playListNetwork software team: Brigit Lichtenegger and Tom Ritchford
playList web interface team: Brigit Lichtenegger, Eric Rosenzweig, Lobke Hulzink, Jaanis Gaarancs, Sonia Cillari, and Willy le Maitre

playlist design
Design showing the top view of a playlist selection
playlist design
Design showing the front view of a playlist selection

Playlist is a project initiated by media artists interested in collaboratively authoring multi-threaded audio visual works. The project is comprised of three parts: the playListNetWork software developed in consultation with the artists, the audio visual media content made with the software and an interface to visualize and navigate the authored structure.

playListNetwork is a distributed video editing database written in java that allows multiple users in different locations to simultaneously annotate media clips and edit branching playlists. A completely new architecture was designed and implemented by Tom Ritchford.
My work for this project gave me a chance to research the current possibilities of interactive (web) media.

We ended up using the open source Helix DNA Streaming Server. It serves many media formats and the files don't need to be hinted. We used SMIL to provide online video editing possibilies. SMIL is best supported by RealPlayer + we converted all audio visual media to sure stream real media. The nice thing about this is that the player and the server negotiate the bandwidth. This is especially nice, because the size of the files playing in parallel via SMIL add up.

We would have liked to use open source codecs like vp3 and ogg, but at the time of development these weren't supported yet by the player and/or server. Another nice thing could have been to generate MPEG-4 files from SMIL via XMT-O. IBM has developed some tools for this, but again at the time the licensing was unclear as about everything else concerning MPEG-4. Plugins to play MPEG-4 suddenly weren't available anymore, having to pay for specifications, complicated licenses, not allowing downloads of executables.... There's not much open about MEG-4 and it just seemed one big hassle.

During the exStream residency I worked with Willy le Maitre, Eric Rosenzweig, Jaanis Gaarancs and Sonia Cillari on the public web interface. During this residency I mainly functioned as the "glue" between the several aspects of the project. I worked with Willy and Eric on the metadata scheme, with Sonia on the design and interaction design of the web interface, and with Jaanis on the realization of the demo.

The artists worked with CatDV Pro while the playListNetwork software wasn't finished. They used CatDV's scene detection to split a video or audio sequence into clips. A field in the user defined metadata could hold pointers to clips in the same or other sequences (a junction), making the audio visual work a multidimensional non-linear work. In Sonia's design a ring represents a sequence, and a cube represents a video clip. By selecting a clip, the sequence would start to play with that selected clip as the starting point. This was visualised by lifting the sequence, and rotating it so that the clip that is playing faces front. Once a junction was reached, the engine picked a clip from the list of options, and the video would continue playing from there, while applying the visualisation mechanism described before. This movie shows this mechanism
What I like about Sonia's design for the public web interface is her abstract solution for visualizing the video clips and sequences. Instead of having a bunch of media objects flying around in space, they form one object / organism.

For the demo we imported the data from CatDV into the XML Xindice database. We wrote a couple of servlets for searching video clips and for generating playlists / SMIL files. On the client side we had a combination of javascript, vrml and realplayer. The 3D view was functioning as both visualization and navigation tool, while the player window would play dynamically generated playlists. Unfortunately the residency was only 3 weeks, so we never fully implemented Sonia's design, but the demo is pretty kewl nevertheless!
My favorite part is how the individual video clips in 3D space come to the front at the moment they are playing in the video window.
Demo screenshot

This greatly enhances the whole user experience! This functionality is something we had wanted in Amicitia, but never got around to it. Thanks to Jaanis we now finally got to see it work!