I Want My BlogTV!

Update June 2014: Quicktime Streaming Server is deprecated. The functions I described no longer work on this server. If anyone is interested in the historical operations of this software, please contact me.

I am leaving a portion of this essay unredacted, the section The Napsterization of Fair Use is still relevant today. It is also worth noting how close I came to creating YouTube, when I mused “I just wonder how big this could be if it was streamlined for mass consumer use.” This was 3 years before YouTube was founded.

I am working more with QTSS and preparing new files for presentation, and more comments are coming in about BlogTV. The server logs report over 850 views of the clip, yet some people commented that the file was 404 Unavailable. I suspect there was a brief cable modem outage this morning. Also, the hi-bandwidth T1 version of the second video clip will not stream. If you change your Quicktime settings temporarily to ISDN speed, you should be able to see the slower clip. I think I encoded the T1 version incorrectly and the server refuses to deliver it. I am still a newbie at video compression, I’ll get these settings fixed up after a few more experiments, so your feedback is valuable. Remember this is a little G3/400 on a cable modem, I have an upload bandwidth cap set by the cable company, so I have limited the server to 10 simultaneous streams. Several prominent blogs have linked to this site, so probably there was a huge crush at about 9AM when everyone came into the office, read the morning blogs over coffee and saw the link and hit my server all at about the same time. Please keep banging on my server so I can test these effects. I am a bit concerned about running this all in the background on my main desktop machine. I use this machine to encode the clips, which drives the CPU load to 100%, so I don’t know how this will affect background tasks like QTSS
I am preparing a 1 minute clip of a scene from a Zatoichi movie to demonstrate the use of QTSS in film studies. I’m producing the high-bandwidth version at extremely high quality, in an attempt to push the limits of resolution and frame rate, so I can test the server under the heavier load from serving these larger clips. But it hard to improve on settings for lower bandwidth versions, so most users will not see much difference. I’ve also noticed I’ve inadvertently been resizing these clips in an odd way, which might account for some of the fuzziness. I turned off various image “enhancement” features in Cleaner that could introduce any resampling fuzziness, but the optimal compression settings appear to be more of an art than a science. But then, I’m trying to preserve the subtleties of cinematographic technique in this Zatoichi film clip. I guess I better get the Cleaner manual and RTFM. It takes about 45 minutes to compress this clip, and I have to do it 3 times so compression testing is a long tedious process. With luck, I can find a few settings that work well in general and just lock them in.
I should also make it clearer that this particular QTSS trick is not something exclusive to any particular blog softare, it will work anywhere on the web. “Outsourcing” your video to another server is how CNN.com and all the big sites do it. Except in this case, your desktop machine is serving the streams, not a huge server farm like CNN has. You could just as easily put that chunk of HTML into any web page anywhere, on your local server, on your ISP’s site, and as long as your desktop machine is up and running, you will be serving video. I wish Apple would publicize QTSS more, they offer similar (non-streaming) Quicktime support on the iTools websites, perhaps they should extend iMovie a little more to include QTSS encoding and management of the streaming folder and run it in conjunction with your iDisk site. Everyone with a cable modem could be running their own streaming server. I hacked this together in just one evening with the QTSS online help files, I just wonder how big this could be if it was streamlined for mass consumer use.
And that brings me to my last topic for the moment, something I call The Napsterization of Fair Use. On blog after blog, I see people commenting about something they saw on TV. But almost none of this content is accessible on the web. I don’t want to read a description of the event, I want to see the event, and now my BlogTV gadget will do the job. Bloggers should be able to make Fair Use of short excerpts from almost any copyrighted source, so if I want to comment on something I saw on the CBS Evening News, I should be permitted to digitize a few seconds and restream it. But the media companies want to prevent this type of Fair Use by technological means, they are afraid of the “napsterization of Hollywood” and if Fair Use is eliminated in the process of fighting piracy, they don’t care. Commercially released tapes and DVDs are already copy protected to prevent Fair Use, preventing Fair Use applications even by scholars who might use these protected materials in a classroom. Now broadcast TV is on the verge of going digital, new encryption standards will completely copy protect everything on video (except commercials, I bet). As a scholar, this loss of freedom concerns me greatly. Consumers must make a stand, and insist that the Government stop selling our intellectual freedoms to money-grubbing media conglomerates.
Now I better stop ranting and get back to work. Stay tuned to BlogTV for more postings, I should have the Zatoichi clip up soon.

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