The Secretly Awesome Things About to Transform Web VideoWhen I decided to go to the Open Video Conference in Manhattan this weekend, I really had no idea what to expect. Open Video is an unusual cause, belonging to no specific interest group, in that we are all makers and/or consumers of web video (usually both). What other issue can bring together a diverse crowd of hackers, academics, filmmakers, human rights activists, and lawyers to gleefully design and debate the future of technology? The third annual Open Video Conference, held this past weekend at New York Law School, felt like a mini SXSW Interactive loosely dedicated to "making video more open." Topics of discussion included everything from "visual anonymity" to robot lawyers (seriously). Dozens of workshops provided enough food for thought to inspire another year of innovation, not just in technology and policy, but in modes of visual storytelling.
The Documentary Cloud
A central challenge of documentary filmmaking is wrangling the wealth of information and footage amassed in the process of researching and shooting into a three-act structure. The Connected Documentary workshop tackled, among many topics, how a documentary can live and grow online, beyond the boundaries of the feature format. Amir Bar-Lev, the director of The Tillman Story, explained how, like most documentaries, the story he was telling continued long after he finished the film. At the same time, he had amassed an archive of over 300 documents related to the Tillman case and countless interviews that would never fit the film, but were a powerful part of the story. So he decided to put them in the cloud. He used Document Cloud to make the documents available and is working on making an interactive version of the film so that viewers online can brows the supplementary content in synch with the film. This interactive layer (more on this in a second) lets you pin any kind of content that can live in a web page to specific sections in the film, so that the video becomes an entry point for a whole archive of information. A "transmedia" approach to filmmaking certainly isn't new, but the direct linking of content to a linear story, with opportunities for audience participation, is pretty exciting.
We tend to think of video as a static block of content that has to be experienced in a linear manner, but this is increasingly not the case, as HTML5 developers work to integrate video more seamlessly with web pages. The workshop about Popcorn.js was an exuberant introduction to an open source tool that essentially allows you to synchronize non-video content to a video. Sounds simple, and Rick Waldron from Bocoup went out of his way to present it in terms that would feel intuitive to non-developers. Without going into too much detail, it's an HTML5 media framework that can link the behavior of a web page to time code (or any metadata) in the video. Remix artist and conference keynote speaker Jonathan McIntosh has an awesome example of how this can be used to add dynamic context to a video on his website. First, if you haven't seen it, check out his Donald Duck-meets-Glenn Beck remix, an artful edit of Disney footage and Beck's radio and television audio:As McIntosh points out on his site, some of the subversive power of remix is in recontextualizing content, which can be amplified by letting an audience see the source material in its original context. There is also incredible value in being able to attribute each clip to its source, especially in a fair use case like this, where the creator is at risk of a DMCA takedown notice from a content owner (e.g. Disney or Fox).I've recently been exploring ways to contextually present the audiovisual sources, notes and references used in my remix videos. I'm especially interested in the exciting possibilities of the HTML5 video element combined with the Popcorn.js framework to visually annotate the metadata in my more complex remixing projects. With that in mind I've put together anHTML5 video demo which dynamically displays a layer of data referencing the original source materials as the video plays. I have long been an advocate for remixers to transparently cite their sources as part of promoting open video, claiming our fair-use rights and as a way to make it easier for others to remix the same material in alternative ways ...Check out the demo here. McIntosh explains the layout:
While watching the demo you will see related data dynamically appear in the boxes surrounding the remix, triggered by the video's time code. If you click on any red text it will link you back to source materials in their original context. (1) Displays the current visual clip info. (2) Displays the current audio clip info. (3) Displays relevant wikipedia articles. (4) Displays production and factual notes.
Back at the Popcorn workshop,
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