Why Ogg

Political Reasons

Indymedia is not just about being another alternative news source. We are building an image of our view of the future. The means are as important as the ends. We agree that we should be independent of corporate control, free of influence and legal control that they might have over us.. for instance, we would not rely on a webserver hosted gratis by AOL Time Warner both because that would give them influence over our editorial decidions and because of the political ties people would imply from our use of their service.

The same applies to the format in which we release our media. Quicktime is owned and controlled by Apple, they use their dominance in the video production market to push their standards on end-users.. that is, all their tools for video production are designed to save primarily in Quicktime format, offering few to no alternatives, and always give the best support for their own format. Microsoft does the same with Windows Media, Real pushes their format, and the MPEG consordium is now pushing MPEG-4 down everyone's throats. These formats are all heavily patented, heavily contolled, and in the case of MPEG-4 (which is being touted as the next generation format) the royalties on this would make it impossible for us to produce non-commercial media. It's all about a big corporate battle over who can institute their own format as the industry standard and thus require everyone to pay them royalties for using and supporting their format.

Ogg was created as a free alternative to these formats. It is free to use, comperable in quality to MPEG-4, and everyone can support it without having to pay anyone else royalties. We've already seen how quickly Ogg Vorbis was supported by virtually every media player on the market.

Technical Advantages

Ogg is, in many ways, similar to other formats such as Quicktime. It's a stream container format for media bitstreams in any number of different codecs. The main advantage to our use with Monty is that because it's free and all it's tools are open to be used and tinkered with we (IMC-Techs) can do things with Ogg that we could never do with the other formats..

One example of this the handling of pre-encoded media. Virtually every video codec worth using is a lossy format, that is, when you encode to it you loose video quality. You thus want to avoid having to do this more than once, because everytime you do it you loose more quality until you have random garble on your hands. Opening a pre-encoded video in an editor, cropping segments, joining them with other segments, adding text and effects, then re-encoding causes much more loss than if this were to be done from the origional media itself. However, archiving the "origional" media would be nearly impossible, not to mention very expensive.

The Ogg framework allows us to take pre-encoded audio and video, trim and cut apart media segments, merge segments together to form larger works, and end up with a useable Ogg file. We can also build from this to add support for effects, text overlays, etc both through expanding the Ogg framework to support these things and by only processing and re-encoding the parts of the media which are changed by these effects.. such as a trailing credits or crossfade effect between segments.

User-side video editors can be written that interface with Monty (or other media servers with similar software) for working on low-bitrate previews and then sending the processing instructions to the server for processing on the full quality video. This makes it much easier for anyone to produce IMC videos without requiring several thousand dollars worth of hardware and software for every workstation capable of doing this.

By keeping all media in Ogg format we gain the flexibility to do these things will all media on the server, even giving people the ability to produce full length IMC films from a low-end home computer. Talk about breaking down economic barriers to media production!

Outreach Potential

A group which organizes itself around anti-patriarchal values will attract far more women members than one that does not, a group which has recycling and composting facilities in their space will find it far easier to attract environmentalists, and a group which serves vegan munchies at meetings and has non-leather furnature in their space will draw far more animal rights activists than one that does not. We recognise and support these causes and values, even if they are not our own, because we depend on activists of these different causes for the movement to be strong.

Indymedia has a shortage of skilled techs, however, there are an abundance of skilled tech-activists in the Free Software movement. The same that applies to other forms of activism applies here, it's much easier to attract techs to Indymedia when they get involved and find us supporting the same causes they believe in.

Implementation details at MontyInfo
Topic revision: r1 - 10 Feb 2003, ArcNLN
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