Ben (@riseup.net) is developing concepts around mobile digital technologies and networked participatory media. One specific concept being considered is low cost networked interactive video booths consisting of low spec computer technology running open source software.
These booths would be aimed at enabling a simple, attractive and fun way for people to engage in participatory media through video without requiring any techincal knowledge or media skills. It would encourage people both to express their opinions on a wide range of subjects they may not normally consider and also to raise issues themselves within their community or further afield.
- These internet connected booths could be installed in telecentres, libraries, health centres, art projects and other public buildings. Or better still perhaps, in the street outside social centres or other radical spaces.
- They would utilize webcams and microphones to enable people to make, watch, copy and share interactive video’s.
- Participants could either leave a series of questions for other people to answer or giving answers to questions other people have contributed.
- Questions might emanate from within the local community and relate to local issues or they may have been contributed from a booth in another region and relate to national or global current affairs or perhaps more philosophical maters.
Creative Commons and derivative works
- All the final ‘interviews’ would be recorded, networked and archived for other people to watch or share under a creative commons license.
- People could take these ‘interviews’ and created edited compilations, perhaps using the collaborative online video editing systems that are emerging. Competed films could be ‘aired’ and distributed via the booths and related websites.
Local and Global Networking
- Each booth would be networked via the internet to each other via a central back end database sharing videos and questions etc.
- Within the booth itself would be the facility to download videos onto suitably equipped mobile phones via wifi or Bluetooth to enable viral distribution of this DIY ‘TV’.
Open Source / DIY
- Plans for the building of the booths that others can build booths in their own communities and plug them into the syndication network.
- Both the software in the booth, and the back end centralised system that holds together the network, would be open source.
Details of Construction
- The booths could utilise numerous designs but for simplicity, security and the pre-existing familiarity, I'd probably initially use a design very similar to a passport photo booth. Construction would be simply and cheap from Plywood or MDF etc while offering easy security of the computer hardware.
- The computers in the booth need not be particularly high spec. Any Pentium III class machine should be capable of video capture. It would be fitted with both wifi and bluetooth dongles. The monitor would be whatever is available, 17inch prefered.
- The camera can be modern webcams as these will be much cheaper than utilising DV cameras. The quality on modern camera is pretty good dispite their poor optics and small size. It does mean that the capture software must handle USB streamed video data rather than firewire but this should not be a major problem.
- Additional hardware requirements would include a mirror and seat with some mechanism to adjust height. A variety of backdrops would be nice also to enable 'blue screen' effects to be added after videoing.
Front end software and user interface
- The user interface should be simplified for non-computer literates and for multilingual use. One idea would be to use a touch screen but this would be expensive and probably result in a really dirty screen. A system of colour coded buttons and menus would be much cheaper to implement and really easy to make multi lingual. Other possibilities include some syste of speech response or even a visual response system using the webcam, assuming the menu system doesn't contain too many choices.
- The software would give the participant the options to : browse videos or questions. record questions or answers. send videos via either an emailed weblink or via bluetooth/wifi to a portable media device such as a mobile phone.
- During recording, the user would be able to pause or restart, preview or submit.
- If practical on low spec machines, the video would be compressed on the fly, however if not practical the video would be stored uncompressed and compressed in batches while the video booth is idle.