Open Source Video Software: An Inventory

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

This is a post to circulate our current research on the availability of open source software for video:

Open Source Video Software: An Inventory (OpenDocument Text file, 52 KB)

This inventory is the result of an ongoing effort at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision R&D Department at creating an insight in the current availability of open source software for video. The main reason for this research is the current development of Open Images, but it is also aimed at expanding our institutional knowledge and expertise, and to share this within research projects and (collaborative) software development. The goal is to get an overview of the available tools for the whole spectrum, from production to distribution and ultimately consumption. Next to this, we also consider processes involved with preservation, interaction and creative reuse of video.

The publication of this document is meant as a first step towards sharing this knowledge and transforming this research into a collaborative effort. We hope this document can become a starting point for a more comprehensive and elaborate inventory. To make this possible we have used an OpenDocument Text file for this document and licensed it under a Creative Commons license. So feel free to correct and/or add information to this inventory, or – for instance – convert the document into a wiki!

For the less ‘open’ readers, there is also a PDF version.

UPDATE: The Open Video Alliance has adopted the inventory on its wiki, making it possible for anyone to contribute!


German Federal Archive publishes photos on Wikipedia under Creative Commons license

Monday, December 8th, 2008

On December 6th, the German Federal Archive and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia announced their cooperation in making publicly available 100,000 digitized images under Creative Commons licence (CC-BY-SA) in exchange for linking the photos to Wikipedia’s Persondata. A big step for opening up public content and data.

The commons

In September 2007 the German Federal Archive already made 113,000 images available on their own online digital archive. In total the Federal Archives keeps approximately 11 million still pictures, aerial photographs and posters from modern German history. The cooperation with Wikipedia is the next big step for the German Federal Archive in opening up the archive, as the vice president of the German Federal Archive Dr. Angelika Menne-Haritz said during the press conference.

Photo: Raimond Spekking, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0.

The photos are not of the highest resolution, about 800 pixels on the longest side. But, this is an enormous addition to the commons. According to Wikimedia, the repository of free content images, sound and other multimedia files on Wikipedia, the donation by the German Federal Archive of 100,000 images is the single largest one to Wikimedia Commons so far. This is even more than the archival project Flickr Commons makes available now in cooperation with 16 archival partners around the world.

Click here for the image gallery:


Photo: Mitglieder des Deutschen Reichstag, German Federal Archive (1889). Author: Braatz, Julius. Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0.

Creative Commons License

The images by the German Federal Archive are licensed Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany License (CC-BY-SA). This means that you are free to share and remix the images under the condition that you give attribution and spread this with a similar or compatible license. The Federal Archive can do this because they own sufficient rights on the images to be able to grant this kind of license. To use such a free license for archival material is really exciting. Few archives work with Creative Commons licences. One of the rare examples is the McCord Museum and the Brabants Historisch Informatiecentrum. And, the archival project Flickr Commons works with “no known copyright restrictions”.


The other part of the cooperation between the German Federal Archive and Wikipedia is a tool for linking people from a list compiled by the Federal Archive to the German Wikipedia Persondata and to the person authority file of the German National Library. Something German Wikipedia has already been doing since 2005. Around 27% of 100,000 photos is already done. The expectation is that because the cooperation is now public, the tempo will speed up. Moreover, the users will add new information to the images. You can find the To Do list here.


Though projectleader Creative Commons Germany, Markus says that this is only a small revolution for German notions, this could very well set an example for other archives to make their content publicly available and therefore grow bigger. It will be very interesting to see where we can find the photos and in which (rich) context. Because that will make a strong argument for archives to experiment with this.


Open Images: Kick-off Meeting

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

As part of Images for the Future the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and Knowledgeland are developing Open Images. The aim of this project is to offer online access to a selection of archive material for creative reuse. Reuse includes remixing of archive footage in new videos. Open Images also supports interlinking with other data sources (like Wikipedia), allowing the easy creation of mashups. Access to the content will be based on the Creative Commons model which proposes a middle way to rights management, rather than the extremes of the pure public domain or the reservation of all rights. The ‘open’ nature of the project is underscored by adapting open formats and using open source software. Software resulting from Open Images will also be released under a open source license.

The development of the project started with a kick-off meeting at Knowledgeland in Amsterdam, earlier this month. The aim-of-the-day was to map the (open source) digital video solutions that are available today and to get feedback. Eight experts in the digital video field where invited to this informal brainstorm session. After an introduction of Images for the Future and the Open Images project plan, the invited experts gave inspiring presentations of their current work. At the end of the day there was a general discussion about the project plan and the first steps that ought to be taken.

Please find a report of this day below. Open Images aims to launch a Beta release by the end of the year.



Panel 2: Commons-based Peer Production

Friday, April 11th, 2008


The second panel of the day was opened by two presentations. The first presentation was by Ton Roosendaal from Blender and the second by Jamie king from Steal This Film. Both represented a different way of financing open source and open content projects. These models and other related topics were later discussed in a panel, also attended by Jon Phillips from Creative Commons and Felix Stalder from Open Flows.

Blender is an open source and open content 3d modeling software package that uses a pre-financed model, in which customers can preorder a movie, from which the profits are being used to create the said product. Other ways of income include foundation community, offering documentation as to how to work with the Blender software, fundings and commercial sponsoring. The main goal of the Blender Project is technological innovation. Ton Roosendaal emphasized that open content doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay for the goods, but rather that it could be used in a free way. That is, to use that content in any way you see fit.


Steal This Film is another open source project, with the emphasis on community based funding. Steal This Film, both part I and II, are a documentary style film using clips from other movies and distributed on the BitTorrent network, using one of the largest trackers. Jamie King claimed that peer-to-peer distribution exceeds all other methods, because it is ‘…the most significant data transfer in the world’. There are hardly any costs in distributing via peer to peer, neither for the producer nor the consumer. Therefore, it’s the most easy way for a consumer to get a product.


Felix Stalder started of the panel, by acknowledging the models used by Ton Roosendaal and Jamie King and added a third model in using advertisement combined with open source and freely distributed content. This does not mean that all creative industry will be affected, but only one type of business model. This being the traditional consumer-producer model, in which the consumer directly purchases the product from the producer.


After this, the panel moved to the topic of quality, content and distribution. Jamie King stated throughout the panel that quality is not the single most important aspect of your product. Distribution is equally, if not more, important. If only you put it out in an easily obtainable manner, people will be inclined to look at your product. Jon Phillips contributed by claiming that content is equally important, after a discussion on the costs involving peer-to-peer distribution. It must be acknowledged that there are inevitable costs in running networks, he stated. Jamie King quickly responded by saying that this is included in the ADSL-connection fee.


After Peter Kaufman asked him to comment on the current situation of piracy in China, Jon Phillips responded that the illegal sales of pirated material on the black market had diminished and that the focus was now on streaming HD content via broadband. Jamie King referred to Stage 6, a similar initiative but without the advertisement, which went down over a month ago due to bankruptcy. Jon Phillips replied, and said that this initiative could be feasible because of this use of advertisements.

The last major topic that was raised concerned the narrative of the Big Buck Bunny film, just released by Blender. Anthony McCan asked why open source productions can’t steer clear from the use of violence, as violence evokes violence. Ton Roosendaal replied that this was the best way to show the technical abilities capable by the Blender rendering software and that creative freedom in the way these technological abilities are displayed is highly regarded.


Recent views in the ongoing copyright vs. open access debate

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Steal This FilmCopyright used to be a very specialized field of law, but over the last few years, it has become a highly political topic, where discussions routinely tend to include issues such as freedom of information, human rights of access to knowledge, democracy etc.. These lively discussions take place in every thinkable media forms.  Images for the Future follows these discussions closely. Below are some pointers to recent contributions made by those representing the ‘open access’ movement. Please share your favourite blogposts, books etc. as comments.

To start, Cory Doctorow (blogger, journalist and science fiction author) writs in his latest contribution to The Guardian titled ‘Copyright law should distinguish between commercial and cultural uses’ about how IPR regulations are making it practically impossible for end-users to reuse copyrighted material. He writes how ”…individuals should hire lawyers to negotiate their personal use of cultural material, or at least refrain from sharing their cultural activities with others (except it’s not’s really culture if you’re not sharing it, is it?).” With the internet, it became not only easier to share whatever creation in digital form, for enforcers it became easier to track down possible infringers. Doctorow poses how “We need to stop shoe-horning cultural use into the little carve-outs in copyright, such as fair dealing and fair use. Instead we need to establish a new copyright regime that reflects the age-old normative consensus about what’s fair and what isn’t at the small-scale, hand-to-hand end of copying, display, performance and adaptation.”

For Joost Smiers (professor of political science of the arts at the Utrecht School of the Arts) this wouldn’t be a probable strategy. In his article “What if we would not have copyright” he states “…it is unthinkable to bring the current system back to normal proportions because it is not in the interest of the main proponents of the system – the cultural conglomerates- to assist in this transformation”. His paper presents a radically different (but in my view not totally convincing) economic model for creative sector. Smiers believes any artistic creation belongs in the public domain and thus proposes to abolish the whole concept of copyright. Whatever you make of his quite radical, albeit thought provoking vision, Smiers ends his paper with a conclusion that is widely shared “One must be blind not to observe that copyright is in it’s final days. Even massive criminalisation of users of artistic materials does not work any longer”. The artice was published in the MyCreativity Reader and can be obtained for free through the Institute of Network Cultures.

Copyright used to be a very specialized field of law, but over the last few years, it has become a highly political topic, where discussions routinely tend to include issues such as freedom of information, human rights of access to knowledge, democracy etc.. These lively discussions take place in every thinkable media forms.

Steal This FilmThis premise is the starting point of the documentary Steal This Film II, released a few weeks ago. Through interviews with Yochai Benkler, Brewster Kahle, Rick Prelinger, Laurence Liang and many other influential thinkers, Steal This Film brilliantly explores current changes in the way media is produced, distributed and consumed. It traces back the roots of piracy to the invention of the printing press in the 15th century and continues makes the case how file sharing is the fundamental structure of the internet. For copyright holders, this results in serious headaches. As Aaron Swarts, co-founder of the social news website states: “there’s no one you can go to and say: stop the file sharing – it’s just not built that way” If you haven’t downloaded the documentary yet, you can do so online: at Steal This Film II.

The new attitude towards the production of media was at the heart of the Video Vortex conference, that took place on 18-19 December. Speakers like Jay Dedman and Valentin Spirik took the stage to demonstrate how easy it is to produce and distribute online video, giving dozens of examples. Many of these can be found on the Yahoo Videoblogging group webpages.

The Do It Yourself (DIY) model is also applicable in the music industry. In the January edition of Wired Magazine, David Byrne offers different models that are currently shaping the music industry; more precisely the relationship between artists and record companies. Byrne writes: “Where there was one, now there are six: Six possible music distribution models, ranging from one on which the artist is pretty much hands-off to one where the artist does nearly everything.” On one end of the scale is the equity deal, where artists hand over virtually every aspect of their carrier; the artist becomes a brand. Madonna made this kind of deal some months ago with Live Nation. On the far end of the scale sits the self-distribution model, where music is self written, self produced and self distributed. Radiohead adopted this DIY model for the much publicised release of their latest album, ‘In Rainbows’.

In the Netherlands, a parliamentary working group will study the impact the rise internet is having on copyright. This working group, announced mid January, will investigate scenario’s how to compensate rights owners for mass downloading in illegal ways.

As Images for the Future continues to develop innovative services, such as the Plaform Open Licences, these views are helping to define a strategic agenda on this topic. The question how to create sustainable access to archive holdings – and the legal aspects regarding reuse are also going to be discussed during the Economies of the Commons conference (10-12 April 2008) co-hosted by De Balie and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.