Linked by David Adams on Fri 20th Apr 2012 01:31 UTC, submitted by fsmag
Multimedia, AV "When I started working on a no-DRM, open-standards-based solution for distributing high-definition video on fixed media ('Lib-Ray'), I naturally thought of Theora, because it was developed as a free software project. Several people have suggested, though, that the VP8 codec would be a better fit for my application. This month, I've finally gotten the necessary vpxtools and mkvtoolnix packages installed on my Debian system, and so I'm having a first-look at VP8. The results are very promising, though the tools are somewhat finicky."
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Lib-Ray (details, motivation, sources)
by Digitante on Sat 21st Apr 2012 04:59 UTC
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Wow. Thanks for the interest! And thanks to WereCatf for letting me know about this thread. I can share some basic info on Lib-Ray here, and I've already posted some specific responses up-thread.

I started Lib-Ray because I need it myself. We're planning to release a pilot for our free culture animated video series "Lunatics" ( ) later this year or early next. Like a lot of people these days, we are funding this project through Kickstarter and pre-sales of the videos. For standard-definition, what we're selling is obviously going to be all-region DVDs (you can opt-out of using DRM with DVDs).

But of course, we're actually producing the film in high-definition. So how can we offer a high-definition version? Downloads are certainly possible, but for this purpose, I want something you can put on your bookshelf. And right now, the only option is Blu-Ray. Which sucks, because Blu-Ray is all-kinds of proprietary. That's not for us.

I discussed this quandary in my column for Free Software Magazine:

So, finding no really good solution existed, I decided to look into making one. Karl Fogel of suggested the name "Lib-Ray" as a nice pun, and I decided to run with that in March, 2011.

In April, I presented an early prototype at the Texas Linux Fest, and I got some more feedback there and through comments at FSM. One of the suggestions was to switch to VP8 rather than Theora as the video codec. At the time, I wasn't sure VP8 really qualified as a free format, but since then I've been convinced that it is legally as acceptable as Theora. And technically, of course, VP8 is very, very good.

H.264 is ruled out entirely by the patent problems -- why go to the trouble to create a free standard and then saddle it with such problems?

However, I do have several other projects (including actually producing "Lunatics"), so I didn't get to installing the new Matroska + VP8 toolchain until just last month (March 2012). I'm still working on creating a prototype, from the masters for "Sita Sings the Blues". I think I've got the video file format settled, and I'm now working on the menu system.

Although I do have some programming skills, I am not primarily a programmer, and I wanted to keep the programming part of this project as limited as possible. So my original choice was to target existing Webkit-based HTML5 browsers for playback.

That's starting to look unrealistic, though.

So another part of this revised start on Lib-Ray is that I'm going to bite the bullet and develop a reference-implementation player. This I will write in Python, using Gstreamer and Webkit and their respective Python APIs. From what I've seen so far, that seems to lie within my skill set.

I'd like to implement the video playback modal switching in Javascript, though, as in my version 0.2 prototype that I made last April. That will involve extending the Javascript engine used in Webkit -- although what I need is already specified in the current WHATWG standard:

(But as yet, no browser implements the needed features, which are the ability to switch embedded audio and subtitle tracks for playback).

That part could be tricky for me. I could probably use some help on that from interested programmers -- might even be able to pay a commission or bounty on that part (see below). At the moment, though, I'm not even sure which project controls the Javascript implementation or if I need to choose that myself.

I'm researching that, however, and plan to have a proposal finished in early May. Parts of it are being released in Free Software Magazine as part of my column:

"Lib-Ray Video Standard: Moving to SDHC Flash Media"

"Lib-Ray Video Standard: Using Google/On2's VP8 Video Codec"

"Lib-Ray Video Standard: FLAC and Vorbis codecs for Sound"

Still in the queue are articles on the Matroska container format and how to handle Languages/Localization. I'm currently working on the subtitle format (going to be SRT now, in separate files), menu design and implementation, and other details, such as how to physically package the cards.

Of course, the website ( ) is a little out of date now, and I'll be overhauling that once I've ironed out the kinks in the 0.3 prototype.

I'm planning also to launch a Kickstarter campaign in May (maybe May 4 -- coinciding with FSF's "Day Against DRM"), which would fund me for the time I'll need to spend on the development. The goal would be to reach a version "1.0" standard that we can actually use for "Lunatics" and other videos which we'll probably make available. And of course, a reference player implemented with free software for GNU/Linux platforms.

Afterward we'd offer mastering services for a small fee (generating revenue to cover what I hope will be the small cost of maintaining the standard), and we'll provide free tutorials on how to do it yourself.

Rewards would be stuff like "Sita Sings the Blues" or the Blender Movies in Lib-Ray Format on the low end and ready-built HTPCs with Lib-Ray playback software installed (i.e. players) on the high end.

Of course, I do not expect to put Blu-Ray or Sony out of business with this project. I doubt we'll ever have the volume to make practical embedded players for sale in your local discount department store (not even going to try to beat $75 Blu-Ray players for the mass market).

I just want to have an easy-to-use, marketing-friendly, free-software, open-standards, non-DRM, HD video format available. These will play on computers, including portable devices like Android tablets, and most importantly on Home Theater PC systems (which will benefit from the high-quality high-definition video and high-fidelity audio). The way the industry is going, I suspect that such HTPCs will be a lot more affordable by the time we release. Currently, it looks like a minimal "Lib-Ray player" would be an HTPC in the $500 range, but I need to fine that down a bit.

Cheaper systems based on SoC devices intended for the mobile market might be available before long -- it looks like maybe ARM Cortex 9 quad cores or NVIDIA Tegra 3 might be able to handle it. And of course, Google has released code for hardware acceleration implementations. AFAIK, no one is marketing hardware based on that yet, but if they do, then the price will come down further, because decoding won't have to be done in software.

So if you're interested, watch the site ( ) and/or my column at Free Software Magazine ( ).

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