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Linux for Video Production
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Commercial Viability

As GStreamer has developed into a strong technology, Barcelona-based Fluendo has become synonymous with GStreamer. Besides employing and contracting several of the core GStreamer developers--including both Hervey and Bultje--Fluendo sponsors core GStreamer development and provides a range of commercial services and software products. In addition to their Flumotion streaming server product, Fluendo have also worked alongside Nokia to integrate GStreamer technology into the up and coming Nokia 770 Internet Tablet.



Fluendo sponsors PiTiVi development, and Hervey spends each day at Fluendo working on his application. Fluendo obviously see some commercial viability in funding the development: "PiTiVi is a new way of using the GStreamer framework," says Hervey. "[Unlike] other GStreamer-based applications such as players (Rhythmbox, Totem, etc.) or the Flumotion streaming server, a non-linear editor is very demanding; you must be able to seek quickly in any part of the timeline, be able to do very complex combinations of filters and effects, allow the import and export of different media formats, and so forth."

It is evident that PiTiVi is an application that can test the viability of GStreamer for such demanding requirements. "PiTiVi is very interesting for GStreamer development, in the sense that it allows us to stress-test the framework, hence improving it and all the other applications based on it," says Hervey. "[This] results in Fluendo having an even better framework for the services and products it is developing. Also, having such a demanding application allows Fluendo to sell more of the plugins it will shortly be marketing for Real and Window Media codecs."

Hervey is referring to the work going on inside Fluendo to sell the critically important and proprietary codecs that are the backbone of video production. These patent-encumbered and legally restricted codecs have been a challenge in open source adoption, as distributors cannot legally distribute many of the codecs with their software. Fluendo will provide MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264, MP3, AC3, Windows Media, and Real codecs available for use with GStreamer, and as a result, available for all GStreamer-compatible applications such as PiTiVi.

A Bright Future

It is evident that GStreamer is proving to be a solid option for supporting multimedia in Linux and other systems. Although the combination of focused development, funding, and applications such as PiTiVi are clear benefits, the real challenge comes in persuading the greater open source community to take up the technology. One of the criticisms that often levelled towards open source developers is that they often solve a problem by simply developing another framework that will ultimately die from lack of adoption. There have indeed been similar projects, such as the KDE-related aRts project, but Bultje is confident that GStreamer offers a superior option. "[Seriously], you can't compare those. We're technologically way more advanced. The most important difference? We have the community support."

Community support, or more specifically, developer support, really is key to the success of GStreamer. Although the GStreamer offering has not yet reached version 1.0, it is clear that GStreamer offers possibly the most compelling solution, with support both from a commercial entity and in the community. It is promising to see that support is flowing in from a range of developers. This has naturally included the GNOME developers behind Totem, Rhythmbox, Jamboree, Muine, Sound Juicer etc., but there has also been support with KDE with Amarok, JuK, KISS, and commercial support with Flumotion and the Nokia 770.

The result of this increasing GStreamer adoption is that media creation is becoming a reality on open source systems. With such attention to detail going on within the GStreamer community, the process of building solid applications for creating and consuming media is a case of developing the application and not having to worry about the mechanics of dealing with media at such a low level. This will result in more expansive applications created more quickly and efficiently--GStreamer manages the heavy lifting and applications can simply use it.

It is an exciting time for multimedia on Linux, and it will be interesting to see how the story unfolds. We could be tentatively close to breaking the lock that Windows and Mac machines have held on the media creation market.

Jono Bacon is an award-winning leading community manager, author and consultant, who has authored four books and acted as a consultant to a range of technology companies. Bacon's weblog (http://www.jonobacon.org/) is one of the widest read Open Source weblogs.


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