Grants/Adopting Highly-Reconfigurable, Networked Cameras for Live-Streamed Meetings

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Adopting Highly-Reconfigurable, Networked Cameras for Live-Streamed Meetings

Applicants: Open Video Productions, L.L.C.
CC affiliated? No
Contact: George Chriss
Coordinator: George Chriss
Project Start: 2010/09/01
Project End: 2010/12/15
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Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.

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).

Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).

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.

Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?

This project falls most in line with Apertus Open Source Cinema, Elphel, Open Video Alliance, Open Video Productions,, 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:
-Open video:
-The U.S. Congress & open government:

With multiple, pre-configured active cameras, an adoption roadblock to a much-wider community will be effectively />

What is your relationship with the community you are targeting? Why are you the best individual/organization to lead this project? Do you have prior experience in related projects?

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, a "video wiki" designed to increase the overall availability, discoverability, and liberty to comment on accessioned meetings. Additional context on this work:

The author has considerable experience in evaluating software and hardware capable of supporting complex, successful live-streamed events.

How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?

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.

How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?

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.

Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".

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.

Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?

Current Elphel camera capabilities are documented at: 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:

The author is in a position to test and configure currently-available options, but not in a position to program necessary, novel functionality.

What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?

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.

How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?

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 ( The author remains optimistic that will incorporate, obtain 501(c)3 status, and thus become eligible for major funding such that this work may continue in earnest.

How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?

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!

What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?

After initial project goals are met, publicity would be very helpful as a highlighted Catalyst Grantee.

Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)

Professional networking, mostly, followed by on-video discussions.