Day 153: Freedom in HD

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June 1, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra

The world is filling up with filmmakers, and I think that’s just grand.  With wider access to powerful tools for creativity and a network to exchange, enjoy and share amateur and independent work, it’s never been easier to make something worth watching.  While there’s less than ever before to hold someone back from becoming the next Scorsese, there are still a few perks that Hollywood’s holding out on.  Exclusivity is the name of Hollywood’s game, and distribution rights are at its center.  Control over who gets to see what and when is the greatest single power left in that big house of cards and the power, and having a finite, physical, secure and governable format to distribute content on is an instrument of power that the entertainment industry has wielded for decades.  Once upon a time, tapes and DVDs piled up in living rooms around the world, and in recent years, Blu-Rays are taking their place, but digital streaming seems like the only real option distributing independent film.  While I’m of the opinion that physical formats will quietly lose their dominance over home entertainment as time goes on, the fact that indie filmmakers are limited in their capacity to distribute physical media serves to show that the scales still have further to tip.  Today’s project is putting more power in the open hands of the independents, and ultimately putting more gorgeous, high-definition movies on our screens.

Lib-Ray is a brand new, high-definition movie format designed in the open and with open standards – to enable movie-watching, rather than restrict it.

In April of 2011, after exploring the options for releasing a free culture film project in HD Format and finding it wanting (“Five ideas for escaping the Blu-Ray blues“), I started this project to establish a basic standard for HD video that used existing open standards and would give all of the benefits of DVD or Blu-Ray videos (menus, extras, alternate audio tracks, subtitles, and so on) with none of the restrictions. It would also provide some nice features that DVD and Blu-Ray expressly do not provide, such as metadata for easy integration into archival systems (because the old content industry wants to block that kind of use).

Lib-Ray is not only giving open-source and independent films to reproduce the functions that Hollywood’s had the market cornered on for so long, it’s going above and beyond those features to make independent films a more integrated, engaging, accessible and easier-to-use entertainment experience.  Compatibility issues and regional restrictions be damned!  HD for all!  The next Avatar might not be filmed by a college kid in Arkansas, but with the ability to distribute his work in its full, high-def glory, Lib-Ray is giving him a distribution channel once reserved for James Cameron et al.  Help the whole world watch in HD (and score some very cool looking open-source films) by supporting the development of the Lib-Ray format before this Sunday, June 3.


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