A Video Tale

Once upon a time there was a sad little digital video file. She had no dress to attend the Web Browser Ball!

Sir Rob of Seattle said “I’ll save you! My dress will give you innovative capability, where anyone can publish, and anyone can see. And, best of all, it’s Progressive!”

The sad little digital video file said “Oh thank you, Sir Rob of Seattle! You have truly innovated! I shall be happy to wear your dress to the ball!”

Then a little apple said “You should wear my dress, because it gives you practical production support — everyone already edits video in a quick time. And, oh, one more thing, I’m very stylish.”

The sad little digital video file said, “Oh, thank you, little apple! Now I have two dresses to choose among, but at least I have standard authoring tool support! And yes, I do think you are very stylish.”

A cube-like borg suddenly appeared! “oh we have that too. but, better. be-cause” (and here the borg hovered closer and whispered, as best it could) “only rich people see the apple’s dress! your dress must be seen by commoners too! so… so… so… so… starting installation now.”

The sad little digital video file grew concerned. “Oh! Now I have three marvelous dresses, how shall I wear them all? Some will want to see me in this gown, others in those shoes, some will want to see me in this hat, oh dear what shall I do?”

The sad little digital video file grew sadder and sadder, as she thought of some people at the ball not seeing her dress.

But just then a flash of red zipped into the room! “You’ve got a problem, I understand, and think I can help. Here, examine this dress — it gives you innovative capability, a full ecosystem of production support, and everyone can see it, no hassle. All the problems of the past will disappear, and you’ll see an explosion of video on the Web. Have fun! Bye!” And zoom he sped off!

The sad little digital video file’s eyes grew wide as she said “Wow, yes, there is an explosion of video on the Web! No one’s disenfranchised, everyone can create, and those handy HTML page addresses can hold every video I’d like to distribute! ooh, a webcam, metadata support, and a pixel-shader language and oh gosh this is fun! I’ll wear the dress from the flash of red!”

And the Web Browser Ball was a beautiful affair, and the sad little digital video file was sad no longer.

But — when she got home — she found King Gecko the Righteous booming from behind the bushes. “You should switch to my dress because it is not proprietary. Proprietary, proprietary, proprietary. Proprietary! The proprietary proprietariness of the open web is itself proprietary, and therefore non-proprietary proprietarituitude is the only correct way to propitiate the proprietary proprietarienesses, and of course it goes without further elaboration that the basic proprietary nature of the proprietary implies further proprietary proprietarienieties, and wait give it up for me developers-developers-proprietary-developers, means more proprietary proprietaries for proprietarily proprietarying you, you, you… you proprietary proprietar, you!”

The now-happy little digital video file thought King Gecko the Righteous rather strange.

But, smiling, she went inside to sleep, after her wonderful, wonderful night, all at the Web Browser Ball.

[I’ll update this post with a link when the FAQ from the video team goes live. I agree with the desirability of a patent-unencumbered codec, but just think the level of rhetoric is rather high.]

11 Responses to A Video Tale

  1. anon says:

    Now if only there was a way to actually edit .flv files… *ducks* *runs*

  2. Brooks says:

    @anon – video pros typically frown on editing compressed footage, but that sentiment aside, the adoption of MPEG4-AVC (h.264) was / is a big deal because it provides a container format that is THE industry standard.
    I get the feeling the bomb throwing anti-proprietary crowd really doesn’t really know much about video. They’re trying very hard to reboot video on the web at all costs. From my perspective the push looks like a net loss for all of us–lower quality, less sophisticated understanding of the video ecosystem and yet another dress (just more chum in the water)

  3. Tim says:

    Anon, I’m not from Adobe, but:
    a) “Editing” FLV files has never been a priority and it shows. Video files for the web are a final format, meant for quick loading and decompression. You *can* edit/import FLV files, but you really want to do that with (usually) crappy web-formatted files? FLV is not meant for video editing. This is like saying JPG is bad because of quality loss. Hey, if you want quality, save the image in its original, lossless format.
    b) FLV is out, F4V/H264 is the new standard for Flash videos.

  4. Mike Cane says:

    And then there were the Princes. They couldn’t see the cute little video file in her flashy dress because they were using the iPhone and the Palm Pre and hanging out at swank places like Veoh, dailymotion, vimeo, et al.
    Fix that already, Adobe, willya?!!?
    [jd sez: Working on it. Palm has been ambiguous about Flash during their initial press, but I’m hopeful. Adobe has committed to the technical development, but Apple has remained mute about permitting it.]

  5. Mike Cane says:

    I’m one of the Princes (OK, frogs!) who will be using a Pre:
    So, I’d really like to see some coordination on that end.

  6. Brooks says:

    @Mike – one thing most people fail to understand is that the iPhone, while supporting MPEG4-AVC (h.264), only supports the baseline profile along with fairly low dimensions (baseline allows low memory footprint decoding required by many devices). This means that a lot of the h.264 video out on the web, just flat out won’t work on the iPhone even if you remove the “flashy dress”.

  7. DB says:

    JD, what ever have they been putting in the Kool-Aid at the Adobe Cafe? 😉

  8. Ryan Paul says:

    This is a shockingly petty response to Mozilla’s efforts to open the web. The need for vendor-neutral standards-based video solutions is very clear. Your attempt to trivialize the problem demonstrates exactly why it’s detrimental to consumers for a single vendor to control the dominant technology that is used to deliver video on the web.
    Your hostility towards Mozilla is incomprehensible. Mozilla isn’t attacking Adobe, they are providing an open alternative. Ultimately, it will be up to the market to choose the solution that best meets their needs. If you or Adobe feel threatened by the prospect of having to compete with open alternatives, then that just reinforces the validity of Mozilla’s argument.
    [jd sez: Which, as I recall, was something about “propitiating the proprietary proprietarienesses” or such…. 😉 ]

  9. Pedro Estarque says:

    Only when she arrived at the bowl did the little digital video file realized why that flash was red after all. The room’s fans began whirling louder and louder and all who looked at the dress felt a sudden burning heat in the lap, specially those stylish apples. It sure was a hot dress!
    [jd sez: Thank you, Pedro, for being even stranger than me, it’s reassuring, and I appreciate it…. 😉 ]

  10. Sandy says:

    It’s a good thing we can have an adult conversation about this. It’s nice that when Ryan writes a thoughtful response, you respond with…oh, wait…that wasn’t very mature at all, now was it?
    [jd sez: One way to maturity is to think, ask questions, and converse, before reaching judgment. Ryan’s article the previous day at Ars started with a presupposition, and he didn’t do any better here. But hope remains for all of us.]

  11. Matt C says:

    The key word in King Gecko’s argument is developers. Developers of new devices and even alternative operating systems can use an open-source decoder for a patent-free format without licensing complications or fees. Developers of new authoring tools, especially live broadcasting and podcast creation tools, can use the reference implementation of the encoder for that format, again without licensing complications or fees. And if Apple and Palm will support this patent-free format, the Princes can see the dress too.
    But if the open-source community is throwing the word “proprietary” around as much as you suggest without explaining the implications, that needs to change.