Category Archives: LCA

FOMS 2009: video introductions available

In January this year we had the third Foundations of Open Media software workshop for developers. The focus this year was on legal issues around codecs, Xiph and Web video (HTML5 video and video servers), authoring/editing software, and accessibility. Check out the complete set of areas of concern and community goals that we decided upon.

As every year, at the beginning of the workshop every participant provided a 5 min introduction about their field of speciality and the current challenges. These are video recorded and shared with the community.

The videos and accompanying slides have been available for about 2 months now, but I haven’t gotten around to blogging about it – apologies everyone! So, here are your star videos in reverse alphabetic order published using open source video software only:


FOMS 2009 Awesomeness

I am a slacker, I know – sorry. FOMS happened almost 4 weeks ago and I have neither blogged about it nor uploaded the videos.

So, you will have to take my word for it for the moment: it was a totally awesome and effective workshop that led to a lot of work being started during LCA and having an impact far beyond FOMS.

Every year, the discussions we are having at FOMS are captured in so-called community goals. These are activities that we see as top priorities for open media software to be addressed to improve its use and uptake.

You can read up on our 2009 community goals here in detail. They fall into the following 10 sections:

  1. Patent and legal issues around codecs
  2. Ogg in Firefox: liboggplay
  3. Authoring tools for open media codecs
  4. Server Technology for open media
  5. Time-aligned text and accessibility challenges
  6. FFmpeg challenges
  7. GStreamer challenges
  8. Dirac challenges
  9. Jack challenges
  10. OpenMAX challenges

In this post, I’d just like to point out some cool activities that have already emerged since FOMS.

I’ve already written on the patents issue and how OpenMediaNow will hopefully be able to make a difference here.

Liboggplay provides a simple API to decoding and playback of Ogg codecs and is therefore in use for baseline Ogg Theora support in Firefox 3.1. A bunch of bugs were found around it and the opportunity of having Shane Stephens, its original developer, together with Viktor Gal, its new maintainer, in the same room made for a whole lot of bug fixes. The $100K Mozilla grant towards the work of Xiph developers that was announced at FOMS will further help to mature this and other Xiph software. Conrad Parker, Viktor Gal, and Timothy Terriberry, the Xiph developers that will cut code under this grant, were incidentally all present at FOMS.

The discussion about the need for authoring software support for open media codecs is always a difficult one. We all know that it is important to have usable and graphically attractive authoring tools in order to get adoption. However, looking at reality, it is really difficult to design and implement a GUI authoring tool such as a video editor to a competitive quality. In other areas, it has also taken quite some time to gain good authoring software such as e.g. the Gimp or Inkscape. Plus there is the additional need to make it cross-platform. With video, often the underlying editing functionality is missing from media frameworks. Ed Hervey explained how he extended gstreamer with the required subroutines and included them into the gstreamer python plugin, so now he will be able to focus on user interface work in PiTiVi rather than the underlying video editing functionality.

The authoring discussion smoothly led over to the server technology discussion. Robin Garvin explained how he implemented a server-side video editor through EDLs. Michael Dale showed us the latest version of his video editor in the Mediawiki Metavid plugin. And Jan Gerber showed us the Firefogg Firefox plugin for transcoding to Ogg. Web-based tools are certainly the future of video authoring and will make a huge difference in favor of Ogg.

Then there was the accessibility discussions. During FOMS I was in the process of writing up my final report on the Mozilla video accessibility project and it was really important to get input from the FOMS community – in particular from Charles McCathyNevile from Opera, Michael Dale from Metavid/Wikipedia/ and Jan Gerber. In the end we basically agreed that a lot of work still needs to be done and that a standard way of providing srt support into HTML5 through Ogg, but also out-of-band will be a great step forward, though by far not the final one.

The remaining topics were focused discussions on how to improve support, uptake or functionality of specific tools. Peter Ross took FOMS concerns about ffmpeg to the ffmpeg community and it seems there will be some changes, in particular an upcoming ffmpeg release. Ed Hervey took home a request for new API functions for gstreamer. Anuradha Suraparaju talked with Jan Gerber about support of Dirac in firefogg and with Viktor Gal about support in liboggplay. Further, the idea of libfisheye was born to have a similar abstraction library for Ogg video codecs as libfishsound is for Ogg audio codecs.

As can be seen, there are already some awesome outcomes from FOMS 2009. We are looking forward to a FOMS 2010 in Wellington, New Zealand!

News from the open media world

Today, there were so many news that I can only summarise them in a short post.

The guys from Collabora have announced that they are going to support the development of PiTiVi – one of the best open source video editors around. They are even looking to hire people to help Christian Schaller, the author of PiTiVi. The plan is to have a feature-rich video editor ready by April next year that is comparable in quality to basic proprietary video editors.

The BBC Dirac team have today announced a ffmpeg2dirac software package, which is built along the same lines as the commonly used ffmpeg2theora and of course transcodes any media stream to Ogg Dirac/Vorbis. With Ogg Dirac/Vorbis playback already available in vlc and mplayer, this covers the much needed creation side of Ogg Dirac/Vorbis files. Dirac is an open source, non-patent-encumbered video codec developed by the BBC. It creates higher quality video than Theora at comparable bitrates.

The FOMSFoundations of Open Media Software hacker workshop for open media software announced today the current list of confirmed participants for the January Workshop. It seems that this year we have a big focus on open video codecs, on browser support of media, on open Flash software, and on media frameworks. It is still possible to take part in the workshop – check out the CFP page.

Finally an important security message: Mozilla has decided to put a security measure around the HTML5 audio and video elements that will stop them from being exploited by cross-site scripting exploits. Chris Double explains the changes that are necessary to your setup to enable your published audio or video to be displayed on domains that are different to the domain on which these files are hosted.

FOMS submission deadline extended

The Foundations of Open Media Software workshop has just extended its deadline for submission of registrations requests with travel sponsorship.

FOMS addresses hot topics – such as the new <video> and <audio> tags in HTML5, the uptake and development of open video codecs like Ogg Theora, BBC’s Dirac and SUN’s OMS codec and their native support in Firefox, open audio & media frameworks and players such as gstreamer, ffmpeg, vlc or xine, or the standardisation of audio APIs across platforms. Further topics are listed in the CFP.

In previous years, FOMS has stimulated heated technical discussions and amazing new developments in open media software, such as the creation of libsydneyaudio, the uptake of liboggplay, the creation of Xiph ROE, or the creation of the new Ogg CELT codec.

Video proceedings of last years’ workshops are here. There are also community goals that were set in 2008 and 2007 and provide ongoing challenges.

You should definitely attend, if you are an open media software hacker. This is a chance to get to know others in the community personally and clear up those long-standing issues that need a face-to-face to get solved. Also, it’s a great social event not to be missed. As a bonus, you can spend the week after FOMS at LCA, the world-famous Australian Linux hackers conference, and deepen your relationships in the community. Come and join in the fun in January 2009, Summer in Hobart, Tasmania.

to_bool rails plugin

In our rail application we do a lot of string conversions to other data types, including Boolean. Unfortunately, ruby does not provide a conversion method to_bool (which I find rather strange, to be honest).

Based a blog post by Chris Roos in October 2006, we developed a rails plugin that enables the “to_bool” conversion.

“to_bool” works on the strings “true” and “false” and any capitalisation of these, and on numbers, as well as on nil. Other strings raise an ArgumentError.

Examples are as follows:

'true'.to_bool #-> true
'TrUe'.to_bool #-> true
true.to_bool #-> true
1.to_bool #-> true
5.to_bool #-> true
-9.to_bool #-> true
nil.to_bool #-> false
'false'.to_bool #-> false
'FaLsE'.to_bool #-> false
false.to_bool #-> false
0.to_bool #-> false

You can find the plugin here as a tarball. To install it, simply decompress the to_bool directory into your vendor/plugins directory.

FOMS Workshop – Call for Participation is OPEN

The Foundations for Open Media Software workshop will take place in January 2009 for the third time before LCA. Yay!! This year in beautiful Tasmania!

At 17:33pm on Wed 11th June on irc #foms, the Call for Participation was declared open.

If you have any engagement with the development of open standards and open source software in the digital media space, consider attending. To attend, all we ask for is an email to the committee. Really simple!

We will have travel sponsorship for some key people and if the last two years are anything to go by, we will see some serious improvements to open media technology coming out of FOMS – an event that always stretches over the whole duration of LCA.

I can’t wait till Christmas is over…

LCA Multimedia Miniconf

The organisers of LCA have found another slot for a miniconf and ours is it! Yay!! We shall have an audio/video miniconf at LCA! This is particularly important since we will bring to Australia a large number of key open media application developers for FOMS. These guys will also be able to provide deep insight and understanding during talks provided to the more general LCA audience. Expect some awesome media talks at LCA!!

FOMS 2008 support by Mozilla Foundation

It is awesome to see FOMS – the Open Media Software developer workshop we ran for the first time this year – turning into a major audio and video developer event for Linux. FOMS 2008 will be in Mel8ourne in January and will focus on audio on Linux (in particular libsydneyaudio) and on native Firefox support for Ogg Theora (in particular liboggplay). Because of the latter, FOMS has attracted sponsorship by the Mozilla Foundation. This sponsorship is very welcome since most of the relevant developers come from overseas and are not part of large organisations that could afford to pay the expense. Check out the current list of participants on the site – it will be another milestone event for open media! And … thanks Mozilla Foundation!

Foundations of Open Media Software 2008

Good news, everybody: We are repeating the successful open audio/video developer workshop in 2008 – the CFP for FOMS 2008 is now public!

FOMS (Foundations of Open Media Software) will again take place in the week ahead of LCA (Australian’s Annual Conference for Linux and Open Source Developers) – whose CFP is also out. Get started submitting abstracts because LCA’s published deadline for submissions is 20th July.

To complete the pack, LCA MultiMedia is an a/v miniconf for LCA in planning, such that LCA attendees will also have a chance to hear the latest and most exciting news from the developer bench.

FOMS 2007 was a huge success. It brought face-to-face some of the core Linux audio and video developers, which promptly started attacking some of the key obstacles for an improved audio/video experience on Linux and with open media software in general.

Jean-Marc Valin (author of speex), Lennart Poettering (author of PulseAudio) a group of programmers from Nokia and a few others started designing libsydneyaudio – a library which is deemed to solve the mess of audio on Linux in a means that is also cross-platform compatible.

Also, a community started building around liboggplay, a library designed to allow drop-in playback of Xiph.Org media in an application. libogg is currently being prepared for a submission to Mozilla to provide native Ogg (and Annodex) support inside Firefox as part of the new HTML5 <video> tag. Then, Ogg Theora, Vorbis & Speex will play out of the box on a newly installed Firefox without requiring to install any further helpers software.

These are just the highlights from FOMS 2007 – expect more exiting news from FOMS 2008!

Annodex codefest / liboggplay release

For all those open media codec lovers out there: mark 16th June in your calenders – you’ll be able to take a sneak preview at liboggplay!

liboggplay is a library that enables applications (such as Firefox) to provide native decoding of remotely hosted Ogg Theora and Annodex files.

And to celebrate the occasion – and to help everyone get started on including the functionality into their apps – there’s a celebratory codefest:

16th June, 10am, Macquarie University, Sydney
see for details.