Still No Time To Wait

The second edition of No Time To Wait was a success. It's a conference where archivists meet the developers of the software and formats they use or might use.

Since last year a lot has changed. We were advocating people to use Matroska and FFV1 because they meet their needs in a very good manner. This year we heard many stories of people who actually did the move and are happy about it. Reto Kromer even made a presentation explaining he actually does the conversation on the fly when transferring between tapes.

One presentation particularly caught my attention: the look for the perfect player by Aghate Jarczyk (University Of The Arts, Bern). Working daily on improving VLC that's certainly something we want to do and make every user happy, even in a professional way not just for casual file playback. It turns out many of the issues mentioned, preventing the switch from QuickTime Pro 7, are already solved. Here's the list:
  • display metadata from the file. It's there with Ctrl+i (Cmd+i on macOS I suppose) in the metadata tab. It's not at the MediaInfo level but useful nonetheless. It's also refreshed during playback so if you switch between formats midstream you can see it there. It won't tell you if the data come from the codec or the container, it's aggregated by the player. If you really need that feature file an issue in Trac
  • the list of codecs used for playback. It's also available in a tab when you do Ctrl+m (Cmd+m) and can be refreshed during playback (for example with streams that have mixed interlacing). It's probably more an issue with QuickTime Pro where there might be plug-ins in the system you're not aware of. It's much less likely with VLC. It doesn't load modules compiled for an older version and usually doesn't have extra modules coming from third parties.
  • added black borders when opening a video. This is surprising as that's not the behavior on Windows or the Qt interface in general. It may be a mac version specific behavior or an option to use the "fit screen" aspect ratio. A reset of the preferences should fix that.
  • Can we display timecodes? It's technically possible, we decode them but they are not frame accurate because of our internal clock design. To be accurate it needs a redesign that we are going to do for VLC 4.0. And that version will take less time to be done that it took to do 3.0.
  • To go back one frame at a time: it's possible to use a LUA script to do that, see: https://forum.videolan.org/viewtopic.php?p=462937#p462937
  • Émilie Magnin who hosted the Format Implementation panel also mentioned the possibility of launching the player more than once at a time. It is an option that's possible on Windows and Linux but apparently it takes a little more work on macOS. You'll need an external AppleScript to do that.

There were a lot of talks about open source in general as well. Everyone is pretty much sold on the idea now and how crucial it is for archivists that they can rely on code that can be reused and tweak for decades. A guaranteed no proper software can offer. An interesting twist is that sometimes the software to play the content has to be archived as well. Usually when using proprietary solutions that might (will) die over time. Another good reason not to use that in the first place.

Some people are still not using Matroska. One of the reasons, which make sense in their context, is that it's not (yet) a standard. That is endorsed by a standards body you trust. As pointed out by Ethan Gates that level of trust may vary and totally arbitrary. For example some still use AVI even though the specifications has never gone through any of the common standards bodies (AFAIK) . This is on us, and particularly me, to make the standardization of Matroska happen and finish the work that is already on the way. The main issue being that we all do that on our free time, so we may look for funding to be done sooner rather than later. A crowdfunding was mentioned. We're going to discuss how we can make this happen (suggestions welcome). That would be a first for Matroska as we never received money for the project (apart from around 200$ of PayPal donations over 15 years).

A big thanks to all the organizers and especially Dave Rice and Jerome Martinez and to Michael Loebenstein of the Austrian Film Museum for a great venue.
My apologies to Kieran O'Leary, I promised I'd bring the VLC hat on the second day and then I forgot.

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