Definition of open source cinema: “Open-source films (also known as open-content films and free-content films) are films which are produced and distributed by using free and open-source software methodologies. Their sources are freely available and the licenses used meet the demands of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) in terms of freedom” (Wikipedia Contributors, 2011).
As a concept, open source moviemaking lends from the success of open source software development, from larger ideas of open culture and emerging notions of digital distribution and collaborative audience building – and also reflects a certain disaffection with overly restrictive copyright legislation. In practice, there are 2 benefits to releasing movie source materials under a permissive license such as Creative Commons. Number one is the communities this enables to develop around the movie that can be helpful in helping to make the project actually happen in a medium where movies too often can remain uncompleted on the author’s hard drive. And number two is the allowed freedom to remix the source content by other authors, creating new cultural value and. In the following pages I will detail both aspects and discuss how an open source movie is put together and what are some current examples as well as give insights from personal experience from my own open source documentary film project – Tomé.
Keywords: open source cinema, online collaboration, filmmaking
While a completely open source workflow is not yet possible, parts of each stage of production can have open source components. There is an open source camera (which does not however yet compete in terms of quality of the image), there is open source software for editing (but no an open source intermediary editing codec), and there are open source codecs for distribution, and open source technologies for interacting with other media online (mainly thanks to the Mozilla project), and there are simple licenses to regulate how and on what terms source footage is shared.
Open source movie projects are still rare and far in between nonetheless. Their source files are generally made available under the Creative Commons license and the final product is released online only, also under a Creative Commons license. There’s no example of a commercially successful open source movie. Judged by the lack of popularity of open source movies with the audiences, it may also be argued they do not conform to the mainstream entertainment expectations of the audiences.
Open source films with the notable exception of RIP: A Remix Manifesto also have not reached a very high artistic quality; perhaps it is because too few have been made and by people with non-artistic backgrounds. Possibly because film school teaches that a film of high artistic quality needs the strong hand of a director a directorial vision – and open source film projects make too little use of benevolent dictators. From current examples, films where a central benevolent dictator is doing something but allows people to participate (again, RIP: A Remix Manifesto) have higher artistic quality than those made entirely collaboratively without a leader and his artistic vision. And finally, still, some technical hurdles remain, as cloud storage of terabytes of data is expensive.
The value created by open source movies for now are new communities, learning of filmmaking (as at the Catalonian University) by people who before had little access to filmmaking, and availability of legal content for remixing (YouTube), and the clarification of the idea of creative authorship by some mythical inspiration into something more indelible in the copy-transform-modify paradigm – teaching one to think about “the Lego blocks of creativity” and culture as sort of a collage of ideas.
As culture becomes increasingly digital and ideas are expressed in a digital format making it easier for people to find and remix these ideas around the world open source culture together with Creative Commons licenses facilitate new cultural innovation. However, the content that people really want to remix is the content produced with high production values, commonly created by copyright-holding studios large corporations with large budgets and interests in extending copyright into as far into the future as possible. Culture is reference and response and with online this is becoming obvious as references can be easily tracked down. The quality of open source production must rise. No matter how the film is made, storytelling is still the most important part.