Frankenstein’s creature is alive

For the last few days, I’ve been busy writing a new program, code named “Ventilo”, but that could also be called Frankenstein as it’s made out of a dozen of pieces of other programs that I’ve been writing over the last year and half.
Today I’ve made big progress and the creature is finally alive.

it's alive

Where I had twenty programs capable of repairing one type of damaged movies each, now I have one Frankenstein creature capable of previewing them all.

Note that I’m not saying repairing, just previewing. Because what I’ve grown in scope, has come at the cost of feature depth.

I’m happy with that, because it’s exactly what I wanted to do:
Being able to view what is inside a damaged movie file is indeed very important. It’s telling you two things:

  • First, that your beloved footage is still here, latent, waiting for a repair. You can almost touch it.
  • Second, that there’s someone that cares about video professionals. It’s not always a fairy tale, shit happens. And it’s good to know that someone is here to help.

The reason why Ventilo does not repair the movie is a technical one: If getting a computer to analyze the contents of a file and preview a cherry-picked frame is a hard task, it’s an easy one compared to extract all the frames, video and audio, and present them perfectly synchronized, without artefact, in a broadcast quality movie.

Preview is a feature that luckily falls at the tiny intersection of what people wish could be done, and what technically I’m able to do. And it’s also the missing piece of the Movie Repair puzzle because it’s what creates the emotion, the engagement.

Ventilo was born from an intuition:

Every day, a few hundred (unlucky) people discover that an important movie file, because it’s urgent or because it’s a piece of their memories, has been damaged and cannot be open. They seek help in friends, colleagues, Internet forums, and end up searching for a “tool to fix damaged movies” or a “software to repair corrupt film”.

What they find is a dozen of crappy products that will lead them nowhere. The problem is that quality movie repair is delivered as a service, not as a software. But people doesn’t look for a service, it looks like a strange idea.

So how can I let them know, and help them recover their movie?

Enter Ventilo. A free tool that they will easily find and use, and that will tell them the truth about their file:

“No, it can’t be repaired because the file contains only alien data”

— or —

“Yes, it can be fixed, look at the preview… but the repair is a complex task, it can only be done by a video hacker and this service can cost you between x and y.”

Ventilo also facilitates some hardeous tasks, like data extraction and transfer, and saves time both to the customer and to the repair technician.

it's alive

In summary, Ventilo lowers several barriers:
Barrier to discovery (Google will find it), to use (it’s software), to gratification (free preview!), and to engagement (big hope, small time footprint).
Thus enabling many more people to get their file repaired.

As I’m working alone, instead of a specification, I prefer a small set of guidelines that let me decide quickly whether something must, can, or cannot be added to Ventilo.

My guidelines:

  • Tell something interesting about all the files in my “collection” of corrupt movies, and preview 90% of them.
  • Release 1.0 within one month, stable enough.
  • Provide a simple user interface that makes Ventilo feel like a Mac application.
  • Give an emotional touch to the Preview.

Ventilo is far from finished, the user interface work has just started. I’ll share with you in the next days the first screenshots and discuss a couple of interaction design items.

it's alive
click to enlarge

Contact me if you would like to beta-test Ventilo. bjoossen at