ReComputing and the Prosumer

I am archiving older pieces I have written on other sites, making this the definitive home for all my work. This is one of several I am porting over from my GameDev.Net user journal. Enjoy!

This is going to be really short and quick, because I've got to catch a train. I wanted to talk about the notion of a prosumer and how ReComputing supports them.

The Prosumer Concept

The prosumer concept is an extension of the consumer. Some would consider it a contraction of "professional consumer," which is a bit of an oxymoron from the US perspective. I like to think of it as a combination "producer" and "consumer", as that makes a lot more sense. A prosumer is an non-professional content creator. An example would be creating a vacation video, but with professional-level production values.

A key element in professional-level production is editing source media. Professionals shoot tons of frames of video and then edit it to yield a tight, compact and efficient picture (in the ideal case; lots of films are sloppily edited, resulting in a movie that's a chore to watch). Professional films also have the audio recorded and layered separately from the video. While boom microphones may be used to capture audio at point of shoot for complex scenes, all sound effects (rustling leaves, whispering wind, clinking china, car crashings, gunshots, body blows, squirting syrup) are added after the fact in a process known as Foley. Same with music.

Currently, there are applications that consumers (and professionals) can purchase that provide varying levels of editing capability. Microsoft even gives away its Movie Maker software for Windows XP and Apple's iDVD and iMovie software, from the iLife package, are comparable but superior for Mac users. The problem? No single package does everything a user wants, the packages are all expensive add-ons, and they're essentially workarounds to a far more basic problem.

The basic problem is the way media is consumed in current computing environments. Raw data streams are not, by default, available, and less so as DRM fever grips Hollywood/MPAA, the RIAA and other media special interests. Personally I would prefer technology that gets out of my way and leaves me - being a sentient, adult human being - to deal with the legal and ethical complexities of my actions or inactions.

Filter-based editing

ReComputing will feature a filter graph system and an assembly board interface allowing users to designate media streams - or portions of media streams - as sources feeding into various targets, with various post process algorithms that can be applied to the targets. The targets can themselves be sources, yielding a fairly powerful yet intuitive and simple prosumer-oriented media editing environment. This won't knock of Avid any time soon, but it'll make that college career montage a snap!

(I had a diagram somewhere, but I don't have it on me and I'm running short on time. Hopefully I'll be able to locate it before I update tomorrow.)

OK, gotta run. More data tomorrow, including an early look at NT's I/O Manager architecture and how the codec and filter graph editing architectures could hypothetically be built on top of it.