Freej beginner's tutorial
FreeJ is a vision mixer: a digital instrument for realtime video manipulation used in the fields of dance teather, veejaying, online streaming, medical visualisation and TV.
It runs a video engine in which multiple layers can be filtered thru effect chains and then mixed together with images, movies, live cameras, particle generators, text scrollers and vector graphics. All the resulting video mix can be shown on a screen, encoded into a movie and streamed live to the internet.
FreeJ's sourcecode is written in portable C and C++ and it works on most platforms supported by the GNU C compiler, including 32bit and 64bit processors, PowerPC and various ARM flavours.
FreeJ is released free under the GNU General Public License (v3).
- reads and renders layers from multiple sources: webcams, TV, divx/avi movies, images, txt files and more
- can encode in Ogg/Theora video, recording on local file and streaming live to an online Icecast server
can be controlled from remote: VJoE - VeeJay over Ethernet
- supports frei0r and freeframe video plugins
- very efficient video engine with multithreaded layers
- Emacs/Vi style console with hotkeys and completion
- multiple controllers at the same time (Midi,Joystick etc.)
- 100% Free and open source, GCC 4 compliant portable code
This software started being developed as a digital instrument Jaromil used in dance-theater performances. Since 2001 ongoing development took inspiration from various artists and programmers: Andreas Schiffler, Roberto Paci Dalo', Tom Demeyer, Francescopaolo Isidoro, Kentaro Fukuchi, Luigi Pagliarini, Isabella Bordoni, to name just a few.
The first motto for this software was "Set the VeeJay Free!"
Since 2004 development has received support from the Netherlands Media Art Insitute.
In 2005 Mr.Goil joined development, writing programmable controllers, reviewing the scripting environment and adding more features.
In 2007 the Austrian initiative Netculture lab supported Jaromil and Mr.Goil developing the BeTV release: it enhanced scriptability and streaming, with a major cleanup of the code and wider support of video plugins.
For the time being, FreeJ is employed in various video performances, interactive installations and online TV streams, as well used for visualisations in medical analysis.
Developers are keen to accept projects and propositions in order to sustain the development activity and involve more developers. Please join our mailing list on http://lists.dyne.org to collaborate and be part of our history
As well as this guide, you can have a look at the README, INSTALL and other files distributed with the package or source code to start rolling with FreeJ. Also, check the online documentation on http://freej.dyne.org
Most powerful uses of FreeJ involve scripting for live interaction with devices and video compositing, but a first look at the console controller can give an initial picture of how the software works.
Tutorials, examples and scripting reference are available from the website as well along with the distributed sourcecode, in the doc/ and scripts/ directories. GNU/Linux distributions usually ship these files inside /usr/share/freej and /usr/doc/FreeJ*
As development continues, suggestions and feedback are welcome. Join us on the freej mailinglist on http://lists.dyne.org and let us know your impressions and ideas.
Target of this manual
In this part you will learn:
- installing freej
the basics of using freej and how its user interface is organized
how to use freej to show movies and static images
- how to use layers, so you can use more than one movie
- how to mix layers with each other
- how to add visual effects to displayed movies
However, we assume that you:
- can use a GNU/Linux system (command line)
will really do all the exercises from this tutorial -- if you only read it, you'll learn nothing. You have to be hands on!
- will let us know about any problems, comments and suggestions, so we can make this tutorial better
the first start -- how to start and stop freej
user interface -- what is what in freej
mixing two movies (fun starts)
using effects -- basics
To compile and run FreeJ it is necessary to have:
a working GNU/Linux system or Darwin/OSX -> see the documentation in README.OSX
SDL libraries http://www.libsdl.org
PNG libraries http://www.libpng.org
S-LANG libraries http://www.s-lang.org
Several other libraries are optional and strongly recommended to benefit from all features implemented in FreeJ, in particular Ogg/Vorbis/Theora libraries available on http://www.xiph.org
how to install
On Debian and Ubuntu 'freej' stable packages are ready to install. Release candidates up to date with latest development are also published on: http://launchpad.org/~jaromil/+archive
On Gentoo it is also possible to 'emerge freej'
Binary packages of FreeJ for OSX should be available from the website http://freej.dyne.org, although they might be a bit outdated and limited in features. It is also possible to compile FreeJ from source using XCode, MacPorts and Fink. Follow the instructions in README.OSX.
If you are a talented OSX programmer, please consider getting in touch with us and contributing to make this software better on the Apple platform, there isn't much work to do anyway.
There is no version of FreeJ on the M$ platform yet, but there is a quick and easy way to try this software without installing anything. Just boot the dyne:bolic liveCD.
Game console users
Experimental builds of FreeJ have been successfully run on the GP2X and NintendoDS consoles. It should be also possible to make FreeJ run on other embedded devices and we are very interested in doing so, please contact us if you are as well
installing from source code
So yo' smart, huh? I thou' yo' head woul' be biggah! (Idiocracy, Mike Judge, 2006)
First, be sure to have:
- all the required libraries and tools:
cdbs, libtool, flex, bison, libsdl-dev, libpng-dev, libfreetype6-dev, libfontconfig-dev, libogg-dev, libvorbis-dev, libjpeg-dev, libslang2-dev, libtheora-dev, libavcodec-dev, libavformat-dev, libswscale-dev, libunicap2-dev, libbluetooth-dev, fftw3-dev, libjack-dev, libasound-dev, libhtml-template-perl, python-dev, swig
If you're going to create Debian packages, you need also debhelper and pkg-config
PLEASE NOTE: automake 1.9 is REQUIRED - it doesn't work with a different version (we're hardly working to fix this).
- A working GNU/Linux system with X or framebuffer video
SDL libraries http://www.libsdl.org
PNG library (compile with _ZLIB_ support) http://libpng.org
To have some more assembler mmx optimized filters you need NASM:
NASM netwide assembler compiler http://sf.net/projects/nasm
then go in the filters/nasm-x86 and type
copy by hand the *.so filters in a ~/.freej/ directory in your home, and you're ready to rock'n roll!
Now, download freej latest stable version from
extract the source archive and compile it:
$ tar xvfz freej.tar.gz $ cd freej (if you are reading this file from the sourcecode, start from here) $ ./configure $ make $ sudo make install
this will install:
- effect plugins into /usr/local/lib/freej/
- freej binary in /usr/local/bin/
(or any other prefix you configured instead of the default /usr/local)
To launch it, just type
and that's all!
Please see README.OSX into the tarball.
from debian packages
Assuming you can do
apt-get install freej
to have a precompiled FreeJ, to squeeze the best out of your damn box you may want to compile this software with machine specific optimizations!
The source configure script guesses the best compiler optimization flags for your CPU.
The following commands are then necessary to set your build environment. From inside the freej source directory do:
sudo apt-get install autoconf automake1.9 sudo apt-get build-dep freej dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot
INSTALL FROM GIT REPOSITORY
(I know shit's bad right now with all that starvin' bullshit. And the dust storms. And we runnin' out of French Fries and burrito coverings. But I got a solution. - Idiocracy, Mike Judge, 2006)
Assuming you have Debian/Ubuntu (for other distro there can be some differences), with all tools needed and all developers lib installed (e.g. build-essential, the libs above etc.:
You need git:
apt-get install git-core
So, get the code:
git clone git://code.dyne.org/freej.git
After this, you will have a "freej" dir. Enter it, and do
That will create all the necessary configuration files (It may ask you to install some missing libraries or to install the required automake version 1.9). Then also run the "configure" script.
If you need to enable/disable something, relaunch "configure" with your chosen options.
When you're satisfied:
make && sudo make install
If you want to experiment with live video, please be sure to have a working camera and to activate it from your BIOS settings (e.g. for eeepc 701), otherwise it will not work!
the first start
Create a directory, for example freej_tmp. We will put our images, movies etc in this directory and we will play inside it:
mkdir freej_tmp cd freej_tmp
Download this image to freej_tmp directory. Now start freej:
As a result, freej starts and shows the picture ipernav.png.
Freej consists of two windows:
- output window – in this window our movies, pictures etc are shown,
console window – this window is used to interact with freej – give commands, load new pictures, movies etc,
In console window, press ctrl-h. You will see the list of shortcuts.
As you can see, [ctrl+c] means quit. Press [ctrl+c]. You are prompted to confirm that you really want to quit freej. Type yes [enter]
some more fun – movies
So far we just used static image – not so much fun. But the very same way we can use a movie.
Download this movie to freej_tmp directory. Then start freej:
As a result, freej starts and shows the movie kury.avi.
quit the freej (remember? [ctrl+c]).
We can load both static image and the movie.
Start freej with both movie and static image:
freej kury.avi ipernav.png
As you can see, only chicken movie is visible (and the static image – file ipernav.png – is invisible). We are going to understand why...
Now, when we opened two images (static image and a movie) in freej, we have them on two layers.
You can see the list of layers in the console. As you can see, that layers are called VID (which means: video layer) and IMG (static image layer).
The list of layers is also shown in output window. As you can see (below), the video layer is on top of static image layer. This is why we can't see the image.
Take a look at the console window. As you can see, one of layers (VID) is highlighted. It is the current layer. You can see the detailed information about that layer in the top of console window.
You can see there the name of the file (kury.avi) and some other info, which we will understand later.
Notice that current layer doesn't mean top layer or the layer which is visible now. Current layer means just current layer.
While in the console window, you can use left and right arrow keys to change the current layer. Press the right arrow key to change the current layer to IMG layer. Notice that now at the top of the console window you can see the details of static image layer.
While in the console window, you can use + and - keys to move the current layer up and down. So now, when the current layer is IMG layer, press +. As you can see, the static image layer went to the top. Now the static image is visible and the chicken movie became invisible.
Close the freej (ctrl+c, as you remember).
some words about commands, parameters, completions
Some of the console commands (e.g. CTRL-B, CTRL-E) can accept parameters. To show them, just press TAB. The completion is also working.
For example, pressing CTRL-B you have:
[*] select Blit mode for the selected Layer - press TAB for completion:
and so, pressing TAB, you obtain:
[*] List available blits starting with "" RGB ADD SUB MEAN ABSDIFF MULT MULTNOR DIV MULTDIV2 MULTDIV4 AND OR XOR RED GREEN BLUE REDMASK GREENMASK BLUEMASK NEG ADDB ADDBH SUBB SHL SHLB SHR MULB BIN SDL ALPHA SRCALPHA CHROMAKEY
When choosing something, like a filter (pressing CTRL-E), you can also use TAB and completion:
[*] add new Effect - press TAB for completion: 3dflippo Brightness bw0r Cartoon Contrast0r delay0r Distort0r Equaliz0r Flippo Gamma Glow Hueshift0r Invert0r Mask0Mate nosync0r pixeliz0r rotozoom Saturat0r scanline0r Sobel Squareblur TehRoxx0r Threshold0r Twolay0r Vertigo Water
This also give you a list of all effect.
mixing two movies
As we previously told, freej is about mixing images. Now we will start doing that.
Download another movie to freej_tmp directory. Then start freej:
freej term.avi kury.avi
As a result, freej starts. kury.avi is on the top layer, and is visible. term.avi is on the bottom layer and thus is invisible.
Now press key CTRL-B, and write red in output window. The effect should look like that:
Doing so, we made red blit on active layer. You can see it in layer details, in the top of console window.
As you know, each picture an a computer screen has three channels: red, green and blue. Red blit means that now only red channel of the kury.avi layer is visible. Green and blue channels of this layer became transparent, so now we can see:
the red channel of kury.avi
the green channel of term.avi
the blue channel of term.avi
In very similar fashion we can use green blit or blue blit, just choosing green or blue as parameter for CTRL-B. You can also try using other blits in the list. Try switching it on and off!
And now let's try alpha blit!
As you can see, now we use alpha blit (you can read it in the info on current layer in the console window). With alpha blit, the current layer becames partly transparent. As you can see, now the layer kury.avi became fully transparent and only term.avi is visible. This is because alpha parameter is zero:
We can change the alpha parameter from the console window. Just press CTRL-V and you can change the alpha numeric value. Enter a value between 0.0 and 0.1, for instance 0.5 – the current layer becomes half transparent.
Start freej with term.avi:
In console window press [ctrl+e] (e like effect). You will see the prompt like that:
So just press [tab] and you will see the list of available effects:
Vertigo effect is a nice one. So just type vertigo [enter]. You will see something like that:
disabling and deleting effects
Take a look at the console window. As you can see, the current layer is video layer with file term.avi:
You can also see that this current layer has the effect vertigo:
Press down arrow key in the console window to see the details on this filter:
Pressing SPACE key you can temporarily disable and enable this effect. Press [delete] to delete the effect from this layer.
- Denis "Jaromil" Rojo - FreeJ author and mantainer
- Silvano "Kysucix" Galliani - TXT layer, encoder, streaming
- Christoph "Mr.Goil" Rudorff - Scriptability, MIDI and Joystick
parts of included code are written by Andreas Schiffler (sdl_gfx), Jan (theorautils), Dave Griffiths (audio bus), Nemosoft (ccvt), Charles Yates (yuv2rgb), Steve Harris (liblo), Sam Lantinga (sdl_*), Jean-Christophe Hoelt (goom), L. Donnie Smith (cwiid), Olivier Debon (flash).
documentation, testing and user case studies have bee contributed by Anne-Marie Skriver, Marloes de Valk, Piotr Sobolewski
refer to the AUTHORS file for a full list of contributions
A mailinglist for further discussion about FreeJ is running on
For chat we hang around the channel #dyne on irc.dyne.org - access is free via SSL on port 9999, connection IP is kept anonymous for your own privacy.
If you have problems, you are welcome to ask on the mailinglist for help, there you will probably find some good suggestions
Please try to not mix your system's problems with FreeJ's bugs.
If you find bugs, you are welcome to report them in the bugtracking system on http://bugs.dyne.org
FreeJ is (c) 2001 - 2008 by Denis Roio
- (c) 2004 - 2005 by Silvano Galliani (c) 2005 - 2008 by Christoph Rudorff
Statically included libraries are copyright of the respective authors.
This source code is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.
This source code is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. Please refer to the GNU Public License for more details.
You should have received a copy of the GNU Public License along with this source code; if not, write to: Free Software Foundation, Inc., 675 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
about this document
The original document was by Piotr Sobolewski (http://www.rozrywka.jawsieci.pl/materialy/index_EN.html)
It was revised, enlarged and rebuilt at Wintercamp 09 in Amsterdam, by Gabriele Asbesto Molesto Zaverio.