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Open Source Cinema


Definition of open source cinema: “Open-source films (also known as open-content films and free-content films) are films which are produced and distributed by using free and open-source software methodologies. Their sources are freely available and the licenses used meet the demands of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) in terms of freedom” (Wikipedia Contributors, 2011).

As a concept, open source moviemaking lends from the success of open source software development, from larger ideas of open culture and emerging notions of digital distribution and collaborative audience building – and also reflects a certain disaffection with overly restrictive copyright legislation. In practice, there are 2 benefits to releasing movie source materials under a permissive license such as Creative Commons. Number one is the communities this enables to develop around the movie that can be helpful in helping to make the project actually happen in a medium where movies too often can remain uncompleted on the author’s hard drive. And number two is the allowed freedom to remix the source content by other authors, creating new cultural value and. In the following pages I will detail both aspects and discuss how an open source movie is put together and what are some current examples as well as give insights from personal experience from my own open source documentary film project – Tomé.

Copyright vs. Everything is a Remix

In his video series Everything is a Remix the filmmaker Kirby Ferguson argues a case for remix as a cultural process that is at the heart of creativity – the force that makes innovation possible. Drawing from examples as disparate as Edison’s improvement of the light bulb and its subsequent popularization to Star Wars’ scenes copied from Kursowa’s films to how Google’s search engine was inspired by the ranking of incoming citations in academia, Ferguson shows how every innovation stands on the shoulders of giants – borrowing from what came before (Ferguson, 2011). With the Internet allowing one to trace cultural innovation back to earlier versions – such as the travel of one particular guitar riff trough decades of popular songs on YouTube: the connections between what is contemporary and what came before become increasingly clear – and Ferguson’s view of creativity increasingly credible. “Remix is the literacy of the 21st century”, says Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard Law professor and creator and main proponent of Creative Commons (Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity, 2005).


Taking a global view of culture, there is an emerging shift from passive consumers to people who want to take a more active part in culture and create new things – new cultural products. “Kids today want to make their own stuff” (Suarez, 2011), says a 12-year-old presenter – known for publishing iPhone apps on the app store and starting an app club at his school – at the TEDxManhattanBeach technology conference. With high speed Internet spreading to areas before underserved – such as some African countries – Suarez is not alone among tech savvy kids. Creators can come from anywhere in the world – and be influenced by ideas from anywhere; there is an increasingly diverse set of cultural products that change how we think about the world – as was the case for Tomé, my ongoing open source documentary project about the art scene of Sao Tomé and Principe.

At the same time with opening dispersal of information, there is a stronger focus on catching even the most marginal violations of copyright by corporations whose business models and shareholder value depend on revenue made by the copyrights they hold to cultural products. These corporations are interested in extending copyright as long as possible to prolong their ability to profit. The 1998 U.S. Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1 (Congress of the United States of America) extended copyright to 70 years after the death of the author. With one entity holding copyright for centuries, cultural material necessary for innovation is legally off-limits as copyright may be of longer duration that than the life span of any new creator born.

While content can be licensed from the copyright holder, licensing is prohibitively expensive for small to medium sized cultural producers. While quoting a video is also possible under this copyright legislation it is not a right per se but an act of defense when one is sued for copyright infringement. Fair use is the part of copyright law that allows for free speech, under which one can argue that small parts of copyrighted material was justified to make an argument about a certain issue.

Copyright was invented to promote “the progress of science and useful arts, by securing to limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” (Lessig, 2005) but the current form of copyright is working against that historic ideal.

However there is an alternative cultural trend of independent creators who counter exceeding copyright duration and open-source their productions to allow remixing by anyone who wants to create something new. By making their source files available such producers allow other people to use their work as a basis for their own projects – or help the producer improve their product or branch out into a different direction with the same material. Open source licensing makes every cultural object a sample that can be legally used as a piece for the next cultural project.


Lawrence Lessig argues that “[a] society free to borrow and build upon the past is culturally richer than a controlled one” (Lessig, 2005) and is joined in his argument by Nate Harrison, an artist with a PhD in cultural studies who argues in his video essay about the history of the "Amen Break" drum loop that more creativity is allowed by the freedom to create with digital tools but this creativity is every day less possible due to stringent copyright laws (2006). Harrison quotes in his essay the US judge and judicial commentator Alex Kozinski who stated in his judgment in a 1993 intellectual property case (available on his website) the following: "Overprotecting intellectual property is as harmful as underprotecting it. Culture is impossible without a rich public domain. Nothing today, like nothing since we tamed fire, is genuinely new. Culture, like science and technology, grows by accretion. Each new creator building on the works of those who came before" (White v. Samsung Electronics Dissent, 1993). Both Lessig (a lawyer) and Harrison (an artists) inherently believe that being able to copy from the cultural past and to make new copies in a legal way where the new overrules the old is necessary for cultural innovation. “A society that defends the ideals of free culture must preserve precisely the opportunity for new creativity to threaten the old” (Lessig, 2005).

In a 2008 interview to Ryan McLendon, Gregg Gillis an electronic musician who has arisen to be one of the most recognizable faces of pop culture remixing reinforces that argument: “[]here’s a big push from kids from the legal world to the academic world for a more open exchange of culture and media…People don’t really consume media anymore: they interact with it…It’s just kind of the way the world exists right now. I think something like my new album falls right in line with a lot of that in that it’s a new transformative work that’s not creating competition” (McLendon, 2008) and Steve Anderson, a professor of the USC School of Cinema-Television does the same: “What kinds of unimagined cultural products and practices might emerge from an open source cinema movement conceived as a partnership – rather than an adversarial relationship – between consumers and media industries?“ (OPEN SOURCE: Cinema in the Public Domain, 2005). New content that people transform into a product using the same source materials is not necessarily competition.

Continue reading 2/7: Cloud Storage and Sharing of Source Files

Cloud Storage and Sharing of Source Files

The explosion of broadband access has had a strong influence on traditional models of movie distribution and is having its first implications in production.

In distribution, as high download speeds allow high resolution content to be spread without physical media (that traditionally has given control over geography through DVD areas and facilitated control of copyright) online distribution is increasing rapidly, be it through downloading and streaming through channels such as Torrent trackers like The Pirate Bay that facilitate access to illegally distribute content – or downloading and streaming through legal channels such as iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon or one of the beta startups like Flixster or Fanhattan.

In production, there are also signs of increasing collaboration taking advantage of higher upload speeds and raise of cloud storage platforms such as Amazon S3, Dropbox, SugarSync and many others, allowing people to collaborate on increasingly complex projects. Fast broadband is getting more ubiquitous in places outside of the global metropolises and wealthy countries – meaning collaborating with someone in rural South America or an African capital city is becoming feasible.

While connection speed are reaching usable velocities, in such cross-border collaboration, the high cost of cloud storage still remains a problem. Whereas the files to collaborate on for a music piece are relatively small ranging in hundreds of megabytes, the source files for a full feature length movie are relatively huge. A standard 90-minute film is made out of 30-50 hours of raw footage. A documentary project can have hundreds of hours of footage, totaling various terabytes of data. In the case of my open source film project Tomé, I have close to 2 terabytes of raw footage spread out over 3 disks for redundancy as an external disk that falls off a table can erase hundreds of hours of work. While I’ve made a point of making my footage available under an open source license, in reality I’ve only been able to share a fraction of the footage.

Thus open-sourcing large amounts of data – even if they are incentivized to do so – is still problematic for an individual or a small company working on an independent film. In a traditional project files need to be accessible for 3-5 people (director, editor, assistant editors, colorist, sound design) who each have a large role in the production process whereas open source contributions can range from tiny to considerable to huge but the number of people contributing to one project can number in the hundreds. All these people need fast access to the files and their contribution to the project need to be kept in sync through some type of version control system.

Hosting source files remains a single difficulty of making films open source. Would you open source your film if you had the hosting? For open-source projects such libraries are a necessity to make choosing of footage possible however hosting terabytes of footage is costly. For Tomé I’ve uploaded source files to Vimeo and YouTube, the largest. YouTube does not encourage downloading of files (even if this is possible using additional software which is not supported under YouTube terms of use) and lowers the quality of the footage through compression.


Author of one of the most high profile open source movies – RIP: A Remix Manifesto – Brett Gaylor used a very low technology solution for doing this exchanging individual files over an FTP server. Making the film mostly alone when starting out almost a decade in ago in 2002, Gaylor’s incentive to open source his footage was the thematic content of the film – the relations copyright between copyright and remix – and the fact he needed collaborators to actually get the film made. Gaylor built a particular call-and-response system with the audience, letting people download his film’s footage and re-upload it in an edited form however they liked it – sometimes getting back things he had not thought of himself. For example a rotoscoped version of a scene about the film’s hero Girl Talk made by painstakingly drawing over each frame – created by a whole class of film students inspired by Gaylor’s project. In order to manage the open source process and access to pieces of content, Gaylor created a website called OpenSourceCinema.org where he held competitions to incentivize more people to participate in his film. Gaylor spent 8 years completing the film together with online collaborators – longer than any traditional project – but he worked as an independent producer and in the process created something widely loved both by critics and the audiences with a 7.7 rating on IMDB.

Continue reading 3/7: Existing Open Source Movie Projects

Existing Open Source Movie Projects

Wikipedia maintains a list that includes both open source and open content films (films that are free to share but the source file are not available) (Wikipedia Contributors) and Soosck (a blogger who writes about GNU) has collected 20 open source film projects one can edit and distribute for free (2010) that both have excluded larger-budget productions such as the BBC Digital Revolution and RiP: A Remix Manifesto. These community-generated lists of open source cinema include the documentaries Dancing to Architecture (2002) and Route 66 (2004); animated shorts Elephants Dream (2006), Big Buck Bunny (2008) and Sintel (2010) – all three created by the Blender Foundation’s Institute to demonstrate the capabilities of Blender software – and Sita Sings the Blues (2009) by Nina Paley who animated the whole feature length animation by herself (thus not looking for community central to open source ideology); feature fiction films Boy Who Never Slept (2006), Oceania (2008) and Valkaama (2010); and art projects Stray Cinema (2006) and .re_potemkin (2007).

Counting all sources, open source films number less than one hundred. The first one was created in 2002 and the examples cited thus far were principally made by non-professional filmmakers and creative producers. Current open source movies can be in general be characterized as of poor artistic quality. It seems more effort goes into the technology than actual storytelling and the productions. In general they have low budgets and offer little production value in terms of advanced equipment used or access to exclusive filming locations. The number of projects making the end results freely available is larger than the number of projects making the source files available. While these are open content films (often released under a Creative Commons license) they are not open source. The final product of an open source project can be sold but few have done this: the only notable example being RiP: A Remix Manifesto available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

RIP: A Remix Manifesto:

“[C]orporations are taking over our culture and telling us we are the consumers. And we say no,” says Girl Talk the remix artist and hero of the movie, a collaborative, open-source film made over a period of 8 years by the Canadian filmmaker Brett Gaylor and released under a Creative Commons license in 2009. The thesis of the film is counter to the idea of fixed cultural good made for consumption only – “We want to respond to it, modify it, remix it, cut it up” – “It’s beneficial to share ideas”

BBC Digital Revolution:

Open source is more popular and useful in social documentaries as they profit from the creation of community around the film and in some cases my rise out of community. BBC Digital Revolution Film about how the Internet is changing the world, that in addition to releasing raw interview footage from Tallinn, San Francisco, Ghana, New York outsourced parts of the project, such as the film’s title. This was one of the few projects that did not use a Creative Commons license; the BBC developed its own Open Source license: This BBC Digital Revolution License; however source files remained available only within the time of production (the filmmakers actively collaborated with the audience) but were removed once the project was finished and went on air on the BBC.


As of December 2011, the latest notable open source movie is Highrise, a documentary about the way people live in high-rise buildings around the planet. One Millionth Tower is based on a number of existing open source technologies, including Mozilla’s Popcorn.js (a JavaScript engine for developing multimedia content), Mr. Doob’s three.js (a JavaScript library for WebGL, allowing 3D objects in the browser), Google Map and Google Streetview data that together are used to create and interactive experience Out My Window where the viewer explores the housing conditions around the world (The Quality). By marrying the browser and documentary filmmaking, the project effectively redefines what a documentary is and does.


Open source fits the philosophy of the project, with its basis in participatory urban design and collaborative documentary production. “Life is a lot more fun if we crate, and we build, and we share, collaborating and building upon each other’s ideas” (Cizek, 2011). Pieces of content get triggered in the code through the interactions of the viewer and people can move around the 3D space of the movie. “It’s not a traditional documentary because we use very little video. […] Everything we’ve made, you can go into the code line by line and take it and make your own One Millionth Tower. […] The philosophy behind open source technology is that the technology is all of ours to own. And that’s exactly the vision behind the film. It’s about us owning the urban space and having the power to change it” (Cizek, 2011).

Continue reading 4/7: Codecs, Software and Editing

Codecs, Software and Editing

Three types of codecs are common in movie production. These are 1) the capture codec which is used inside the camera and is optimized for fast compression with special circuitry within the camera. The most common of such is the H264 codec that provides high levels of compression; 2) the intermediate codec that is used for speed of editing; and 3) the distribution codec that is optimized for viewing.

Capture Codecs:

Capture codecs are CinemaDNG open standard which is used by the IKONOSKOP A Cam D-II camera (Carleton, 2010) and Leica cameras. Tomé used the standard capture codec inside Canon cameras – as changing that is technically difficult.

Intermediate Codecs:

From the perspective collaboration, the intermediate codec is the most important. Tomé video files are in the Cineform format, which is an intermediary codec that is useful for real-time editing of high-resolution material making it possible to editing on a portable laptop computer. Cineform is not an open-source codec and there is no viable open source alternative for it available. The alternatives are Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD, developed closed-source and supported by Apple and Avid respectively.


Distribution Codecs

Distribution codecs are H264 and WebM that is endorsed by Google and is an open source project.


While the aim of open source cinema is increased creativity, true real time collaboration is still not possible. Cloud-based editing is difficult and with only basic functionality and allows for no collaboration on the same file. Current and previous projects have done this by having the same source files in exactly the same folder structure and sending EDL or project files back and forward.

The software for making an open source film does not necessarily have to be open source provided the files and project files, such as EDL (edit decision list) for modification made to the raw files are released in open source formats or formats modifiable by open source software. Open video tools are discussed at the annual “Open Video Conference” in California however a full editing stack is yet to emerge (Open Video Conference).

Open-source filmmakers often have some software development background and are cross-inspired by filmmaking, web technologies and the startup beta process. Such is Alexander Rangel from Brazil (a country where cultural remix is very much understood not only on the level of media put in the melting pot of hundreds of languages and cultures that historically have mixed together to make Brazil) who created Quase-Cinema for the open source live representation and mixing of video that allows open source cinema to be performed live (Rangel, 2011).

Lightworks is an Academy and Emmy award-winning software that was recently made is available as open source to boost its usage in a larger community; a software that’s been traditionally used by high-end editors such as Chris Gill and multi Oscar-winning Thelma Schoonmaker. Compared to more common closed-sourced editing software such as Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere, Lightworks offers advanced real time effects, 2K native support with DPX or RED, and multi-camera editing making it perhaps the most advanced post-production software that is available open source (No Film School).

Kaltura enables web-based editing. It can actually take place on the web using a browser; one doesn’t need to have desktop software (Kaltura), however the user experience that remains to be improved and the lack of advanced features leaves much to wish for.

Recently YouTube has introduced a remix button to Creative Commons licensed videos, essentially meaning these become available for editing right the browser and YouTube keeps track of all the edits. Navigating and mashing up in these source edits is not yet possible though.

Continue reading 5/7: Open Hardware and Cinematography

Open Hardware and Cinematography

There are not many open source camera projects in the film world, however there’s the Apertus HD that makes use of a sensor provided by Elphel and adds to that custom component and software (Open Source Living). This is the first hardware project licensed under GPL.


Another open source digital camera from Stanford photo scientists (Science Daily) that only exists in lab conditions. “Scientists at Stanford are working on an open source camera that could change the world of photography by giving programmers the power to change and add features to a camera via software updates” (Hot Hardware). Some of the features that could be enabled by an open source camera because of collaborative added improvements in software include a high dynamic range capabilities like HDR video, video enhancement with still photos and ability to upload video directly from camera (as current Android and iPhone devices do) .

Current cameras (as of 2011) produced by Canon, Nikon, Red are proprietary systems where user innovation is minimal. Compared to the possibilities of cameras on mobile phones with advanced operation systems where the camera is a secondary feature like the Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS for the iPhone and but have an open API on which to build extra features, phones have more advanced possibilities than common cameras. Even though the iOS is considered a very closed system and it certainly is closed-source and proprietary due to its extensive APIs it is relatively more open than a common camera and accessible for user innovation.

People have developed their own firmware for cameras making close-sourced cameras open-source cameras with options that the manufacturer did think or didn’t want to include in the product. Magic Lantern is a custom firmware and an open (GPL) framework for developing extensions to the official Canon firmware that functions on top of the official software and allows advanced features such as “manual audio, zebras, focus assist tools, bracketing [and] motion detection” (Magic Lantern Contributors, 2011).

Continue reading 6/7: Funding, Collaboration and Communities

Funding, Collaboration and Communities

Creating communities is a key reason for open source movie development. Brett Gaylor: “if the audience helped me to make the films, they would also help me to share the film. […] They helped to make it so they felt ownership of it” (Gaylor, 2010). Online collaboration creates the idea of a scenium where people are moving away from the idea of a creative genius and towards the idea of a collaborative exchange that creates a richer medium.

Open source cinema allows the audience to take part in the creation of the film so the content created or remixed by audience can influence the main narrative. The shift between consumers and producers is begging to blur and everybody is becoming a creator. The incentive to get involved is creativity and freedom of expression. Creators feel ownership and can have some input into a very important topic. “The remix as rebellion has a tradition that dates back to the Dadaists, William S. Burroughs, and the cultural jammers and beyond. There more content there is to share, the more people have to blog about and talk about. People were able to link to it on their blogs. This really pushed the page up on the Google rankings, Technorati listings and other online tastemakers’ so more people were able to find the film” (IFP Filmmaker Conference, 2007). Others have taken advantage of the Internet and its abundant images to create something of their own – also people who disagree with something the author is saying can use the source material to make a their own counter argument – and filmmaking becomes a conversation.

Create contests around open source to encourage and incentivize people to do this. Media lock up their production with copyright but creative commons creators encourage people to remix their movies. Creative commons allows filmmaking to get more open and collaborative, much like software development. “Traditionally, production is a very closed process but if we can open it up that model then that creates new possibilities and opportunities for not just people in the industry but really anyone who has passion, some talent, and wants to get involved” (Suehle, 2010).

Creators thus far have funded open-source movie projects and by donations and none of them have had commercial success. Crowdfunding is making it possible to have people support high quality projects. People who become involved financially in the film feel more ownership and become brand ambassadors for the project. As of November 2011, there are hundreds of crowdfunding sites around the world in Europe, Asia, South America and North America, spanning languages like English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese. This means projects can build an audience already from the funding process. Largest sites by total funding include Kickstarter and IndieGogo, both located in San Francisco. On Kickstarter, Creative Commons licensed project can receive additional promoting by being part of the Creative Commons supported films page (Kickstarter).

Source files of open content are being used in education to learn editing. The Polytechnic University of Catalonia has taken the approach of teaching open source culture through collaborative video editing by making use of the material open-sourced by the Stray Cinema project (Roig, 2011). Stray Cinema makes footage available and asks people to put together a 6 minutes clip that may be incorporate in the final film (Lloyd).

A network of conferences has spawned around open source filmmaking and the wider open source culture phenomenon. The Open Video Conference that takes place in California is an event where open culture enthusiasts go for skill sharing, building new relationships, and important meetings and action and to talk about HTML5 video, metadata standards, video publishing platforms, economics of content delivery, the bridging of television and Internet and streaming production, viral distribution and peer to peer distribution, and the evolution of digital storytelling in general and to take part in actual open content creation workshops such as “hackathons and developer meetings” (Open Video Conference).

Collaborative films that include hundreds of filmmakers such as Life in a Day directed by Oscar-winning Kevin Macdonald and producer Ridley Scott that was debuted live on YouTube while it was simultaneously screened at the Sundance film festival are a great opportunity for open-sourcing as the footage is contributed by thousands of individual people. Huge Hollywood names that make use of collaboration of hundreds of filmmakers in 190 countries filming together 4500 hours of material however don’t release the source materials no the final film.


A similar project however, One Day on Earth, also makes use of unprofessional footage shot by thousands of participants filming together 3000 hours of material again on one single day but has made available as a geo-tagged archive can be searched by topic, popularity and location for any filmmaker to make use of (One Year on Earth Archive). It’s a huge global effort that includes footage from 200 countries (the UN has 193 members) all uploading their source footage that this then collaboratively edited (I participated in transcribing the videos made in Estonia). The licensing of such an archive is open source according to the authors however it’s not Creative Commons (the actual license unfortunately is nowhere to be found on the website while the creators confirm in private emails it is open source and free to use).

Continue reading 7/7: Virality, Distribution and Licenses

Virality, Distribution and Licenses

A popular filmmaker and channel owner on online video-sharing site YouTube M Strange says proudly, “[t]he people I want to impress are online. They are the new audiences that can find your stuff that they are unable to find on festivals” (Strange, 2008) and YouTube is becoming a large database where Creative Commons licensed video can be found. YouTube filmmakers create mashup content with new meanings. Every piece of editing film could be broken up into the source pieces and mashed up in interesting views and attached back to the original video for findability and to encourage conversation.

Open source cinema encourages virality in moviemaking. In a future with more open source cinema people could be able to see all the pieces of content that went into it and comment and share each of those pieces. The viewer could stop the image and seeing all the references as links that you are watching as a cohesive narrative. Gaylor imagines things that can add value to the theatrical release – for example when someone makes a remix of the video you made with the open source project and the author could get a notification on his phone (Gaylor, 2010). This would allow the author respond so the filmmaking experience becomes a conversation instead of being one way only. In the same way people could demand a film screening in their town so the producer would know in which cities to release the film on the big cinema screen because there’s an audience willing to pay for it. Creating an open source cinema project isn’t just so focused on the end product but creating an interactive experience around it.

This is exactly the goal of social documentary filmmaking where – get many people involved and to change something in the society; openness in filmmaking is a way to engage the communities from the beginning engage them to make a change in real life. Open source cinema also means that branched narratives become possible. This is common in the software world where because of a philosophical difference; development can branch into 2 separate versions of the software with a different focus. In the case of the film, various filmmakers can take parts of the films and focus on arguing a different point in the story – even opposing the original narrative. This is mainly an issue in social documentaries that are made to advance a specific idea or ideology about the world, or try to change the behavior or attitude of people towards something.

Creative Commons is a way for artist, creators, and producers to say to other consumers and producers they are free to remix that content. “[Y]ou keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit”. Not all movies released under a Creative Commons license are open source. The majority them are not. The majority of Creative Commons’ films may be free to share and to modify but the source files that were used to make it are rarely available.


Al Jazeera:

Al Jazeera Creative Commons Repository founder Mohamed Nanabhay: “In most organizations there’s this culture it’s ours. Then it gets stuck in an archive and it’s never seen again” (Al Jazeera)

RiP: A Remix Manifesto:

In the case of Brett Gaylor’s RIP: Remix manifesto, available under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license, the film showed up on 20 different TV stations, on the Pirate Bay, Hulu, iTunes, and elsewhere. It is interesting to find pieces of this documentary around the web that have been made by different people, such as a “rotoscoped piece made by university students from Concordia University in Canada” (Blanco).


Mozilla is one of the organizations pushing for open web video using open standards. Opening up the video player means that audiovisual content on the web can be accessible to scripts that can manipulate video data syncing up video with interactive web elements. This is video that is quotable, linkable, searchable and interactive with the data from around the web. Attaching data through APIs to the film experience. Open source cinema may pull in content from sites such as the Internet Archive, NASA, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons Video Category, Vimeo, YouTube with content findable  with the “creativecommons” tag. A great example of that is a #18daysinegypt video that uses popcorn.js and HTML for standards-based video delivery and open access to the source files. One can watch the main narrative or zoom into the pieces that make up the content. What if all of this was also open and navigable and searchable within in each video file. When a video file gets exported today all the meta-data gets lost making the file harder to find.


There are examples of interesting open source film projects happening. And while Hollywood producers are not close to releasing the source footage of any of their films any time soon, smaller producers and news agencies that have an alternative revenue source for their content then the actual paid viewing may profit from releasing the source files so audiences can dive deeper into the story and make their own presentations that highlight different parts of the content.

Continue reading the conclusions


While a completely open source workflow is not yet possible, parts of each stage of production can have open source components. There is an open source camera (which does not however yet compete in terms of quality of the image), there is open source software for editing (but no an open source intermediary editing codec), and there are open source codecs for distribution, and open source technologies for interacting with other media online (mainly thanks to the Mozilla project), and there are simple licenses to regulate how and on what terms source footage is shared.

Open source movie projects are still rare and far in between nonetheless. Their source files are generally made available under the Creative Commons license and the final product is released online only, also under a Creative Commons license. There’s no example of a commercially successful open source movie. Judged by the lack of popularity of open source movies with the audiences, it may also be argued they do not conform to the mainstream entertainment expectations of the audiences.

Open source films with the notable exception of RIP: A Remix Manifesto also have not reached a very high artistic quality; perhaps it is because too few have been made and by people with non-artistic backgrounds. Possibly because film school teaches that a film of high artistic quality needs the strong hand of a director a directorial vision – and open source film projects make too little use of benevolent dictators. From current examples, films where a central benevolent dictator is doing something but allows people to participate (again, RIP: A Remix Manifesto) have higher artistic quality than those made entirely collaboratively without a leader and his artistic vision.  And finally, still, some technical hurdles remain, as cloud storage of terabytes of data is expensive.

The value created by open source movies for now are new communities, learning of filmmaking (as at the Catalonian University) by people who before had little access to filmmaking, and availability of legal content for remixing (YouTube), and the clarification of the idea of creative authorship by some mythical inspiration into something more indelible in the copy-transform-modify paradigm – teaching one to think about “the Lego blocks of creativity” and culture as sort of a collage of ideas.

As culture becomes increasingly digital and ideas are expressed in a digital format making it easier for people to find and remix these ideas around the world open source culture together with Creative Commons licenses facilitate new cultural innovation. However, the content that people really want to remix is the content produced with high production values, commonly created by copyright-holding studios large corporations with large budgets and interests in extending copyright into as far into the future as possible. Culture is reference and response and with online this is becoming obvious as references can be easily tracked down. The quality of open source production must rise. No matter how the film is made, storytelling is still the most important part.

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