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Television Media

Open Source... Television? 200

Posted by michael
from the someone-tell-him-about-mbone dept.
jarit0z writes: "In Robert Cringely's latest column he toys with the idea of creating a TV show to go along with his rants. The show would be freely (as in beer) distributable, to hopefully keep bandwidth costs down. And it would also be freely (as in speech) modifiable, since he would also be releasing the "source" or raw footage of the show. Very interesting ideas if you ask me."
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Open Source... Television?

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  • pbs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sulli (195030) on Friday March 22, 2002 @01:55PM (#3208232) Journal
    Since taxpayers cover at least part of the cost of these shows via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, shouldn't ALL these shows be free-as-in-everything? We paid for them, after all!
    • Re:pbs (Score:5, Informative)

      by foobar104 (206452) on Friday March 22, 2002 @01:59PM (#3208264) Journal
      I don't believe it works exactly like that. The stuff that ends up going out over the various PBS stations is finished programming. Somebody had to produce that programming. I live in Dallas, and the local PBS station, KERA, has been doing a lot of production lately, shooting and finishing various shows.

      When a production company or station makes a program, they turn over only the finished piece to the distributor or broadcaster. The production company or station keeps ownership of and rights to the stuff that went into making the program. Sometimes there are agreements between the distributor and the production company, like the production company promising not to turn around and use the same footage to make a different cut of the same program and sell it to somebody else for instance.

      So what PBS gets is actually just the finished programs, not the raw footage or anything like that. It's not theirs to release.
    • I've often wondered this about Canada's public TV and Radio entity, the CBC [www.cbc.ca]. They have a fanstastic archive of radio and television (think: every NHL hockey gave ever). They are publicly funded, but they are for profit. I only hope they haven't nailed themselves to the wall with licsensing agreements.

      I'd love to see the whole thing made public someday.
    • Re:pbs (Score:3, Informative)

      by Yoje (140707)
      Since taxpayers cover at least part of the cost of these shows via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, shouldn't ALL these shows be free-as-in-everything? We paid for them, after all!

      Actually, total federal funding to CPB/PBS is about $250 million, only 12.2% of CPB's total budget (figures from CPB). This is less than 0.0005% of the total federal budget.

      Personally, I wish Congress would either a) leave CPB/PBS alone, cut funding entirely, and let it do its own thing, instead of this shoestring allowance it gives it (currently, the President picks the head of the CPB board and Congress approves) OR b) keep CPB's current setup, but FUND the organization it founded so they don't have to rely on so many advertisers, and so they can give us better programming. [/rant]

      • Re:pbs (Score:2, Informative)

        by 56ker (566853)
        Well it's a lot different to TV in the UK. Here if we want to watch any TV we have to pay a licence fee (about US $150) a year which all goes to the BBC. The government isn't involved in funding them at all (other than the free TV licenced they give to pensioners). Which do people think is a better way of funding this sort of TV - directly from tax revenue or by an imposed licence fee?
        • Which do people think is a better way of funding this sort of TV - directly from tax revenue or by an imposed licence fee?

          Out of curiousity, why was TV in the UK (and Europe, et al.) funded in this manner? Was it always this way from when TV came to these countries? Or did they start out private and were then bought out by the government? When TV was invented in the USA, it was always a private matter, how come when it was implemented in other countries the government got involved with it? (and hence imposed taxes and/or license fees to fund it)

          • When TV was invented in the USA it was always a private matter

            Hate to break this to you kid, but actually the inventor of television [top-biography.com] was Scottish.

            Anyway, in the UK the BBC [bbc.co.uk] was originally the 'British Broadcasting Company', but in 1927 [bbc.co.uk] it came into state ownership and became the 'British Broadcasting Corporation'. The idea was to create something half-way between the completely unregulated US and the completely state controlled Soviet system. Basically the belief was (and I believe the quality of programming bears this out) that capitalism created poor quality output, and it was also a bad idea to have everything directly controlled by the state.

            • by fishbowl (7759)


              >Hate to break this to you kid, but actually the inventor
              > of television was Scottish.

              Philo T. Farnsworth was all American, thank you.

              • by unitron (5733)
                Also of the U.S. was Edwin Armstrong, inventor of (in addition to a lot of other stuff that advanced broadcasting in general) wide-band FM, which is how television sound is broadcast, at least in the U.S.
              • Except that Farnsworth didn't invent television; Baird did. Baird demonstrated the first television in 1926; Farnsworth didn't demonstrate his until a year later. Whilst Farnsworth's invention was far more advanced technology-wise (using as it did a CRT, which was invented by Karl Braun but refined by Farnsworth), that still doesn't make him the inventor of telvision.
      • Re:pbs (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kamel Jockey (409856)

        Actually, total federal funding to CPB/PBS is about $250 million, only 12.2% of CPB's total budget (figures from CPB). This is less than 0.0005% of the total federal budget

        It is precisely because of that eency-weency amount of federal funding that the previous poster is able to claim what he/she did. With any amount of federal funding, there comes with it all sorts of regulations, requirements, etc. For example, consider the National Endowment for the Arts, every year come budget time they get hammered for supporting anything even remotely controversial. This too comes with the miniscule amount of federal money it gets.

        But I have to agree... they really should cut off the funding and let these agencies become privatized and do their own thing. If PBS were to go under, it is not as though anyone would become sick or killed, hence, its not really a needed government service. However, there clearly there is a market for people who want to watch stuff on PBS, and with the rise of numerous cable channels which offer the same kind of programming as you can get on PBS (e.g., TLC, Discovery, History Channel, etc.), it becomes easier to make the assertion that the government should not be subsidizing its own TV network.

      • ARE YOU KIDDING? Conservative administrations hate PBS because it refuses to toe the party line and consequently they try to cut funding every chance they get. It is impossible for the US government to effectively fund any kind of art or media (unless it's propaganda) because every time they do, somebody actually has an opinion that runs counter to what the Republican party wants you to think.
        • In other words, conservatives don't like government funding of the arts because it forcibly compels taxpayers to pay for material they may dislike or even find offensive. If you want to support your favorite media, reach into your wallet, not your neighbor's.
    • Think of it like a genius grant. We don't own the art, we just get to enjoy the art. We don't own Arthur and Friends, we get to enjoy having it for free over the air. Same with the old movies PBS shows on occasion.
      The only problem is when a gov't sponsored product (university research) gets own3d by somebody who prevents us all from enjoying the fruits of our tax-payer dollars, which isn't the case with PBS.
      • by Golias (176380)
        The only problem is when a gov't sponsored product (university research) gets own3d by somebody who prevents us all from enjoying the fruits of our tax-payer dollars, which isn't the case with PBS.

        Spoken like somebody who has never seen the prices for videos in the "Signals" catalog, or the PBS store in the Mall of America.

    • Re:pbs (Score:2, Insightful)

      You raise a very good point (and counter to the moderation it isn't "funny"). There is a ton of content in the vaults at the CBC and it is *all* supported by Canadian taxpayers. Most of it historically relevant. However, there is no way to access it without travelling to the CBC HQ in Toronto and requesting it.

      Take for example, some great work by the late Allan McFee on the Eclectic Circus. This material should certainly be public, but the only mention of Allan relates to his death. This archive could be hosted on the CBC site; it is brilliant stuff. But sadly, no archive appears on the site, and his memory fades.
      • by tb3 (313150)
        Not personally a big McFee fan, but I would love to hear the old "Joinny Chase, Secret Agent of Space" series they did back when. That was the coolest radio program ever.
  • by pdice (41822) on Friday March 22, 2002 @01:56PM (#3208240)
    Would this really be all that interesting? Personally, have access to raw footage isn't all that appealing. It's not like open source software where i can change the code and actually change the functionality. Just seems rather pointless to me.
    • Another reason to buy an iBook! Fire up iMovie, modify the show, and watch Cringely say that he loves licking the boots of Big Business and hopes that Bill Gates becomes King of the bedroom, or something. Sounds to me like a total change in functionality at that point.
    • Maybe not to you. I went to college to get a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and I know that the final product probably uses about 5% of the actual footage that you shoot. If you were interested enough, you might want to see what they didn't show you, as well as what they did.
      • I'm currently editing a documentary. 100+ hours of footage. It's mind numbing, anal, pedantic work just going through the footage as opposed to editing it. Believe me, none of you want to see what's being thrown away. Editing exists for a reason because a) it's the essential unique trait of film / tv as a medium and b) analogs about context in code rarely ever apply to editing, a process which is intuitive, decisive, and essential. If you believe in releasing all your rushes or footage then you essentially are saying you don't have anything to say, because by essence you're not defining what your point is.
    • Would this really be all that interesting? Personally, have access to raw footage isn't all that appealing. It's not like open source software where i can change the code and actually change the functionality. Just seems rather pointless to me.

      What you programmers forget sometimes is that for 99% of Free/Open-Source Software users, having the source code is equally pointless. We don't have the programming skills to make use of it.

      But we do recieve a lot of ancilliary benefits from having the source code available. Most of them have to do with the fact that other people who are skilled programmers can look at the code, modify it, and re-use it. Eventually, the result is better software for the rest of us. This is why I support open-source/free software, even though I can't code my way out of a paper bag.

      Similarly, having the raw footage to the Cringley Show won't be directly useful to me, but it will allow other people to:
      • Watch the raw footage and verify that Cringley isn't twisting the guests' words around with sneaky editing. If he is, and they can prove it, I'll probably hear about it.
      • Edit the raw footage themselves to come up new cuts of the show, which may be more interesting/appealing to me than the original. I can envision a situation where one person regularly re-mixes Cringley's raw footage, and that person's cuts become more popular with certain people than the "official" version of the show.
      • Re-use the raw footage in other contexts, perhaps as part of a documentary, which I might later watch.


      Don't just think about whether you can make use of the source footage directly, think about what other people can do with it, and how you might benefit from that.

      TheFrood
    • It's not like open source software where i can change the code and actually change the functionality.

      Actually, it'd be exactly like OSS. I work for a small independent news show (in "beta", look for it on www.fstv.org [fstv.org], a satellite channel :), we have about a terabyte in raid on fibrechannel-accessible NAS boxes. That's for the video post stations, plus a sub-hierarchy of that's interfaced to the post and office LANs thru a linux box (via fibrechannel too), and an FTP proxy server makes part of the hierarchy accessible to our partial OC3.

      When freelance video and audio journalists have something they want us to see or use, they drop it on the FTP server. When we have raw interview footage and completed segments we link them to the public hierarchy, where our journalists and partners can download and make use.

      Plus, we use free or cheap software-based codecs (mpeg, VP3, we're looking forward to Ogg Tarkin [xiph.org].)

      Finally, your statement seems to reflect the non-participatory nature of today's media conglomerate-dominated world ... there there, that's right, be a passive recepticle for whatever pap the majors choose to send your way, why get involved, why tell the story from the pov of yourself or people in your neck of the woods? probably get it "wrong" anyway doncha think ... ;)

      Wrong! Everybody's got a story to tell, quality video and audio equipment is at its least expensive in history, and hey, haven't you ever been interested in hearing the stories of people directly involved in major events, rather than the sound-bites fed us?

      One time in recent history when this veil got lifted was during 9-11 and afterward, the majors swapped footage gratis, and you heard plenty from people on the ground in NYC and DC. Course, that pretty well snapped shut once the war got underway, but the people are still there and frankly it's healthy to hear from people involved in these conflicts, because it lets you develop your own point of view.
    • Personally, have access to raw footage isn't all that appealing. It's not like open source software where i can change the code and actually change the functionality. Just seems rather pointless to me.

      Au contraire (French for, "You melonhead" :-)). Having the raw footage available to contrast against the "final" edited versions would give us the first real insight into the "bias" that creeps into mass media journalism. It would be absolutely fascinating to watch both edited versions (tech- and business-focused), then watch the raw footage to see what they chose to drop and/or juxtapose.

      Moreover, if you feel none of the edited versions properly covers the issues of interest to you, snarf the raw footage and make your own version. You can use only the footage they provide, or add in some of your own.

      This idea has amazing promise. I hope Cringely runs with it.

      Schwab

  • Start with (Score:3, Insightful)

    by adamy (78406) on Friday March 22, 2002 @01:58PM (#3208254) Homepage Journal
    A Digital Camera, and A Website.

    It's called a web cast.

    I don't think anyone would want the Raw footage, just the edited stuff. Basically, he's saying it would be freely redsitributeable. This is not the same as open source. Open Source (and Free Software) is a solution to the problem of people getting you dependent on a software product with not way to alter it. But with film, there is not source code.

    At least with music, you can claim open source by offering the sheet music or something. Maybe the script for a play as well. But again, that is a little different.
    • He pointed out that he wanted a downloadable version, not a webcast so the bandwidth-impaired could still get it at their leisure (well their modem's leisure).

      More importantly, he has an offer of enough donated bandwidth to support about 400K downloads - considerably more downloads than he has readers.

      As to the "source", one of the four versions he is proposing would be the raw unedited footage. I'd love to see the raw footage for just about any regular "news" interview.
    • Re:Start with (Score:4, Informative)

      by NeMon'ess (160583) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dimxnilf>> on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:11PM (#3208365) Homepage Journal
      If you read the article you'd know it isn't just a webcast. What's open about it is that not only could anyone download any or all of four differnt "cuts" of the same program, they would then be encouraged to share those programs. The biggest problem with webcasting vs. broadcasting is that it costs nothing to reach more people when broadcasting. As long as the viewer is within the radius of the broadcast signal, they get it. Webcasting costs money for every additional stream. By making this "Open", the idea is for everyone to share the files in an organized manner so they are easy to find and the bandwidth burden is spread out. The four different streams would be the Uncut version for geeks wanting to watch every little thing. Then there would be an edited cut for geeks wanting to get the most information and geeky tidbits. A made-for-business cut would be shorter and condense topics down for those with less time, more like TV news instead of the newspaper. Lastly, a Headline News type cut would just cover the basic facts, keeping people up to date on stories.

  • Just what we need a World Wide Public Access channel.... its bad enough that cincy has 4 of them locally!
  • The footage will become just like the REAL Audio and REAL Video segments of SNL. While this is an interesting idea, I just KNOW that a bunch of people are going to take it and run in the wrong direction.

    OTOH, it may provide us much amusement.

  • Or does Cringcrustly now work for Slashrot?? :)
  • The first version would be completely unedited -- literally every inch of raw footage presented in the order in which it was shot. This would deal for the first time with the nerd paranoia that they are somehow being manipulated by the media.

    but this still doesn't allow for what's not recorded... thus introducing the possibility of media shaping.

    interesting idea though... i hope PBS goes for it.

  • He better use a license that requires people the reuse the video to place a disclaimer that says this is not his original creation, and hence the content may have been modified to make him appear to espouse something he never intended to.

    With some creative editing, I bet someone could make Bob look like a very big closed source, pro-Microsoft, anti-free software guy, if they wanted to. Or at the very least, make some video that makes him sound a little off his rocker, in an attempt to make people discredit anything else he has to say.
    • "With some creative editing, I bet someone could make Bob look like a very big closed source, pro-Microsoft, anti-free software guy, if they wanted to. Or at the very least, make some video that makes him sound a little off his rocker, in an attempt to make people discredit anything else he has to say."

      Good. Maybe it will make the truth behind others motivations more obvious. Nothing like a little controversy to get people talking.

  • by banuaba (308937) <drbork@@@hotmail...com> on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:01PM (#3208288)
    It's called the local access channel. And it's full of right wing conspiracy junkies and left wing bean eaters making shows with a handicam. No editing, so the 'source' is released, and many of them encourage you to copy the show all you want.
  • by vkg (158234) on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:02PM (#3208294) Homepage
    Seriously! The entire thing is being done in POV-RAY, with both models and renderings available online!

    The Internet Movie Project [imp.org] has all the rest of the details.
    • Any movie whose primary motivation is technology and not the story is doomed to be rubbish.
      • Any movie whose primary motivation is technology and not the story is doomed to be rubbish.

        Yeah. Just like Linux is rubbish. Just like the POVRAY raytracer is rubbish (I wrote pieces of it myself), like all open source programs are rubbish.

        A bunch of people said heay, it doesn't take ten million dollars to make a movie. We can do it ourselves. For free. They have hundreds of people contributing work. You're right that they need a good story, but just because they doing it because it looks like fun rather then for profit doesn't mean they can't choose a good script.

        I'm not a member, so I don't know how far along they are. They were looking for script suggestions, and the entire membership would vote. Sounds pretty promising to me. If you think you can do a better job on the story then sign up submit one. Or even just vote for a good one.
        -
  • So, if he's planning in releasing the "raw footage", am I free to "recompile" (edit) it in any way I see fit?

    Technically speaking it would be very simple to change the entire show 180deg. by simply editing to change the context of sentences, etc.

    For instance, what if the "raw footage" contains the phrase "I hate abortion because I love babies.". Would I be free to "edit" this to say "I love abortion because I hate babies"? I'm using the same raw footage that was given to me...I'm just "editing" it.

    I don't think this will fly at all.
    • Technically speaking it would be very simple to change the entire show 180deg. by simply editing to change the context of sentences, etc. Would I be free to "edit" this to say "I love abortion because I hate babies"? I don't think this will fly at all.

      Yes, exactly, you CAN turn the material around 180 degrees, the same way that you can turn an 80's pop tune into a techno smash.

      You sound like George Lucas for being afraid of this.
      • Re:Raw footage? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by nochops (522181)
        The fear only comes from the fact that with modern video editing technologies, you can't tell what's real and what's not.

        Even with today's technology, your average nightly news could (emphasis 'could') be entirely fabricated.
  • by Kizzle (555439)
    Just because you throw in a buzz word like open source dosent mean its going to be anything amazing. Just another tv show
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Does this mean I could substitude in any of the alternative Robert X. Cringelys who used to write the column?

    I get tired of that logo on the Cringely website, the one with his face crammed in between Gates and Jobs. One of the reasons is that, ummm, there's really no 'Mount Rushmore' reason why his face should be up there. He's a flack, a 'happened to be there' guy who wasn't even important enough to be a has-been.

    And people lap his shit up like he has a clue. It's really disappointing.
  • by suso (153703) on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:06PM (#3208320) Homepage Journal
    "Yet another Friends"
    "Yet another Star Trek"
    "GNU-ER" (ok, I'm a bit ashamed of that one)
  • The idea is great, the excecution of it would be even better, but I fear he will have problems. As in an earlier article on slashdot where a company claimed that all work done by their employees was company property and forbid the participation in open source development. Here [slashdot.org] Somehow I fear that a television station may claim the rights to his show and sue him for giving it away to other stations without charging anything and making money for the original airer of the show.
  • Zed on CBC TV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by InterruptDescriptorT (531083) on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:08PM (#3208333) Homepage
    Zed [zed.cbc.ca] bills itself as 'open source TV, v1.1'. (Was v1.0 mothballed?) Anyway, Canadians send in music, film clips, little productions, etc., and they are shown on the show. The Web site has clips of some of the entries.

    Definitely a step in the right direction. I think you could only see this on public or semi-public (like the CBC) television. Networks out to make money would never dare put anything like this on the air--the airtime is only for the big stars that pull in ratings. Kudos to my home and native land!
  • by abe ferlman (205607) <bgtrio.yahoo@com> on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:10PM (#3208350) Homepage Journal
    Make your data available over the gnutella network. Free, distributed serving. And it gives gnutella users a substantial, non-infringing use. History buffs will recall that the only reason we have vcr's without MPAA padlocks in our homes is because of a substantial, non-infringing use: taping Mr. Rogers for your children to watch later.

    Perhaps PBS programming can save us once again from the clutches of the information monopoly industries.

  • Oh yeah, right up until someone says "so, I like it, but how are we all making money from it"...
  • One of my friends is doing a project called humanity [berlios.de] which is an open-source project for creating a movie script (and then filming it).
  • What about Open-Source entertainment content,
    using computer graphics for the actors and sets?
    i.e. the participants submit scripts, Povray models, etc. to a common pool, sorta like the
    monthly IRTC animation contests.
  • CBC Television has started airing a show called Zed which they call "Open Source Television". It's not nearly as open source as what Cringly proposes, and they're still ironing out the kinks, but basically it's a show where viewers create content, and vote about what gets put on the air. Check it out:

    http://zed.cbc.ca/
    • Darn... You beat me to the post! For the uninformed, CBC = Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Anyway, I found the show to be more like "Unstructured Public Access on Acid" rather than "Open Source". Though it is still a novel idea.

      To further prevent lucid comprehension of the show, it airs in the middle of the night when your cortex shuts down and you've zoned out in front of the Tele. Not to mention it was being hosted by "Bif Naked"!
  • Once again, Cringely misses the point and Slashdot editors whore themselves out like they work in Times Square.

    Open source isn't about "freely distributable". It's about having the specifications / plans / blue prints / etc. to something you use to produce an end product. You can take those specifications and produce something totally new and potentially useful, then pass those on... or not.

    If we're talking about the stock footage, what can you really do with that? There's something along the lines of cutting the video such that you make Cringely repeat how much of an idiot he is, but you could have done that anyway with the end product. You can't make something totally new like you can with algorithms and existing code. In the case of video, the end product does not obscure the information used to create the product! Just the opposite actually. The restriction of information is what happens in software.

    People who advocate freedom of speech do not fight against the MPAA or RIAA or whatever because they don't have the stock material. They fight back because those people want to control ownership and how you can view the product and for what cost. We're talking about apples and goats when it comes to open source and various forms of media.

    I'm sorry... Cringely needs to get a clue and /. needs to stop getting paid to publicize him.
  • See a discussion of the idea of open source music [actsofvolition.com] (disclosure: it's a link to my own site). The sampling of music has been happening in the world of rap for years - seems like a natural move.
  • I like what he wants to do, but to keep bandwidth costs low, and to gain more readers, he could begin with an actual radio broadcast, and gain a bigger audience. I'm not sure how many radio stations PBS has scattered around the U.S., but if there's enough, it seems like it would be a good start.
  • by AndyChrist (161262)
    At long last, I can fulfill my wildest fantasy, and edit Bob Cringely into pornography without getting sued.
    • Pornography featuring Cringely.

      Somebody tell the Supreme Court we've got that ironclad, airtight definition of obscenity they're looking for.

  • by crovira (10242) on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:19PM (#3208421) Homepage
    Hmm. I wonder what made him think that up? This sounds like getting on a buzzword bandwagon.

    While its a fine concept, letting the viewer have some control, its only control over some of the parameters of the show not really its content and those parameters are narowly defined by the show's producers.

    There's really very little that can be done with raw footage. The creative control comes with the direction and that happens before the cameras are rolling.

    It would be more useful to be in on the writer's metings or the story/editorial selection.

    Raw footage would only be good for people with access to the technology to cut and splice and produce a segment. (Oh wait. that's anybody with a Mac and iMovie. :-)

    Bottom line is, if you don't get to pick WHERE to aim the cam, you don't have much control over the content. If you don't get to pick HOW you aim the cam, you don't have much creative control either.

    Try it again cringely.
  • by dark_panda (177006) on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:20PM (#3208429)
    Maybe then we wouldn't have to put up with Jar Jar for another two episodes.

    J
    • Maybe then we wouldn't have to put up with Jar Jar for another two episodes.

      You laugh, but had Star Wars been released under a free license a lot of us would have gladly edited out Jar Jar, not to mention the stupid, hollywood messiah-syndrome nonsense about Anakin being the "chosen one", returning the myth back to where it belongs: based on a more eastern notion of the "force" being a natural metaphysical thing, without prophecy, second commings, and other Christian nonsense.

      Think of how much more enjoyable the knockoff films would have been, simply by undoing the huge gaffes Lucas managed to pull on SW Ep.1 ... not to mention the amount of really cool fan fiction set in that universe that could have been made into entertaining shorts and even 3rd party feature films.

      That aspect of our pop culture would have been much richer for it ... as would pretty much any aspect of popular culture were it not under the control of Cartels excersizing government granted and enforced monopolies.
  • X has a point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Denito (196701)
    Ok, so the stuff about multiple versions is a bit hokey, but otherwise I love it.

    The aspect that I like is that he is calling attention to a really weird aspect of the broadcast => net transition: that distributing a 'free' broadcast show over the net is viewed as nasty piracy.

    Example: I happen to be a fan of the CART racing series. There is no broadcast agreement here in Denmark, so I can't see the races. Even thought these races are shown on broadcast TV, people are scared to DivX them and put them out on the net, cuz the rights are in question.

    If such a broadcast were GPL'd, the show could be shared, creating fans.

    Also, before /. gets into nitpicking the details, remember while that Mr. X may be muy creative, but when was the last time that guy had a polished idea? (aside from the shared dsl stuff)...

    -Dennis

  • The concept in itself is not too bad, but the whole notion of "open-source tv" is ridiculous.

    It's basicaly the same as "open-source cooking". And no, open source cooking doesn't just mean you make the recipe available.

    How is open source cooking any different from closed source cooking? Not much.
    To have true open source cooking, you need to share the recipe, share the methods, and, more importantly, let other people contribute to the recipe, create derivation dishes, integrate your recipe with their own.

    What about open source tv?

    What is TV about? Creating? Sharing? No. It's about distributing. If I make a video tape of myself goofing around, it's just a video tape. If I distribute it on a TV network, suddenly it's TV.

    So, if you want open source TV, you have to provide a means of open sourcing the distribution process, making it available for comment and participation, for knowledge and for change. It's not about making raw footage available. It's about letting people contribute to the footage, influence the editing process, influence the selection of themes, contribute their own.

    That's what open source is. That's not what I read in the article. We're not there yet.

  • Would this really be all that interesting? Personally, have access to raw footage isn't all that appealing. It's not like open source software where i can change the code and actually change the functionality. Just seems rather pointless to me.

    It's not pointless at all. Get some content editing skills, maybe you'll appreciate content.

    On one hand, it's quite common to remix or remake songs. It's true that anything on a major-label CD has all of the proper consent/royalties taken care of, but major labels are a small fraction of the world of music.

    When it comes down to it, nobody *really* controls music. No lawyer is going to harass you for riffing Led Zeppelin or whatever in concert. Ever heard of a tribute band? Concert bootlegs? Deejay mixtapes?

    On the other hand, images and movies are tightly controlled, even the quality of consumer-grade video recording devices is being restricted now that major electronics companies have "digital piracy" on the brain.

    Yeah, maybe there's not much you can do with Cringely's talking head, but then again, maybe there is. Either way, it's a big statement.
  • He shouldn't release the raw footage. At the very least, don't download it from www.microsoft.com... they might be tempted to do a little "creative editing".
  • by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:26PM (#3208477) Homepage Journal
    1. When is /. just going to get rights to post Cringely's columns? 50% of them make the main queue, he's certainly more popular then Katz.
    2. Cringley is careful in the beginning to make it clear the video isn't meant to streamed but downloaded and watched later, shared around, put on p2p networks. Then he goes on to explain that the necessary bandwidth has been made available. So what of it; just make it streaming in an easily savable format and ask folks to share, why make a big deal of it?
    3. Four versions is an interesting idea. More interesting would be to use something like SMIL [w3.org] to let folks navigate their own way through the video, in effect hyperlink it. If the intro blurb interests you get the expanded version or go right to the source material. Embed citations and links to outside material right in the stream so folks can pop out to follow up references. There's no need to make it just like linear video-only TV, stick in real material folks can pull out.
    4. Personally I'm glad it appears the column will be kept, or perhaps expanded. Frankly I'm never excited to watch things on my monitor but prefer to read them. I've got a TV tuner and plenty of codecs, a fine screen and all but still I prefer my video on the TV laying on the couch with my feet up. Even when I do watch webcasts I find myself cutting out halfway through to come back later and read the transcript, check the commentary. Indeed I'd prefer this the other way round: Read the column and jump to the video if I'm intrigued.
    5. Finally comes the dreaded format issues: Which? I suppose this depends a lot on the sponsor really. If it's Apple then will there be non-QT or at least non-Soronson versions? (QT 6 with MPEG4 anyone?) If MS non MS-specific versions? If Real ones that don't require their ghastly "Player" miscegenation? There are lots of possibilities here, I just hope we don't get a talking-head production aping "The Computer Chronicles" or TechTV.

  • by GMontag (42283)
    Just goes to show ya, I should follow my own advice at least *some* of the time.

    I was going to do almost the same thing, a couple of years ago. The only people that heard about it were my friends in Northern VA and East TN that were going to participate.

    Primary difference was that the finished product would be licensed only to be cut or "bleeped" for use on broadcast medium or to satisfy policy requirements of sites that served it. No other editing. No additional material could be added. But, like Cringly, all origonal material would be available.

    Yes, I knew full well that people may cut/chop/enhance/otherwise-butcher in spite of the license, but all a license really amounts to is a "wish" in writing, so no big deal there.

    Now I have an apartment full of various computers in various states of disrepair (projects that delayed work on the show) and never got to step 2 of getting the "Montag and Scary Dave Show" onto the small screen (step 2, get a camera).

    Anyway, my advice to others is to write this stuff down, publish it on the net and let others use your idea no matter if you ever get going on the project. Well, let others use it if it is going to be an Open project that is.

    Slashdot has that handy journal thingie, use that if you don't want to mess with anything else (yes, mine is still empty).
  • Larger and larger parts of movies are now computer animated, and there are more and more completely computer animated movies as well; home hardware will only be getting more powerful (I know because I've read that in some prediction lists), so it should be just a matter of time, until someone (probably an indie movie maker) starts releasing the "source code" to their movies? i.e. whatever pre-rendered format the movie is in which can be modified to produce the movie you like.

    This probably won't be technologically possible for a few years yet, and it would need a commonly accessible (likely open source or free - speech and beer) 3D platform, which will eventually emerge (I would think). Right now these movies are still voiced by actors, but certainly text to speech software, with some sort of "intonation markup" that's good enough for a movie isn't far behind the visuals?

    Think about it, this actually has uses beyond making all the women in the movie naked all the time (though that will undoubtedly be the most popular) - let's say after the movie enjoys it's theatrical run, and makes the money it was going to make, the creators release all the characters, both the models and the voice "engines" (whatever shape that make take), the objects and the environments for it - sure it will be a few hundred gigs, but we are talking several years from now, hell they could even stick it on the DVD5 (or whatever it is by then) rental disk. And voila - you can have the Episode I without Jar Jar and with an actual plot - your imagination is the only limit.

    I know none of the studios would ever go for anything like this, but that's not what I am rambling about here (besides, by that time they've either evolved with the times, or they already have all our money and own our children anyway). But it's not hard to see movies being created in our familiar sort of "community process" You could think of the traditional movie sequels as the major versions of commercial software, and the "free" movies would be constantly "patched" and evolve with time. Wouldn't it be cool for your favorite movies to be slightly different each time you rewatch them?

    Anyway, I've been up for like 30 hours, needed a good ramble.

  • From an ameteur film editing perspective, it is a wildly creative idea to have someone share their raw footage.

    It seems very akin to sharing source, with the exception that it's far easier for the end user/viewer to ascertain where the original source footage came from.

    Cool idea- I hope it works.
  • I should admit beforehand that I haven't read the article, because I don't like Cringley very much, but I have given some thought to the application of "Open source" to things like books, movies, and TV.

    I think my conclusion is "No."

    Software is something we use every day, and if there's a new improved version, then it's eagerly snapped up and put to use.

    Movies, stories, and TV aren't like this. People don't re-read a book unless it's an absolutely exceptional one, and given that that's the case, you're not likely to believe that it should be touched up.

    Granted, recent movie trends might be proving me incorrect, but if they started releasing E.T. every few years, insisting that it's improved from the last one, would you continue to go?

    The only way the "Open" concept applies, IMHO, is in facilitating a more two-way (or N-way) communication, instead of the traditional one-way medium, and I think there are only very superficial resemblances with the philosophies of open-source software.

    • The one exception to what you are describing is what could be collectively called "Reference Works".

      This would include things like the CRC Handbooks, Telephone directories, Specifications (like RFC's), alumni lists, maps, gazeteers, etc. (I can go on and on here... but I hope this gets the point across).

      This is one area where an "open source" book of a more traditional sort would be of exceptional value. The DMOZ [dmoz.org] web site is a good example of what could be done as a collaborative effort, and I think there would be some good that came out of some efforts like this.

      I would have to agree though, that an open source version of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings" would be a stupid application of the principle, or for a better example, Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" (which is in the public domain right now). Sure, you can "modify" the speech, apply poetic license to it, or even rework it for your own use (many US Presidents already have). But to release the "Gettysburg Address v. 2.0" would be just stupid.

      That said, even in this case it would be useful to have a public document (like the Gutenberg Project) where you can review the document for historical accuracy, and through a peer reviewed process update grammar and spelling errors that have been propogated over time. But I digress at this point.
  • by IPFreely (47576) <mark@mwiley.org> on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:37PM (#3208551) Homepage Journal
    Hollings and the MPAA are going on about how broadband is being hindered because large video content is not available online.

    If the MPAA is suddenly flooded with lots of open media and home grown video with a somewhat open license, would it kill yet another one of their lame excuses?
    I'd like to see something like this take off just to see how the open content would fly in an open environment. If open video content takes off like open source has, then the MPAA would not be able to restrict hardware as much as they would like to.

    The MPAA would like to see home entertainment as read-only, not only to make it that much harder to copy, but also to eleminate competition from independant producers. Private individuals would demand to have high performance mixing/editing studios in their PCs and home entertainment systems to edit home movies and private projects. Congress would have a harder time shutting down that type of demand. Once the editing capabilities are available, the content protection becomes that much harder to maintain, and that much more obvious to those facing it. It would no longer be a "hacker" problem, but visible to a large percentage of the population.

  • by babymac (312364) <ph33d@@@charter...net> on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:38PM (#3208559) Homepage
    I submitted an "Ask Slashdot" story along these same lines months ago.

    Every time I read a story that relates to technology and politics, one discussion thread always floats to the top: "We need to educate the public!"

    My suggestion is that the Slashdot community organize and form their own local community access TV shows. A web site should be started that:

    1. Gives tips on how to start your CATV show.
    2. Tries to form a consistent show format.
    3. Discusses show story ideas.
    4. Offers on-air graphics for download.

    The purpose of this show would be to educate the public about technology and the law. Teach the people how to install an open source OS! Have a call-in section of the show. Discuss the impact of the DMCA and the SSSCA. Discuss the impact of monopolies and intellectual property restrictions. Broadcast clear and direct means of contacting your local politicians. You get the idea...

    If a show that looked consistent enough from city to city were to take hold, it could be a significant force in shaping public opinion.

  • Well?

    Should I be able to take one of his articles and rearrange it anyway I like (as you're suggesting for this tv show)? You know that by rearranging the words I can basically make Cringly say anything I want! Does he really want that? How is that useful in any way? Some of the worst posts on /. come from taking things out of context or combining mixmatched quotes. Not we're going to have OSS news shows and (why not also) articles that anyone can take any part of and rearrange to suit their own interest reguardless of the intent of the original author? What's the point? Don't we have enough disinformation already?

  • If you're going to release the real "source" for a TV production, it's not the footage, it's the script (or your original ideas).

    For example, in the world of theatre, you can write a play, and it can be done by any number of people or theatre companies, but the play itself doesn't change. The actors (and location, and props, etc.) are the "hardware" on which the "software" of the play "runs". (Sorry for all those "quotes"!)

    You could release a play under the GPL - people would have the right to alter it as they saw fit, as long as their version was modifiable as well.

    Of course, the difference is that, with computers, you ideally get identical results with the same software on different hardware, but with the hardware being different people in different places, your play is always going to produce different results. I suppose it would be a better analogy to say that the "software" in the case of theatre accepts variables which can change the outcome.

    With TV (or movies), you're just recording an iteration of the software on a given set of hardware and variables.

    If it's not a straightforward production with a script, then it's the ideas behind the production that are the software.

    Say, for example, that you're a director, and you have this great idea for a sequence of video segments that would be really cool and amazing and everything. You try it out - you get some people together (if required) and film it, and make your little montage or music video or whatever. Your ideas are the software, and you and everything else involved is the hardware. If you don't like the way it runs (the final result), you reconsider your ideas and try again - like fixing bugs or altering features.

    Ultimately, if you're going to record an iteration of your software, it's great to make the "raw footage" of that recording "open" to everyone, but you should make your ideas open, as well. Say that anyone can use your idea so long as when anyone else uses your idea to produce something, their production is open as well, and they don't claim the idea as their own...

    Well, really I just think scripts should be GPL'd, and this is my reasoning, and this was a convenient article on which to vent about it.

    Down with starving actors having to pay royalties to scriptwriters just to put on a production!

    "but how do the scriptwriters make money?"

    Duh! They act as well! Just like Shakespeare...
  • This is where Peer to Peer would finally attain legitimacy. One person puts it on the P2P network and soon it propogates itself a zillion times over (assuming people want to see it). Then no one has to control the means of distribution, it just becomes "out there."

    This has been one of the main (if not few) legitimate uses of P2P systems. If things like this don't start happening soon, some malinformed judges may begin ruling against P2P systems.

    It seems obvious to me, anyway.

    -Slashdolt
  • by FreeUser (11483) on Friday March 22, 2002 @02:52PM (#3208682)
    From many of the comments here I can see that almost no one understands what Free Media is about. Not surprising, as numerous people posting the other threads don't understand what Free Software is about, and the two philosophies share a lot in common.

    First, Free Media is not a new concept. Many of us have been kicking around the idea for some time. My own work, Autonomy [expressivefreedom.org] is going to be licensed under a free license (you can see a draft of one possible license here [expressivefreedom.org]), and there are numerous other projects as well (OpenContent [harvard.edu] and Copyright's Commons [harvard.edu] to name just two).

    Free Media is about creating a public commons of content that others can use, modify, copy, redistribute, and incorporate into their own projects freely. There are caveates (like you have to make clear the end product is different from what the original creator may have intended), but the idea is that you could, for example, take an old Gilligan's Island rerun, colorize it, do some digital overlays, change the soundtrack, and add some more creative editing to create Alien Island ... and let everyone watch the Skipper and Gilligan get hunted by Sigorny Weaver's Nemesis.

    adamy writes "A ditital Camera, and A Website [is all you need]", adding "I don't think anyone would want the Raw footage, just the edited stuff." Again, this completely misses the point. Maybe you'd like to redo the special effects of an old movie and the original green-screen (or blue screen) footage is exactly what you want. Maybe you want to do a documentary on how documentaries slant information ... in which case the raw footage, particularly that which isn't part of the final cut, is what interests you.

    Free Media is about empowering artists to build upon the works of others, and to stop having to reinvent the wheel for every project (which really only the big studios can afford to do ... and they can cross-license copyrighted works anyway). The idea that consumers get the product for little or no cost is completely irrelevant ... a nice side effect of the Freedom being offered perhaps, but by no means the point of it.

    As for 'Open Source' television already existing ... not in any reasonable or analogous sense that we mean when we say 'open source' software. Shows on local access are copyrighted ... you can't take them and incorporate them into your work, or rebroadcast them, or copy them, without express permission of the author. The are not free. The same goes for Zed by all accounts ... they're happy to take your content (and pay you a nominal fee), then subject it to the same onerous copyright restrictions that plague the rest of the mass media offerings. Aside from a novel way of trolling for content it, too, is neither free nor open in the sense that slashdotters understand the word. That is not to say it isn't innovative (it is), but so long as others cannot take and build upon the work freely it is not free (as in freedom), and has nothing to do with Free Media and Cringley's flirtation with it.
    • Maybe you want to do a documentary on how documentaries slant information ... in which case the raw footage, particularly that which isn't part of the final cut, is what interests you.

      /*begin OT rant
      If I could get the raw footage for some of these crappy "news magazine" shows (Dateline NBC, Primetime Live, 60 Minutes, 20/20, etc.) the shows might have some value to me.

      Virtually every episode of every one of these shows I've ever seen is obviously (badly) edited to present a slanted view on the topic. Even when their slant happens to agree with mine (not very often!), it pisses me off. If I already have an opinion on the topic, I want it challenged and I want both sides presented objectively so others who haven't formed an opinion can do so effectively.

      Every time I see someone interviewed on one of those shows, I imagine the interviewee in his/her living room screaming "That's not what I said!" as I'm watching it.
      /*end OT rant

      To bring this back on topic, I kinda dig the idea Cringely's kicking around. For episodes of his show dealing with subjects/people that I'm particularly interested in it would be really cool to see the raw footage. For things slightly less interesting to me, the "nerd" edition would fit the bill.
  • Basically, Cringley would like to create an online TV show, but the costs of providing all this bandwidth could bankrupt Saudi Arabia.

    The article seems to be about his TV show idea, but really the central question is: "How can I get people with lots of bandwidth to donate it to my cause?"

    Many, many people besides Cringely are capable of putting together great programming that deserves a wide audience. But there's no mechanism in place to find sufficient bandwidth for aspiring alternative TV producers. If someone could start an alternative TV bandwidth clearinghouse, we'd have a world-changing resource for niche TV producers everywhere.

    But then, perhaps Cringely has offered his own solution for would-be alternative TV producers: start out on the net, and cultivate a huge audience by publishing weekly articles. When you get popular enough, tell your readership that you want to switch to TV format, but they need to foot the bill. Then cross you fingers.

    Cringely's admittedly unorthodox approach seems like it might be a work -- for him. We'll see. In the meantime, hopefully, other superior mechanisms for bootstrapping your homemade TV show onto the Internet will evolve.

  • What would be cool is if every Editor Edition dvd came with most of the raw footage (that's what you'd need 27GB dvds for I guess) that is remotely watchable, and instead of would-be editors trying to redistribute their own editions in GB portions, they could distribute their edit decision list (EDL) and anyone else with that movie could download it and have their player put the edits together. Editing and remixing the sound the sound would require a lot of work.

    Huge communities of EDL trading could spring up, where different editors would cater to any audience (only the action parts? or just the sex scenes? the Memento edit with scenes in reverse order? ever read a review where the critic criticized the overly fast 'MTV style' editing: well now he can slow it down!).

    The problem is that the cost of developing all that film would be enormous (notice how missing scenes on SE dvds are sometimes in video, with the running clock at the bottom - they didn't actually process the film in the can, but just took the video from the on-board video camera they have to review shots immediately with), and special effects, CG backdrops or whatever would also be costly to duplicate for scenes that won't even be in theatres (of course, all the easier to make a Jar-Jar free movie if you have the scenes without him composited in).

    I don't find most TV shows to be compelling enough that I'd want to re-edit them, but maybe it's a step in the right direction.
  • I know that I'll get in trouble for showing my ignorance, not to mention my lack of grammar or my atrocious spelling ability, but I have a question about the storie's line about "free as in beer".

    I remember when I wanted to know where "all your bases..." came from. I asked in a semi relevant article and someone was nice enough to point me in the right direction. While I'm sure that there is a deep philosophical meaning, I wonder what "free as in beer" refers to. Of course, beer is not free, and so I'm curious if the phrase means that beer should be free, or that free might mean something else in these cases.

    Sorry to bother the community at large, but if any would be so kind to fill me in on this one, I would appreciate it.

    Thanks
  • The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. [www.cbc.ca] has started a "Open Source Television" program called ZeD. The development of the program is done online, collaboratively(sp?) from the ZeD website. [zed.cbc.ca]

    The show's pilot broadcast is running on CBC at 11:25 weeknights from 18-May-02 thru 12-April-02.

    Not quite what Cringly is describing, but very interesting non-the-less.

  • The idea of downloading a single copy of the show to a large local network, then redistributing it internally significantly reduces the bandwidth needs of the provider, as well as the corporate internet pipe needs. Internal networks are cheap. It makes sense to utilize them as much as possible. This way you get high quality video at a lower cost, a double faced benefit.

    -Restil
  • Business Model? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joshuaos (243047) <ouroboros@freedom[ ].com ['ent' in gap]> on Friday March 22, 2002 @04:29PM (#3209359) Journal
    I think this is a very interesting idea, as I would quite like to see a geek talk show, and I would also like to see the release of the un-edited data. Maybe Cringly could pull it off with the weight of PBS behind it, but perhaps this would be a a good application for the Street Performer Protocol [firstmonday.dk] (maybe slightly modified?). Of course, you'd probably want to do the entire first season and release it free (beer and speech) and then ask for contributions towards the second season, so it would be quite a while until you get any return.

    For years, I've heard many on slashdot and other geek blogs talk about how they would pay for good, free (as in speech) content. Here is some proposed content for the internet, for geeks. I would like to see a really good opportunity for all those geeks (me included!) to put our money where are posts are. If the first season was good, and I enjoyed it, I would give $10 or $20 towards the second season.

    And after a few seasons, if this was succesful, it would start to pave the way for other media released using the internet, and perhaps even this business model, maybe books or music or other shows. I think that eventually this could be a great concept to fund OSS development projects. Sooner or later, we're going to have to start the next generation of publishing companies. I envision it being a little like a blog, where you can see what new media is on offer, and what is waiting for funding, contribute to projects you like, and when things are released, they are released to everyone.

    Cheers, Joshua

  • Gee whiz, pretty soon I bet we'll be hearing about wireless television!

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