Elphel, Inc. "provide[s] high performance cameras based on free software and hardware designs." These cameras are more akin to miniaturized computer devices, complete with Ethernet and USB connectivity, than traditional cinematic cameras. The purpose of this project is to investigate adoption of these cameras as a "go-to" solution for live-streaming meetings using entirely free-and-open-source software and hardware. A network of such cameras could be preset to not only live-stream video released under a Creative Commons license, but would also facilitate a standardized citation framework for furthering discussions contained within the meetings across a broad range of important topics (including Creative Commons).
Project deliverables include multimedia blog postings detailing camera operation (i.e., a step-by-step "how to" on broadcasting a basic live-stream), exploratory reports on video multiplexing/mixing with other audio/video devices (e.g., simultaneous broadcasting of both presenter and slide decks), and, when initial challenges are met, pre-configured scripts and/or binary code to: 1) make the entire operation as turn-key as possible, and 2) enable across-the-internet copying of camera footage for further curation.
This project falls most in line with Apertus Open Source Cinema, Elphel, Open Video Alliance, Open Video Productions, OpenMeetings.org, and the Xiph Foundation; these are targeted development communities where early-stage feedback is most valuable. The primary motivation is development of a strategically-important device beneficial all organizations involved.
The larger community are organizers, in-person attendees, and online viewers of a series of meetings and (un-)conferences relating to free culture and open government. Topical examples of videos the author has published include:
-Wireside Chat with Lawrence Lessig: http://bit.ly/dtrXQm -Open video: http://bit.ly/avzvIg -Wikimania: http://bit.ly/cx1Otn -The U.S. Congress & open government: http://bit.ly/9DvfO5
With multiple, pre-configured active cameras, an adoption roadblock to a much-wider community will be effectively removed.br />
The author has personal and business connections to all organizations listed save Apertus and Elphel; time constraints and lack of funding have delayed development of a working relationship with these two organization to-date.
The author is owner of Open Video Productions, L.L.C., a small company that specializes in services and gear to live-stream, edit, and publish videos of meetings -- all under Creative Commons licenses -- and is also the founder of OpenMeetings.org, a "video wiki" designed to increase the overall availability, discoverability, and liberty to comment on accessioned meetings. Additional context on this work: http://bit.ly/9zlN0b
The author has considerable experience in evaluating software and hardware capable of supporting complex, successful live-streamed events.
The primary focus will be to achieve proof-of-principle that open-hardware cameras and associated equipment are sufficiently evolved to be placed into production usage for both recording and live-streaming. This will be demonstrated if an Elphel network camera replaces prosumer-grade cameras currently in use by Open Video Productions.
A secondary metric will be to measure how many pre-configured kits are sold through Open Video Productions, and to track usage via follow-up surveys and responses to blog entries.
The author and an Open Video Productions intern will be able to further the project on a limited part-time basis; the bulk of the work will be performed by a programmer specializing in embedded device development. Accordingly, the bulk of the funding would go towards salary expenses: a funding level of $8,000, minus $2,000 in equipment and travel expenses, equates to 10 weeks of half-time employment at $30/hr.
The project would remain active during the Open Video Conference 2010, providing an opportunity to recruit interested volunteers. Limited assistance may also be available from Elphel and the Apertus Open Source Cinema project.
This grant proposal, if successful, would "open-up" a wide range of creative discussions via recording devices preset to live-stream -- with informed consent -- video released under Creative Commons licenses.
Current Elphel camera capabilities are documented at: http://bit.ly/b7iK7S Technologies especially important include:
-Ogg Theora, Gstreamer, and Icecast -JP46 (an Elphel internal format) -Zeroconf, PHP+BASH scripts to control camera functions -USB interfaces to mobile broadband, XLR audio, automatic focus
Hardware prototyping is documented at: http://cinema.elphel.com/
The author is in a position to test and configure currently-available options, but not in a position to program necessary, novel functionality.
The primary challenge will be hiring a highly-motivated and skilled programmer on a limited-term basis. Announcements advertising an open position combined with in-person solicitation should be helpful, but the initial work (e.g., introductory blog postings) will likely need to be performed by the author. A skilled, communicative programmer and/or hardware prototyper should be able to negotiate workable streaming solutions, but, again, this level of expertise is beyond the technical ability of the author.
The cameras are remain relatively expensive, but are not cost-prohibitive.
The purpose of this grant would be to establish a working base in which the project would remain viable for major, future funding or business loans. Operating revenue may also be secured from sales of pre-configured kits through Open Video Productions, especially if no other funding is available.
One prospective funding source is the Knight Foundation's Community Foundation Initiative, a pledge to grant $70 million to non-profit foundations across 26 eligible communities over the next 7 years (http://bit.ly/6Nujnl). The author remains optimistic that OpenMeetings.org will incorporate, obtain 501(c)3 status, and thus become eligible for major funding such that this work may continue in earnest.
Cameras can either be obtained directly from Elphel and modified/configured according to provided instructions made possible by grant funding, or interested parties may purchase pre-configured, built-on-demand cameras from Open Video Productions' online store.
One camera can produce a remarkable amount of video!
After initial project goals are met, publicity would be very helpful as a highlighted Catalyst Grantee.
Professional networking, mostly, followed by on-video discussions.