Affinity Video


Below is the text for my talk in Argos on friday 5 october 2007, in the framework of the Video Vortex conference. It is made to be read out with images. It talks about a drawing of a workfloww … that drawing can be found here

The lecture can be viewed in the archive blog of the conference
or downloaded as an flv file from



I work with video in public spaces and social situations. The point of departure for my talk today is a drawing of the workflow of a videoproject. This drawing maps moments which require some form of negotiation and decisionmaking. Moments that demand a protocol and a method of exchange.
The aim of the map is to trace possibilities to work together.

As you can see; the scetch is in a early phase, for the moment it shows big gaps, it is not yet precise. The diagram is based on how I work myself, with additional input from other artists experiences.

The maps consists of 5 main areas:
Camerawork, transfering data to a computer, editing, encoding / exporting and distribution.
I propose to quickly go through the wole workflow and then focuss a bit more in depth on a few items in the area of online distribution, the topic of today’s conference.
If I start talking about the map, I will drift off in all directions. That’s why I recorded a small guided tour.

(start recording)
Area 1 camerawork:
I work with a script, and need to negotiate the compensation for using it and copyrighhts with the author.
-I need to organise a location, if this is a private one, I need to arrange permission to access, film and eventually show. If it is a public space, I need to check for local laws on disturbing flow of traffic, public safety etc.
I need to arrange the copyrights and rights on depicting persons and objects which I will film:
portrait rights with passersby who I film in close up, rights of depicting copyrighted architecture, the rights of actors and objects of a extraordinary nature such as public artworks need to be cleared.
I need to hire a camera crew, and talk to the cameraperson / d.o.p. about the conditions concerning rights on the images.
I need material: camera’s, tape, accesories, all of those need to checked for compatibilty, liability,
In case I rent equipment: the conditions for use,
I check all insurances

Area 2: Capturing to the computer:
Do I use USB, Firewire, composit or svideo transfer?
I have a Linux operating system, and have a videocard installed which supports my protocol, I need a driver for the card which allows my OS to recognise and employ my video card.
I might opt for direct encoding through an MPEG box, in whic case I should check permissions and restrictions bound to the device and the compression codec which is used.
I need a capture software installed that supports the protocol. If you use proprietory Adobe or Apple software you need to be aware of the restrictions in the license agreements you have signed, and if you use cracked versions, make sure your system is not connected to the registration database of the company who produced your software. I use free software so this is not an issue.
I might want to transcode the file before editing: and need to check the rights and limitations connected to the codec i choose.

Area 3: Editing
I Import my files into an editing software
I agree to the license agreement, of my software
users of illegal proprietory softwares don’t forget to click ‘Register later’,
when the license of use of your propriatory software is expired, pay for prolongation,
when you have outdated software, pay, update, accept the new license,
when you have free software installed; relax for a moment
I need a driver for my screen, to enable previewing in the software,
I might want to transcode while editing
I mght need some not so free codecs to make work possible
I edit my project

Area 4: Encoding / Exporting
I want to export my file to a support, for that I most likely need to encode my file.
I export to several supports:
first is a text export in an XML eedit decission list
I encode to DV to export my file through my device of choice, videocard, complient connected cable
> to my camera or deck in which I put a tape to record my visuals.
> to my external dvd burner, to burn a dvd disc
I also want to make some webfilms, so I compress my file to theora video stream and an ogg vorbis audio stream which I combine in an OGM container format

Area 5: Distribution
I apply a permissive license to my work, I choose for a Free Arts License, and distribute my tape, dvd, or screen it straight from the computer
The webfilm I made, I apply a license , launch my ftp software, comply with the conditions of my web hosting provider, am aware of the installed DRM filters my provider has installed, upload the file to my server.
Another way to show the work is upload it to a video viewing platform such as youtube or yahoo video
(if possible,) I license my work
I make an account on the platform
I agree with the Terms for Use of the platform and start uploading
The upload procedure’s of may of the commercial ones including the two I named use an automatised encoding procedure, apart from transcoding it to flash, other data is encrypted in your video.
(end tape)

When you have found your favorite way of working, most of these actions will become unnoticeable routines. The Belgian anthropologist Bambi Ceuppens once explained why she uses such great amounts of brackets, notes, references and contextualisations in her texts, by saying that their intention is to break the fluency of reading, to point out that texts are artificial constructs, that their function is to behave as stumble blocks that are in the way of an all to easy understanding of the text.
That is also the aim of this map: a workflow comprises of a chain of tools tricks, techniques and protocols which all together smoothen the work. But this comfort of ‘knowing how things work’ makes us sometimes insensitive for other perspectives. How can we reinvent our practice by trying to stumble over the smallest aspects? Which short cuts, loops, dérives or detours can we invent to create space for a higher degree of collectivity within our individual practices?

A few words and images about how I work:
– In this project ‘the Language Police’ a group of teenagers worked for 3 months researching discriminatory words in media. They made streetinterviews …..

fiction films …

and uploaded these films to a videoblog ….

which could be followed in an exhibitionspace, this was part of the exhibition ‘Satelite of love’ in Witte de With in Rotterdam in 2006.

image: UIT + THUIS 1
Until 2004 I ran a public workspace for video in a residential area in the Dutch city Vlaardingen

image: UIT + THUIS 2
where i worked with inhabitants and invited artists on video documents visualising a neighbourhood in a permanent state of change.

image: UIT + THUIS 3
We made weekly streaming broadcasts mixing documentary and experimental views on the area.
In these streamings we worked on macintosh and windows computers, using quicktime broadcaster, and got frustrated by the numerous compatibility issues we had with displaying the streams on computers in the neighbourhood. It was clear that the bits, bytes, protocols, cpu power and screen resolution of all those very different machines receiving the streams where as much part of the video-work as was the content of the broadcasts. This got me interested in working with open standards and open source software and platforms.

Since 2005, I am a member of Constant, a collective of artists, programmers, designers and other cultural workers.
We create research through practice: we produce works and events with the aim to investigate and reflect on the conditions of work in the field of media, arts, copyleft, feminism and open source.
Amongst others we produce workshops

Such as here a workshop about the open source timeline video editing software Cinelerra for a group of Brussels video makers.

image: CINELERRA 2
Cinelerra is an incredible tool, but it requires a bit of learning and getting used to.

Constant also organises DIY open hardware workshops,

image: FRIGO 2
producing amongst others home made portable computers, such as this easy to cool down model made by Wendy van Wynsberge,

image: HACKLAB
But also producing this Tyan motherboard, 6G ram, split buss dual core, professional editing machine built for optimised performance of open source edit solutions.

When thinking about todays presentation, I asked myself what I expect from an online platform for distributing video. I tried to come up with a few answers. This is the shortlist I would like to talk about today.

I expect a platform to:
– facilitate exchange with people who share a similar interest
– give access to videofiles
– allow sharing of the workprocess
– give me control over my own video
– allow me to participate in the system

1: facilitate exchange with people who share a similar interest

I use the web to exchange films with people I work with. For example through this Constant weblog about Open Source Video. Usually the video’s which are uploaded are technical tests or demo’s of something we worked on, not directlymeant for showing to an audience.

I understand protocol, quoting Alexander Galloway, as follows: “Protocol is a type of controlling logic that operates outside institutional, governemental and corporate power.”
Besides HTML, IP, HTTP, ftp, IEEE1394 our protocols of xchange also include:
trust, curiosity, friendship, affinity, working happy together, mutual fascinations …
When people who like each other work together, there is little need for formalisation.

If you share similar interests with people you do not like, or do not know, things change.
– Imagine: You have written a piece of code which will be valuable to a software project that is developed by people you don’t know and don’t want to know. These people posess knowledge and skills that you don’t have and the software resulting from this collaboration will be beneficial to your work.

image: POSTER LOGO’s
In this context it is worthwhile taking notice that ‘collaboration’ has a connotation of ‘working with the enemy’, as Florian Schneider writes in his text on the subject: “It means working together with an agency with which one is not immediately connected.”
In order to make sure these people I don’t know, or don’t like, can actually copy, change and redistribute my work, I need to permit them to do so. If I do not, the copyrightlaws will be fully effective , and these laws might be too restrictive for what we want to achieve. I choose and attach an open license to my work, such as Creative Commons, Free Arts License in the case of publishing media files, or the GPL General Public License in case of publishing software.
Counter to copyright, Free Licenses do not protect my exclusive rights of exploiting the object. They defend the rights of the object to be freely used and exploited by anybody, that is: including me. A license also helps me to protect me from what I want: which is applying trust, friendlyness, generosity and all other warm qualifications of personal relationships as if they were reliable protocols for exchange.

image:: Facebook SIGNUP
If I join a sharing platform; YouTube for example, I will have to sign a Terms of Use document. In this document the company running the platform specifies the conditions for using the services it offers. This can be compared to a contract you sign with a landlord when you rent a house, or with a hosting provider when you rent some webspace. These contracts tell you how the owner or company expects you to deal with their property.

Most of the Terms of Use also specify rules between users. Users have to obide to these rules when watching or exchanging each others files. If I sign up with a company which does not allow me to attach a free license to my own publications, the company will confirm existing copyright laws and place company policy rules on top of that.
Let’s compare that with signing a wedding contract. It is the state providing the conditions and rules for two people to share their household. If you don’t go to a lawyer to draw up specifications to this document national laws will apply by default. If you marry before some religious platform, some extra moral lugage will be put on top of the law. Marriage is not a prerequisite for loving someone. You can love someone without a certificate.

Allthough the interface language sometimes suggests otherwise, we do not depend on webplatforms for exchanging files or meeting friends. However sympathetic, Free licenses do not bring you friends.
All these documents are specifying terms of control, or giving up control.

image: WIKIPEDIA on marriage
Wikipedia defines marriage as follows: Marriage is an interpersonal relationship with governmental, social, or religious recognition, often created as a contract, or through civil process. Civil marriage is the legal concept of marriage.
A few examples of arragements made through marriage are given:
Marriage sometimes establishes the legal father of a woman’s child; establishes the legal mother of a man’s child; gives the husband or his family control over the wife’s sexual services, labor, and/or property; gives the wife or her family control over the husband’s sexual services, labor, and/or property; establishes a joint fund of property for the benefit of children; or establishes a relationship between the families of the husband and wife.

the second thing I expect from an online platform is that it:
2: Gives access to videofiles
Accessibility in my dictionary means: Within reach and to be used. For this I need a couple of things:

– A videofile which I can legally copy, change and redistribute
– A direct link to the file in the form of a url, ftp address, rss feed, or otherwise.
– A file in a format which I can work with or that is compliant with open standards and / or codecs
– A possibility to preview the files

An example of what becomes possible if the above boxes are checked, is the Prelinger Archives Mash Ups Collection. Prelinger Archives is a collection of 60.000 advertising, amateur, educational and industrial films that date from 1903 to 1990. 2000 of these films are published in the public domain through The Prelinger Archives Mashups are films in which footage from the Prelinger archives is remixed. They can also be found on

Maybe a better word to use in stead of ‘sharing’ when we talk about displaying and exchanging digital files would be ‘multiplication’. Most of the time we don’t split the file in half when we download or exchange it, but we double the file by copying it to our hard drive.

The third thing I expect from an online platform is that it enables me to
3: share the workprocess
When working with others on a film sharing the workprocess can mean several things:
– co-authorship on the synopsis and scenario
– exchanging ideas, scetches, try-outs and tests,
– shoot remotely
– work with a group of people on the editing
and many other things

One of my favorite ways to share a work in process is by working with more people on the same edit project through exchanging Edit Decision Lists. An edit decision list is a textual description of an edit project which contains all the edit info. If you have a centralised mediasource, this file is the only thing you need to exchange.

image: KINO
This is a very simple project made in Kino, a simple but powerfull open source edit tool.

image: EDL
This is the same project saved as an EDL textfile: A List of Edit Decissions written in XML / SMIL synchronised multi media integration language) Its structure is simple, it can be edited with a simple text editor.

Maybe a more exiting way to think about exchange is to use the potential of networks to reinvent the production process of film. This could involve wiki’s as collective writing tool + as a platform for communication in combination with an online resource for uploading and downloading filmclips.
An example of a project that does that:

Echo Chamber Project, A collaborative documentary about the behaviour of American media in the days before the invasion of Iraq.
Another example is

I quote from the website
”A Swarm of Angels reinvents the Hollywood model of filmmaking to create cult cinema for the Internet era. We are tired of films that are made simply to please film executives, sell popcorn, or tie-in with fastfood licensing deals.”
The project aims to produce a £1,000,000 movie with small donations from 50,000 people. The film will be developed through feedback from the 50,000 angels who fund it. The resulting film will be released under a CC license.
The funding Angels are signing up in batches: first 100, then 1000, then 5000, then 25000, then 50000. At each stage, the angels get to participate in different parts of the film production: script development, teaser production, trailer production, pre-production planning, production, post-production, etc.

Interesting is that the project turns the financing logic of the film industry upside down. Instead of the approach that film is a tool to make money, money becomes a tool to make a film. Once the film is ready, its distribution will be disconnected from moneymaking practices.

You heard the notoriously pirating dj’s the Kleptones
who will make the soundtrack to ‘a swarm of angels’,

But we were talking about money:
When I engage in a project one of the things I ask myself is what it will bring me. These can be many things: The work might be interesting, it can bring me contacts, new insights, sunny working conditions, you name it. Earning money can definitely be one of those things.
So the question is:
> How can a sharing platform help make money?
One answer will be given by Chad Hurley, one of the founders of Youtube in 2005. In 2006 Google paid 1.6 billion dollars for the platform which was launched just one year earlier. According to the Wall Street Journal, Chad Hurley alone made 345.6 million with this deal. So he is knowledgeable enough to learn us a trick or two.
Let’s watch a clip in true youtube quality:

video: Chad HURLEY
So the flow of this moneymaking scheme is as follows:
A digital fingerprint comparisson takes place when you upload a file, a notification of copyright infringement will be send to the owner of the copyright, the proprietor takes action towards the infringer. This action can be many things: ban the illegally uploaded file, but this is unlikely since it does not bring profit. Granting the infringer a temporary paid license, claiming the work for commercial use, exploit it through encryption, or sue the infringer, we’ll leave that to the imagination of the copyright owner.
Now we know how they make money, but I am no closer to an answer which can be usefull for me.
Let’s rephrase the question
> How can a sharing platform help ME make money? is a platform for distributing video. The platform allows direct downloads, multiple formats, specifies how they make money with your films, and voted best platform recently by the magazine PC World.

I quote from the Terms of Service from Blib.TV
“ shares 50% of the adjusted gross advertising revenues that are actually received by and generated by user content with the user who uploaded the content. Revenue sharing is performed on a quarterly basis, with revenues remitted to users via PayPal or check (at’s sole discretion) who have accumulated a balance of $25 or more.”
blib on advertising

I expect a platform to give me
4: Control over own material
The terms of use specify the amount of control that you have over your work. It tells us who will own the work, who has access to it, what type of work will be allowed, and (sometimes, as we just saw) how the company running the platform allows you to make money.
In most cases such as youtube, flickr, blib, and others, you remain the owner of the work, but you assign a license for use to the platform, in some cases this license is so restrictive that it actually means you give up all ownership and control over your files. I read from the Terms of Facebook:

“When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.”

Suppose you agree and sign the terms, you also agree to a small phrase that you might easily have overlooked.
“YouTube reserves the right to amend these Terms of Service at any time and without notice, and it is your responsibility to review these Terms of Service for any changes.”
It will also tell you that if there are major changes made to the document the company will inform you.

Suppose your lease contract for your house tells you that it is legal for the landlord to change the contract without discussion with you. It is your obligation to check back regularly to see if you still agree to this contract. And if you do not agree your only option is to quit the contract.

I sign the terms.
How often do I need to check back to see changes occur? How do I find changes in these very elaborate documents? How do I distinguish a small change from a major change, and why have I never received a message of such a major change?

image: GOODIFF
Developers Alexandre Dulaunoy en Michael Nol worked out an answer. Out of frustration because google was tracking their email account to gather info about their email behaviour, they were wondering if they had ever signed a contract permitting google to do so, or that the contract was changed on a later date by google. They developed a cvs, which stands for Version Control System, a software that records the history of documents, in which they started tracing changes in important documents of big service providers such as google, yahoo, ebay, six apart, delicious, flickr and youtube.
With this tool we can review the changes wich are made to the Terms of Use of Youtube since the GoodIff tool was launched in 2006.

image: Change nr. 614 in Terms YouTube
Here we see change number 416: A small text correction: a lower case t is replaced by a Capilt T
The text marked in red is taken out, the text marked in green is added to the document.

image: Change nrs. 100 – 614 Terms YouTube
Here we see change number 100 to number 416, these changes took place in less than one year.
the whole Terms documents is first marked in red, later in green. This means in 316 small textchanges the wole document is rewritten.

The GoodIff project gives a practicle sollution to a legal demand and by doing so portrays a radically different image of Youtube than that of the friendly open welcoming service as is suggested by its userfriendly interface and human voiced terminology. No longer can we continue to fool ourselves that the company demands us to agree with a Terms of Use document only because it is legally required to do so. It shows an active policy of rewriting the conditions. Our platform turns out to be a real dr Jeckyll and mr. Hyde.

Another exampleof a strategy to obide by the rules, but reclaim these rules as part of the production process is the science fiction film Faceless by Manu Luksch.
From the synopsis:
“In a society under the reformed ‘Real-Time’ Calendar, without history nor future, everybody is faceless. A woman panics when she wakes up one day with a face. With the help of the Spectral Children she slowly finds out more about the lost power and history of the human face and begins the search for its future.”

The collective Ambient tv, of which Luksch is a member, published a Manifesto for Closed Circuit TV filmmakers in which they state:
“Why bring in additional cameras, when much private and public urban space is already covered from numerous angles?” Manifesto for cctv filmmakers declares a set of rules, establishes effective procedures, and identifies further issues for filmmakers using pre-existing CCTV (surveillance) systems as a medium in the UK.

The manifesto is constructed with reference to the Data Protection Act of 1998 and related privacy legislation that gives the subjects of data records (including CCTV footage) access to copies of the data.

Projects like these present strategies of friendly take over. They bend circuits, or should I say Closed Circuits, they hack laws and legislation and uses them for other than their intended purposes.

The last item on my wishlist of today is that I expect from a “sharing” platform that it allows me to
5: Participate in the system.
Between the lines of what went before, I have allready said much about this, so just a few complementory remarks.
– In my opinon, a platform for sharing should practice what it preaches. Opening the source code of the platform and giving insight in the strategies and machineries behind the interface, allowing others to develop their own projects based on this code is a convincing way of letting people participate in the sytem.
– The method of sharing which is being employed by the platform should be a logic consequence of the onthology and structure of the platform. The applied protocol should match the intention of providing users with a tool for sharing (or multiplying if you like) content.

image: P2P
If we look at the schematic representation of a P2P system, the structure explains very well how data is exchanged between different participants of the system.

If we look at a similar drawing of a central server system, and we try a similar exercise of guessing how the relationship between users is structured, this leads to other conclusions. In this model, power and control are not shared, they are centralised in the central server. Who owns the server, controls the network. When Foucault writes: “He is the object of information, never a subject IN communication” he was not referring to a user of a central server system. Neither was he writing about agressive commercial strategies as being “visible and unverifiable”, creating “a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power”. But the resemblance between this diagram and the Panopticon model is too obvious to ignore.

image: Map
To conclude:
To me, the term sharing means more than showing your video to others through a corperate website, it implies that you take a political standpoint, by trying to translate your intentions of sharing to all aspects of the production process. To apply standards, protocols, contracts and conditions which can actually enable the participation of others and your participation in other peoples projects.
Our practice, or should I say our world, is not a binairy one in which relationships and powerstructures are always clearly identifiable. Which makes it inpossible to operate with clean hands. For example in the preparation of this talk I have signed several Terms of Use documents to which I do not agree. But I think it is worth the effort trying to reconsider and improve things starting from my own practice.

Posted on: Sunday, October 7, 2007 by: in category: Collaborative filming