Time shifting a Conference: Video Formats August 31, 2009Posted by gordonwatts in computers, Conference.
I got a few interesting comments when I wrote about discoverability of conference video the other day. I’ve been away for a week so instead I thought I’d write a whole new post. But I wanted to change the topic a little bit – motivated by two things: Lepton/Photon and a comment by chimpanzee. And sorry if this gets a little technical… I’m on a rant here!
First Lepton/Photon. The conference is over now. Check out the agenda:
Click on it and… they require the RealPlayer to be installed. Bummer. The RealVideo format is a proprietary video format. You have to have RealPlayer installed in order to use it. There are some open source implementations of RealVideo out there, but I think they do an older version of the RealVideo format (for example, VLC claims to know what to do with the RealVideo streams, but falls over before it plays anything). For most people that may not be a big deal – just install RealVideo. I personally have a problem with the RV software. But for the purposes of this post my problem is I can’t download the video stream and pack it up into my mp3 player (I have a Zune). For $40 bucks, I might be able to do it for an iPod (not clear from their website).
If anyone knows a way to play those above files without having to use the RealPlayer software, I’d love to know!
Second, there was the comment by chimpanzee. I recommend reading the fully thing – I’m going to cherry pick for this post and stick with video formats:
For those who love “competition” when it comes to codecs – the competitive war just heated up. Google, just bought On2/VP8 and apparently is going to Open Source VP8.
I know nothing about VP8 other than what is on on2’s web site. It is currently a proprietary video codec. And chimpanzee says in his comment it seems reasonable that Google would open source it. For any of you that have downloaded video files from the internet (Bad! Bad!) you already know there are a plethora of video formats out there and one often needs to install lots of different codecs to get them all to play. VP8 will not solve this, at least not in the near term (<5 years). But this got me thinking – we can solve this now, can’t we?
So, I have a modest proposal. Physics conferences should archive the video of their conferences in a format that plays natively on the n most used operating systems out-of-the-box (where n is > …):
- Linux – this is funny. In HEP we mostly use Scientific Linux. This is not optimized for watching video. So choose the most popular distro – Ubuntu I think? I used to have a distro of that running on my laptop but had to delete it for space reasons, so I couldn’t test it…
- Mac – A recent version of OSX running on Intel Mac’s.
- WIndows – this is tricky. XP is the most popular version out there, however the OS is quite old and plays almost nothing modern out of the box. Plug-ins are available (including my favorite – wow I hate the new sourceforge) that will allow it to play almost anything. So that isn’t good. Vista, I think, is in the same boat – it doesn’t have much in the way extra codecs. W7, however, supports most formats I’ve seen out there (I couldn’t find the docs on microsoft site, but I did find this which matches my experience with the release candidate). So, I think we are almost forced to pick Windows 7 for the Windows branches.
- iPhone/mobile – this I’m not too worried about. Usually if the host system can play it (iTunes, Zune, etc.) then it can be transcoded and placed on the moble device.
Given all this, it strikes me that MP4 is the only video format that comfortably fits into this. There are plenty of open source tools – heck, tools in general – that allow you to manipulate it to your hearts content. Play it on your mobile player, your TV, heck, most modern burner software can burn it to a DVD if you want. Further, if you are like me, and want to manipulate the video for whatever reasons, well, you can because there are so many tools.
So, that is my modest proposal for archiving.
Streaming is more complex. I don’t know as much about streaming. I’d be inclined to vote for MP4, but I’m not sure how well it works in a streaming protocol.
I have to sneak one vacation picture in… 🙂 The French countryside is pretty amazing… This is near the salt-flats out side of Rochelle.