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Open Video Conference Reflects a Shifting Landscape
The annual gathering shows a passion for open formats and creative work.

NEW YORK—This year's Open Video Conference looked considerably different than last year's, and not just because the venue had moved 20 blocks north to Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). While much attention was devoted last year to Ogg Theora, and the hopes that it would usher in an age of more-accessible video, the landscape had changed considerably in the 16 month interval.

"The big two drivers are HTML5 and WebM," says Ron Yekutiel, chairman, CEO and co-founder Kaltura, one of the conference's marquee sponsors. "HTML5 last year already existed and was adapted by all browsers except Internet Explorer. Not long after, Microsoft took a commitment to support HTML5 video with IE9.

"The second thing that happened was the acquisition of On2 by Google and the release of their most-updated codec as an open source codec, branded as WebM. That's an alternative to H.264 that's free and open source. That's set the stage for an application layer that's also free and open source, i.e.: the pieces are now available and there's a common framework for developers around the world to build upon and to introduce open source applications such as ad support for HTML5, analytics for HTML5, temporal metadata (translation), and more."

Not surprisingly, much attention was devoted to HTML5, especially on the conference's first day. Attendees learned at sessions devoted to building an HTML5 player and overcoming HTML5 delivery challenges.

For those more interested in the creative side of online video, a few Internet celebrities dropped by to pack the seats of the FIT auditorium. Damian Kulash, lead singer of OK Go, a band known for its complex one-take videos, held an afternoon session where he told of his band's accidental success with viral video. While he didn't touch on open video, he delighted the audience by showing the band's latest video, "White Knuckles," as well as a behind-the-scenes video of how it was created. An hour later, two members of the Gregory Brothers (Andrew and Sarah) joined a panel on finding compensation to tell how the group's Autotune the News videos led to other opportunities.

Ethical and legal issues also played a large part in the first day's conferences. A morning session on the copyright wars, led by Pat Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media at American University, put forth a middle ground that would protect ownership while still supporting new creative works. An morning session on public spaces suggested that some privately owned sites were essentially a public trust, while an afternoon session on user tracking found an age gap for online privacy concern. Panelists suggested that many users enjoy the customization options that come by giving up complete online privacy.

The conference served as a launching ground for a few technologies, including the pan.do/ra HTML5 media archive and Blip.tv's HTML5 support.

The first day ended with a "shared film festival," which included The Yes Men Fix the World and a panel talk with the Yes Men.

While next year's event will certainly be filled with technologies and services not yet launched, the conference's enthusiastic crowd showed that openness in online video will continue to be a vital concern to many in the arts, academia, and business.

Related Articles
During last week's Open Video Conference in New York, a roundtable of speakers representing Kaltura, Mozilla, blip.tv, and Harvard's Berkman Center discussed the opportunities and challenges facing open source video initiatives.
Tues., June 23, by Troy Dreier
Kaltura provides a toolkit for HTML5 embedded video, with a fallback to Flash or Ogg Theora when H.264 isn't available in a user's browser