~ Vimeo ~

“Östersjöar – A Poem by Tomas Tranströmer” available at Vimeo On Demand


This is the trailer for Östersjöar (The Baltic Sea), a 31-minute film based on a long poem by Tomas Tranströmer (translated as “Baltics” by Robin Fulton). Directed by James Wine with score, performance and sound design by Charlie Wine, it’s a re-make of a 1993 film broadcast on Swedish television in 1994, for which there are a bunch of glowing burbs on the Longwalks Productions website, including one by former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove: “What a marvelous piece! The production is fabulous — it almost manages to bring the smell of the sea into the living room.”

The version in Swedish with English subtitling is now available through Vimeo On Demand at USD $5.00 for 48-hour streaming or $10 for download or streaming any time. The description promises “more languages to follow soon.”

This isn’t the first poetry film to be sold through online streaming or download. James Franco’s Howl, for example, is available through Amazon Instant Video and Hulu, and I’ve heard of publishers experimenting with paid apps for shorter poetry videos. But I’d be willing to bet that this is the first poetry film for sale at Vimeo On Demand. The price strikes me as reasonable, but then I’m a huge Tranströmer fan — I’d probably buy it no matter what they charged. I’ll be interested to see if other poetry-film production companies follow Longwalks’ lead. Vimeo On Demand features include a 90/10 revenue split, availability in HD on all devices including mobile, and the ability to sell work at any price and from any location. It does, however, require the purchase of a Vimeo PRO membership ($200/year). Ordinary Plus members can only collect money through a tip jar, which is only visible on Vimeo, not on embeds.

Vimeo overhauls its video player, introducing closed captioning and better HTML5 support

I’m a little slow in noticing this announcement from January 7 on the Vimeo staff blog. But it’s exciting stuff, with big consequences both for filmmakers and publishers who rely on Vimeo for video hosting.

A lot has changed since we launched the last all-new version of our player, two and a half years ago:

  • Browser innovation has brought new HTML5 capabilities (full-screen viewing is now available on every major desktop browser).
  • Smartphones have gotten more powerful (and in many cases, bigger), and the variety of smartphones has increased tremendously (three years ago, when we debuted the HTML player, there were only a handful in existence.)
  • Firefox added support for H.264 on mobile, Windows, and Linux (with OS X support on the horizon).
  • The introduction of devices that support multiple kinds of inputs (e.g., touch, mouse, and pen) at the same time.

With all these advancements, it was clear that we needed a more flexible and accommodating base for our player. So we did the only thing that made sense: we rebuilt the whole thing from scratch.

The player may look (mostly) the same on the surface, but behind the scenes we rethought everything from the ground up. Our re-engineered back end means that videos load twice as fast, and we simplified the front end to make it compatible with way more devices.

New features outlined in the post include faster playback, in-player purchasing, a redesigned share screen, new accessibility features, HTML5 by default (about time!), more responsiveness, and perhaps most significantly, closed captions/subtitles support.

This last is especially important for poetry films, I think, because many of us have tended to feel that putting words on the screen by default when the poem is already included in the soundtrack is redundant and distracting… for people who don’t have hearing problems. But those who do haven’t been very well served by this approach. It should also be a lot easier to reach readers in foreign languages now (given good translations, of course).

Read the whole post, and check out the new FAQ page on Captions and Subtitles.

How to replace a video at Vimeo without changing the link

In the past two days, two different filmmakers have contacted me to let me know that they’ve changed the Vimeo links for their films in the Moving Poems archive. On the one hand, I’m grateful to them for letting me know. I do sometimes comb the archives here for dead links, but not nearly often enough, and I appreciate hearing from users of the site when a video has disappeared. On the other hand, they wouldn’t have needed to switch URLs just to replace the video with a new version; they could’ve simply swapped in a new file. This is actually one of Vimeo’s most under-appreciated killer features, in my opinion. (And the fact that you can’t do this at YouTube is a good reason not to use it.) From the FAQs:

Can I replace a video and keep the URL, Stats, comments, etc?

You sure can!

From your video page, click Settings below the video player. From there, head to the Video File tab and click “Replace this video.” This allows you to upload a new video file while keeping the video URL, comments, Stats, likes, tags, and all the other information associated with the video.

During the replacement process, the original video will remain viewable while the new one is uploaded. Once the replacement video finishes uploading and begins conversion, the original video will no longer be viewable, and will soon be replaced.

So there will be just a short time during which the video isn’t viewable (a few minutes if you have a Plus or Pro account, longer if you have a free account and are uploading during a busy time of the day).

New version of Vimeo allows searching by Creative Commons license

A Vimeo redesign unveiled in late January for the first time allows users of the popular video hosting site to search for Creative Commons-licensed films. So far, the new design is available only to logged-in users on an opt-in basis. A “filters” box becomes visible on the upper right after one performs an initial search. A drop-down menu within the box allows one to filter the search results by each type of Creative Commons license — Attribution, Attribution-ShareAlike, etc. — but not all of them at once, or all of the ones that are free to modify (i.e. excluding those with “no derivatives” provisions). So it’s pretty basic yet, but better than nothing.

This is significant for videopoem/filmpoem makers looking for high-quality footage for a quick web project. For anything more elaborate, one would still probably want to do a general search, including traditionally copyrighted videos, and plan on asking permission. If using Creative Commons-licensed work, filmmakers should of course abide by the terms of the license, which at minimum means including the attribution in the film’s credits, and may also mean including the terms of the license and even licensing one’s own remix the same way (in the case of a “Share Alike” license), unless one gets specific permission from the copyright holder to waive those requirements. Please see my page of web resources for videopoem makers for links to more information on using Creative Commons-licensed material (as well as other sources of free-to-use video and the like).

“Video & Film Poetry” group on Vimeo

The video sharing site Vimeo tends to get a higher proportion of well-made videos than YouTube, but even still, many poetry-related videos uploaded to the site are not terribly impressive as examples of the filmmaker’s art. I know, because one of the primary ways I find new material for Moving Poems is by searching new Vimeo uploads for anything with the word “poem” in the title, tags or description. I see a lot of dreck.

So I’m very impressed with the new Vimeo group devoted to Video & Film Poetry, which was founded by Brenda Clews just a couple months ago. She had tried to convince me to start such a group, but I declined on the grounds that I was already doing enough here, so she went ahead and founded the group herself — and I think the results so far speak for themselves: a lot of interesting and innovative videopoets have joined the group now, and are adding their new uploads as well as other people’s videos that they might happen to know about. There’s some commenting, but so far it’s been mainly a place to share and discover new work.

This isn’t the first Vimeo group to welcome poetry videos, but I believe it’s the first to take curating seriously. The problem with completely open poetry-sharing sites is that the bad poetry (or videopoetry, in this case) tends to drive out the good. The crucial difference with the Video & Film Poetry group is that, though anyone can comment or participate in the (so-far-unused) forums, only members can add videos or invite new members. If you’re on Vimeo and you’d like an invitation, let me know.