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Why I Prefer the Open Source Solution for Video Editing

by Curtis Lee Fulton

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Believe me, you don't want to see Dan Rather in High Definition. The pancake makeup does a swell job of concealing Rather's cosmetic blemishes from the smudgy gaze of yesterday's technology. But HDTV will show you things you don't want to see. Clotted lumps of flesh-tone putty filling pores like spackle, silver fillings flashing like a mirror in the desert sun.

And that's just Rather's head. HDTV also has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is close to what you'd find in the cinema. Suddenly Rather is no longer a hardy journalist telling you about a grim disaster. He's now an unremarkable twig floating in the vast sea of an impossibly wide desk. In fact, the desk appears twice as wide as he is tall. If the cameraman were to zoom in on his face to the point where it filled even half of the screen width, there'd be barely enough room vertically for his teeth and eyebrows. And nobody wants to see that.

As a result, TV news programs have to be rewritten from scratch. Over 50 years of tradition down the tubes, all because Americans are buying a new kind of TV. Marshall McLuhan was right. Even in the digital age, the medium is still the message.

So it's no coincidence that at one time or another, all that free information on the Internet will flow through servers running on free, open source code. Free information via free code. The messages on the Internet have taken the shape of their medium, and the additive message is "freedom."

"The open source movement is a free speech movement," said John Gage in a recent interview for a Salon magazine article about the history of BSD Unix. "Source code looks like poetry, but it's also a machine -- words that do. Unix opens up the discourse in the machinery because the words in Unix literally cause action, and those actions will cause other actions."

Much of GNU/Linux's roots grow from BSD Unix. In an interview for the same Salon article, Bob Fabry, one of the core BSD founders, said that the spirit of BSD was "picked up later by the Free Software Foundation and the various people who were trying to build 'software for the people.'"

The pieces that make the GNU/Linux operating system are protected by the Free Software Foundation. As an artist, if you use open source software tools, your work will look different. Your message will be shaped by the medium.

Every open source tool you use on your project will accept data in common, open formats. It will also export data in common, open formats. It is possible to add these tools together to create a powerful non-linear, post-production system: a system that gives you total freedom each step of the creative process, to choose exactly what happens to your media.

This is why I think the Broadcast 2000 application is so important and worth learning about. It's an open source solution, it's powerful, and it's available right now.

Curtis Lee Fulton is the creator of AcidGimp, the software that uses a metaphor of an analog musical synthesizer to add effects to video footage.

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