Grants/Open Source Studio

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Open Source Studio

Applicants: Conor Dowdall
Affiliation: None
CC affiliated? No
Contact: Conor Dowdall
Coordinator: Conor Dowdall
Project Start: 2010/06/30
Project End: 2011/06/30

Download budget Discussion

Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.

The short-term aim of this project is to create a hi-tech audio-and-visual demonstration which uses Creative Commons licensed works and open-source software. Bringing together recent advances in freely-available software and commercially-available hardware designed for home-production environments, I plan to make the ultimate case for a more sharing approach to the tools we use and the media we produce. The long-term aim is to help empower people to make more media easily, freely and legally available to everyone. By using publicity gained from demonstrations I will build a portfolio of contacts and gain credibility as a musician, engineer, mixer and producer of fair media. These goals will be achieved by using the CC Catalyst Grant to buy hardware which will help build a modern, robust and portable studio environment and education facility.

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).

The project will output many tangible materials. Foremost, a highly functional and adaptable studio will be produced. This will serve to produce a hi-tech audio-and-visual demonstration of the power of Creative Commons and open source licensing. It will also serve the more long-term goal of being a powerful recording and production facility. YouTube will host videos of demonstrations; The Freesound Project will host any samples produced; and any quality works have the possibility of being released through already-available sites like ccMixter, Jamendo, Magnatune and Indaba Music. Presences on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, MySpace and other social networking sites will be required for a strong public profile. Accurate records of the work done will be kept and released as blogs and/or howtos, possibly necessitating a dedicated host site in the future. Many free hosting and blogging tools are already available like those offered by Google and others. I am deeply committed to the principles of openness and sharing and this will pervade all of my work.

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

Initially the project will focus on touring the demonstration at schools, colleges and interested organisations. This will begin in Ireland but has European and Worldwide applications. The events will be focussed on promoting understanding and adoption of Creative Commons' tools, licenses and technologies. This will lead to the development of a strong community that will use Creative Commons to share ideas. Many interesting collaborations will be formed during the initial phase and the demonstration equipment will serve to provide a hi-tech recording, mixing, mastering and production studio. The studio's portable nature will make it possible for me to do on-site production and recording at gigs, rehearsal sessions and homes – almost anywhere the interested artist would />

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?

Hi-level software and programming capabilities coupled with musical abilities and a keen interest in modern hardware make me the perfect candidate to lead this project. Having many years of teaching experience – from kids' summer camps to universities – I am clear spoken and know how to engage a classroom/audience. I am also a skilled musician with gigging and public performance experience – comfortable playing drums, piano, guitar, bass and harmonica. I am dedicated to the principles of openness and sharing and I intend to show why open-source and Creative Commons can make a viable alternative to current media's copyright-laden schema.

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

Feedback at the demonstrations will be instantaneous and impact can be measured from follow-up interest. Participants will be encouraged to spread the word of the facility and to contact me for hire as a recording engineer, mixer, producer and manager. The demonstration equipment will serve as a mobile studio for many applications including on-location recording. Again this has Irish, European and worldwide applications. Interest can also be measured via the internet where I will actively participate in blogs, forums, marketing, community building and general interaction.

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

The mobile studio's compact nature allows me to work in almost any location. Focussing on schools and colleges will allow a high turnover of people with demonstration audiences potentially being as big as the room capacity. Advertisements and word-of-mouth will be key ingredients in seeking involvement and sustained interest will follow from an entertaining, creative demonstration and a quality recording and production service.

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

Creative Commons' mission will benefit from the project because of the clear focus it has on being a morally acceptable, non-copyright-laden endeavour. All projects worked on will be encouraged to use CC licensing. The demonstrations will be focussed on the advantages of using CC and how this can translate into a novel business model for new music and multi-media in general. The studio will be an ideal playground for creative artists and I intend to use it to create my own repository of free sounds, synths, samples and software configurations – all to be released into the commons. Collaborators will be picked up along the way and will be encouraged to follow my example.

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?

This is a very technological project requiring many disparate tools that have only recently become available. Some hi-tech hardware is required to work with the advanced software available. Some of these components are already in my possession and funding is required for the remainder. All software used will be open-source. The project requires many software and hardware technologies to come together to produce an impressive, artistic event. It will require coordination of MIDI events from footswitches, drums and keyboards, OSC (Open Sound Control) messages from and to dedicated control surfaces, pre-sequenced data form software like Hydrogen (software drum machine) and Rosegarden (MIDI sequencer/editor) and audio from software synthesizers like Hexter, ZynAddSubFX and Whysynth. Also much needed will be the multi-track-recording capabilities provided by ardour. Ardour is fully OSC controllable and will provide a powerful interface for pre-recorded audio and live music. Combining all these technologies would not be possible if it wasn't for JACK, the low-latency audio-connection software. JACK is supplemented by the low-latency-capable, real-time Linux-kernel-patch provided by Planet CCRMA (a software collection which is installed on top of a Fedora operating system). Finally, CC-licensed materials from various sites will be incorporated and remixed to showcase a fully open-source studio.

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

This is a complex and challenging project requiring a great knowledge of modern hardware and software, modern licensing and social networking. Although I have done a lot of research already, I expect to face some challenges when trying to get so many things to work together smoothly and predictably. I do not fear this though and look at it as a fun, challenging way to express my creativity as a modern, techno-savvy musician and artist. Broken hardware would present a problem at demonstration/gig time so redundancy will have to be built in with any replaceable parts requiring backups (e.g. mics, cables, hard-disks, strings, etc.). This will be more widely incorporated as the project matures. Creating an engaging, interesting and ultimately entertaining demonstration presents its own challenges. Participants will need to be convinced that CC and open-source is the future of multi-media and sometimes opinions are hard to change. My own creativity and abilities will be put to the test but I believe in the project and regard this as another fun challenge.

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 project will sustain itself by serving as a mobile live-performance-rig and production-studio. I will be available for hire with hourly, daily and outcome-based rates. Many people will require guidance on making money using Creative Commons licensing and open-source software and I will be available as a mentor and manager. Using credibility gained at the demonstrations, I will also be available as a sound-engineer and performing artist.

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

This project is scalable in many dimensions. A commercial premises with a fast internet connection would be a major advantage, allowing a base camp to be set up. This could host a dedicated server running the project website and a CC media repository. It could also serve as a research facility and a hub for music and media education. Music lessons could be run with CC licensed videos, lesson plans and other materials published online. Many exciting possibilities are emerging in the free-music world and this facility could grow to employ educators and researchers – all properly educated in the advantages of open-source and Creative Commons. The premises and website could also play host to a matching service – bringing musicians together, getting them rehearsal space, gigs and playing the part of a modern, forward-looking, fair record company.

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

Your questionnaire says “Internet hosting fees can be provided by Creative Commons”. I would be interested to know how much help I could get with this. I would also appreciate any marketing help available, including links on your website and any help that can be provided with useful contacts.

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

There are many musicians, DJs and artists that I personally know who are waiting for an affordable, hassle-free way of recording and developing their ideas and collaborating with others. I regularly attend gigs and DJ sets, paying close attention to the musical trends of the times. I also run music lessons from my home. I now have enough knowledge and skills to take my idea to the next level and, with the help of Creative Commons, to make it a reality.