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Mozilla reinvents online video with Popcorn Maker 1.0

Mozilla reinvents online video with Popcorn Maker 1.0

Engaging with video journalism on the web is no longer about tilting your laptop screen just so, leaning back with a bowl of crunchy, salty kernels, and perhaps sharing the odd link. Now, with Popcorn Maker 1.0, anyone can remix and add context to videos from YouTube and Vimeo by integrating elements from the web such as Tweets, Google maps and images.

Launched at Mozilla's 'Mozfest' meeting in London last weekend, Popcorn Maker 1.0 is a free, open source web app that requires neither video editing nor coding abilities to operate. By making it dead simple to mash up, augment and share digital video, it holds the potential to change the way journalists, bloggers and the people formerly known as the audience practice and perceive online video journalism, further distinguishing it from the one-directional experience that is television.

“Despite the interactive nature of the web, video on the web remains little more than glorified television in your web browser — a passive experience in the midst of the otherwise interactive online world,” wrote Scott Gilbertson in a post about Popcorn Maker on Webmonkey. “It doesn’t have to be that way. HTML5 makes video into just another HTML element — editable, hackable, remixable.”

In contrast with Flash, SilverLight or Quick Time, which Mozilla’s Developer Evangelist Christian Heilmann has said can make online video appear as a “black hole” in the webpage, HTML5 allows video to be a workable element. By building what that they call “Popcorn Media Wrappers,” the app’s developers were able to “wrap” non-HTLML5 audio and video elements in a standardized interface and set of behaviours, thus allowing them to be used exactly as if they were HTML5.

The Popcorn Media Wrapper concept is one of the new features in Popcorn Maker 1.0 that did not exist in its alpha predecessor, Popcorn.js, which was unveiled at last year’s Mozfest. Within the universe of Popcorn Maker— built entirely from HTML, CSS and Javascript— are a number of components with apt names like Cornfield (the server) and Butter (the library); all are part of the wider Mozilla Webmaker project, whose aim is to “help millions of people move from using the web to making the web.”

For journalists, making the web in this case means creating a video layered with context (maps, subtitles, images, Wikipedia entries) and social elements (Twitter feeds). For example, a political journalist could use Popcorn Maker to annotate President Obama’s victory speech with the real-time commentary on Twitter by simply dragging icons into a timeline. Although it takes some fidgeting to get the hang of it (and your first attempt may not be beautiful), Popcorn Maker is undoubtedly easier to use than Final Cut Pro. And the finished product is as malleable as its components; pressing the recycling icon in the video player’s bottom-left corner allows a viewer to immediately begin remixing it into something new.

Digital video has become an increasingly ubiquitous tool for transferring information across the web, with news organisation plunging head-first into the medium in hopes of attracting audience eyes and advertising dollars, YouTube continuing to invest in its own line of content channels, and services such as Wikipedia (last week) and its “for-profit cousin” Wikia (this week) integrating multimedia streaming players into their sites. In this context, Popcorn Maker represents an opportunity for journalists and bloggers to create a more multi-dimensional, interactive and web-native video news experience.

But don’t kiss your text editor goodbye just yet; streaming video still has its pitfalls, particularly when connection speeds don’t make the grade. A new study shows that people begin jumping ship on online videos when load time exceeds two seconds, and six percent more viewers bail for every additional second of delay. What ever happened to making popcorn during commercial breaks?


VIRTUE TEST: Do you have the patience to watch the first two minutes of the following interview in which Brett Gaylor, Filmmaker and Director of the Popcorn Project, talks to with visionOntv about Popcorn Maker at the MozFest closing party?

DOUBLE DARE: If you're really feeling zen, my Popcorn Maker 1.0 experiment (based on the video that you did not watch above) is viewable here (this blog only supports old embed codes).

Sources: The Next Web (1) (2), Journalism.co.uk (1) (2), SFN, Editors Weblog, GigaOM, AdAge, Mozilla Hacks, Webmonkey

Photo courtesy of bcmom via Flickr Creative Commons


Emma Knight


2012-11-13 15:59

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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