Last month, I participated in an all-day workshop that Mozilla organized as part of Web Made Movies to introduce filmmakers to the possibilities of interactive video using Popcorn.js. I lobbied to be paired with Yasmine Elayat to create a prototype for her project, 18 Days in Egypt, an interactive documentary covering the recent revolution in Egypt, using citizen-produced video. It’s a credit to Yasmine’s knowledge of the material and the work of the Popcorn.js team that we were able to build and demo the whole thing in a single day.
View the prototype here. It should work in any modern web browser that handles html video (even Internet Explorer 9!). Below, I’ll discuss the challenges and solutions we discovered through the process of building a prototype that tells a story as well as it demonstrates the technology.
The goal of the prototype was to give an overall sense of the subject while giving a viewer the opportunity to “drill down” to additional media for more detail. As powerful as HTML video and Popcorn are, it’s easy to overwhelm the viewer with too much information. So we had to choose the content and design the layout and interaction to tell the story while making it beautiful and avoiding distraction.
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Recently, I’ve been doing some work with Mozilla around their Web Made Movies project. They’ve been experimenting with the integration of video and the Web enabled by the multimedia features available in modern browser and building tools like Popcorn.js. As we’re starting to take some of those projects out of the lab and into the real world, it’s been interesting to see how those tools hold up and what features are inspired by these situations.
With just a few hours advance notice, the Popcornjs crew put together a video/data mash-up of President Obama’s State of the Union speech for PBS, in which text analysis is displayed in time with the video. Among such a long video, with so much data, WMM leader Brett Gaylor asked if I could build in a feature making it easy to Twitter a short URL right to a point in the middle of the video. Sure I could. Unfortunately, an external service we were using to access the Twitter API broke down, so we couldn’t get the feature working in time to go live. I’ve worked around it, and here it is now.
Watch the video from the beginning or start 20 minutes in. Try the button just below the video. Read on to learn how it works.
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This Saturday, I will be speaking on a roundtable on metadata at the Open Video Conference and presenting an informal demonstration of new, metadata-related software I’ve been working on at the “Hack Day” on Sunday.
For the past year or so, I’ve been hearing bits of the film industry slowly wake up to the fact that the state of media metadata is a mess. The complete lack of open, common data formats leaves media producers struggling to conform their data to a variety of proprietary formats, only to result in outdated and inaccurate information left under the control of others. Worse, existing processes discriminate against independent producers by limiting what counts as a “real” movie, album or other work.
I have been working on a project called Open Media Object Format, which is a free (both as in beer and as in speech) protocol and file format for publishing rich metadata on a range of media. The protocol creates a distributed network of information on media and its participants, allowing the information to spread while every creator maintains authority over their own work. And the format is designed to store semantic data in more detail than we’ve seen before. The Open Media Object Format is an effort to address the above problems while bringing metadata away from the mere administrative, opening up possibilities for pretty cool stuff we haven’t seen before.
Details for the roundtable and the demo are below. Read the rest of this entry »