Another step forward for open source video

The history and circumstances of video technologies have long militated against open source success, but a number of events this year point to the inevitability of open source reaching even into the video space. It’s about time!

Of course it’s not like there’s never, ever been any support for video on open source platforms. Even I remember the days of reading Emacs source code on a VT220 (which was, as its name implied, a video terminal), and I also remember the days of seeing X windows coming to life on a Sun-3 workstation. Back in the day, video recording equipment and video production equipment was terrifically expensive, far beyond what a typical programmer could afford to buy or even play with, so we contented ourselves to tweaking compilers and debuggers and graphics programs. And we lost valuable time and ground to those who sought to put video out of reach of a generation of programmers by (ab)using patents to cover algorithms, file formats, and other necessities of digital video media. It is outrageous that software patents are required to play back and encode what are considered “standard” video formats, but that even the greatest outrages are subject to correction over time.

Our time is now at hand.

An amazing Open Video Conference in New York earlier this year brought together video creators, technology hackers, entrepreneurs, and others to address the crossroads of open source/open content/open society and the facts of digital media technologies, file formats, standards, and the legal/regulatory climate. At the same time, the amazing Mozilla project demonstrated their support for the <video> tag. Companies like SpectSoft are creating amazing, high-spec VTRs and DDRs (running Linux, natch), and now Blackmagic Design announces Linux SDKs for several video interface products. Finally, video is becoming a technology that sits where mainstream hackers can play!