~ web publishing ~

Call for submissions to new print anthology of political poetry welcomes “audio/visual media”

In what may be a sign of the times, I noticed this in the widely subscribed Creative Writers Opportunities List (CWROPPS-B):

Sundress Publications is now accepting poetry submissions for a new anthology on the politics of identity, to showcase the substantial amount of political writing that is being done today. This print anthology, edited by Fox Frazier-Foley and Erin Elizabeth Smith, will include multimedia features: we are open to submissions in audio/visual media (e.g., video files of ASL poetry, audio files of spoken word poetry, etc).

I guess this must mean that the publishers are contemplating a complementary digital edition of some sort — a website, app, and/or ebook — which itself is good to see, given the challenges that coding poetry can present. Sundress Publications is “a (mostly) woman-run, woman-friendly publication group founded in 2000 that hosts a variety of online journals and publishes chapbooks and full-length collections in both print and digital formats.”

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.

The Poetry Storehouse aims to connect poets with artists and filmmakers

Just a few weeks old, The Poetry Storehouse, poetrystorehouse.com, is already beginning to live up to its slogan, “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Everything in the site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License, and there are also links to off-site collections of work with remix-friendly CC licenses of one variety or another. The site’s editors, led by Nic S., are actively soliciting for submissions of poetry in English, and new material will be added on a weekly basis. The editors tag and categorize the poetry on the site fairly exhaustively in order to maximize its findability.

The Poetry Storehouse is an effort to promote new forms and delivery methods for page-poetry by creating a repository of freely-available high-quality contemporary page-poetry for those multimedia collaborative artists who may sometimes be stymied in their work by copyright and other restrictions. Our main mission is to collect and showcase poem texts and, in some instances, audio recordings of those texts. It is our hope that those texts will serve as inspiration or raw material for other artistic creations in different media.

I’m one of the site’s advisors, along with Marc Neys. My primary agenda is probably pretty obvious: generate more videopoems/filmpoems to share on Moving Poems! But more than that, I strongly believe that poets should be more open to artistic collaboration, and stop viewing a printed book as the ultimate destination for their work. And I think any filmmaker looking for a great short subject should consider bringing a poem to the big or small screen.

I’ve added The Poetry Storehouse to our page of web resources for videopoetry makers in the “Free and Creative Commons-licensed texts and audiopoetry” section. (And while I was updating the page, I also added a new section with links to free online filmmaking tutorials, to make it even easier for poets who want to have a go at envideoing their own or others’ works. Thanks to beginning poetry filmmaker Graham Barnes for the suggestion.)

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).

WordPress 3.6 will have native support for video and audio

If you’ve ever wanted to start your own video hosting site, it’s about to get easier. WordPress 3.6, currently in beta and due out soon, supports video and audio in core — it’s no longer necessary to use a plugin to generate media players for files uploaded to one’s own or another site.

At the core of the experience is the fantastic library, MediaElement.js. MediaElement is the facade layer that gives us maximum file support and cross-browser compatibility. While some libraries require a Flash-only solution to make your media work cross-environment, MediaElement lets you use HTML5 audio / video tags in every browser, and, only when necessary, will use a Flash or Silverlight plugin in the background to make incompatible media work. […]

MediaElement uses the same HTML markup, regardless of playback implementation, and you can use CSS to skin the players.

This provides a great deal of security for publishers, who will no longer have to rely on someone keeping an essential plugin updated. I would caution however that this new ease of use should not lure cash-strapped bloggers on cheap, shared hosting accounts (ahem, like me) to think that they can become the next Poetry Visualized. Hosting and reliably streaming a lot of videos, or videos that become too popular, will remain a high-resource enterprise. But for bigger organizations and institutions who want to retain full control of branding, and whose editorial staff aren’t highly tech-y, it should make video hosting a bit easier. Another use-case I can think of is the video artist who wants to share her work only on her own site and prevent others from embedding it, something that requires a paid membership at Vimeo.

In general, I think YouTube and Vimeo will remain preferable for most filmmakers and videopoets (and embedding such third-party videos in WordPress posts couldn’t be easier with the oEmbed functionality they added a couple of years ago), but it’s good to have this option in case the corporations decide to screw us.

New at Moving Poems: a mobile-ready theme and a links page

This week, the main site of Moving Poems got a facelift. Videos now fill almost the entire width of the page, and will automatically resize, along with the rest of the site, to fit any screen. Check it out and tell me what you think!

A fresh look often prompts fresh ideas. This week I also decided it was high time to add a links page to the main site. That way I could not only include more links than what I can fit into the footer, but I can also make the footer links section more useful by restricting it to a handful of top sites (and linking to the full list). The links page is still nowhere near exhaustive; too lengthy a list can overwhelm visitors and thereby defeat its purpose. But I welcome suggestions for additional links I should include. For example, I’m thinking there have to be a few more poetry presses with video divisions…

The nitty-gritty

For fellow web publishers and others who may be interested, here’s a more detailed account of what changed and why. The device-responsive video resizing is thanks to a jQuery plugin known as FitVids, which is bundled into the new WordPress theme: Origami Premium from SiteOrigin. I’d been putting off the change to a more modern theme because I liked the look of the old one a lot, but the upgrade to WordPress 3.5 forced my hand — it no longer made sense to keep trying to re-write the code of an aging theme to keep up with changes.

This is the third major redesign of the site. When I started Moving Poems nearly four years ago, few videos looked good at much beyond 600 pixels wide, and it made sense to devote the remaining screen real estate to a sidebar. Now, even most non-HD videos, whether uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo, look decent at full-screen size on a desktop monitor, so why shouldn’t a site devoted to video appreciation take full advantage of that? The smartphone and tablet revolution worried me for a while, especially after Apple decided to stop supporting Flash, but the major video hosting platforms have found work-arounds for that. I’m told that the small viewing area on most mobile devices is compensated for by an ever-increasing sharpness of the display. In any case, the fact is that more and more people are interacting with the web primarily through their phones and tablets, even sometimes watching full-length movies on them. So whether we like it or not, this is the new media landscape that web publishers have to adapt to.