try to get this kind of response from one of the major commercial 3D software companies…

If you like 3D animation make sure to check out the Blender made Elephant’s Dream – since this is an open movie you can also download all the production .blend files and learn from them.

• The last video I partly showed was a preview of my latest Blender made video called vivaldi rock (2008, 4 min. – in production) – I hope to upload the finished version at some point in February.

Coming tomorrow: Video Vortex Conference 2008 (2 of 2): Some thoughts to the conference, YouTube and more

2 Responses to Video Vortex Conference 2008 (1 of 2): Open Source Ways Of Producing, Distributing And Promoting Online Video

  1. EM says:

    you might want to have a look at http://plumi.org (foss video sharing platform) and http://av.ngoinabox.org – FOSS toolkit of audio/video software

  2. vsworks says:

    Interesting links, thanks!

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