Our annual EBU Open Source meet-up is an informal event where people can meet, network and exchange ideas on open source software. Taking place at the EBU Stand (10.F20) today, 12 September at 16:30, participants will have the opportunity to take part in a series of five-minute lightning talk presentations from speakers focusing on open source projects and specific use cases of open source in the broadcast domain.
For several years now, the EBU has actively addressed the relevance of using open source for media applications. Nowadays, open source software is part of our everyday life – in phones, home routers, social media and new platforms (Twitter, Vimeo, Netflix, etc.).
As systems get more complex, the open source approach helps media professionals avoid being locked into proprietary systems and speeds up development by reusing instead of reinventing processes. The community relies on users and developers to provide de-facto ‘software standards’ and is sometimes an opportunity for companies to decrease costs.
Using open source shifts the value from software itself to expertise for integration, customisation, deployment and support. Software code is made available to users, however, with no guarantee and therefore it is up to companies or experts to make it into a product or service with a warranty.
The process has also become a way to democratise innovation and attract talent from the community of contributors. In broadcasting, we can now find open source software in playout, contribution, headend, and web platforms (either as components but also sometimes as full platforms). Software projects like FFMPEG and VLC, for example, are becoming widely used and open royalty free formats start to be used such as Opus audio codec.
The license under which software code is distributed also plays an important role. Some licenses are more permissive than others. The GPL license that is very common (used for Linux, for example) is non-permissive and requires anyone who distributes the code or a derivative work to make the source available under the same terms.
This is good for sharing developments and keeping the project public, but is sometimes more difficult to accommodate with industry requirements. On the other hand, permissive licenses such as MIT and Apache licenses allow software code to be reused with fewer restrictions. This is often preferred by industry.
The world of open source software is vast and not all projects are of high quality or reliable. In fact, the success of a project is often measured by the size of its community of users and contributors. While a community can quickly grow in the home media domain, it is more difficult in the broadcast domain which is more of a niche and is traditionally more conservative. There are conferences throughout the world that host open source communities such as the annual OSCon Conference in Portland (USA) or FOSDEM in Brussels (Belgium).
The EBU also enthusiastically engages in this process with the development of the annual EBU DevCon Conference (https://tech.ebu.ch/events/devcon15). The EBU Technology & Innovation team has also created a platform for software exchange (ebu.io) and a Strategic Programme on Agile Software Collaboration to give broadcasters the opportunity to collaborate and share software developments. At IBC, there are now some manufacturers proposing solutions based on free open source software.
We look forward to seeing you this afternoon!
By Mathias Coinchon, EBU