WebMedia refugees go to the movies

A group from defunct Auckland web design firm WebMedia is using open source software to deliver New Zealand short films over the web.

A group from defunct Auckland web design firm WebMedia is using open source software to deliver New Zealand short films over the web.

Former WebMedia technology chief Karl von Randow, director Steve Hill, designer Matt Buchanan and new business manager Peeyoosh Chandra are in the venture for love rather than money. The four say they are “big supporters” of the arts in New Zealand.

“It's one of those projects that grew from an idea round the lunch table,” says Buchanan, “the kind you can work on in your spare time. And because there's no client involved the development has happened very rapidly.” He says the site is 90% complete and the biggest hurdle now is to collect films.

“We're … learning that a commitment to get a film to us and actually receiving said film are two very distant relatives.”

Von Randow says the site has a three-tier architecture. The open source PostgreSQL database stores all the film and user information. The database is accessed by the J2EE enterprise layer, which is provided by the open source Jboss enterprise Java Beans (EJB) container. The J2EE layer also contains all of the business logic required by the application. The front end of the site is the JSP/Servlet engine Jakarta Tomcat (released under the Apache software licence), which interfaces with JBoss via RMI/IIOP (which delivers Corba capabilities to Java). The site is predominantly made up of Java server pages that query the enterprise layer and display the results. This architecture was chosen so as to mostly separate the presentation of the site from the business logic behind it, says von Randow. Not tying the front and back ends too closely helps scalability, if the site proves a success, says Buchanan.

Buchanan says visitors to the site can simply watch the films or become a registered user (for free) who can then rate films and communicate with the filmmakers.

The films, which can be viewed in their entirety, will be delivered via QuickTime because films can be customised to the user's connection speed. Initially the films will be available via QuickTime's pseudo-streaming feature, which allows a film to be watched while it is still downloading, says Buchanan. “We may offer streaming versions and/or alternative formats in the future, depending on demand.”

Initially the plan is to concentrate on attracting as many filmmakers as possible to submit films. “While we can't be a definitive resource dating back to the start of the New Zealand short film industry, we definitely will aim to be the best resource for this sort of thing in the local market,” he says.

The longer-term plan is to seek sponsorship for the site. Hill and Chandra are assisting with contacts in the industry.

A public beta was to be launched on the site last Thursday.

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