Producing Participatory Media
Week 8 - March 6


  • Mobile Phone Image and Video Capture
  • Sending MMS to Phone
  • Streaming Live Video to Phone
  • Streaming Live Video from Phone

  • Mobile Phone Image and Video Capture

    Mobile phones and camera phones have achieved ubiquity. Although the quality has a little ways to go, we can take advantage of the built-in network connectivity to utilize them as either a production tool or an audience interaction tool. SMS is a given, already being used in mass-media to allow small amounts of interactivity in shows like American Idol (voting). Picture mail or MMS is starting to hit the big time as well, at least on the internet. Following in its footsteps is video.

    Most video capabile phones capture video in a highly compressed offshoot of MPEG-4 called 3GP. Fortunately, most of the players that support MPEG-4 (QuickTime, Real and many others) also support 3GP so it is easy for us to integrate into what we are doing.

    Unfortunately, MMS messages are a step behind SMS. The connections between carriers are not completely established so phone to phone MMS messages are still difficult as is sending MMS messages from a computer or something that is not on the mobile phone network. The one portion of this, the part that is most useful to us in utlizing video from phones, delivery of MMS messages via email is pretty standard and easy to take advantage of.

    I built a application in Perl that reads email from a specific email account and automatically saves any attached image or video file such as those sent to my email box from my phone. Furthermore, this application automatically posts these video files to my blog in the style of video blog postings. Of course there is much more that can be done with these video files so think of the blog posting as an example.

    gothamist: You've Got New Yorkers' Mail, 911 and 311
    UCLA Police Taser Student in Powell
    Saddam Hussein's execution (no link, if you want to see it, it is on Google Video and everywhere else)
    An Open Mobile Video Blog
    Local Report - Art Project Using Video from mobile phones

    The Script (includes instructions)

    Alternatively, you can use Blip.TV's Blipfoot service in combination with their cross-posting service

    More Information:
  • More about creating a cron job
  • Apple - MPEG-4 - 3GPP
  • 3GPP - Standards Organization

  • Sending MMS to Phone

    More about this later but the point is that some of the carriers are now allowing email sending to MMS.

    If you would like, this function might get you started: PHP Send Mail with Attachments

    Live Streaming to Phone

    Along with the ability to shoot video mobile phones now support the ability to receive streams of video. Broadcasters, content providers and mobile network providers seem to love this. It uses up bandwidth (which costs consumers money), it can utilize micro payments for content and it provides a new and interesting venue for content outside of the home.

    I find the what the broadcasters and mobile providers to be somewhat interesting technically and they are doing a bit of pushing against the boundaries of what television has been for the past 50 years with shorter segments.

    Supported by their high-speed EVDO (Evolution Data Only) network Verizon has a service called VCast which offers many of the things you have seen on the internet for media delivery: Live Streaming, Video On Demand, Music Downloads and Gaming.

    The other providers are following suit:
    One thing that is perfectly clear is that providers intend to make serious money off of this and pricing is high.

    For our purposes, what the broadcasters and the mobile providers are doing isn't as interesting as the fact that we can stream to mobile phones as well. Both the RealServer and the QuickTime Streaming Server support streaming of video to the phones utilizing the 3GP video format.

    The streaming is easy: For Live QuickTime streaming you can use the QuickTime Broadcaster with the 3GP presets. Real has a Mobile Producer that can be used for both live and on-demand production as well.

    The hard part is getting the link to the content to the mobile phone user. We could create a set of WML or HTML pages that are developed for display on the phone or even easier we can send links via email to SMS.

    (Careful, streaming video costs the user at data rates. I spent $30 once watching a video for a couple of minutes before purchasing an unlimited plan.)

    What's Next:
    More Information:

    Live Streaming from the phone

    Wow..! Check this out: Broadcasting Live from Cellphone to the Web

    i started playing a bit as well: ComVu - Mobile Broadcasting and Double Wow..

    What happens when this merges with Stickam?