By Frederick Noronha

 Across the internet, a growing number of websites and tools are
offering people a wide range of 'free beer' -- type of products. But,
as far as cultural activists go, there is still a shortage of free
speech tools.

 This is where Engagemedia.org steps in.

This Australia-based collective has produced software to enable an
activist network in SE Asia and the Pacific to take online a wide
range of social jusice and environmental video. What's more, it wants
to do so on a socially just model.

 Other commercial services -- like YouTube.com -- also allow you to
place your video online. But there's a big difference between the
two, as Anna Helme, co-founder and project manager of EngageMedia.org
points out.

 YouTube.com's advertising revenue goes only to its shareholders --
not the film-makers that created all the value for it. It only allows
streaming of its video collection, and not re-distribution both on and
offline. YouTube's license allows it to use your video pretty much for
whatever purpose it wants to in perpetuity. It is based on a 'closed
source' or proprietary software platform. And, it recently made a huge
killing from everyone's creative work when it was sold for US$1.65

 In contrast EngageMedia.org allows videos on its site to be
downloaded for redistribution. It will soon offer a donations model
to channel funds back to the producer. Licenses of work on its site
are based on the Creative Commons system, and the choice is left up to
the producer. It is based on a Free Software platform, and there's no
question of this community-based site being sold.

 EngageMedia.org also has a very clear-cut editorial policy. Says
Anna: "We will accept work that is well researched, well produced and
edited; focuses on SE Asia and Pacific; aids in development of social
movements; is innovative, engaging or entertaining; and constructive,
critical or highlights key issues."

 "We won't accept work which promotes sexism, racism or homophobia
or discriminates against dis-empowered members of the community; is
advertising or advertorial," she adds.

 EngageMedia.org is also very clear about how its editorial control
works. It is growing from a small core collective, and wants to hand
over its editorial control back to the community once the community
has matured. It uses an established editorial policy as a foundation
for community decision-making.

 Incidentally, it use features of the Free Software-based Plone CMS
(content management system). It describes its "publishing workflow" as
based on a submit-review-publish cycle. Community members can play the
role either of member, reviewer or manager.

 This network has a lot of hints for campaigners and activists wanting
to place their content online, or promote it through myriad ways.

 It points out to possibilities for online video distribution. For
this, says EngageMedia.org, one has to be aware of one's audience and
thus the appropriate distribution channels to use. Likewise, one also
needs to know how to compress and upload video. Using these tools,
once can promote and syndicate one's work.

 First of all, one needs to determine a digital distribution strategy.
Will it be based on screenings, TV, DVD, VCD or online distribution?
For this, one needs to determine the audience and how to reach them.
What are their viewing habits? Where do they go on the internet?

 Video-compression is a crucial issue. What is the best format
and codecs to be used? (A codec is a software module capable
of performing encoding and decoding on a digital data stream
or signal. The word codec may be a combination of any of the
following: 'Compressor-Decompressor', 'Coder-Decoder', or
'Compression/Decompression algorithm')

 Where does one find the appropriate encoder? How does one export
a movie from the editing application, in digital video? There are
other aspects one needs to also take care of such as preparing your

 Video-compression is an important issue. To get it right, one needs
to determine the best formats and codecs to use. You need to find an
appropriate encoder. Then, one needs to export movie from editing
application in DV format. Compressing the video is next, followed
by preparing the metadata, and finally uploading the video and the
metadata to your website of choice.

 Anna points to a number of ways of how to syndicate and promote
online any alternate video. These means range from email to blogs,
RSS info feeds, RSS vodcast, peer2peer networks (including torrent
trackers) and even via mobile phones.

 Offline ways of promotion include distribution using TV, cinema
and local screenings. Then, there's the possibility of faxed-out
media-releases. Interviews (to radio, print and TV are other
possibilities). Promotional material needs to be created too, and
shouldn't be overlooked.

 Why compress video files before putting it out? Compression allows
you to make your video smaller for easier and faster transport on the
web, or so it will fit on a disc. Roughly, in DV format, only four
minutes of video will fit in one gigabyte of space. This is too big
to transfer over the internet, or even put on disc. So you need to
compress your video.

 There are varied tools with which one can compress a video.

 First, one needs to export the file from your non-linear editing
program such as Premiere, Vegas Video, iMovie OR Final Cut.

 In terms of video compression tools, there are currently a number of
softwares available. From the world of proprietorial software these
include Cleaner, Canopus ProCoder, Quicktime Pro, Flash etc.

 In the case of Free/Libre and Open Source Software (or shareware),
there's Virtual Dub and Media Coder FOR PC, ffmpegX for Mac,
Gtranscode for GNU/Linux and mencoder also for GNU/Linux.

 Video compression terminology needs some understanding. It has
various standards -- MPEG1, MPEG2, H.264 (which are mostly rules set
by Motion Pictures Experts Group).

 Compression formats or containers have file-endings like .avi, .mpg,
.mov, or .ogg. These are the wrapper for the audio/video information.

 CodecS -- the algorithm for compressing and decompressing -- include
the video codecs Theora, XviD AND Sorenson 3 and the audio codecs AAC
or lame MP3.

 There are a number of software players for video files. One which is
attracting the most attention nowadays is VLC. This is free software
and open source-based and also cross-platform so will work on Mac,
PC and GNU/Linux But there are also others like Democracy, Mplayer,
Quicktime, Flash, Windows Media or Real Media.

 Browser plugins that enable you to watch video in Firefox or Internet
Explorer include VLC, Cortado java applet, Quicktime, Flash, Windows
Media and Real Media.

 Your video settings depend on the screening quality required. You
could opt for the .avi format and the XviD codec TO enable your
audience to download a decent copy to screen on a TV or in a cinema.
For web-streaming, the .mov (QT progressive) format is suitable
together with the Sorensen 3 codec.

 For video screening quality, you need a data rate of approximiately
1200 kbits/sec, and the resolution should be either PAL or NTSC,
whichever was the original format. Web streaming comes out good enough
if you have a data rate of 128-300 kbits/sec, with a resolution of

 For audio settings (screening quality), use a data rate of 128
kbits/sec, with the codec of Lame .mp3. Web streaming suffices with
around 64 kbits/sec and a codec of Lame .mp3.

 How does one test whether a file would work?

 Says Anna: "Test your compression settings by outputting a 30
second clip of your movie first. Try different settings until you
get the result you want. Try videohelp.com for more info or the
Guide to Digital Video Distribution and tutorials available on

 There is a new documentation project being set up to aid video
makers in the use of FLOSS video tools by the Transmission Network, a
collaboration between www.ourvideo.org and www.flossmanuals.org. Check
these sites for details.

FN: Frederick Noronha
Phone 0091-832-2409490

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