The Open Video Conference just ended yesterday. I attended the first two days and just stopped in briefly during the hack-fests yesterday before having brunch with some old highschool friends and heading back to my parents house where my dog and car were stashed.
I can say without a doubt the turnout was amazing and even though not everything I heard all weekend was positive it was a giant leap forward in then understanding of the importance of Open Video and culture. I won’t put a figure on how many people attended but some of the upstairs talks were standing room only and after the first day some of the organizers were lamenting that then needed to get bigger rooms (consequently some of the talks were swapped the next day). Speaking about the organizers, they ran an incredibly smooth ship and should be thanked and praised for their efforts.
I was mainly there looking to see what video producers wanted from FOSS application developers and to support the PiTiVi/GStreamer teams on behalf of the GNOME Foundation. It is amazing to see the PiTiVi non-linear video editing app at such a usable state. While Edward Hervey (bilboed on irc) gave his mini presentation on PiTiVi I was busy hacking up a “How To Make Chocolate Truffles” video from pictures and clips I had laying around.
Afterwards I showed him some of the bugs I encountered in the 0.13.1 release and he just rattled off, fixed in git, fixed in git, fixed in git…etc. Sadly the releases are tied to GStreamer releases (which is a good thing from a development/bugs standpoint but not so good from a user standpoint given the early stages of PiTiVi) so we won’t see an official release soon. I plan on trying to automate a Fedora Repository at some point just to be able to view the progress without breaking my system.
The point is PiTiVi is about 90% there (and perhaps 100% in git) to be able to support my needs for basic video editing in terms of stability and basic tools. That should be pretty reflective of those who need to do things like screen casting and interview style video blogs. Some advanced features like effects (look at Cheese for some examples of this already working in an app) already exist in GStreamer and just need to be integrated in PiTiVi’s UI and rendering pipeline.
There was also a show of Cinelarra but more interesting is the GTK+ fork Lumiera which unfortunately is not usable yet but the direction they are going in (GTK+ interface and some GStreamer integration) looks like a great re-start in the case of pro level editing tools.
Also of interest in the pro level space was Blender which seems to be the pro project with the most momentum and features for pro’s. At least that was the initial reaction from some on the Red Hat media team. The dev’s did admit that the functionality is limited to what they needed during production of Big Buck Bunny (and other productions currently in the queue) but that in those areas it is rock solid. It is interesting to see a UI designed with different usability profiles. For instance one of Blender’s usability criteria is the avoidance of repetitive strain injury. To combat RSI mouse clicks are evenly divided between left and right mouse clicks.
Bassam Kurdali, one of the Blender developers and animators, came up to me later in the conference and said he had noticed me using PiTiVi to edit my video. He was impressed at the simplicity and slickness of the interface and how far along it is. There is plenty of room for different approaches and a real potential for cross pollination between the pro tools and the every day end user tools.
What Content Producers Want
Speaking of end users we got to hear from a bunch of them who let us know how we could support them. One of the biggest themes was that Windows tools suck and those who taught others couldn’t just tell them to go out and buy a mac (praises were heaped on iMovie and Final Cut Pro). They really want an easy to use tool, with the unfortunate note that it would have to run on Windows. One really good thing is that a lot of the non-tech content producers understood the need for free codecs. However in the end they just want a simple way to render down to DVD, You Tube, Daily Motion, iPhone, etc. and don’t want to deal with formats.
I ended up collecting a bunch of buisness cards and am toying with the idea of starting a feedback group with content producers which would get them involved in improving GNOME App usability from the perspective of those who are not yet familiar with the GNOME workflow. If we are serious about expanding our reach we need to go beyond our current self selecting internal feedback loops. The goal wouldn’t be to get these people using GNOME (though giving them a way through the apps wouldn’t be a bad thing). It would be more about getting groups outside of GNOME/Linux to be part of the process of improving GNOME. Will it be fruitful? I don’t know but it is an interesting experiment with a potential huge payoff for a little bit of effort.
Sita Sings the Blues
This good section wouldn’t be complete without the mention of Sita Sings the Blues by Nina Paley which is a feature length (82 minutes) animated film released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. You have complete rights to watch, screen, remix and redistribute the film as long as you abide by the license. I do suggest you watch it and if you like it buy the DVD or simply donate to encourage more works like this (I bought the DVD for $20). Not only is Nina a content producer but she is heavily involved in advocating her distribution methods, going as far as documenting the process that went into releasing Sita under a creative commons license and in her work with QuestionCopyright.org.
Mozilla and the Open Video Contest
I was very impressed with Mozilla’s involvement and their push for Ogg Theora to become a base line codec for the HTML 5 video tag. They are also helping launch the upcoming Open Video Contest which would see the winner flown to the 2010 South by Southwest conference. We should probably run some sort of sister contest to encourage GNOME users to submit entries.
It wasn’t all roses. While I feel we are reaching independent content producers way more than I would have though at this point, some of the big companies still don’t get it or are afraid of Open Video implications.
It must be said that Adobe has been somewhat good at working with the community over long periods of time but that they just never get around to resolving key issues. What really surprised me was when on one of the industry round tables the Adobe representative pointed to their release of the Flash documentation as a shining example of this relationship. After checking with a developer of an alternative flash implementation I was told those documents are pretty much useless. Due to bugs, some of the spec just doesn’t work as written and other issues makes it impossible to write a third party Flash player.
While reportedly Chrome will ship with Ogg Theora support their flagship video site YouTube seems afraid to do so. Their rep at the round table stated some pretty audacious things such as continuing the myth that Theora wasn’t good enough when clearly that argument was directly debunked (the side by side comparisons were even playing on HDTV’s at the conference).
Even more of an issue was the representative’s idea on what Open Video meant. He declared that they would love to support Open Video but that it meant letting anybody do whatever they wanted and that doesn’t work from a buisness perspective.
Open Video isn’t about wild west, trample on rights. If anything it is about balancing the rights of content producers, end users and fair use. From what I read, YouTube’s position is that they are the 1000 pound gorilla in video distribution and at the end of the day they only believe in a user’s and content producer’s freedoms if it is walled behind their own servers. “All the world’s video” indeed.
Nothing is perfect, but we are off to a really good start. In the end it is up to us to keep the momentum going and eventually produce a better experience within the complete Open Video stack, from content production to delivery. The web was built and exploded around the concept of open technology. Let’s continue to make sure this is the case going forward. The last thing we want is the web to become the domain of a few, with creativity being stifled by restrictions in the non-open parts of the stack.[read this post in: ar de es fr it ja ko pt ru zh-CN ]