Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘popcorn’

Web enabled video at news:rewired

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Tomorrow I will be at Microsoft London to make IE10 support classList speak at news:rewired – media in motion on the topic of open web video and what you can do with it. For this, I got 10 minutes and then answer questions (or ask them) in a panel.

Update: The audio is now available on

The slides – for what they are worth – are on Slideshare:

Web enabled video

And here are the notes used in the slides and the story I will tell to the audience with all the links for you to try out:

Web enabled video

Today I have a few minutes to talk to you about online video and why it is an amazing opportunity for journalists.

Video is engaging…

There is no doubt that video is an incredibly engaging format for information, news, entertainment – well, for anything really. A video can much easier explain a complex topic than text could as people can see and repeat what you do. You can show instead of just telling or hoping people read what you painstakingly wrote.

Video is also hard to edit and change

One of the issues with video is that it is much harder to maintain than a text. Editing a video requires more technical expert skill and takes longer than writing a text or changing something in an article. Say you got a number wrong – in a blog post that can be easily remedied. In a video it means a re-edit, in the worst case a re-shoot. In the case of the web it also means re-encoding the video in a format fit for consumption on the web and re-uploading it to the servers where it needs to go.

Video is also a black hole on the web

The other big thing is that whilst your videos are engaging and amazing – for search robots on the web they are actually nothing at all. Video content is not indexed and the information in it doesn’t allow people to find it.

So what can be done about that?

It seems pretty old-school that we still live in a time where videos have to be produced as a fixed package, with names, labels, map overlays, other videos and imagery and extras inside the video. This does not only mean that these things can not be updated, but it also means in a lot of cases when it comes to online video that their quality is impeded by the overall quality of the video.

Separation makes things easier to maintain

On the web we long understood that by separating concerns from each other, we can deliver much better results. How things look is defined and maintained somewhere else than what they are. A text is written without any design to it, the design is defined in the site template or in the overall look and feel of your product. This makes it easy to re-use the text in several places and formats – covering mobile and desktop needs or even as a news subscription in a feed.

Separation allows anyone to enhance

OK this is going into “data hippy territory” but if you separate your content and make your video available, then anyone can help improve the quality of it and provide for example translations of the captions. For this, there is a simple interface called universal subtitles available.

Separation increases accessibility and find-ability

Subtitles and captions are a great example to make video content more available to people. Not only the hard of hearing but anyone. You can for example follow a debate in the gym or in the pub without needing to hear it. The other big thing about it is that a transcript of a video makes it searchable by Google and Bing. And – if it is timed it allows people to to jump to a certain section of a video instantly.

HTML5 video allows for all of that!

HTML5 video is a step forward in interactive video on the web. Its openness allows us to innovate with it and weave video content into the web much like we did with text and images in the past. No need to have a plugin, no need to pay licenses for offering your video in a fast loading and high quality format on the web. By using open formats you can make your videos part of the massive interlinked thing we called the WWW in no time.

Just another page element

In HTML5, multimedia is just another page element I can add into my design. You can make it interactive in parts, you can show only parts of it, you can rotate and style it any way you want. For example I always hated the second sun in Star Wars to show us that Tatooine is not on earth. In this demo I can now drag the sun away.

The timestamp is the glue

The main trick is that I have full control over the video in HTML5 and I can react differently according to the time the video is playing right now. I have many other things I can monitor and react to, showcased here and using HTML5 canvas I can even change the video itself while it is playing.

Tapping into the real-time web

All this allows us to have a video and get information from the web to mix with it. Realtime updates from Twitter, other videos, photos and comments from other sources – all of these can be used easily as we are using video with the web rather than putting already done video on the web for consumption. The 18 days in egypt interactive demo shows for example how you can add all kind of – at that time – real-time web information to the the January 28th speech by Hosni Mubarak.

Lean back, relax, grab some popcorn

And the good news is that Mozilla – the non-for profit for the betterment of the web – is making it easy for you to do that with our Popcorn project. Popcorn is a JavaScript library and tool to add web content to videos and re-distribute the final product on the web.

Some quick demos

Some very cool things have been built with popcorn already:

  • One millionth tower is a unique multi-project documentary from the National Film Board of Canada exploring “vertical living” around the world.
  • History in these streets is a audio documentary about the history of the Black Panther party enhanced with Google Maps, images and other multimedia
  • Buffy slays Twilight is a mashup of “Buffy the vampire slayer” and “Twilight” with information in Pop Up Video style.

Popcorn and its maker

We now need you to help us on our quest to make it easier for people like you to embrace the interactivity of online video. For this, we created popcorn.js as explained earlier, but we also made a tool that allows you to create videos in an interface. It is called popcorn maker, and we want you to kick its tires and tell us what is missing and what could be done better.