There’s a great article called How Firefox Is Pushing Open Video Onto the Web by Micheal Calore over at WebMonkey, dealing with the HTML 5 <video> tag and Firefox’s native Ogg Theora support. The piece outlines the technical details of the <video> tag and includes an interview with Mozilla director of Firefox Mike Beltzner and Mozilla director of platform engineering Damon Sicore.
An excerpt from the interview:
Webmonkey: How do you see these factors — the HTML
5 video tag, putting the Ogg codecs right into the browser,
presentation techniques that mimic the plug-in player experience –
affecting video on the web? What’s it going to change in six months? Or
Beltzner: In six months, you’re going to see more
sites like DailyMotion doing things where they detect that the browser
supports Ogg and the video tag, and in that case, they’re going to give
those users an Ogg-and-video-tag-experience.
I think you’ll see content sites doing this because they’ll have the
ability to re-encode their entire video libraries without having to pay
any licensing fees. The Ogg Theora encoders are completely license-free
and patent-proof. They don’t need to worry about which player you’ve
got. They also don’t need to worry about which hardware you’ve got. Ogg
Theora will run on Windows, Mac and Linux, or any embedded device or
mobile device built on the Linux platform.
Here’s a beta example page from DailyMotion demonstrating use of the HTML 5 <video> tag. If you have Firefox 3.5 installed, or a reasonably new version of Webkit/Safari and the XiphQT component install, you should have in browser video playback – Ogg Theora and no Flash player needed.
YouTube’s demonstration page here.
Spending the last two days at the Open Video Conference has been a great experience, lots of interesting speakers and I’ve learned a few things. Perhaps I’ll write more in general later, however it’s worth mentioning, while still fresh in my mind, today’s sessions around royalty-free codecs and the HTML 5 <video> tag.
The main focus of the Royalty Free Codecs session seemed to be around Ogg Theora. Also present though were Sun, speaking about their new Open Media Stack, and David Schleef to represent his work on the Schroedinger Dirac library. I would have loved to hear more about what was happening with Dirac, but the crowd wanted Theora news.
A short demonstation on the projector screen showed H.263/H.264 content versus the same Ogg Theora content at various bit rates, the highest less than 500Kbps. The results, from Theora’s perspective, were very good. Visually I couldn’t pick out any differences on the large screen. I would have liked to see the demonstration done at higher, greater than 1Mbps, bitrates, though. Not the one used today, but a similar demonstration is available here.
Sun did not do themselves any favours at this Conference. A session yesterday gave them time to discuss the process they undertook to ensure there were no IP encumbrance in their new codec and Open Media Stack, but right at the end the key revelation was that they’re unable to Open Source their work.
David did not have much of a chance to talk in depth about Dirac, and I was disappointed not to have gained a better understanding the current development status, and community input velocity around Dirac. He did make a point that the BBC were using Dirac internally, which is true but only to a very small extent. In non-linear editing environments, DVCProHD, AVC-I 100 and ProRes are still the codecs of choice. In my opinion this due to the lack of tools available for Dirac work. Dirac tool development needs a great leap forward if this codec is to gain any significant traction.
Firstly, I was particularly interested in the W3C Draft Web Fragments specification. Amongst other things, this will allow playback of just segments of video, based on a time specification in seconds. While not currently possible, if this could be extended to read an embedded timecode track and seek in a frame accurate manner, that would be truly powerful in an open standard.
With Safari on Mac, the <video> tag can be used to playback any video format for which the user has the relevant codec and QuickTime component installed. Thus we have Theora support through the XiphQT component. In the latest version of iMovie, QuickTime Pro and Final Cut Pro, users can now also choose to export or render in Ogg Theora. If only the Dirac QT component was ready.
The cross fade is particularly interesting. Do we no longer need to finish clips in a non-linear editor? Can we now perform hard cuts based on an edit decision list and let the browser deal with the fading or finishing element of the job?
Hopefully there’s some exciting times ahead for open source, royalty free video codecs and ubiquity of embedded video on the Web.
We’re only about two weeks late noticing that the BBC has released the second episode in their R&DTV series. Again they’re providing a whole bunch of different video codecs – including Ogg Theora, but they’re still not their offering files encoded in their own Dirac codec. More information available on the main page or the BBC Backstage blog, but a wider selection of files can also be found directly on the FTP site where both 30 minute and 5 minute versions are available, as well as an entire asset bundle with rushes.
The BBC has released this content under a Creative Commons attribution licence, allowing everyone to remix as they see fit, providing an original BBC credit is maintained.
Our post regarding Episode 1 of R&DTV goes into some more details regarding the technical details of the available files.
Linux.com has an interesting How-To article regarding digitising records and tapes with Audacity. If you’re not aware of the software, Audacity is an open source, cross platform, recording and sound editing tool.
The Linux.com article goes through the basic process of digitising old records and tapes, although only touches on some of the technical mountains to climb when connecting a turntable to your sound card line-in. If you require more details about how to connect a turntable to your computer, in conjunction with a phono pre-amp, then the Audacity tutorial for transferring tapes and records to a computer is what you need to read.
While the Linux.com article was squarely aimed at the consumer, desiring to transfer their older music collection to a digital file format, focusing on Ogg and MP3 creation, I was more intrigued about the possibility of using Audacity in a more archival function. As of version 1.3.3, Audacity supports full export of the open source FLAC lossless audio format. FLAC supports metadata tags containing information such as title and artist and generates filesizes roughly 50% less than other popular lossless formats, such as WAV. FLAC and Audacity could make a good solution for a professional audio archival project.
Red Devil’s Tech Blog has a good article reviewing how four different major Linux distributions deal with making video and audio codecs available.
Fedora, Mandriva, PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu are all covered, with Vector Linux getting a brief tongue in cheek mention at the end.
It seems that Fedora is moving away from their strictly no non-free software approach, to one encouraging end users to install Fluendo’s commercial codecs, of which new versions have just been released. Mandriva is doing something similar with their paid for 2008 Power Pack.
Personally, I applaud this approach. While I wholeheartedly support free and open source software, I also don’t mind the concept of paying a small amount for something essential, like video and audio codecs. If this is what it takes, to avoid even the sniff of legal problems for a Linux distribution, I’m fine with it.
Tip of the iceberg you say? I can understand that response too. What I don’t see at this time is a valid alternative, besides installing, what is in some jurisdictions, legally questionable software.
I’d be much more concerned about Sun purchasing MySQL and Novell/SUSE cosying up to Microsoft, than paying £20 for some very useful codecs. Perhaps an organisation like Fluendo deserves support, just to keep yourself personally in the clear.
I wonder why Ubuntu doesn’t follow this lead.
Ultimately though, I think the decision has to be up to the end user. Linux is about choice. And I’m quite the hypocrite anyway, not about to purchase Fluendo’s codecs. All the decoding functionality I need is done with libavcodec, which is a core dependency for FFmpeg.
Although not yet noted on the Fluendo News page, customers who have previously purchased codec packs from Fluendo are receiving an email regarding updates.
In summary, here’s a list of the codecs offered by Fluendo in the Complete Set Pack:
Windows Media Audio Decoder (Windows Media 7, 8, 9, 10, Pro, Lossless and Speech)
Windows Media Video Decoder (Windows Media 7, 8, 9 and VC1)
Windows Media ASF Demuxer
Windows Media MMS Networking
MPEG2 Video Decoder
MPEG4 Part 2 (DivX) Video Decoder
H.264/AVC Video Decoder (32 bits only)
MPEG2 Program Stream and Transport Stream demuxer
MPEG4 ISO Demuxer
MP3 Audio Decoder
AC3 Audio Decoder
AAC Audio Decoder (32 bits only)
Below is the text of the email being received. It looks like some good optimisation work has been completed on the Windows Media and MPEG2 decoders:
You are receiving this mail to inform you that the Fluendo product you bought has been updated…
Here are the details on updated products :
- Windows Media Video now supports Windows Media 7 and 8 on top of
previously supported formats Windows Media Video 9 and VC1.
Additionally this codec has received a lot of optimization love which
makes it possible to play big HD clips on smaller hardware. Products
including that codec : Complete set of playback plugins, Windows Media
playback bundle, Windows Media Video.
- Windows Media Audio now supports Windows Media 10 and Windows Media
Speech on top of previously supported formats Windows Media 7, 8, 9,
Pro and Lossless. This codec has been optimized and consumes almost
50% less CPU. Products including that codec : Complete set of playback
plugins, Windows Media playback bundle, Windows Media Audio.
- MPEG2 Video decoder has been optimized to reach similar performances
than other competing decoders. Products including that codec :
Complete set of playback plugins, MPEG playback bundle, MPEG2 Video
- H.264/AVC and AAC have been added to the 32 bits Complete set of
playback plugins -64 bits should arrive in Q2 2008. You can now play
your AAC songs or watch QuickTime movies using a highly optimized set
of decoders for those formats. Products including that codec :
Complete set of playback plugins.
– MMS network source has been thoroughly tested with a lot of Internet
streams. Lot of improvements were done to support as much streams as
possible. Products including that network source : Complete set of
playback plugins, Windows Media playback bundle, Windows Media MMS.
Fluendo’s team wishes you a happy new year for 2008.
Best regards, Fluendo Support Team , FLUENDO S.A.
So, perhaps consider purchasing your video and audio codecs from an Open Source company, rather than installing w32codecs or Gstreamer Bad and Ugly.