Sunday, November 26, 2006

Open-Source Film Making Contest, Screening, More Productions

Cinema Minima has another interesting open-source film making story: Open Source movie making contest offers London screening and festival exposure — and new roles for editors as storytellers:

This one is about Stray Cinema "an open source film. Here you are able to download and re-edit the raw footage from a film we have shot in London. (...) the first of many open source films to be provided by Stray Cinema."

It basically places the editor in the centre of the production process. This of course makes a lot of sense if you want to produce something that resembles a traditional movie: the open-source film editor would be what the open-source programmer is for open-source software.

Unfortunately it looks like they plan to provide the source footage in a low-resolution (only a selected few will be able to finish their work with the high quality source footage). This seems a bit unattractive to me if you are serious about editing/film making.

And it raises another question:

At what resolution do you have to provide your source footage for a movie to be open-source?

Open Source Shorts is "a screening of short films released under Creative Commons licences." (Disclosure: one of my own works will be shown according to the press release.)

Open Source Cinema: "...with the goal of creating a remix film community for the collaborative production of a feature documentary currently in development with The Documentary Channel and The National Film Board of Canada."

And the following is an example for a production where I am not sure if it should be called open-source at all. The project wants people to participate but gives very detailed instructions on what is missing/should be done: I Am "may turn out to be the first major "open source film" project in history. (...) Community members who would like to work with the assets of the film to make their own contributions can obtain all of the original media in high resolution and fidelity by purchasing a copy of the DVD."

Yes, you may buy the DVD and then work (for free...?). Is this open-source...?

Interesting in this context: "The purpose of the I AM Movement is, saying it bluntly, to help save the world, by catalyzing the awakening of millions of people to recognize the literal truth of their oneness with each other, with the natural Earth and the Cosmos."

For me open-source film making is not a religion, it is about sharing resources (and know-how) and empowering people. But film making is also always a business of some kind and conflicts between the creative departments and the production department are quite common, often actually also fruitful. With "open-source" there now seems to be a third force involved in the film making process that could be helpful for everyone - but we have to understand what it can do and what it can not do (and maybe should not be used for).

Here again Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series about making money with online video, open-source storytelling/film making.

(This entry was also posted to the P2P Foundation blog.)

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Friday, November 24, 2006

More About Open-Source Storytelling, YouTube ("Part 3")

While finishing Part 1 and Part 2 of Online Video: Getting Paid, Open-Source Storytelling I realised that I did not mention a couple of things worth mentioning and also just found a couple of interesting links:

Some More Open-Source/Collaborative Movies

Panorama Ephemera by Rick Prelinger (2004, 89:35 min., color and black and white) "is a collage of sequences drawn from a wide variety of ephemeral (industrial, advertising, educational and amateur) films, touring the conflicted landscapes of twentieth-century America. The films' often-skewed visions construct an American history filled with horror and hope, unreeling in familiar and unexpected ways".

This is of course Rick Prelinger from the Prelinger Archives at the Internet Archive.

The blog entry Kicking Out The Pixel Jams ( lists a couple of open-source movies that I did not mention:

Nothing So Strange by Brian Flemming is a "feature-length documentary about the assassination of Bill Gates, which debuted at Slamdance in January 2002".

Source footage is here.

now!, it looks like the project is finished, not all features on the website seem to work.

Read the above linked blog entry for a few other related projects...

Then there is of course the Open Source Movies section at the Internet Archive where you can upload your own work. This is the only free hosting site for independent movies that I can really recommend. You need to upload via ftp, but the Archive's TOS is better than any other one out there (except for Ourmedia which unfortunately is still experiencing technical problems).

Some of the movies mentioned earlier can also be downloaded via

And two more projects made with some kind of input from a larger crowd:

(Blog entry:) His Fans Greenlight the Project ( "(Jim) Gilliam founded Brave New Films in 2004 along with Robert Greenwald, the documentary producer-director behind projects including "Uncovered: The War on Iraq," "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" and his most recent, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.""

Their concept: "Why not get the audience to pay for a movie before it gets made - He calls it "People Powered Film.""

This of course is a bit like the idea that A Swarm of Angels also has.

Snakes On A Plane ( "In response to the internet fan base, New Line Cinema incorporated feedback from online users into its production." The movie was hyped a lot online, but when it was released in the Summer of 2006 it was not quite as successful as some had hoped...

Finding Out What YouTube Is

After posting my thoughts about YouTube I found the blog entry Youtube and the Vaudeville Aesthetic ( that somehow has similar views on what YouTube might be: "Vaudeville was an actor-centered mode of production. There was no director who could build an ensemble piece. Actors chose their own material, refined their own skills, and lived and died entirely on the basis of their ability to connect one on one with the audience. (...) Similarly, YouTube is a space of individualized expression."

When you compare this to what I wrote (in Part 2) "we could look at YouTube as a dynamic, interactive movie where everyone can view his own version and/or contribute to the "source footage". And to me this seems not to be so much a democratic process, but more an anarchist-creative collaboration" I think you can see some similarities between those two views.

Finally some more
related links for research:

Personalize Media
Cross-Media Entertainment
WRT: Writer Response Theory
Storytron - Interactive Storytelling

I also forgot to mention earlier that if you previously linked to or bookmarked the Audiovisual P2P Wiki page that you might need to update your bookmarks, the URL is slightly different since the P2P Foundation moved to a new host.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Online Video: Getting Paid, Open-Source Storytelling (Part 2 of 2)

Part 1 (posted yesterday)

• A Good Mix?
• "Getting Paid" Overviews
• "Open-Source" Overview
• Hype Or Real?
• Is YouTube A Dynamic Interactive Movie?

Part 2 (posted today)

• Alternatives To "Getting Paid"
• Collaborative Media Works
• Does It Matter…?

Alternatives To "Getting Paid"

It remains to be seen if and how (and who) can make money directly with online video. At this moment most sites seem to favour ad-based business models. This raises the following questions:

Are we willing to watch (more) ads that pay for online video?

Or, as an alternative to an ad-based model:

Are we willing to pay for online video content?

Maybe it will be hard - for anyone - to make money directly (with any kind of) online media in the long run - maybe the content will (and should?) be free and money will be made with additional services/products...?

Very interesting to me seem models like the one from Have Money Will Vlog: micro donations are raised for a particular project, the vlogger/film maker only receives the money if the project meets its goal.

While every film maker should get paid for his work it makes a big difference if you make a movie because you want to make money with it or because you feel passionate about a particular subject and also hope to make money with it.

And: getting paid for your work is not the same as selling or licensing your work: the one who gets paid is depending on someone to be paid, but the one who sells defines the value of his product and then makes a deal with the one who buys...

Collaborative Media Works

While Wikipedia has shown that text based, non-fiction mass collaboration does work, a true (mass) collaborative film making process - specially for fiction works - seems less clear to me: can traditional movies be made this way?

One of the few solutions I can see for this in the short run is when we redefine what a movie is: then, as mentioned in Part 1, we could look at YouTube as a dynamic, interactive movie where everyone can view his own version and/or contribute to the "source footage". And to me this seems not to be so much a democratic process, but more an anarchist-creative collaboration.

If you have ever tried to develop a story with just one other person you know how hard this can be (and how well it can work if you find the right person). But this is even more difficult if a group of people tries to develop a single story... And having dozens or even hundreds of people working on one story - without any limitations (like there being one person who makes a final decision, a limited number of possible choices for character (sub)plots etc.) seems like a very difficult task to me.

A real life example: most of us can vote for a political party of their choice, but it would be very inconvenient if millions of people were to try to write one single version of a national anthem! Democracy, unfortunately, has its limits when it comes to the practical sides of things. This is why we elect people who take (final) decisions.

Another great hindrance for story mass collaboration is the human ego: I somehow can imagine that if a large group of Buddhist monks was to develop a screenplay that this could actually work. But for most other people I think it would be very hard to reduce their egos to a level where mass collaborate on one single story (with no character/plot limitations, no one who takes a final decision) is possible.

Still there are examples where mass collaboration for fiction did - and does - work well: fairy tales, folk songs, urban legends or jokes. The Grimm Brothers only collected (or "stole"?) stories that had been told, developed and retold by many people over time. I think this was a true creative open-source process, maybe even more open-source than it could be today: some of these stories were only told to one another - the source was as free as it could possibly be and over time the best version of a story was developed! (There really is an internal logic to every story - at first it might seem that there is an infinite number of possible outcomes for a particular event, but once you start working on a story the number of possible solutions becomes smaller and smaller...)

So these seem to be the conditions why the Grimm's Fairy tales could be developed:

• the source was completely free - often it was not even written down and you could participate just by listening/retelling it
• it seems like no one claimed a copyright to a particular story
• the process was not ego-driven (but you could still have "your" version)
time was no problem (no deadline)
• but in the end someone collected it, (re)wrote it (took decisions) and "branded" it ("Grimm's Fairy Tales")

So it looks like that good conditions for true mass collaboration on fiction works are similar to those we find all around us in nature: evolution!

Does It Matter...?

It might sound harsh, but I think that the majority of people will not care so much if a film is an open-source project, but people will care about a film if they like it. (If Firefox was not a good (or great) browser would you still use it just because it is open-source...?)

And I think the same is true for sampling/remixing: people will not remix a movie just because it has a Creative Commons license (which many of us so strongly support) that would allow to produce a derivative work: YouTube has shown that if a song needs to be lip-synched it will be lip-synched. And if the latest Harry Potter movie needs to be recut to a particular song it will be done.

What the open-source film movement needs is a hit: we need an open-source Harry Potter or Star Wars - probably only then the masses will really start to appreciate the fact that they can remix a movie legally.

Also: let's never forget that a good story is - and most probably always will be - the one thing that makes people want to watch a movie ("If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.").

Good stories are still written by individual writers, not by hundreds of people collaborating on one story at the same time (still many can collaborate on different stories or different versions (maybe even aspects) of one story - and a few could then make (undemocratic!) decisions and bring it all together in one story).

I think that open-source film making and mass collaboration on fiction works have a great future, but a good story remains vital and not the most democratic process will automatically generate an open-source hit (the contrary might actually be the outcome).

Since we still live in a world restricted by copyright we might have to accept that today the most successful instances where creative mass collaboration happens (YouTube lip-synching, remixes/mash-ups of Hollywood movies) is when people simply ignore the existing copyright laws and engage in a chaotic and anarchist (or call it "advanced democratic") creative process.

Nature, that came up with so many incredible "inventions", was only able to this so well because in nature there are no rights reserved: nature just does not care about copyright...

Maybe millions of (young) people just have to become "pirates" if they want to make 21st century art...? Or maybe there is something wrong with our current copyright laws...? If so, how quickly can laws be adapted to the needs of our time...?

And: how serious would millions of web users take their governments if they see that their online communities already found answers to questions that real life politicians never even asked...?

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Online Video: Getting Paid, Open-Source Storytelling (Part 1 of 2)

This blog entry turned out longer than I thought it would, so I'll post it in two parts:

Part 1 (posted today)

• A Good Mix?
• "Getting Paid" Overviews
• "Open-Source" Overview
• Hype Or Real?
• Is YouTube A Dynamic Interactive Movie?

Part 2 (to be posted tomorrow)

• Alternatives To "Getting Paid"
• Collaborative Media Works
• Does It Matter...?

A Good Mix?

Open-source film making and getting paid for online video seem to be two of the biggest trends in online video at this moment.

This raises a couple of questions:

Is getting paid for online video compatible with open-source film making?

Can you really make money with online video? And who pays for it?

How is open-source film making defined?

(How) can collaborative storytelling work?

"Getting Paid" Overviews

Here two blog entries that give an overview about where - and possibly - how-to make money with online video:

Getting Paid: Sites that Help Video Producers Make Money (

Scott Kirsner, editor of CinemaTech, writes: "This project is part of a just published e-book, The Future of Web Video: Opportunities for Producers, Entrepreneurs, Media Companies and Advertisers. Both the e-book and this chart are based on more than 100 interviews with executives and media-makers I conducted in 2005 and 2006."

Internet Video - How To Monetize Your Independent Video Content (

Another question that needs to be asked in this context:

(How) will the online video landscape change if people produce videos because they want to get paid?

"Open-Source" Overview

Here what seem to be the some of the important open-source and/or collaborative film making projects that can be found online, but there seems to be no clear definition for "open-source movie":

Does it include the script, all the raw footage (video, images, sound and music) and the cut list (e.g. Final Cut Pro project file), all of which would have to be licensed under e.g. a Creative Commons license that would allow for commercial use? Or is allowing only non-commercial use still open-source? And do you really have to provide the cut list (and possibly the dubbing sheets)? Or does it already count as open-source if a finished movie (and no access to the raw footage) can freely be reused without any restrictions...? (The latter would mean that all old public domain movies are in fact open-source movies!)

(If you think your project should be mentioned here please feel free to comment, link and describe it.)

TheWeblogProject is "the first open-source movie documentary about blogs and bloggers".

The Echo Chamber Project is "an open source, investigative documentary about how the television news media became an uncritical echo chamber to the Executive Branch leading up to the war in Iraq".

Maybe even more interesting in the context of this blog entry: "By developing collaborative techniques for producing this film, then this project can potentially provide some solutions for incorporating a broader range of voices and perspectives into the mainstream media."

Collaborative Media with Drupal + Final Cut Pro XML explains the project's workflow.

Elephants Dream is "the world’s first open movie, made entirely with open source graphics software such as Blender, and with all production files freely available to use however you please, under a Creative Commons license".

Route 66, some say that this is the first open-source feature film.

Boy Who Never Slept is "one of the world’s first full-length open source movies".

Deptford.TV "is an audio-visual documentation of the regeneration process of the Deptford area".

Digital Tipping Point project claims to create "the world's first open source feature film-length documentary".

The DTPWiki explains the project's workflow.

The unedited footage can be downloaded via the The Digital Tipping Point page on the Internet Archive.

Can open source methodology make a movie? ( looks closer at this project and mentions that the original director has left the project.

A Swarm of Angels - Remixing Cinema "reinvents the Hollywood model of filmmaking to create cult cinema for the Internet era".

There is also an increasing number of (commercial) movies/shows that either can be re-edited/remixed (under different licenses) or where some or all the source footage can be downloaded, three examples:

BBS: The Documentary is "a mini-series of 8 episodes about the history of the BBS".

The unedited footage can be downloaded via the BBS Documentaries page on the Internet Archive.

OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism

Outfoxed: Interview Footage can be downloaded via the Internet Archive.

NerdTV is "a one-hour interview show with a single guest from the world of technology". (In this case the show is the raw footage...)

Worth mentioning seems also 'The War Tapes': Making movies the Web 2.0 way (

And also mentioned should be this new how-to Wiki project:

the Workbook Project (from the about page): "I’ve been working on a DIY book and I’ve decided to make it a free online resource. The concept is part of a “social opensource experiment” called the workbook project. It’s a simple concept, the workbook is meant to be spread and edited. Meaning that content creators can add their own info, war stories, advice etc. We’re hoping that the workbook can grow as a resource. We’re building it with an opensource “client side” wiki called tiddlywiki that can be saved to the desktop, edited and then uploaded again."

Hype Or Real?

Looking at some of the above examples it becomes clear that "open-source" is becoming a marketing strategy. On the one one hand this is good for open-source, on the other hand claims like being the first open-source movie to do a particular thing can sometimes sound a bit too self-conscious... Who can honestly say that he or she knows about every film project on earth? Maybe a couple of years ago there was a small open-source film made in some remote place long before the (mostly English speaking) blogosphere even started talking about open-source film making? Movies were made long before the web went mainstream, the first open-source movie project to do a particular thing maybe just did not have a blog and never got much publicity...?!

The human ego can be quite big, but open-source is a good way to help people overcome their ego. While a project should of course mention that it is one of the first of its kind, over-hyping a project with claims that are hard to verify does not really seem to be in the open-source spirit but rather a closed-source approach. ("I was here first, it's mine.")

Is YouTube A Dynamic Interactive Movie?

While YouTube (and almost every other online video sharing site) can be criticised for their Terms of Service Agreement, one could argue that the first and largest community made online movie "ever" is in fact YouTube itself! You can watch "a scene" (or sequence), find related "scenes" via tags (or "related"), upload your own "footage" and contribute to this dynamic, community made patchwork movie (fiction and documentary) that tells a multitude of stories about our world and its people!

Maybe we need to redefine what a movie is...?

Maybe the YouTube way of doing it is in fact the long promised interactive movie...?

Hopefully all the "true" open-source projects will also succeed (a lot of potential has the Democracy Player), but we need a reality check and make sure that open-source film making is not just another hype...

Part 2 of this blog entry will be posted tomorrow.

For an extensive overview about audio/video D.I.Y. web publishing/finding content have a look at the audiovisual section of the P2P Wiki.

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