Remember the time we went to see that film? What was it called? You know the one. I forget the name. It was in that really plush place with the comfy seats and the piano sitting in the corner. They even had that lad going around with the popcorn and ice-cream, do you remember? I don't know, for some reason that night has stuck with me all these years.

Cinera is to educational videos as the film industry, including the cinema our friends visited those years ago, is to feature films. In essence it is a server-side application providing the infrastructure for the production and consumption of annotated videos. Its target platform is Linux, with BSD (at least FreeBSD, although I'll learn how generalised BSD software may be) on the informal TODO list. Most people who come into contact with Cinera will only do so via its browser-based player, search functionalities and accompanying material, ideally blissfully unaware of the system zipping along in the background enabling our borderless and accessible style of learning.

The system will be available in three editions:

Single Edition

The smallest instance of the system, for one-off videos. It provides an annotated player, filterable by topic / medium as appropriate, and easily integrated into an existing web page.

Project Edition

A "Project Edition" instance of Cinera extends the Single Edition to support multiple connected videos, with the ability to search these videos, and provides a Bookshelf collating all reference material cited throughout the project.

Network Edition

A "Network Edition" instance of Cinera will be appropriate for websites that have their own member base, want to host annotated videos from multiple projects, or both. It extends the search functionality of the "Project Edition" to operate across multiple projects, and collates all Bookshelves from all projects into one big Library of reference material. It will also leverage the capabilities of the host network to allow discussion of annotated videos in forum threads associated with each video, integrate with member profiles and enable category subscriptions which notify viewers when new material covering that topic becomes available.

All editions are intended to be as usable and unintrusive as possible, for all who come into contact with them. This will be accomplished through the following means:

Deployment on server

Deployment is intended to involve nothing more than a single executable to be run as a daemon on the server, an example configuration and template file, the style.css and player.js files necessary for the player, and CSS files tailored to each video or project. (The current status is that the deployment side of it has barely been touched.)

Production by video creators and annotators

In its first incarnation, Cinera will rely on video creators uploading their material to external video-on-demand services – e.g. YouTube or Vimeo – from where their archived videos may be found, after potentially streaming to external streaming platforms, e.g. Twitch or Smashcast. Once new videos become available, Cinera pulls them in to the system and alerts the annotator(s).

Here Cinera will provide tools to enable efficient composition of the annotations. Currently these tools are limited to a script which sets up a channel of communication between an editor and video player (currently supporting vim, 4coder and the video player mpv) enabling easy insertion and navigation of timecodes. A planned tool is a so-called "reference manager", that will enable fuss-free insertion of references into our annotation files. A further development may be an integrated version control system, relieving us of the need to rely on external services such as GitHub or GitLab.

Once the annotations are written, the system collects them and puts them live on the site for consumption.

Consumption

Here the end user-facing facet of Cinera comes into its own. The browser-based player, adapted from Asaf's enhanced player, is made to ease navigation of the videos, make them readily accessible and pleasant to view, and reward curiosity. In the Project and Network Editions, a searching and filtering facility is included to enable this ease of navigation and aid discovery. Especially for the content creators (but also of course usable by viewers), Cinera will provide a "Bookshelf" collecting all of the reference material cited in their videos, as well as a "Library" in Network instances of the system, collecting all Bookshelves from all projects.

A planned feature, geared towards discovery, engagement and efficiency, is category subscriptions, whereby viewers may subscribe to a category, e.g. rendering, Owl of Shame, ai, etc., and receive notifications when new material covering that category becomes available. Further in the future are desktop and mobile clients.

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