Category Archives: video

In the time it takes to…

This video shows how things change in the time it takes to travel from Cheltenham to Gloucester.

Stats were taken from various sources and checked across other datasets.

Which video and audio standard should I use?

People like standardisation it makes life easier, it is easier to provide advice and guidance and removes barriers. The implication is that if everyone used the same device, the same formats and the same delivery mechanisms then it would be easier to deliver video and audio to learners and for those learners to create audio and video themselves.

Audio is a little easier to standardise, most people have heard of mp3 and most devices can play mp3 files. That should make it much easier to roll out, however due to the fact there is a patent behind mp3 and licensing fees that need to be paid, means that some devices though can play mp3s can not record direct to mp3. These devices will use other audio codecs that play fine on the device in question, but not necessarily on other devices or through a browser. The solution in Gloucestershire College was to standardise on the Edirol R09H which records natively to mp3 onto an SD memory card. Yes it is expensive, but it does record to mp3 and the quality is excellent. Use of SD cards meant that it was very easy to transfer recordings to a laptop or computer and then share them on the VLE. The quality of the audio recordings were excellent.

Of course though the mp3 standard is ubiquitous, recording to mp3 is not necessarily the best format to use, especially if you are going to do any kind of editing on the recording. If for example you are going to be using Garageband to edit the recording and create a podcast, then you are not going to want to use the mp3 format. The reason is that an mp3 file is compressed and uses what is called a lossy compression, in other words information is lost when the file is compressed. If you edit and then compress again, more information is lost. As a result you are compressing a compressed format and you will lose even more quality. This means you can get a less than satisfactory recording. For those who prefer a higher quality the Edirol R09H can also record direct to uncompressed WAV. This is CD quality and doesn’t use any lossy compression, so no loss of quality when editing the file. Of course the problem with WAV is that the file sizes are large so distribution is a problem, so the final edited audio file can then be compressed to mp3.

It’s one thing to record audio, delivery is something else. Placing the audio file on the VLE makes it very easy for learners to access and download the recording in their browser. However for regular recordings it makes more sense to use RSS or podcast the recordings. This will allow learners to subscribe to the series of recordings through software such as iTunes and then transfer the recordings to a portable device such as an iPhone or iPod. The challenge here is not just technical, but also the recognition from practitioners of the importance of a regular series of recordings or podcasts.

If audio is difficult video is much more challenging. Different cameras and devices record video using different formats and even when they use the same format, they may use a different codec. Modern operating systems generally have few problems using MP4 video files, both Windows 7 Media Player and OS X QuickTime X can play modern MP4 video files. Many mobile devices and smartphones can play MP4 files too. However one of the challenges facing FE Colleges is that many are still using Windows XP which doesn’t natively support MP4 and isn’t from a networking perspective the easiest to add that functionality.

One solution is to upload the video to sites such as Vimeo or YouTube and use Flash. Flash is often the solution to the delivery of video on networks where native MP4 playback isn’t possible. The issue with Flash video is how do you deliver such video on mobile devices, many of which don’t have support for Flash? Also how do you deliver the video to mobile devices that are not network connected? Another issue is privacy, the problem with using sites such as YouTube is that they are public and it may not be possible or wanted that the videos are public.

A key technological challenge for institutions is to answer all those problems without it becoming a barrier to learners and practitioners.

4oD CatchUp – iPad App of the Week

4oD CatchUp – iPad App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is 4oD CatchUp.

Watch Channel 4 on your iPad for free with our new 4oD iPad app

- free to download for a limited time only
– the only way to watch 4oD on your iPad
– wide selection of shows from Channel 4, E4 and More4
– huge 30-day catch up window
– free and unlimited access to content

The 4oD iPad app is free for a limited time and is the only way you can watch 4oD on your iPad. It enables you to catch up on a wide selection of programmes recently broadcast on Channel 4, E4 and More4, for up to 30 days after transmission. Once you have downloaded the app, the content is available to watch free of charge with no limits to the amount of content you can play.

Our archive 4oD content (which includes both classic shows and more recent programmes that have dropped out of the 30-day catch up ‘window’) is not currently available on the iPad, but we are looking to bring these programmes to you soon.

This application does not work outside the UK. Please note that US shows are not currently available on this app. The 4oD application is only available using wi-fi, and only supported on iOS 4.

Free (for a limited time)

One of the features I liked about the iPad was the ability to play BBC iPlayer content, however without Flash support services such as Channel 4’s 4oD weren’t available to iPad users. The 4oD CatchUp App now allows some 4oD programmes to be watched on the iPad.

Alas this is not the full 4oD service, but then neither does the BBC iPlayer iPad App offer the full iPlayer experience. What the 4oD CatchUp App does allow you to do is to see some of the Channel 4 programmes from the last 30 days from your iPad.

The App only works over wifi and this does restrict you using it on the move, but this is the same as the BBC iPlayer App.

For the me the importance of this App is the move by content providers who previously only relied on Flash for delivering video to now providing that same content via the iPad. I do expect to see more content providers move in this direction. What this means is the lack of Flash on the iPad becomes less and less an issue for consumers.

4oD CatchUp is a simple App and it works reasonably well, it did crash on me a few times. This should be fixed in a future version I suspect. Hopefully in the future we will also see more 4oD content.

8mm Vintage Camera – iPhone App of the Week

8mm Vintage Camera – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone and iPad Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is 8mm Vintage Camera.

Shoot old-fashioned 8mm movies in real time.

8mm Vintage Camera brings your iPhone and iPod Touch back in time to capture the beauty and magic of old school vintage movies. By mixing and matching films and lenses, you can recreate the atmosphere of those bygone eras with 25 timeless retro looks. Dust & scratches, retro colors, flickering, light leaks, frame jitters – all can be instantly added with a single tap or swipe.

£1.19

This is a lovely little application that allows you to use the usually excellent iPhone camera and rather than shoot clear 720p HD video, you can shoot film as though the iPhone was using 8mm film stock.

This short montage, shot from a mount in my car, of the M5 shows the different styles that you can get by using the app.

Now video purists would argue that what you should do is shoot in 720p and then use a video application on your computer to add the effect so if required you can always go back to the original footage. Now there is some merit in that argument, but personally if I was doing that I probably wouldn’t shoot the video with an iPhone and would use a “proper” HD camcorder. This app is about creating an aged film look to a video quickly, immediately and without worrying about finding a computer.

After starting the app you can change the lense, change the film type to various different types, add frame jitter and then press the red button to record.

It’s nice that the above help screen is included in the app. The video is saved to the app, you can then either save the video to your camera roll (to import into your computer later), e-mail the video (for example to Posterous) or upload to YouTube.

I was quite pleased with the effect and it is a quick and easy app to use.

This app has a lot of potential for practitioners who may want to “pretend” that they are in the 1970s or the 1920s to enhance a lesson, video or presentation.

100 ways to use a VLE – #72 Streaming live video

It is getting easier and easier these days to stream live video over the web.

Using services such as Qik, Ustream and other free services (and paid services) you can capture an event live and stream it over the internet.

These services allow you to stream video to lots of people even if all you have is a simple internet connection, 3G, wifi or similar. The way they work is, you stream your video to their server, and then they serve the video to the multiple clients who want to watch.

So where does the VLE come into this?

Well, you can provide the URL of the page that has the streaming video on, but that does rely on learners either remembering the URL or having access to it or having written it down. The problem with live streaming is that it is very time sensitive and really don’t want learners struggling to find the URL and then find the live event is over.

A lot of these streaming services do allow you to embed the stream output into a webpage and so you could embed the coding into the VLE.

Most of the free services are supported by advertising, you can use other services such as Bitgravity that offer a paid for streaming service.

You can also obviously embed the video stream from any institutional streaming servers.

You can then use the scheduling or calendaring functions of the VLE to let the learners know when the live video event is happening.

Photo source.