FOMS 2008

The Foundations of Open Media Software (FOMS) workshop took place last month, from the 24th to 25th of January. FOMS is a rare opportunity for open-source multimedia developers and industry folks to get together all in one place, and the result is two days of intense discussion about issues such as encapsulation formats, codecs, video and audio output APIs, media commons, and metadata—not to mention sharing a common hatred of Flash. The first FOMS was held last year in 2007, and was a great melting pot for people from very different open-source multimedia projects, such as xine,, GStreamer and Nokia, to get together. This year’s FOMS proved to be just as successful; this time with folks from Sun, Opera and the BBC joining the fray.

One wonderful thing about this FOMS was that a large number of the folks (Monty, Derf, Rillian, Jean-Marc and MikeS) were all there. are one of the main providers of freely available multimedia standards, and it’s rare that their members have an opportunity to meet in person. It’s a little strange that they met in Melbourne rather than in the USA where the majority of their members are, but hey, I’m sure they won’t complaining about that!

For me, there was a bit of an ominous atmosphere leading up to FOMS due to the recent outbreaks of “discussion” in December 2007 about the HTML5 recommended video codec. (I use the one “discussion” lightly here, since it was a lot more like hearing one’s angry neighbour trying to break down a brick wall with their head, for about a week.) It seemed obvious that the HTML5 video codec problem would be discussed at length at FOMS, but I hoped that it wouldn’t dominate discussion, since there were a lot better things to do with the combined intellectual might of all the attendees than talk about issues that were mostly political and arguably largely out of their hands to solve.

I’m glad to say that the HTML5 video codec problem was definitely discussed, but with a great focus on finding a solution rather than wailing on about the problem. Ogg Theora and Dirac, represented by and the BBC at FOMS, are two of the contenders for the HTML5 baseline video codec recommendation, and it was excellent to see that people were discussing technical aspects that may be hindering their adoption by the W3C, always keeping the bigger picture in mind.

There were also breakout groups that threw down some short-term and long-term goals for the FOMS attendees: I personally took part in a discussion about metadata, text markup of video (subtitling, closed captions, and transcriptions), and video composition and aggregation (“video mashups”). Shane Stephens would present a great talk at a few days later about Web 2.0-style community-based video remixing; if you’re interested at all in video mashups and video mixups, be sure to check out his talk!

If you’re interested at all in the open-standards multimedia space, the proceedings of FOMS are available online thanks to the FOMS A/V team, with a big thanks to Michael Dale for bringing his incredible metavid video content management system to the humble FOMS site. (You may also be interested in the W3C Video on the Web Workshop Report that was very recently released.) In an area that’s as complicated as multimedia, FOMS is tremendously valuable as a place for open-source developers to meet. It was a great complement to, and here’s hoping it’ll be on again next year!

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