Interview: Access and distribution of critical video online

From an interview conducted by Frederick Noronha in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for APCNews.

Alternative film seeks a new home… in cyberspace!

The film-makers are there. So are the films from the world of alternative cinema. But how does one find the audiences? Or make sure that these crucial cultural products actually get noticed across the globe?

Andrew Garton, from APC’s member c2o and Program Director of OPEN CHANNEL in Australia, is trying out an innovative experiment. The mix? Free software developers, film-makers wanting to get their story out, and support which realises the power of the alternative image.

It involves building a tool that would make it very easy to put alternative film into cyberspace.

Says Garton: “We established an partnership with EngageMedia. Actually the partnership grew out of the membership exchange fund that are used to explore a project with Jinbonet (APC’s member in South Korea).”

This team is working to build a web-based video content management system, like the Internet Archive, but focused on socially-relevant and critical video.

“This was initially intended for a large project that was going up in Korea last year. That project didn’t eventuate in the way we had envisaged, but the management system did. We started working with EngageMedia,” says Garton.

So, c2o auspiced a grant application for EngageMedia which raised $25000 to conduct video-for-internet application workshop. “It’s not [the workshop] about making videos but getting videos online,” says Garton.

What they plan to do is to get together all Free/Libre and Open Source (FOSS) video makers currently working on that field. This event is being held in Italy, in June 2006.

“EngageMedia have had an a tremendous response. All places have been filled,” says Garton. “We’ve been looking for developers and producers, specifically from Asia, interested in contributing to a common toolset for online video management. The workshop has attracted participants from Our Media, Asia247, Hackitectura, Clearer Channel and Jinbonet and MediaAct from Korea. These are largely independent media services and public access electronic media centres,” says Garton.

“The idea is to collaborate towards a common set of tools to distribute video materials that deal with critical social and environmental issues on a global level, so that all our various initiatives in this field can benefit. For instance, Plone is EngageMedia’s development environment of choice, however we would want to see video publishing modules available within many other content management systems supporting a wider range of options,” says Garton.

EngageMedia is collaborating with the community based screen resource centre, OPEN CHANNEL to create a video distribution service for its members and training program. “By November we should have a working proof of concept online. At this time, given the discussions we have had in Australia with other screen resource organisations, it would appear that the projet it might develop into a national forum for film-making, specifically for those making a transition to digital content production and distribution,” says Garton.

In essence, EngageMedia is a video content management system for the web focusing specifically on video distribution as a tool for social justice and media democracy.

“One could place their videos on or the Internet Archive, but as a content developer, you can’t take the YouTube back-end and add it to your own server. It’s not open sournce. One can’t create a custom application for your specific video publishing needs. You have to use YouTube itself. What we are working towards is to allow users to opt for either, or install the open source EngageMedia toolset(s) on their own server, customising it how they see fit. It ought to be so flexible one could literally plug in an EngageMedia video publishing module into another system, like the APC Toolkit for instance,” says Garton.

This system is being designed for low-bandwidth as well. “You’ll be able to pop a video out there with both Flash video and bittorent support. And as a content provider you’ll have and a range of licensing options to choose from. For instance, you could choose IPLeft, CreativeCommonsAustralia or CreativeCommonsThailand,” he adds.

It’s not a one-stop shop, but it’s designed to make the process of getting your critical content out to the communities that seek it as simple as possible.

Says Garton: “In Melbourne alone, there are around 12 independent and short film festivals taking place a year. Many more are emerging the back of houses, in wharehouses, in open spaces. And there seems to an ever increasing audience seeking out new films and the films themselves, the quality of the work and range of ideas are truly remarkable. People are seeking out alternative forms of media to inform themselves and online EngageMedia will focus on social change… it is innovation in the margins for those becoming more and more marginalised.”

For more details of this project, check out

Source: FN, APCNews

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