Spin Flow

Spin Flow

the fine art of moving digital media

the fine art of moving digital media

an Outhink sponsored community website about media production for the creative professional

an Outhink sponsored community website about media production for the creative professional

Collaborative Video

Vid_jammingChemical Reactions

Do you like to get high?

Did you know that an Atlanta clinical study of 32 women is reported to have observed a five times increase in levels of dopamine production during collaboration?

Kathy Sierra, who helps create passionate users, seems to knows about it. Yossi Verdi of Many2Many knows it for sure and I imagine that most of the 28 people who participated in Videoblogging Week 2005 can elaborate on the euphoric effects of collaboration too. 

Ask Zadi Diaz. Ask Steve Garfield. Ask Renegade. Ask The Voiz.

I asked Ryanne Hodson (see interview in SpinFlow News).  I didn't have to ask Jay Dedman (see his post) and it came up naturally in conversation with Michael Meiser (see commentary).

There are so many ways to collaborate and it is happening all around us.  Many different kinds of interesting collaborations are taking place around video and I'd like to share just a little of what I've been able to find out on the Internet, in dark nets and in real space.

May You Live In Interesting Times

The past few weeks have seen a number of very interesting events in the world of collaborative video...

First, we already reported a while back that a Josh Leo and Phil Hamilton had collaborated to create a great little spilt-screen video of the two of them playing music together, long distance.  Phil is located near Boston and Josh is in Michigan.

VbheaderThen, Ryanne Hodson, a young video artist in NYC, posted a notice in the Yahoo Videoblogging Group declaring the grand opening of a video blog tribute to one of the major collaborative video events of the year: Videoblogging Week 2005, an international event, March 27th - April 2nd: 28 videobloggers, 7 days.

Ryanne was recently profiled in SpinFlow for her collaborative work with Michael Verdi on the freevlog.org site.  Freevlog is a place where you can find great video tutorials that will walk you through every step of creating a free video blog. They also have tutorials that guide you through publishing your videos to the net using web services like archive.org, flickr.com, mefeedia.com, ourmedia.org and feedburner.com. Recent site enhancements include new tutorials on video compression and a growing list of new "vloggers".  More great collaborative work.

I asked Ryanne to elaborate on this incredible week of video collaboration.  Ryanne can be quite terse and to the point, which is one of the things I like about her.  But, in this case, she delighted me with wonderfully detailed and candid responses to my questions.

AlexcollabAlso, Alex Williams, who is  managing director of Corante Events and manages their on and offline programming has been helping to bring people together for weekly video conferences to discuss a range of topics related to new media in general and video in particular.

Click here, or on the pic to the right,  to see a sample from today's conference in which Nathan Peters is discussing music and video collaboration.

Alex is also organizing the hip "Podcast Hotel" collaboration "where art and commerce meet" coming up in Portland in September 6th and 7th.

There's more. In San Francisco this past weekend, Rene Amini (aka, renegade), a digital artist and web designer specializing in art, entertainment, campaigns and e-learning is mixing together five second video clips that members of the Yahoo! Videoblogging Group have contributed.

My Photo Renegade is also instrumental in initiating the Green Thing artmail/video project in which she sends out pieces of her magic video cloth and people integrate them into their works, usually as some form of green-screen effect.  Then they pass the cloth on to another person, usually through the mail, adding creatively to the real world envelopes that carry these special pieces of fabric.  Custom postage stamps and cancellation marks give clues to the path traveled by each piece of cloth. 

She recently announced that she entered the entire Green Thing project into Memefest 2005, which will announce the results on June 23rd.  Not that's what I call collaboration and motivation!  Renegade sent me one of those Green Things and so I'd better finish this article fast and get hopping on that.

Shannon Noble combines the works of three other vloggers and uses them in his own experimental videos in order to enhance his edting skills. One of those people, Charlene (aka, scratch) is a documentary film editor in NYC by day, who makes small pieces by night including the Exquisite Corpse projects you can find on her sidebar.

As if that were not enough, Eric Rice just up and challenged everyone to a week of music videoblogging using freely available music that is licensed for such use.  Some entries are already starting to appear, including one from Ryanne already.

And a last minute update: Today, an announcement was made that a member of Senator John Edwards staff had been working with Michael Verdi, Jay Dedman and others from the Rocketboom and ANT teams to help launch a video blog where people can submit questions in video format and then Edwards responds with videos of his own.  This is just one of the many ways that people are using video to get together and discuss issues.  Here is a link to the Rocketboom piece on this.

Taking It To The Streets

Another form of collaboration involves meet-ups and conferences. BlogHer will take place at the end of July in Santa Clara. Ryanne will be presenting along with well known podcaster Lisa Williams and others.  Ryanne has recently started listing fellow vloggers on her site by gender and has shouted out to both genders to help fix the ratio.  We hear you!  I'm helping my wife Alicia get set up.  Of course, we just follow the tutorials over at freevlog.org

Ryanne ought to know about the benefits of working with those close to you and who you care about. Ryanne works closely with Jay Dedman on many video and teaching projects.  Their real world chemistry comes through in their work together.

My PhotoOf course, one of the main forms of collaboration is teaching and when you talk about teaching video to the people, you have to talk about Jay.  He's been helping people express themselves with on-line video and blogging long before many of us bought our first digital video camera.  Soon after Ryanne's post, he made one on his own momentshowing.net blog about Videoblogging Week 2004 and pointed out the original aggregation site. 

While much smaller and perhaps in need of little link repair, it still stands as a great source of inspiration for us today.  You can still find Jay and Steve Garfield's early videos there and journey back to a time (not so long ago) where there were only 4 vloggers (5 by the end of the week) who answered the call in 2004.

RichMany companies are also stirring up the audio and video collaboration soup at digital media schools.  Dave Toole and graphic designer Rich Pascual facilitated a hands-on collaborative event between digital audio students at the Ex'pression College for Digital Art in Emeryville, California.  Dave and his crew have been busy introducing p2p media collaboration to teams of creative professionals.  Check out some of the Ex'pression College student's collaborative and individual work in their DV gallery.

Finally, we are in the process of creating a SpinFlow "street team" of audio and video students at schools and universities who will go out and help people learn to use collaborative tools to express themselves and remove barriers to creativity.

Mixed-up Bastards

Without a doubt, it's a re-mix, mash-up, collaborative world.  Look up "mash-up" on Wikipedia and you'll be redirected to the "Bastard pop" music definition, which it defines as:

Bastard pop is a musical genre which, in its purest form, consists of the combination (usually by digital means) of the music from one song with the acapella from another. Typically, the music and vocals belong to completely different genres. At their best, bastard pop songs strive for musical epiphanies that add up to considerably more than the sum of their parts.

Another form of collaboration is derivation.  Here people take existing audio and video from the "Creative Commons".  Again, Josh Leo comes to mind with his "We Are The Media".  In this case, those commons being found mainly in the Prelinger Collection of the Internet Archive.  Here you can find all kinds of digital video and audio recordings that you can use in your own works.  CCMixter is also a great site for audio loops and re-mixes.  Building on top of what others have already done is one of my favorite forms of collaboration.  I could write a separate article on just this topic alone.  There are lot's of great mash-up videos worth watching.

Something Wiki This Way Comes

Think wiki!  Wiki is not just software, it is a state of mind and culture where we re-mix each others work, each adding their own special contribution, with only the best of the best surviving through the re-writes and re-edits. Until you have really participated, it is hard to understand the full effect.  The benefits of wiki are so obvious that it is hard to explain to people.  The benefits of collaboration are even more subtle at times. 

Have you really used a wiki before?  I don't mean have you tried one out and corrected a typo.   I mean did you "really" use it.  Have you felt what it's like to "let go" and watch others build on, re-work and refine your contributions?  It can be a bit disconcerting at first, especially if you are a control freak. You need to be able to just let go.  It's a wonderfully freeing feeling actually.

Jon Udell has made a great video where you can watch the fascinating story of the evolution of the collaboratively built Wikipedia entry on the Umlaut in heavy Metal music.  He took what others had built, collaboratively, and then made a screencast from the archived trail of their work and the thwarted attempts of vandals to stop them.  Remember: it's hard to stop a truly collaborative force and there's no rest for the wiki.

Ross Mayfield, president of Socialtext, a provider of commercial wiki services, has posted about how wiki's can be a boon to collaboration in TV production applications.

Not TV, SpinCasting

So how do you get in on all this great video and audio? This is Not TV. There's no station to tune in, but there are channels. For me, it's much more interactive and, dare I say, collaborative. 

First you need a good aggregator to pull in all the great media and serve it to you on a silver platter.  For me and many many others that means FireANT, a free tool for Mac's and Pc's that pulls media from newsfeeds (i.e., blogs).  Kind of like podcasting, only better - it handles both video and audio. Some really great video feeds come already set up when you install and more are being added to the on-line directories every day. My favorite place to look for new feeds is on del.icio.us under the antfeeds tag.  (by the way, Renegade has a great video about del.icio.us and tags)

But watch out!  Don't expect too much video that's suited for kicking back on the couch.  View a few of the vids from Videoblogging Week 2005 and you'll be itching to make some of your own.  And that's collaboration too because you're inspired by others.

Second, you need a way to work with your peers.  Some people can set aside FTP space on a server where people can exchange the media they are working with. Some try setting up virtual private networks (VPN's), which are cool if they have the time. There are now even some on-line services that facilitate working in small private, work-groups.

Even easier is setting up direct connections across the net using a peer-to-peer solution.  With tools like that you don't need to create accounts, fuss with firewalls, set permissions or ask IT or your ISP for help.  All barriers to creativity.  A good collaboration tool will make it as simple as drag, drop and click in order to share and review the results of your collaborative efforts.

Peered technologies, together with standard web services can be used to create ad-hoc, secure, private networks where people can collaborate on audio and video projects.  Free collaboration and file sharing applications are now being used by leading creative professionals to exchange files quickly, easily and cheaply!

Tools like this make it easy to form small groups where you can exchange files of any size and where you can gather, re-mix, review and publish.  Anyone can publish to the web using standard protocols like HTTP, FTP and Bittorent or you can go long-tail and setup secure, private, invitation-only, media distribution channels using peered RSS.  Basically anyone can now set up their own broadcast systems at very little cost.

And how will you find what you want when every person, business or government organization has their own channel?  Collaboration, of course.  Your friends and colleauges will help you locate the best material, forming a trusted network.  This is where tagging becomes really important.

Hook up a newsfeed with media enclosures and you can then serve up media to anyone with a browser or an aggregator, direct from your desktop or web server.  When you can do this with simple drop and drag operations, we call this "SpinCasting", a form of media casting based on both public and private, secure, invitation-only small group networks (I'm working on a video tutorial and how-to article on this using SpinXpress as a follow-up to this article).  In some ways, this is similar to "peer casting".  Digital Bicycle is a peer casting community built around Bram Cohen's Bittorent.

Collaborative Ecosystems

So where does all this lead?  More collaborative video, of course. We are all in the process of creating an ecosystem for collaboration and video is a crucial element (as is audio).

Michael_ichatMichael Verdi iChatted me while I was writing this article this past weekend just because he had heard about some of the great things we want to do here at SpinFlow with getting people to learn to SpinCast videos.  I have to include the snapshot of him as he signed off, full of questions and ideas.  I love the smile on his face.

In the FeedFest video conference today, Thomas G Henry remarked that "video adds a powerful dimension to collaboration and interaction".  I agree.

As another example, I recently introduced myself to someone and offered up a character reference from a third party we both knew (trusted networks). They responded that they really did not need the reference as "your videos speak volumes".  I was thrilled to hear this.  It's really is why I make them, so that I can share our story and vision in order to find the people I want to collaborate with.

I used video in just this way to first get Ryanne Hodson's attention and interest her in what we are doing with Spinflow.  Yet one more use of video to facilitate collaboration.

Tivo Can't Help You Now

To paraphrase Alfonso Bedoya, with tools like these you don't need no stinking Tivos.  It won't help anyway, unless they now come with a few extra hours in the day; video professionals and amateurs alike probably get less sleep than most people.

But how do people find time for all of this?  Often, when so many people contribute to a great thing, it is difficult to reward everyone appropriately for their work and so, like many artists, they are left to pursue these collaborative efforts in their "spare time". 

Now I'm part Scot and we don't do very well with concepts like "spare time" and "spare change".  But until you participate, it is difficult to understand the joy that comes from pursuing this passion and, if you do, it will become difficult to understand how not to.

That's when the BIG question hits you: how do I do this and get paid?  Some are lucky and find a dream job.  Most have to fit it in around their work.  So perhaps the most important form of collaboration is the one where we support each other financially.

A Call To Collaborate

What can you do?  You can participate for one.  But don't just watch.  Join in and create your own audio and video contributions.  Get together with your friends or colleagues and make a movie.   Then share it on the web or in the appropriate groups.  And here too!  Please leave a comment about what you are doing or suggestions for new collaborative projects.

And donate please.  Many collaborative artists and teams have PayPal buttons you can click on to quickly help out.  Give it a try, it's fun and you'll feel great.  I personally gave $200 to ANT the other day. I know someone who gave even more. Collaborate and match that!

If you are a corporation who benefits from these collaborative works or, more importantly, markets to audio and video professionals, then where are you?  Please come and join us in helping support creative professionals in the pursuit of their passions.  We are just doing a little and you could too.  Adopt a creative professional, they'll send you email and nifty videos that you can point to and say "Look what we helped do!". 

Spinxpress_logoOuthink is sponsoring Ryanne, Michael and others so they can pursue their passions.  They generously sponsor me so that I can pursue mine and share it in this blog. Why? 

There are many reasons. First, we are trying to work with creative professionals on a number of levels to help understand how we can offer great products and services.  You can't create passionate users by developing in a vacuum.  These sponsorships give us direct access to people who can really clue us in to what's important to them and what helps them.

Also, we believe that is better to seek out and support creative people and teams who are already successfully creating things than it is to waste money on mindless advertising campaigns, silly promotions or wasteful R&D.  We believe in the disintermediation of gatekeepers. 

We do it because we truly believe in what Kathy Sierra has taught us: it will help your users kick butt!

Last, we do it because we believe in raising the level of the quality of our conversations and we believe that creative professionals are key in doing that.  We believe that we can all benefit by working together and that a new human culture can be architected through a collaborative effort with creative professionals, and video, leading the way.

Posted by apperceptions on May 31, 2005 at 10:16 PM in Distribution, Events, Music, SpinXpress, Videoblogging, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Speed Jamming, The Basics

Speedjamming Outhink was founded by a musician and we talk about the idea of "speed jamming" a song around the world using secure P2P technology to enable a band to assemble, play together and move on to new projects anywhere, anytime.

Some time back, Gary Hall discussed in his article "Bands Without Borders" some of the basic issues a group of musicians must address just to share the files they use. But the "major challenge" is actually the ease and speed with which artists can respond to one another.

A speed jam, a virtual band playing together, riffing off of one another as a file moves around the world, is a "band without a border", the concept which originally attracted us to this article.

There are a number of things to take into account when planning a musical collaboration. Understanding the issues can help smooth the path and clarify whether it makes sense to use a dedicated service provider to help in storage and project management.

The major challenges in exchanging music and audio files are deciding what kinds of data will be exchanged, keeping the transfer times acceptable, and ensuring that the files remain compatible between parties. You must also make sure that the playback is the same (or close enough) at both ends and that the projects stay in sync so that everyone involved is looking at the same thing. All of those issues are solvable, but not trivial. The last point, in particular, requires ongoing management....

Using audio data also ensures that the receiving party hears “exactly” (taking into account the monitoring system) what the sender intended. Audio data can be of extremely high fidelity (24 bits at 96 kHz is now common) as long as you're willing to deal with significant transfer times.

The biggest drawback to collaborating with uncompressed audio files is, of course, their bulk. Full-length files, especially multichannel files, can require an hour or more to download. With common asymmetrical home connections, the upload time may be considerably worse. Raw audio files also convey little of the production information often needed for collaboration.

Choosing a file format to work in, especially a lossless one, is a matter of preference.  With faster networks and a P2P architecture that distributes files across a workgroup so that musicians can collaborate, the vision of a global speed jam is almost a reality - Mitch.

Icon_speedjammingAddendum: I have resurrected and added to (re-mix'ed?) this original article of Mitch's as I would like to kick off a series of articles by various people on the general topic of Speed Jamming.  Speed Jamming is part of the SpinFlow discipline (grasshopper).  Like SpinFlow, Speed Jamming is also about movement.

Creative Commons sampling+We'll use this cool little Speed Jamming icon that Rich whipped up for us to mark and connect this series. Rich also created the larger graphic for this article and we'd like to encourage SpinFlow members to modify it or create new ones for use in future articles.  We are releasing these images under the Creative Commons Sample+ license, so please feel free to make use of it.

What are you experiences with Speed Jamming?  Please share them.  I'll bet there are some great stories out there.  Contribute and maybe we can make a cool multimedia presentation around the ideas. 

Got pictures of your own you want to share?  Maybe shots of you and your crew Jamming!  Put them on Flickr and tag them with "spinflow".  Then they'll show up in the aggregate feeds and here.  Let's Jam!

I also added some bookmarks to speed jamming related posts by Dave and myself to del.icio.us where you will find a discussion of a great Speed Jamming experience that was podcast from the O'Reilly 2004 Mac OS X Conference. If you post something you think is related to SpinFlow or Speed Jamming to your blog or website, please bookmark with the tag or keyword "spinflow" in del.icio.us and it will show up here.

Want to organize a Speed Jamming event?  Please discuss it here or in our forums and maybe we can all help put something interesting together.  I'd love to try and get people from around the world to contribute video over a 24 hour period, perhaps showing their world at a specific moment in time.  We could call it Spin Around the World or something.  Let's play!  - Markus.

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe on May 2, 2005 at 10:10 PM in Music, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

When Sony turns to content

The key message in Sony's decision to appoint Sir Howard Stringer, the British chairman of the company's U.S. operations—specifically the movie studios and recording labels—as the first non-Japanese to run the company is that the future lies in content, not electronics.

After the consumer electronics division at Sony said it will miss its revenue goals for the second year in the face of rising competition from Korean and Chinese manufacturers, CEO Nobuyuki Idei, the legendary inventor of the Walkman portable audio player, and his right-hand, Kunitake Ando, president of Sony, were shown the door by the board Sunday. Ken Kutaragi, the leader of Sony's Playstation business, will give up his board seat to focus on the gaming division and former Executive Deputy President Ryoji Chubachi will take over the consumer electronics division, attempting to revive the television and audio manufacturing business.

Stringer, a former CBS executive who also led a short-lived Bell operating company interactive television venture, led Sony's $4.8 billion acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in September 2004. The deal, which added MGM's huge library of classic films to Sony Pictures' burgeoning movie and television production business, positioned Sony to capitalize on one of the only growing part of its business. Except for the gaming division, Sony's production company was the fastest-growing part of the company and delivered the largest share of operating revenue.

In short, the Sony that rose to global prominence has placed its bet on content and after cutting costs within its electronics division will leave much of the market to low-cost competitors. Sony's electronics will likely be concentrated on the higher-end, cutting-edge technologies it can invent and exploit until manufacturers in the rest of Asia drive prices down.

This places content at the very forefront of Sony's efforts. But here's what we know about content today: The most compelling new programming and music is coming from the edge of the network. While Stringer's movie deals are creating gains for Sony, the music business actually fell more than 60 percent—the independent labels and garage bands distributing music through sharing systems, like Weed  are taking listeners to new places. Sony's Idei is famous for passing on a deal to join Apple Computer's wildly successful iTunes online music business, because it would have cannibalized the Walkman business.

Why are we thinking about this at Outhink? Simply this: Producers with the ability to tap talent anywhere on the globe are the answer Sony needs, and a tool like SpinXpress, which allows people to work privately and quickly, is the foundation for the virtual creative network that will produce the films, television programs and music that can be assembled at garage costs (with studio flourish applied judiciously and easily, because the producer or director has access to those resources through the network).

Here, though, is the rub, and also why we think we're on the right track with SpinXpress. Great works of art are not the result of committee work, they are guided and shaped in private—even when that "private" workspace includes hundreds of people—as far from the incessant attention paid to celebrities as these people can get. SpinXpress creates those private spaces where risks can be taken, mistakes made and lessons learned before the final production is shown to the world. We're working on an array of features and functionality that make the expensive resources of the studio system available on the fly, with accountability and processes that make the people providing the money for creative work comfortable, too.

Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe on March 28, 2005 at 08:29 PM in Current Affairs, Film, Games, Music, News, SpinXpress, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)