Steve Trash is a kids entertainer, environmentalist, and acclaimed magician who recently released a collection of video shorts, Kids Making Better Choices, that helps teach young children about recycling, exercise, and how to “make better choices.”
Steve releases his videos online under a CC BY-NC-ND license, allowing the videos to be shared and used widely. Most recently, in conjunction with Alabama’s State Legislature, Steve sent 1200 CC-licensed DVDs containing his videos to Alabama primary schools for classroom use. He also released supplemental material online to assist in the teaching of his works.No Comments »
The 100 Second Film Festival is “a collection of short videos presented to an audience in person or through the medium of cable television or the Internet” with the only requirements being that the films are 100 seconds long and are released under a CC BY-NC-SA license. This allows the film festivals – the screenings are decentralized – to pool past submissions as well as new ones for their lineup. Whoever is curating a specific festival can put together the lineup in any fashion they see fit, although ideally, each screening will contain at least a few works produced by the local audience where the screening is held.
This year’s call for entries was just announced, with the deadline to submit a short extended to Dec 15th, 2008. From 100SFF:
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The 100 Second Film Festival is an unique yet accessible universal collaboration. Launched in 2005, this evolving anthology of videos embraces the raw creativity from producers of all skill levels and backgrounds, encouraging them to submit their best work. Works from all genres are welcome
adhering to the common constraint of 100 seconds or less in duration.
Common Craft is a company that makes videos which are “short, simple and focused on making complex ideas easy to understand.” These videos range in topic – from Twitter to social bookmarking to electing the U.S. President – and are made using a technique Common Craft calls Paperworks, a whiteboard-and-paper format that they believe “is designed to cut out the noise and stick to what matters.”
Common Craft make their videos available online for businesses to license as educational tools, but also share the videos widely under a CC BY-NC-ND license. There are definite advantages for businesses in getting the licensed versions, most notably portability and quality. Outside of this, the CC licensed Common Craft videos have garnered heightened popularity on YouTube and other sharing sites, increasing their name recognition and ubiquity – two factors that have hopefully been instrumental in expanding their growing list of custom-video clients. Common Craft have a great video posted on their licensing process that explains it all clearly and simply – making it not only informative but also a great example of their production style.No Comments »
The most frequently used audio and video formats on the web are not open (they’re software patent encumbered), which has hindered the development of free and open source media tools. Open audio and video formats face a tough chicken and egg problem: not interesting to publishers if not supported in software, and not interesting to software developers if not much published open format audio and video.
Wikipedia and its media repository, Wikimedia Commons, have long been an important piece in this adoption puzzle. Along with only accepting liberal copyright licensing, they accept only free file formats.
Late July the Wikimedia Blog featured two hopeful items regarding open media formats. Both are still developing and well worth checking out despite this late posting.
First, an announcement that MetaVid lead developer Michael Dale has been hired by the Wikimedia Foundation:
As many of you may know, Wikimedia is working with Kaltura, Inc. to explore collaborative video editing in the Wikimedia projects. I’m very happy to announce that Kaltura has decided to support the further development of a 100% open source video editing solution integrated into MediaWiki. To this end, Kaltura is sponsoring Michael Dale, lead developer of the MetaVid project, to work in the Wikimedia Foundation offices in San Francisco beginning in early August.
Michael will work on adding support for video editing operations and other video-related functionality to MediaWiki, with a rich user interface built entirely on open standards like Ogg Theora. Michael’s work priorities will be coordinated between Kaltura and WMF. I am hoping that we can make incremental improvements to Wikimedia’s video capabilities that will start to become visible to users soon.
This is really excellent news. MetaVid impressed when presented at a CC Salon two years ago.No Comments »
Marco Hinic, ‘visualist engineer’ and founder of VJ application ArKaos, recentlly decided to experiment with the Nine Inch Nails Ghosts Film Festival, eventually creating Ghostss, a C++ powered online generative art project that creates infinite visual remixes by pooling over 1GB worth of video and select tracks from Ghosts: I-IV. The result might be one of the coolest video remixes to date and in lieu of the contest rules, Hinic’s videos are released under a CC BY-NC-SA license meaning you can share and remix them as well. From Create Digital Music:
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A few days ago I released the web site ghostss.com; it’s my entry to the NIN Ghosts Film Festival.
It’s an online video remixing application. It builds playlists describing a mix of videos with effects and renders them as an .flv Flash Video file. All the content is on the web site — around 1 gig of video loops and a few mp3’s from NIN music.
In accordance to NIN music, all Videos are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license.
Animasher is a site with a simple premise based on a powerful tool that helps anyone remix the commons. The core of the site is a flash tool that enables easy key frame based creation of animations complete with music and narration. In order to seed the site with remixable content, Animasher pulls Attribution licensed photographs from Flickr and Attribution and Public Domain music from other sources such as Jamendo and Opsound. Proper attribution is then automatically generated for each animation which is also licensed under CC-BY. All animations can be cloned and edited instantly by anyone visiting the site.3 Comments »
blip.tv has long been a CC-friendly staple for video sharing online, providing users a means to upload their content under a CC licence while simultaneously facilitating commercial avenues that would go otherwise unforeseen. We recentlly got up with blip.tv CTO Justin Day and asked him some questions, allowing us to peer more deeply into the unique opportunities blip.tv provides for its users.
(photo via potatono)
Can you give us some background on blip.tv? When and why did it start up? Who’s involved? What is blip.tv’s purpose?
Blip.tv is a video hosting site that’s focused on shows. What that means is that we narrow our attention to independent content creators who make regular episodic shows on the web. We started in direct response to the needs of the emerging videoblogging community in 2005. Our purpose was to give shows an open platform from which they could build their own brand and identity online.
Unlike a lot of online video-sharing sites, blip.tv focuses on episodic content. What led you to this focus?
We focused on episodic content because we’ve always positioned blip.tv to be a pro-sumer tool for independent content creators. Because the community has grown from simple video diaries to web shows of every sort, we’ve grown with them.
blip.tv is distinct in that it has an interesting ad-revenue sharing model with content uploaders as well as distribution deals outside of the web. Can you elaborate on what this entails and share any illuminating anecdotes?
We view monetization and distribution all as part of the same whole, which is to provide the content creators with the best tools to keep making great shows. With advertising we allow shows to opt-in to our network of ad networks right from the first day. Once they build an audience we go to work with direct sponsorship sales. All revenue is split down right down the middle with the creators. Distribution is similar, we want to give a show as much exposure as possible be that on blip.tv, their own website, iTunes, or direct to the living room like with the Sony Bravia. It only helps us both. One of the most interesting lessons learned in my mind was how important building a destination site brand is to driving that exposure, which is one of the reasons why more of our focus has been there in recent months. Originally we thought of ourselves as merely a platform, whereas now we understand that in order to be effective we have to be both platform and destination.
The option to CC license is built into to blip.tv’s UI. Do you find that users utilize CC licensing often? What are the benefits users have in using CC licenses on blip.tv?
From the very beginning we’ve been big proponents of openness and sharing. We’ve never had licensing where we claim to own other peoples content, nor have we ever tried to obscure direct downloads of the original source material. CC plays a critical role in maintaining an open community from which everyone benefits. Nearly a quarter of the videos uploaded to blip.tv are under CC licensing. By allowing for sharing, re-mixing and re-sharing on the content creator’s own terms we provide more opportunity for shows to grow and build community.
CC Founder Larry Lessig has called blip.tv a “true” sharing site as it allows content creators the option to have their videos downloaded, enabling sharing and reuse. Can you talk about any interesting instances of reuse that have arisen from users choosing CC licensing?
I think one of the most interesting CC experiences I’ve seen on blip.tv was early on, when Rudy Jahchan and Casey McKinnon, the brilliant minds behind Galacticast, created an episode titled “Node 666”. Members of the videoblogging community created clips which imagined themselves as survivors of a post apocalyptic earth and uploaded them to blip.tv under CC licensing. Rudy and Casey gathered and edited together the clips into to one of their most memorable episodes to date.
What’s next for blip.tv?
Next for blip.tv is to keep doing what we’ve been doing, which is building great tools for great video makers. We want to keep pushing independent show creators to the forefront until they are able to build sustainable businesses out of their creative talents. Part of that vision is to continue leveraging CC licensing to give content creators access to distribute and re-use great content.No Comments »
Although we took a little break in our “Featured Commoner” series over the holidays, we are back in action with many more stories and interviews for the new year. First up in 2008 is Hugh Hancock, Artistic Director ad Co-Founder of Strange Company, the “world’s oldest pro ‘Machinima‘ production company” and producers of acclaimed full-length machinima BloodSpell. We’ve talked about the film before, but further enlightenment was due.
What’s BloodSpell/Strange Company all about? What’s its history? How did it come about? Who’s involved?
Strange Company is the world’s oldest professional Machinima (real-time 3D filmmaking using computer game engines or similar tools – basically puppetry on a computer) production company – we’ve been around since 1997, when I quit pursuing a computer science degree to go play with this new “Quake Movies” thing. It turned out to be a better idea than it looked – we’ve been making films for 10 years now and havve been praised by Pulitzer winner Roger Ebert, worked for some of the most respected companies in the world (like the BBC and BAFTA), and have’ve produced some fantastic films.
BloodSpell is a feature-length Machinima film, one of the few that have ever been made. It’s what we’re calling a “punk fantasy” – an epic fantasy film about a world where people are infected with magic in their blood, but without all of the pompousness, “Olde Worlde” feel and posh English accents that most fantasy films feel they have to have.
BloodSpell happened because we’d been spending a while trying to develop a really huge film project, and we’d kinda lost sight of what makes Machinima great – the fact that it’s fast and cheap enough to make a Machinima film that you can just do it. A collaborator of mine pointed out, in his inimitable way, that we had “lost the punk edge”. So we promptly turned around and decided to put together a fast, cheap film.
Of course, then mission creep set in. But four years later, we’re very proud of the result, and the response we’ve had – praise from major newspapers (The Guardian and USA Today), top interweb/storytelling types (like Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow), and great reviews all across the world.
How are you using CC licenses with BloodSpell? Which CC licenses are you using and why?
BloodSpell is released under a CC BY-NC-SA license. Essentially, we chose CC for brutally commercial reasons – we weren’t going to make money with BloodSpell (it’s basically the world’s largest market research project), we knew that basically every first feature film doesn’t make its creator money, no matter how it’s licensed, and we wanted to make sure that as many people as possible got to see it. From that standpoint, CC was a no-brainer. Likewise, there was no reason to limit the uses people make of our work – I’d love to see BloodSpell fan-fiction, for all that I probably can’t read it myself for legal reasons.
Can you talk about any interesting instances of reuse that have arisen from your choice of CC licensing? What benefits have you seen from using CC licenses?
Actually, we’ve not seen a lot of reuse and remixing, although a couple of people have done some very cool fan-art and remixed trailers. The major benefit we’ve seen is simply that people know they’re free to watch and give away BloodSpell, and that’s made us very popular – to the extent that we’re currently the second most watched Scottish feature film this year, on a budget that’s more than 100 times lower than the next most watched film!
What’s next for BloodSpell/Strange Company?
We’ll be releasing a BloodSpell DVD pretty soon – also under CC – and we’re going to be working on developing tools and technology for our next productions.
The other thing I’m likely to be doing is helming a CC cookery show called “Kamikaze Cookery”, teaching people to cook using modern, molecular gastronomy techniques, but that’s a different story…1 Comment »
Steven Starr is the founder and CEO of Revver, a video-sharing platform that uses Creative Commons licenses to help creators make money from their work. Revver attaches a short ad at the end of each video in its network and splits the resulting ad revenue with creators. The company uses CC licenses so that people can legally share the videos in the Revver network across the Internet.
A few weeks ago, Revver released the Open Revver API, which enables anyone, from individuals to major companies, to create an online video portal using the same tools that built Revver. In conjunction with this release, Revver posted a short video that shows how to build a Revver portal in just 42 seconds.
On another front, Revver has started enabling nonprofit organizations to leverage its open syndication platform as a viral fundraising technology. Creative Commons is the first organization to work with Revver to raise money by sharing videos. Check out our Viral Video Fundraising Campaign.
Creative Commons spoke with Starr to discuss Revver’s origins, its future, and the current state of user-generated video.
Creative Commons: Where does the name Revver come from?
Steven Starr: My first thought was reverence for the creator, but people have other ideas: revenue for file-sharers, revving your career, ideas like that. Revver’s mission is to deliver sustainability, to get you paid so you can develop your creativity further. Revver technology enables your video file to move freely across the Internet, generating revenue everywhere it goes.
CC: What sets Revver apart from other video sharing sites?
SS: Video Makers split ad revenue 50/50 with Revver, and if you share Revver video, you get 20% of the ad revenue off the top. Video Watchers get free video with unobtrusive endframe ads, and Video Sponsors target into an ever-growing content library without associating with infringing content. Our Video Patrol reviews every video entering the Revver library for infringement, hate speech or porn, and we work with Creative Commons to foster a community that understands creator rights. And unlike most other sites, we don’t play cat-and-mouse with the DMCA. It’s really disrespectful to the creator.
CC: Should amateurs really care about being paid?
SS: Hell yes. Look at the Clash, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Spike Jonze or any creator that ever made your heart pound. They were all amateurs; they had to fight like dogs to sustain their creativity in the early going. The influence of all these new online creators is wildly disruptive; genre, format and storytelling are being re-imagined with a different set of tools. We see online video as a new art form, these online creators are game-changers, and they surely need to get paid. They need recognition and resource.
CC: What do you think of the YouTube acquisition?
SS: It’s really great for online video, a total validation of the space. But current DMCA practices continue to throw creators under a bus, that problem gets worse every day, and this deal does nothing to solve that problem.
CC: What do you mean?
SS: Well, by the time you locate copies of your work and notify the site to take it down under the DMCA, more copies pop up and you have to start all over again. But should you lose income as sites leverage your creativity to scale traffic? Should sites refuse to police for illegal copies of your work unless you’re a strategic partner? Selling protection to those who can pay for it, while forcing small creators into a money-losing DMCA cat-and-mouse game is simply unfair.
CC: So how does Revver get the creator paid?
SS: It’s really simple, we attach dynamic ad insertion software to the video, and give it back to you. EepyBird, the creators of the Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment, processed their video through Revver and released it into the wild. Within weeks they received over six million views, and more than $35,000 in ad revenue. Of course, that’s a big hit, but we’re now getting lots of Revver creators paid. As our traffic and library grows, we imagine the day where any number of creators are able to make a living using Revver technology.
We also work with non-profits; Firefox asked us to build a contest engine that called out to their user base to create 30-second Firefox promos. It was a smashing success; they had hundreds of submissions and many, many millions of views. Creative Commons is about to start using our open syndication engine for fund-raising. There’s lots of ways to use Revver technology, we’re just getting started.
CC: How are the advertisers responding?
SS: Extremely well. Smart brands love interacting with the audience, and the really smart ones understand it’s better to sponsor authenticity then to try and replicate it. Our sponsors enjoy a real halo effect with creators; we expect a golden age of Internet sponsorship to emerge over the next few years. Creative development at agencies, studios, networks and labels may never be the same.
CC: You’ve said that Revver isn’t really another destination site. Can you explain that?
SS: Well, it’s important to note that the vast majority of Revver video views are happening in the wild, and not on our site. 88% of the Diet Coke and Mentos views happened on EepyBird’s website, 10% happened on our Sharer network, and just 2% happened on Revver.com. So it’s all about virality, and we don’t lose sleep over our Alexa ranking; most of the action is elsewhere.
And sure, video makers and sharers and sponsors and watchers come to Revver to develop collections, set up accounts, set preferences on content feeds. But again, we’re a totally open system, one that allows almost all of the activity to happen offsite. And the release of our open API allows anyone, from major companies to individuals, to build and maintain their own video-based communities elsewhere, using Revver technology.
CC: How does Revver use Creative Commons licensing, and what’s the response been like?
SS: When you upload to Revver, your video gets protected under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 license. This means people are free to share your video if they credit you as the creator, and they can’t change the video or make money off of it without your permission. Creators really get CC; they appreciate the flexibility of CC licenses. In a world where the terms of service for many upload sites give site owners free reign to edit or repurpose uploads however they like, it’s a step forward every time a new creator opts into the CC license.
The response has been just great; LonelyGirl15, Invisible Engine, AskANinja, Ze Frank, CuteWithChris, Doogtoons, and many other top line creators are now working with CC licenses via Revver. We expect to have over 100,000 CC-licensed videos in the library in a matter of weeks. It’s working, and it’s working well.
CC: What about free culture?
SS: We love remix culture, mashups, and the like, and if you’ve got bank, go ahead and make free stuff. But we spent time in the favelas after the iCommons Summit in Rio with creators earning barely enough to afford mini-DV tape to make shorts on borrowed digicams. Those creators would love to get paid. They should have the right to decide how their content is distributed online, and not see that decision made for them by someone else.
CC: What’s the history behind Revver?
SS: Experiences around developing talent and then as a creator made it clear that access was the whole story, and that very few people had it. So in 1999 we launched AntEye.com, riffing on the idea that the biggest vision might come from the smallest eyes. We thought we could leverage the entire Internet as a vast discovery platform. Creators from all over the planet sent us thousands of videocassettes to digitize and publish, and some of it was just fantastic.
To get the word out, we sent AntEye trucks out to a bunch of college towns with the word CREATE! emblazoned on the outside. We’d pull up, give curious kids digicams in exchange for their driver’s license, teach them to edit their video in the back of the truck, then publish it online. Our best creators, as rated by their peers, were given micro pilot budgets and exposure into a first look we’d set up with HBO. Yet bandwidth was just insanely expensive, and our wild-eyed business model assumed that we’d discover the next Chris Rock or Robert Rodriguez or whomever, and then build a kind of a people’s MTV out of the content flow.
That’s all starting to happen now; we were just far too early. So just as AntEye started collapsing, a group of us started building out LA Indymedia. Indymedia burst onto the scene in November of ’99 as an independent media apparatus during the Seattle WTO. A group of us, inspired by their success, came together in LA to build an Indymedia Center for the 2000 Democratic National Convention.
We rented the 6th floor of Patriotic Hall, set up open computer stations, a community radio station, a convention newspaper, and in collaboration with Free Speech TV, a television studio and satellite uplink. Democracy Now! jumped in, as did 1400 other journalists from all over the world. We built a full-blown, multi-disciplined media operation in a matter of weeks. Danny Schechter, who’d delivered the crisis of South African apartheid into the global conversation in the 1980’s, was asked to host the first night.
Just as we were about to flip the switch, a thoroughly misguided LAPD claimed a bomb scare and shut us down. The bomb scare was absurd, clearly a mythology, so we put the Chief of Police’s home phone number onto the LA Indymedia homepage as a complaint line. We then got a call from LAPD to remove his number, and we agreed to do so in exchange for being left alone. And so the following night, just as Rage Against the Machine hit the stage outside of the Staples Center, we went live, with Danny hosting to over 12 million homes in our Echostar footprint. An amazing moment, to say the least.
That the LAPD tried to shut us down seems predictable in retrospect. Indymedia equals media empowerment, and this type of tech-savvy alternative media initiative was not only unprecedented, but a couple of years ahead of the proliferation of blogs and vlogs and social networks. And this may well have been a first, the first time anyone tried to shut down a domestic television station.
To many of us there, collaborative journalism really came into its own that night, presaging future commercial efforts like OhMyNews in Korea or Current in the States. But media empowerment can be quite threatening to those who are used to being in control of the message, as evidenced several days ago by the cold-blooded murder of Indymedia journalist Brad Will in Oaxaca, Mexico. The price one pays for having an ‘un-embedded’ point of view seems to increase by the hour. A couple of weeks ago, Bush signed into law a bill expanding his rights to declare martial law, to order militarized police round-ups and detention of protesters. And so the question for the online video community is: who’s to protect media-makers under such circumstances?
At about the same time and along similar lines, Ian Clarke had launched Freenet, a global, decentralized anti-censorship P2P network with, among other attributes, the potential to eliminate the bandwidth costs we’d seen at AntEye. So we partnered, organized a 501c3 around Freenet, and formed Uprizer to develop software inspired by Freenet architecture. This time we had a business model; a content delivery network, but then Hummer Winblad found itself in the crosshairs of the Napster lawsuits. P2P became the devil, and our investors urged us into the enterprise software business. I knew nothing about enterprise software so I quit, and then a friend from the Pacifica Foundation asked me to manage KPFK-FM.
At 112,000 watts, KPFK’s likely the strongest community radio signal in the US, and the idea was to see whether we could transition the station to a more grassroots version of its community mission. So we threw open the doors to a community who’d been picketing the station for years, blew past our fundraising targets, implemented listener-generated programming initiatives, and restored financial control back to the station. As expected, we saw massive grassroots creativity around us, but the price for many unpaid creators was predictable, a never-ending struggle for resources.
So in 2002 I started working on ChangeTv, a digital cable hybrid; AntEye meets KPFK meets MTV. The goal was to filter user-generated video off the Internet and onto cable, and most importantly, get our creators paid. We had John Perry Barlow and Jack Healey from Amnesty International advising us, but 18 months of trying to raise $65 million in a post-bubble environment just about broke me. So I morphed ChangeTv into an online creator marketplace and brought in a team of consultants; Ian Clarke and his brother Andrew joined over the summer, Oliver Luckett joined right after the November ’04 elections. Oliver’s the inspired former head of the network at Qwest; he’d just brilliantly teamed with Norman Lear to deliver over a million online voter registrations.
Andrew and Ian set about building Indy.tv for musicians, early proof of ChangeTv’s recommendation engine, and Ian started developing Dijjer.org, an open-source http-based P2P network designed to cover bandwidth. Oliver began solving problems associated with tracking files across the network, and collaborated on a new business plan. The Participatory Culture crew out of Worcester, Mass. joined in to build websites for Dijjer and Indy, and we all drove into the desert for a brainstorming marathon.
After that, things moved quickly; I raised more seed capital, asked Oliver, Ian, and Andrew to join fulltime in March of ’05, changed the name to Revver, and raised venture capital from the syndicate who’d funded Skype. And now we have an amazing group of people from all walks of life throwing in together; it’s just a great place to work and we’re all really committed to what we’re doing.
CC: And tell us about your history. What’s your personal background?
SS: I started out as a high school volunteer at WLIR-FM, the legendary New York rock station, then worked my way through college as a DJ, a short-order cook, a CBS Records rep and a concert promoter. Bob Marley was just a massive hero of mine, and a friend and I were somehow able to convince William Morris to route his tour through Wisconsin. Just weeks before he recorded Babylon by Bus in Paris, Bob rolled into Madison and blew the roof off of the Orpheum Theater. I had conversations with him around those two shows that pretty much changed everything for me. So when I finished college, I headed straight for William Morris in NY looking for him, and got offered a job in the mailroom.
I spent the ’80s learning new media, and working with Bob’s family after he died. New media in those days meant upstart networks like MTV, selling audiobooks for clients like Andy Grove and launching a home video division. Later, my focus shifted to young creators; indie filmmakers, writers and playwrights like Ang Lee, Larry David, Tim Robbins and many others. I ended up running the NY film operation, but I was way too curious to stay there. So I left in 1991 to write and direct my first film, Joey Breaker, featuring Bob’s daughter Cedella and a very young Philip Seymour Hoffman. And then I spent the 90′s as a filmmaker, TV producer, and working with Rita and the kids on a feature about Bob.
CC: What happened with the film?
SS: Well, Cedella always said that making a film about her Dad wouldn’t be easy and she was right. Bob may be the most widely known musician on the planet – a force of nature from Angkor to Windhoek to Delhi to Rio – the New York Times says he’s the most influential artist of the second half of the 20th century. But Warners’ was looking for a rock ‘n roll movie, think La Bamba, and they never saw how lucky they were to have a chance at something greater.
Rather than make the wrong film, we walked away. But I have no regrets, and not a day wasted. All of it led to AntEye, which led to Revver, and we’re now helping creators everywhere find an audience and sustain their creativity. And the prospect for empowering creators on a global scale strikes me as a better tribute to Bob’s worldview than any movie about him ever could be.
CC: What’s next in store for Revver?
SS: Well, we just rolled out Revver 1.0 a couple of weeks ago. Last week, we offered up our open Revver API, which allows any software developer anywhere on the planet to build a website on top of Revver’s platform. This is a really big step for us. We also just rolled out a flash container that allows your video to keep monetizing even after they get ripped from streams by sites like KeepVid. And we’re adding community tools and major media partnerships to generate opportunities for Revver creators. Lots more about this and a bunch of other initiatives soon, and a whole new rev of the site in a couple of weeks.
CC: Any parting thoughts?
SS: Not really, except if we were having any more fun we’d get arrested. It’s incredibly inspiring to do this work; we’re insanely grateful for the chance to build this business, and it’s really starting to prove itself. All that’s left is a callout to creators everywhere: Revverize it, set your video free!No Comments »
MOD Films produces “remixable” film content and technology aimed at new cinema platforms. Through documentation and packaging of the film production, MOD helps to support future use of the films as digital video releases, in games, and as source material for online communities to play with.
Michela Ledwidge founded MOD Films in 2004 with a NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) Inventions and Innovations award. Inspired by the practice of game modding, MOD Films demonstrates how regular films could be given to the audience in a malleable form using Internet and video game technology.
Michela filmed her film Sanctuary in March 2006 – a sci-fi short about a sixteen year old girl who uses her avatar as a virtual reality superhero. All Sanctuary elements including hours of production footage, sound effects, dialogue, storyboards, concept drawings and still photos are being licensed to the public under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Licenses.
Amy “Rock and Roll” Rose of Creative Commons interviewed Michela to learn more about MOD Films and her experience in using CC licenses.
Amy Rose (“CC”): Why did you start MOD Films?
Michela Ledwidge (“ML”): There wasn’t a platform for the kind of films I wanted to make. The film industry approach to real storytelling is largely obsolete. It wastes too many resources. Filmmakers are supposed to buy into a monolithic system that tends not to do justice to their stories or their actual audience. You sell someone access to a film, and then what happens? We’re taking the opportunity to see if we can come up with a better, more sustainable, model, starting with a little film written with interactivity in mind. There have to be more ethical, ecological, and fun ways to develop, produce, distribute, and exhibit cinematic stories.
CC: What attracted you to the idea of using a Creative Commons license?
ML: It’s the most compatible framework for our aims, technically, commercially, and philosophically. Digital rights management, as opposed to digital rights enforcement, is a key part of what we do. I think the value of machine-readable licenses will be better appreciated over time. My personal interest goes well beyond the business. CC has changed the world for the better in widening the debate about how society views creativity. As an open business, we want more opportunities for people to be more creative using our stuff. We’ll survive if enough people know about and like what we do.
We’re developing a virtual studio approach using a “kitchen” analogy that fits pretty well with the “pick ‘n’ mix” CC approach. “Some Rights Reserved” licensing enables us to cook up, serve dishes, and share ingredients more widely. The opportunity to get in at the ground level and set up the kitchen with Sanctuary, ahead of the market, was an opportunity too good to refuse.
CC: Why did you choose the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license for Sanctuary?
ML: We chose a license to reflect the fact that we’re walking a fine line between open filmmaking and “All Rights Reserved” film-making. We still want our films in festivals and on retail shelves. We need to see a return for our investors if the model is to survive so we’re not simply giving material away. We’re trying to create a model that is sustainable, not just for our own livelihood but media professionals at large. Attribution is obviously essential for any credits system. The real opportunity I see here is to iteratively improve on the existing systems for attribution (e.g. how many people ACTUALLY worked on Matrix Reloaded post-production as opposed to who got a credit in the film?) and licensing by getting people to become less precious about their assets. Sanctuary is a pilot for a feature film so we’ve retained control over commercial exploitation mainly to attract producers to that larger project.
CC: Can you provide an overview of how a user might remix Sanctuary?
ML: The simplest way is to go back to the kitchen analogy I mentioned. We’re inviting the audience “inside” the production after the remixable release, after dinner so-to-speak, to play around with bits and create their own MODs. We’re trying not to pre-empt too much what these MODs might be and concentrate on making sure there are sufficient APIs and Web services available for developers to take advantage of. This is not just about video re-editing. We’re releasing EVERY asset, so who know? Most users may only ever experience remixing through existing MODs (like the DJ/VJ instrument MOD we’re developing) that they have downloaded (in the same way as more people watch YouTube videos than upload videos). But the whole point is to enable advanced use of the film’s architecture and asset library as to give people a chance to surprise us with their creativity. We’re providing the plug-in architecture and sample MODs that illustrate how to re-use the assets. We’re encouraging MOD communities to come and treat Sanctuary as a library using their existing software (e.g. Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Web-based video mixing sites like eyespot).
Sanctuary hasn’t been released yet (still in post production) but we do have over 100 people signed to our “beta band” community on Multiply (http://remixablefilms.multiply.com) and various software developers are working in tandem with us so that there will be 3rd party applications from day one of the release. We’re encouraging MOD’ers of all kinds to congregate there and bug us for pre-release stuff and get involved. We’re making this up as we go along!
CC: In April 2004, Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) refused dispensation to allow local actors to perform in Sanctuary. Could you discuss what you understand MEAA’s concerns with the film were and whether and/or how it was resolved?
ML: MEAA’s concern was that Creative Commons licensing relinquished too much control, to us the producers, and to the audience and that this could be to the detriment of actors involved. CC was deemed bad for business. MEAA put particular emphasis on the negative impact that remixing could have on our professional actors’ careers particularly “non-commercial advertising” — such as sampling video for use in Neo-Nazi commercials, abortion campaigns and user-generated pornography (their examples, not mine!). MEAA didn’t care that MOD Films, under the Australian CC license, retained the right to disallow any derived work which “prejudices the honour or reputation of the author” and chose to interpret our long term intentions as exploiting actors. It was a really embarrassing phase of the project because general ignorance about CC was largely the problem. Australian media professionals should really be up in arms about how they are represented on the world stage.
I do understand why there were concerns but ultimately we’re talking about a 12 minute pilot funded by an Inventions award, made up of willing and experienced Internet and film professionals who care passionately about exploring the future of film and moving things forward. I am very pro-union but only as long as a union is genuinely acting on behalf of its members, rather than simply protecting its own interests by sticking its head in the sand. When you get industries blocking innovation simply because it may move the goal posts, it’s very hard to be remain sympathetic.
The issue hasn’t been resolved. If the MEAA spokesman we deal with has his way, I doubt Creative Commons licensing and professional media will ever meet up again. MEAA really needs some new blood who understand the way the world is moving and can deal with real issues in a constructive way. Unfortunately from what I understand, I live in London, the controversy over Creative Commons is still raging in Australia. We got a bit of a backlash against the MEAA decision last year, and gained some local support from the Australian Film Commission (an Australian Government agency that ensures the preservation, creation and availability of Australian screen content) so as for Sanctuary, we’ve survived. Once the AFC got involved, the actors and their agents were more comfortable about signing up against the advice of the union. Given the power MEAA has over local production, I would never have attempted to shoot without some show of support from the industry.
We rescheduled and shot the film a few months later but much of our funding was wasted on dealing with this issue over several months. The film is still in post production with volunteers working on it. We made a bit of history with our CC contract clauses and the resulting 35mm film is totally cleared for re-use as a result but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Hopefully other producers will now benefit from us having broken the ice though.
We’ve documented the correspondence and paperwork in this discussion thread for future reference. http://modfilms.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=123
CC: Audiences also had the opportunity to enjoy a preview Sanctuary at the Cannes Film Festival, what was the reaction of festival attendees to the film and the idea of film remixing?
ML: The reaction to the story itself so far has been good. All the legal mucking about tends to obscure the fact that this is a good little sci-fi story that should happily stand on its own, even without all of this remix nonsense! The Cannes Feature Film Selection Committee wrote to us asking to see the film earlier in the year. Talking to “real film-makers” out there was a wonderful morale-booster. We’re definitely exploring the future and all this buzz is over an unreleased short film. We also got interest from a couple of distributors.
The reaction to the remix idea on its own has been pretty good but we’re not overestimating how many people will actually do stuff. I think it will take a while before people start engaging fully with this paradigm. People seem genuinely excited by the idea of a new form but of course everyone just wants to sit back and watch the finished film first. As do I! The real fun begins once people know the story of the superhero, the film is playing on a disk in your living room, and MODs are being downloaded from our web platform as you’re watching. So if you can help us get to that point, get in touch!No Comments »