CC licensed documentary: “Patent Absurdity – how software patents broke the system” (2010, 29 min.)

May 21, 2010

Watch online or download

About the movie (patentabsurdity.com)

CC licence: by-nd/3.0

(if you need it: VLC)


Software patents have almost arrived in Germany

May 20, 2010

FOSS patents reports that the German high court declares all software potentially patentable (19.05.10, fosspatents.blogspot.com)

“After a landmark court ruling, the German perspective on the validity of software patents is now closer than ever to that of the US.”

When looking at the financial situation in Europe we should ask ourselves if we can afford these dangerous kind of situations. The H.264 licensing fiasco will probably go on for a while and might cost some (Apple…?) more than they would like to.

Update 1: Bundesgerichtshof ebnet Weg für Softwarepatente and BGH-Urteil zu Softwarepatenten stößt auf viel Kritik (www.heise.de)

Now what if political instability (due to the financial situation in Europe) is the next thing…? If my to be founded company will suffer in the future thanks to this (I live in Germany) I will remember that it were Microsoft’s FAT patents that brought us to this. Will those people ever learn? Will they ever be held responsible for their greed? This is the second time within a few weeks that Microsoft’s actions/patents are potentially threatening my future as an independent artist/filmmaker (first the H.264 licensing fiasco and now this).

Update 2: The discussion on Slashdot German High Court Declares All Software Patentable (yro.slashdot.org)

Entry for this particular patent, Xa ZB 20/08 (a Siemens patent), in the End Software Patents Wiki (en.swpat.org)

The part that worries me: (from the second http://www.heise.de article above)

“So gehen sie etwa bei der “Verbesserung des Kontrastes” eines Bilds oder bei der effizienteren Aufteilung von Arbeitsspeicher durch eine auf einem Computer laufende Software von einem “technischen Effekt” aus, der schutzwürdig sein könne.”

In short this basically says that enhancing the contrast of an image might be “a technical effect” that could be patentable…

Seems like an invitation to patent trolls, maybe from the video codec department…? At least we’ll have a very public discussion about why one would (not) want to use an H.264 camera…!

From a comment on http://www.heise.de (user B-E-N):

“Er hat, was es Computersoftware betrifft, ein
Urteil im Sinne von “Alles unter der Sonne ist patentierbar”
getroffen. Damit sind wir selbstständigen Softwareentwickler und
kleinen Firmen im Abmahnland Deutschland juristisch gesehen tot,
beziehungsweise alle mit einem Bein im Knast. Der gesamte Kampf um
die Softwarepatente in Europa ging gestern für das größte und
wirtschaftlich bedeutendste Land der Union verloren.”

The user basically says that now “anything under the sun” could be patented, de facto a legal disaster for all small shops/software developers.

On a personal level this is just extremely disappointing, and having followed patent troll cases on Slashdot for the last ten years or so I now also have to consider the options of:

* leaving the country

* going back to analogue film/video

or

* changing profession and

* becoming an atheist monk in the Himalayas

Well done ladies and gentlemen from all those institutions/companies/corporations in this world that hold patents on software, well done!

You made my day.


WebM (Google’s open video codec VP8) is here!

May 19, 2010

Maybe we now can make all of this about fair competition that serves the consumers/users/artists/filmmakers instead of a few wealthy companies/institutions…?

WebM an open media project (www.webmproject.org)

Introducing WebM, an open web media project (webmproject.blogspot.com)

“The WebM project is dedicated to developing a high-quality, open video format for the web that is freely available to everyone.”

(Update 1)

An introduction to the WebM project:

Google Frees VP8 Codec for HTML5: the WebM project (openvideoalliance.org)

The WebM Project : about : WebM Supporters (www.webmproject.org)

(Update 2)

The announcement/discussion on the web:

BREAKING: Google Opens VP8 Codec, Enables it on YouTube (www.osnews.com)

Microsoft: Internet Explorer 9 To Support VP8 (www.osnews.com)

Google, Mozilla, And Opera Take On H.264 With The WebM Project, A New Royalty-Free Video Codec (techcrunch.com)

Google tries freeing Web video with WebM (news.cnet.com)

Microsoft planning to support VP8 in Internet Explorer 9 – with a catch (www.neowin.net)

Google launches open WebM web video format based on VP8 (update: hardware partners and Microsoft statement) (www.engadget.com)

Theora Founder: WebM Project is ‘Wonderful’ (newteevee.com)

The first in-depth technical analysis of VP8 (x264dev.multimedia.cx) – [Wikitech-l] VP8 freed!(lists.wikimedia.org)

Software and Hardware Companies Jump on Google’s WebM Train (mashable.com)

Google launches open WebM web video format based on VP8 (update: hardware partners and Microsoft statement)


Save free web video incl. my own movie “Vincent”: vote with your browsers (dump all your Apple/MS browsers!)

May 16, 2010

If the MPEG-LA, the patent pool behind H.264 and MPEG-2, has it their way I am an endangered species: “Vincent“, being 44 min. long would not qualify for the MPEG-LA’s “free” offer, latest after 2015 and there is no way that I (or someone else) will be paying protection money to a fucking patent pool for “Vincent”.

My work would simply not be available online any more (thanks to software patents no alternative). Welcome to the age of Corporate Fascism. It’s standing at your and my front door. But you can still act now:

* vote with your browser: since Apple and Microsoft – both H.264 patent holders – are pushing for H.264 as the future web standard for video: simply dump your Apple/MS browsers now and use Firefox, Chrome or Opera. If not: you might be paying for the rest of your life with more ads (yes, H.264 is “free” for the end user…).

* let others know what is at stake here: those people would like to/are about to establish a MONOPOLY ON THE MOVING IMAGE (lock-in via video codec) – a pretty scary systemic change:

Why Our Civilization’s Video Art and Culture is Threatened by the MPEG-LA

And for all my younger – and not so young – readers: if this was a Harry Potter movie Dumbledore would say:

“Dark times lay ahead, Harry. Soon we’ll all have to choose between what is right — and what is easy.”


Steve Jobs, MS, MPEG LA: keep H.264, I’ll use VP8…

May 1, 2010

…since H.264 is patent encumbered. I’ll never use H.264 again and will re-encode all my online videos with VP8 (once open-sourced and usable).

Steve Jobs (quoted from Open Letter to Steve Jobs): “All video codecs are covered by patents. A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other “open source” codecs now.”

And as it seems there is “a patent for everything”: MPEG LA

Good analysis: Jobs: Patent Pool Being Assembled To Go After Theora

Very interesting read, from the Theora mailing list: Mutually assured minefields

This is not only about video codecs, this is about the future of (free) video/moving images distribution (including post production) across a variety of devices and services. And it’s about (corporate) control over media content (via licensing fees, that you need to be able to afford, as e.g. big media always would…).


openArtist “4th incarnation” out now, includes my video post .blend presets!

December 6, 2009

openArtist, the artist friendly multimedia Linux distro, based on the latest Ubuntu KarmicKoala, is out now and you can find my own Blender presets for video editing and making titles included in this latest release (see the “Vid” menu)!

Help and documentation are central to the openArtist user experience, in short (from the website):

The applications are not only installed: They are configured

And very important for me: openArtist comes without PulseAudio installed…! This finally allows me to upgrade to a more recent Ubuntu-like Linux version (I am currently still using 8.04 with PulseAudio disabled, see here for how-to do this in Hardy.)

PulseAudio/its implementation in Ubuntu have been extremely frustrating for me and I am glad that with openArtist there is now an up to date solution for those who like the general idea of Ubuntu but need to have things configured and documented in a more user friendly way!

Also very interesting: there is “massive blender focus” in openArtist (see openArtist website/documentation: features > blender).

For a full list of included 2D, 3D, Audio, Video, VJ etc. software have a look at the openArtist website.

Note that currently there is no 64-bit version of openArtist and that it is bound to one user (“tux”). Make sure to read the readme before/after installation files on the desktop!

Download (directly):

MKL Graz
openMaterials
groundhog media

Or download the torrent


Editing with Blender, Ubuntu: Screenshots, workflow from my Notic Nastic live clip

January 21, 2009

“Sleep Tight” Notic Nastic Live Clip (1 min. 14 sec.)

*24.03.10*

As of today the Notic Nastic “Sleep Tight Live Clip” is no longer available. The act is now a member of their local equivalent to the American RIAA. Since I have nothing in written form that would give me reassurance that the deal I thought I had with them is still there (I make a video and get the right to show the video with the music on my blog), this is now simply what I need to do.

Every video I make is also a part of myself. In that context there is now a whole new meaning for me to the old saying that “The RIAA eats your babies.

I’ll be writing more about this on my blog in the days/weeks to come.

(Watch the Flash Video above or download (“Save Link As…”) the .mov.)

1: Selecting “the good stuff”

01_clips_in_top_row_selected_for_further_use

Click the image to see a larger version.

I load my whole footage into the Blender Video Sequence Editor (VSE) and start selecting “the good stuff”: with the mouse over the Image Preview window (see screenshot 3: Selecting “the really good stuff”) I use Space for start/stop and Right/Left Arrow for going back and forth. In the timeline (= Sequence): K for Cut and Shift S for snap editing (shortens/extends clip to the playhead when start/end is selected). The “good stuff” gets moved upwards a row (= Channel) with G for Grab and Y for Y-Axis. I keep the uncut original inside a (muted) Metastrip should I need it later since I am working without timecode. (You can use the Stamp render option for overlaying time information.) Then I make a back-up of the .blend.

2: Selected vs. original footage

02_selected_clips_moved_together

Click the image to see a larger version.

I move the selected clips together using Ctrl for snapping clip to clip. The white numbers on the right show the last frame of “the good stuff” (top), the music track (middle) and the not used clips etc. that are now also inside the muted Metastrip (bottom).

3: Selecting “the really good stuff”

03_further_selection_of_clips

Click the image to see a larger version.

Same procedure as above (1: Selecting “the good stuff”) with the mouse over the Image Preview window (top right) and Space for start/stop, Right/Left Arrow for going back and forth… Since I easily get realtime playback using DV footage (no effects applied) with Ubuntu 8.04 and Blender 2.48a on my PC (current Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB of RAM and a reasonably fast 250 GB harddrive) this workflow allows me to find my in and out points while looking at moving images the way the audience will see it… Frame 6 067 is now the last one after “the really good stuff” is moved together (that’s down from 20 520 from the previous step). I use the Blender Text Editor for taking notes. Again I make a back-up of the .blend.

4: Sorting the clips

04_clips_get_sorted

Click the image to see a larger version.

I add a Text Editor window left of my Sequence and name/tag my tracks. I adjust the Sequence window with (Number Pad) Home and then use Middle Mouse Button and Ctrl to fit the Channels to my tagged tracks. Then I move “the really good stuff” clips in the appropriate track (for moving clips up or down without moving them in time I once again use G and Y, for selecting multiple clips I use B for Border Select…).

5: Editing the video

Click the image to see a larger version.

I use Markers for the points where the singing starts. Then I move the best of the previously sorted clips to roughly where I need them and work on the details again using Shift S for snap editing and also G for Grab to shorten/extend a clip’s start/end… The basic structure for the edited video: details/close-ups at the beginning, the artists performing in the middle and a longer zoom out close to the end. I move the unused clips into Metastrips on the left.

As before I use (Number Pad) Home for seeing everything that’s in the timeline. But since there are the unused clips on the left now I then select the music track and (Number Pad) Dot/Del (normally used for “zooming in” on a single clip) for focusing the Sequence window to the area that I actually want to see when editing…

I export the edited clip as a PNG Sequence (= series of .png images). (F10 (pressed multiple times) for switching between the Sequencer buttons when editing and the Render buttons when exporting.)

The annotations in the screenshot above show what’s important for exporting/rendering.

6: Through the Compositing Nodes

Click the image to see a larger version.

I load the previously exported PNG Sequence into the Compositing Nodes and let it run through a series of filters: DV video artefacts get smoothed out and my own graininess/structure and artefacts get added. The particular filters used here may be experimental and only make sense for this clip, but a couple of combinations can be useful for other projects (values would need to be adjusted): Gauss-Darken for a toon look, Screen-Overlay-Mix for optimising an image, Sharpen-Soften for focus related compositing tasks (high values for Sharpen may introduce artefacts).

The yellow and blue annotations in the screenshot above show what’s important for processing a series of PNGs with the Compositing Nodes: in this set-up navigation is possible by moving the Sequence playhead (the green line at frame 90 940) for previewing different parts (individual frames) of the Nodes processed video. I export the Nodes filtered PNGs once more as a Sequence of PNGs.

7: The final look

Click the image to see a larger version.

I load the Nodes processed PNGs into my VSE Sequence (Space to Add Image Sequence), add and finetune a Glow (with clip selected Space to Add Glow), make a Metastrip of both (with clips selected and M) and use Color Balance (with clip (Metastrip) selected: Filter tab > Use Color Balance) for creating the basis of the yellowish (but at this point rather dark) look. I then add a one step Strobe (Filter tab > Strobe: 2.00). With Shift D I duplicate the Metastrip, move it up one Channel and also move it one frame out of sync (see screenshot). The Glow for this FX 1 track gets removed (Tab to open/close a Metastrip) and in the Edit tab I select Blend Mode Add and Blend: 33.00. (31.01.09: And Use Color Balance – as can be seen in the screeshot above – gets also unselected for this FX 1 track.) I also duplicate the FX 1 track, move it up one Channel and also move this FX 2 track out of sync for yet another frame. There is one last step not shown in the screenshot: a final, subtle Glow is applied to all strips.

I once more export the clips as a Sequence of PNGs, import them one last time and change the export settings in the Render Buttons > Format tab to FFMpeg, make my selections for the video and audio format/codec and make sure that Multiplex audio is selected in the Audio tab before exporting the finished video clip with sound.

8: Credits

08_making_the_credits

Click the image to see a larger version.

This is actually done somewhere before finishing the editing (5: Editing the video) and using my own 2D Titles Preset .blend/tutorial. I adjust the text to the right size first. In order to have the Center where I need it for my title animation: Object > Convert Object Type… > Mesh. Then: Object > Transform > Center New.

Tutorials etc.

Download my Video Editing Preset .blend (Quick Start tutorial inside) for all the basics you need to get started with the Blender Video Sequence Editor.

Download my 2D Title Presets .blend (tutorial inside) for making “crystal clear” titles with Blender.

*Update* These presets are meant to be used with the old/classic stable Blender 2.49b: get it here!

Or get a recent version:

Download Blender for all major platforms.

Thanks to Paul for hosting these .blends on the Final BUG server!

See Using VSE (and Previous/Next pages) from the Blender Wiki for the official Blender Video Sequence Editor documentation.

See Using Nodes (Blender Wiki) for getting started with the Compositing Nodes.

Check out Ubuntu for getting started with GNU/Linux.

Notes for editors new to Ubuntu

While many to most things in Ubuntu will “just work” this is not the case for most things related to FireWire. Either plan some time for testing/research or get help from an experienced Linux user. It may be best not to rely on external FireWire drives for anything other than copying media to your internal drive as long as you are new to Ubuntu.

For help with all things related to Ubuntu and multimedia see also the Ubuntu Studio pages.

(26.04.09:) Ubuntu 9.04 users who experience problems with opening Blender 2.48a, exporting video with sound or audio playback in Blender see my comment below (April 26, 2009) for solutions!


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