Producing Participatory Media
Class 9 - August 29


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

  • 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.

    Below is an application in PHP that reads email from a specific email account and automatically saves any attached image or video file such as those sent to email from phone. Furthermore, this application automatically posts these video files to a 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..

    Other live streaming from the phone software:
    Motvik Wigo

    Mobile Video Revolution?

    Peer to Peer Distribution (BitTorrent)

    Distributing large files across the internet has always been a challenge. While the internet itself is decentralized most content on the internet is served from a single location to many clients. In a sense, using the internet in this manner is akin to broadcasting. Unfortunately, as is not the case with broadcasting the more people that "consume" any particular piece of content drive up the cost of hosting that content. Bandwidth costs money.

    Peer to Peer file sharing networks were created in part to alleviate this problem. Unfortunately most of the peer to peer file sharing networks still contained remnants of the broadcast scenario. For instance, Napster ran a service that didn't host the content but had a central service to track where content is available on the network. Several of the Napster clones while getting better at true distributed content distribution still had some remnants of the original Napster model.

    Enter BitTorrent. Bram Cohen, developed BitTorrent as a way around these problems. He released it open source and it has quickly become the de-facto means for peer to peer delivery of media content on the internet.

    More Information:
  • The Official BitTorrent Home Page
  • Wired 13.01: The BitTorrent Effect
  • Azureus: Java BitTorrent Client
  • Broadcast Machine

  • Some BitTorrent Services/Trackers:

  • Legal Torrents
  • tracker
  • Legit Torrents
  • Public Domain Movie Torrents

  • Some (perhaps less legal) torrents:

  • Torrentspy
  • isoHunt
  • Mininova

  • Recently many of the BitTorrent/TV trackers have been shutdown by the MPAA (Supernova, et al..). This doesn't spell the end of BitTorrent by any means (see Hollywood Wants BitTorrent Dead). Because BitTorrent is not centralized and anyone can run a tracker and the fact that it is open source means that it will continue being used for both legitimate and illegitimate ways for a long time to come. I believe that the MPAA cracking down means more opportunity for independent producers and tracker operators for greater exposure, especially as the technology becomes easier to use and integrated with more and more applications.

    Recent Legal Actions:

  • Spain outlaws P2P filesharing
  • Torrentfreak >> Torrent sites under attack
  • MPAA Press Release
  • Hollywood Wants BitTorrent Dead

  • BitTorrent + RSS = Broadcatching

    Enter RSS.. Of course, using RSS with torrent enclosures you can distribute your media ala podcasting and videoblogging. This reduces the strain on your bandwidth and creates a more equal playing field for all.

    Using the same means for including audio and video enclosures in RSS feeds for WordPress we can add BitTorrent enclosures.

    <enclosure url="" length="2422" type="application/x-bittorrent"/>

    Broadcatching Applications

    Applications that read RSS feeds and automatically download torrent enclosures.

  • RSS Import Plugin for Azureus
  • WritTorrent Various BitTorrent utlities
  • Buttress - Bittorrent RSS application
  • TVMistress
  • Videora

  • Video Blogging Aggregators that support torrents

  • Miro

  • More Information:

  • Broadcatching - Wikipedia
  • engadget - How-To: BroadCatching using RSS + BitTorrent to automatically download TV shows