Free Sanctuary.
June 2, 2007 9:19 PM   Subscribe

The first 17 minute 'webisode' of the new science-fiction web-series Sanctuary, starring Stargate SG-1's Amanda Tapping (along with several other Stargate actors) can now be viewed online, for free, at Youtube. And although you can buy them here for US $1.99, uploading the video to Youtube or sharing it with your friends is all completely legit, as the producers have taken a very liberal approach to DRM; specifically, there is none. To quote creator Damian Kindler "These files are YOURS. You can do with them what you want. Drop them into iTunes. Convert them to DVD formats. Burn, rip, whatever. You bought 'em, you decide how to enjoy 'em." Nice.
posted by Effigy2000 (29 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Naturally there is a downside to watching the webisodes for free... they're low-res as compared to the enhanced-definition files you can pay for. But that dosen't stop you from getting a friends EDTV version, should they be nice enough to rip it for you (or vice versa, as the case may be). At any rate, it's just refreshing to see this approach towards digital media being adopted by a relatively large science fiction production. And the fans are certainly enjoying it too.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:20 PM on June 2, 2007

Does lack of DRM really amount to permission to distribute? I mean, it's going to be distributed no matter what, but I'm not sure "Burn, rip, whatever" translates to "you can set up a Web server and undercut our business model with our blessing."

The Terms and Conditions certainly aren't saying so. "You as a user are strictly prohibited from selling, transferring, copying, distributing, redistributing, recompiling the Website and the Website Materials for any commercial purpose without the express written consent of Stage 3."
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 9:30 PM on June 2, 2007

Well, okay, commercial purpose. There's a lot more legalese on the site, though. Doesn't look too friendly.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 9:31 PM on June 2, 2007

I think "commercial purpose" is the key term here. IANAL or anything, but it seems to me that the producers are saying "share it however you want, even on Youtube, just so long as you don't make a buck out of it." And to quote Damian Kindler again ;
"We will absolutely be making the first "weps" available for free via You Tube, Google video and some others sites we’re still working on. We want people to be able to get a feel for the show for free and then see it in it's true majesty in the awesome player we're cooking up. Seriously.. you ain't seen nothing yet."
So it definitely seems as though the creators are giving their direct approval for this thing to spread over Youtube and the internets for free, again, as long as no one makes a dime out of it except themselves.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:34 PM on June 2, 2007

Hmm, it sounds like only the first episodes will be distributed this way, and later (after you get hooked) you'll need to download their "player". I doubt they would mind if you redistributed it, but technically they're not giving you a license to do so. Even though it doesn't say it in their legalese, you still can't technically distribute copyrighted material without permission.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 PM on June 2, 2007

...but attempt no landing on Europa!
posted by typewriter at 10:16 PM on June 2, 2007

I'll prolly buy some episodes to support the DRM free aspect. We'll see what happens after that.
posted by Samizdata at 10:27 PM on June 2, 2007

AND I'm landing on Europa.

So there!
posted by Samizdata at 10:35 PM on June 2, 2007

"You bought 'em, you decide how to enjoy 'em"


The key difference has always been profit. If you make money off it and don't share said revenue, THEN you are stealing. NOT before. Telling your friends about it, letting them see, even making a copy hasn't been wrong when we only had cassette tapes and it's NOT wrong now. No matter how hard some forces in the industry are trying to turn people into outlaws for appreciating and spreading entertainment.

From just seeing the first scene of Sanctuary on YouTube, I'm intrigued enough to consider someday buying the whole thing on DVD. Although I must admit, starting with Jack the Ripper? That's a tired plot device in fiction if ever I've seen one. Unless they're going to do something very unique with it, that doesn't bode well.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:10 PM on June 2, 2007

We will absolutely be making the first "weps" available for free

Drug dealers have been doing this for years: the first hit is always free. Distribute a few episodes freely, encourage liberal sharing, until you've built an audience; then switch to a more restricted format and charge. Should be a successful business model, assuming that the show is good.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:24 PM on June 2, 2007 for calling themselves the "first broadcast caliber online scifi series" I think there's many previous efforts which would take umbrage at that, and many critics who would say they shouldn't be so presumptuous.

Personally I think there's been some nice work among Star Trek fans to create works that, while perhaps not "broadcast quality" by mainstream standards, were pretty damned impressive considering the vast number of financial limitations and myriad other restrictions they had to endure. Then there's "Star Trek Revelations" which while heavily fan-tainted was still rather visually and musically stunning. Not to mention a number of parodies, some of which would have been broadcastable, if the networks actually knew what their audiences wanted. They don't, which is why the audience is moving to the Web.

And that's just taking into account live action efforts. I'm not even including machinima, since whether or not they'd ever get broadcast is debatable, but certainly the quality of Red vs Blue in their latter seasons are no worse than Family Guy or Robot Chicken. In some ways much machinima is an improvement on what passes for broadcast television nowadays.

In fact the production company of Sanctuary may harm their access to a potential fanbase if they get too boastful about their place. "First broadcast caliber online scifi series" my ass.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:27 PM on June 2, 2007

Episode 2 [youtube]
posted by tresbizzare at 11:27 PM on June 2, 2007

The pilot wasn't half bad, though I kept coming back to the idea that this was a bastard combination of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Global Frequency.

Still, a cast I respect in a sci-fi universe? It could be the worse thing ever, and I would still be a willing viewer.
posted by quin at 12:00 AM on June 3, 2007

Hopefully people will support the show if they enjoy it and actually buy episodes. For myself, if it has Amanda Tapping in it, I watch. That's the rule.
posted by mstefan at 12:26 AM on June 3, 2007

I haven't had a chance to watch it yet. I probably will tomorrow, but 2 bucks for 17 minutes seems a bit steep to me.

I do love the idea of stuff being produced like this. I'm waiting for a show that is available only on DVD (most likely a show that got canceled with a strong, mobilized niche audience that goes on to produce another season on their own for sale/rent).

Still, 2 bucks for an hour long show seems like it might make sense, but for 17 mintues? That just seems like a lot to me.
posted by willnot at 12:57 AM on June 3, 2007

Well, given that broadcast shows are 45 minutes, you're basically paying about $6 per (traditional television) episode. That's what... the cost of a Happy Meal?

I guess for starving college students it could be an issue, but with them releasing two webisodes a month (or so), I think I can find the 4 bucks. And if I haven't stressed this enough, if you find yourself questioning whether its worth the money, I have two words for you:

Amanda Tapping

Now, get out that wallet. Paypal calls to you.
posted by mstefan at 2:02 AM on June 3, 2007

Not bad, though this is "broadcast caliber" in the sense that Cleopatra 2525 and Andromeda were. I'm thinking Sunday afternoon syndication. I can't see a major network or the Sci-Fi channel picking it up (although they did pick up Andromeda, so who knows).

It's a little annoying that they didn't write to the 17 minute format either. This wasn't really a complete episode: it was a 17 minute chunk of one. They need to go back and look at the old serials to get a sense of how you arc through a show of that length properly. Right now it feels like I watched some show up to its first commercial break.

Oh and the dialog in the scene with the doctor and the mental patient: ugh. If you're not clever, don't try to write clever dialog. It's much worse than if it was just bland.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:04 AM on June 3, 2007

A few issues with the dialog, but seems interesting enough. And the business model is one I'm willing to support on principle, if only so that this and better shows have a chance to work without all the things that influence network television.
posted by hank_14 at 8:13 AM on June 3, 2007

Amanda Tapping for me, David Hewlitt for my wife, this is a win-win for me.
posted by Ber at 9:08 AM on June 3, 2007

You know, I thought I had reached the point where no one would ever, ever have a character "pass out" hilariously in a story. Call me naive but I really did.

Here's hoping follow in these DRM footsteps... with better shows. (this was not even up to Tales From The Darkside standards)
posted by dreamsign at 9:08 AM on June 3, 2007

I have to agree that the pricing is going to screw them up. On iTunes, you can buy prime time television of the highest production values for 1.99 for a 44 minute episode. The comparison surely isn't fair (since this is basically on top of the advertiser supported broadcast model) but it is the comparison people are going to make: basically a 2.5X premium for a lower production value.
posted by nanojath at 9:15 AM on June 3, 2007

I haven't watched one of these yet, but I'm interested. I hate the website, however -- it's unnecessarily complex.
posted by Kikkoman at 9:38 AM on June 3, 2007

Looks like the face-putty subgenre of 'scifi'.
posted by signal at 9:57 AM on June 3, 2007

I just watched the first episode on YouTube. It has promise, but Amanda Tappings fake british accent is painful.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:06 PM on June 3, 2007

Admittedly, after having slept on it, there's stuff being done in YouTube which is far more entertaining and original than Sanctuary. I've been enjoying stuff from Mediocre Films and Awkward Pictures myself. Ana Free's music is refreshing. In fact I'm becoming quite the YouTube addict. The TV's just gathering dust.

If Joss Whedon ever got off his butt and started producing online content like this, I'd jump on board. Anyone remember the R. Tam Sessions? That was just inspired! However, Sanctuary is getting a grandiose 'meh' from me. Kinda reminds me of Amber Benson & Chris Golden's foray into online content for the BBC; amusing but ultimately not very daring. Seemed like a handful of brainstorming sessions without much cohesion. A lot of wouldn't it be neat if's.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:46 PM on June 3, 2007

There are high def versions, 1280x720 24fps, 1732kps, 48/256K audio. But at only 17minutes per ep is rather small when you want to get into a show. The computer generated cities do look nice, little dark, but good quality.
posted by IronWolve at 12:52 PM on June 3, 2007

But at only 17minutes per ep is rather small when you want to get into a show.

I have to admit, that's tough. I had sprung for the first 4 webisodes in HD, and it's a kick in the pants that I have to wait for June 11th to get my next fix. People who don't like the relatively short episodic "cliffhangers" could be turned off by it.

Personally, I'm enjoying it, I just want more now. I've fell victim to our immediate gratification culture, I suppose. ;)
posted by mstefan at 1:59 PM on June 3, 2007

I thought the pilot was decent, if not compelling. (It's pretty standard horror, signal. I'm not much one for horror, either.) I think there's a decent chance this could find an audience, though I wonder how much viewership will drop off with the lock-in.
posted by dhartung at 7:49 PM on June 3, 2007

I really hate it when fantasy and horror stories are described as "science-fiction."

As Heinlein said, science fiction is "realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method." This show is about a sanctuary for supernatural creatures. It's speculative fiction, not science-fiction.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 3:42 PM on June 4, 2007

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