FreeJ Release Party

Last night i attended the FreeJ 1.0 release party at the Nederland Instituut voor Media Kunst, or in english, the Dutch Institute for Media Arts. The NIMK is an art gallery / studio / institute for multimedia arts and it really focuses on some avant garde work. As a bonus, most of the exhibits there run on free software, and it's very rare they host an exhibit using windows. Since one of the core developers works there, it make perfect sense to hold the release party there. Congratulations to all the developers for finally making it to 1.0.

As part of the release party, Jaromil surprised us with a panel on the future of media codecs, which i was invited to participate in. The history of FreeJ is heavily involved in activism and the arts, and the developers have been heavily invested in promoting Theora and other Free as in Freedom codecs. It's very hard to broadcast a controversial message when your message is 'jailed' in a proprietary codec that relies on patent encumbered software, not only to distribute it, but to receive and view it as well. While the patents on MP3 and MPEG are eventually going to expire, there will always be new codecs with new patents, or worse yet, other encumbrances that will make it an uphill battle.

On the panel sat Jaromil, Bastiaan "buZz", Chris "MrGoil", Pablo "caedes" and myself. Jaro opened up the conversation asking us about the future of codecs in general and where we're going. Obviously, there were some setbacks a few months ago with the lack of video standardization in the HTML 5 standard, and how there were conflicting needs for the (then) better but patent encumbered H.264 codec and Theora. We discussed the need for making sure the platform itself is open so the user can install any code wanted, even if free codecs aren't provided out of the box.

After explaining half the issues to a partly non technical audience, we transitioned to talking a bit about Pablo's work on Crystal Space. His latest projects is an open platform for people working on any visual media, including both 2d film and 3d objects. In short imagine Git for content that's not just one dimensional streams of text. Many graphics shops have issues where once one person checks out a model, it's a single binary blob that no one else can edit. These tools enable the content editors to work on different aspects of the same model simultaneously and intelligently handle merging. We got a bit 'psychedelic' explaining how we are going from a single one dimensional model to a 4 dimensional model. (That word was picked by one of the audience members ^_^). I think switching from a dubbel to a trippel help explained the paradigm shift too.

While it wasn't part of the panel, i also want to mention Tatiana's work "acracia". She has been working on a distributed platform for icecast and content browsing under the project GISS, Global Independent Streaming Support. The project works two fold. The first part is a distributed network for streaming content, where people can pool together private stream servers, and share each other's load when one particular stream suffers the slashdot effect. This significantly lowers the barrier to streaming any online media to a project with little resources. The second part is a frontend like youtube that can also be run on a local server and is far more customizable. Not including the workload involved in transcribing submissions, they are running the entire thing inside a single VM at the moment, so for a website hosting alot of video, it's pretty resource friendly.

All in all, it was a pretty enlightening evening.