[WEB4LIB] Re: [Formats for audio/video in electronic

Raymond Wood raywood at magma.ca
Mon Jun 18 23:56:51 EDT 2001

On 18 Jun 2001, at 15:52, Grace Agnew wrote:

> It is important to distinguish between "open source" and a
> '"standard." 

IMHO it is even more vital to distinguish between 'proprietary' and a 
'standard', since this distinction seems to be missed far more 
frequently  :)

> The Motion Picture Experts Group is a standards-issuing
> body, like IETF and w3c.  They follow standard practices for issuing
> standards for review, revising standards and issuing detailed
> specifications for vendors to follow.  Technology developed as part of
> standards creation by a member of the working group is intended to be
> made available at a reasonable price, even though the developer may
> own the patent.  There is some controversy surrounding MPEG4--much of
> the technology is claimed by patent, but I expect it will get worked
> through.  However, if a vendor claims to support a standard, they will
> have to conform to the standard and support any files created by the
> standard.  RealServer, for example, claims to support MPEG1 and I have
> found that regardless of the card used or the software codec, Real can
> stream it.  The benefit of a published standard is that vendors have a
> standard to test against and once they claim to support the standard,
> they can be held accountable to the standard, provided the encoding
> card also supports the standard.  

I'm not exactly sure how "accountable" any vendor can be held 
really.  It sounds a little like people arguing that they want to "have 
someone to sue", if something goes wrong with a software product, 
even when the vendor is MS and they know no one who has ever 
successfully sued the said vendor  ;>

Surely it is best if 'standards' are not 'owned' by commercial 

> I don't remember the Linux-based
> open source audio product mentioned in a previous email but to my
> knowledge it is not a standard so much as an open-source product.  

The name is 'Ogg Vorbis'.  No, it is not "Linux-based" - it is a 
patent-unencumbered audio format that already has clients for 
several platforms (as distinct from, say, Windows Media Player 
format, which cannot be used by a Linux user for example).  See 
http://www.vorbis.com/  - you may find the FAQ particularly useful 
to become familiar with this cutting edge development effort 

> In
> the digital video and audio world, which is still very much in the
> development stages, you are safer going with a standard to insure
> compatibility across platforms, built-in codecs on computers, servers,
> etc., at least for the time being.

I seriously question this point of view.  For example witness the 
fiasco with the popular web graphic GIF format, a de facto standard 
which was freely used by everyone until a company called Unisys 
one day woke up and decided that it would exercise its right to 
collect royalties from any web site that used GIF's due to a patent 
it held (going from memory here).  It is an important point to 
consider - surely we want to attempt to avoid formats that are 
associated with patents and that could be leveraged later by private 
interests to the detriment of the larger user community.
> Our digital library initiative web page, under "Digital File
> Creation-->Video"  has a link to a white paper that I wrote (somewhat
> old but the first half is still a useful introduction to digital
> video), as well as our specs for adding title, copyright and credit
> slides to videos. We use Powerpoint to create a JPEG file and
> cross-dissolve to add title, copyright and sometimes credit JPEGs to
> videos.  We have found that most audio files--at least speech files--
> can use some editing, and we use SoundForge to edit the sound files.
> Our specs for editing sound files using Sound Forge are available
> under "Digital File Creation-->Audio.' We also use the MP3 plug-in to
> create "standards-based" audio files.

MP3 has become an immensely popular audio format for many 
compelling reasons.  Unfortunately there are still patent issues 
associated with the MP3 format (see the Ogg Vorbis FAQ for more 
details).  Ogg Vorbis aims to offer all the advantages of MP3 
*without* its associated disadvantages.

I realize that there is a tendency to stick with more familiar formats 
for archiving and distribution (a good distinction made BTW), but 
sometimes there is also something to be said for (librarians) 
showing leadership in a fast changing Internet landscape.

Even in a worse case scenario, I would say Ogg Vorbis is a good 
bet as a distribution audio format.

That's not gibberish...  It's Linux. - Byers, The Lone Gunmen

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