Fri Aug 6 15:03:52 PDT 2004
fast enough, and data transfer costs for video servers are low enough, and
video codecs such as RealVideo 10 and VP6 are good enough that online video
is practical today.
For people who already have DSL, cable modem, or other broadband Internet
connections, the biggest barrier to their being able to view any movie
Hollywood has ever produced simply by pointing and clicking at some link on
the Internet does not have to do with technology. It has to do with
copyrights and control of that content.
One possible way to get around that barrier is through video content that is
produced at the grassroots level and shared freely over the Internet by its
producers. Examples of this could be local-interest programs such as
meetings of Boards of Education that are recorded by parents, high school
football games that are recorded by classmates, urban gardening projects that
are recorded by members of neighborhood associations, and so on.
In some communities, the availability and cost of broadband Internet
connections isn't quite there yet, more efficient file transfer methods such
as BitTorrent have not yet been adopted, and the expense and complexity of
video production are still a bit of a barrier.
Part of the complexity of video production is the choice of video codec.
There are a number of codecs that are competing for selection as the standard
for online video. Companies that are striving to have their codec selected
include Microsoft, RealNetworks, Apple, and On2.
While the situation is still in a state of flux, there is a window of
opportunity for a grassroots effort to develop a codec of sufficient quality,
that would also be free, open source, and royalty unencumbered, and that
could become a standard. This grassroots effort is the theora project.
It is not clear how long the window of opportunity for theora will remain
DSL and cable modem Internet access is becoming available in more
communities, and prices are falling. Community wireless networks based on
the 802.11 (a,b,g) standards, mesh technologies, and smart antennas may
provide another means of ubiquitous, low-cost, broadband Internet access.
Distributed methods, such as BitTorrent, for transferring large video files
are growing in popularity.
Video codecs continue to improve as does the price/performance of video
editing hardware and software.
It looks like the lines will converge for a rapidly growing percent of the
population within a year or two. After that, the window of opportunity for a
project such as theora may be closed.
Does that sound about right? Am I stating the obvious? Is that a bunch of
Personally speaking, I am eager to begin producing local-interest, free
video. I'm restraining myself from working with existing codecs and formats
such as WMV, RealVideo, and MPEG4 for reasons that go beyond practicality; I
want to use something that is completely free and royalty unencumbered. I'd
also like to make my purchase of a digital camcorder and upgraded computer
hardware a little farther out on the price/performance curve. Whether my
personal window of opportunity for theora is six months, a year, or two years
is hard to say.
More information about the Theora