Category Archives: video

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.

Update: This app is now called All 4.

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.

Get 8mm Vintage Camera in the App Store.

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.

Hairdressing Video

If you are learning about hairdressing, reading about it is okay, but doesn’t really show how to do things even with nice colour pictures. Video is a much better way to reflect on a process, to prepare for a process or learn about a new process.

Worcester College of Tech and Hairdressing Training have placed a series of short, useful videos on different hair cutting techniques on YouTube.

See more videos.

Hairdressing Training is run by Mimas (http://www.mimas.ac.uk). It provides you with a range of resources to help with your teaching. These include a suite of web resources with photographic step by step guides combined with lessons and handy tips and techniques, suiting a variety of learning styles. Hairdressing Training is also available via mobile devices.

100 ways to use a VLE – #70 Hosting video

Though there are video sites out there on the web that will host video. Sometimes you may not want the video to be public out on the web. In that case hosting video on the VLE may be an ideal solution.

If the video is of a presentation on a tricky subject, or contains licensed content that you can place on the VLE, but are not allowed to freely distribute, or has the students in and some don’t want to be publicly online; then place the video on the VLE may be a better option than uploading to Vimeo or YouTube.

Video can be useful to enhance and enrich learning, one lecturer I know films his quiz questions, as the learners find this more engaging than reading them on paper, it also allows him to ask questions about practical stuff more easily than trying to explain a process on paper. Recording debates and discussions, allows learners to reflect and review them at a time and place to suit the learner, rather than just relying on notes and memory. Video analysis of sporting techniques ensures that learners can improve their technique through the video as well as verbal feedback.

By placing the video on the VLE, you can place it in the context of learning, enabling learners to clarify how the video works in respect of the rest of the course or topic.

For ease of access, by placing the video on the VLE, the learners will be able to click and download the video.

Generally though it isn’t perfect, the server may not be configured to deliver or stream video, likewise there may also be storage issues, as video files are generally much larger than text or Word documents.

This is fine if the learners click to download the video inside the college on the fast network connection, but less fine if the students are at home on a slow broadband connection, or more likely on a mobile device.

The key here is to encode the raw video file so that the resulting file is small in size, but not so compressed to be unviewable (very important if there is text in the video).

There is also the question of what type of file format you should upload. Should it be WMV, as everyone runs Windows? What about learners on a Mac, well they should be able to cope with extra software. However WMV is less useful for those on mobile devices or using non-traditional computers like the iPad or a gaming console like the PS3.

Similarly, if you using a Mac to edit the video, h.264 MP4 files are excellent quality for small file formats. However you do need to be careful about file formats so that it will play on most phones, the iPhone, the iPad, PSP, etc… If you are running Windows, after many years of “ignoring” h.264 it looks like that Windows PCs (well newest ones) are able to play h.264 video files.

One option you may want to consider is placing a few formats on the VLE, so giving learners choice on which to download.

From experience, videos should not be too long or too big. In terms of file size try to keep under 50MB, with 100MB being a real maximum, and less than 10MB is better for mobile devices (even on WiFi). In terms of time, I wouldn’t put any video longer than 10 minutes on the VLE. Anything longer, I would put on DVD so that it can be watched on the TV over a computer or mobile device. As with any guidance or advice, there will always be exceptions.

Hosting video on the VLE is sometimes the only option, but with the right amount of compression, it will result in an engaging and enhanced learning experience and not a frustrating annoyance.

Photo source.

Flip’ping Pilots

There were many interesting and informative papers and presentations at EdTech 2010.

One that caught my eye, was a paper on the use of Flip cameras brought to the fore the issue of technical barriers to the successful implementation of a new technology. Even despite these barriers, enthusiasm and perseverance paid off. The project demonstrated the importance of effective communication between all stakeholders.

After the presentation I was discussing cameras with some of the other delegates, I had my Kodak Zi8 and a Sanyo Xacti with me and we were looking at the merits of these compared to the Flip. One of the delegates did say that she was interested in running a pilot in her institution.

Here’s a question how many Flip projects and pilots need to be run before we can accept that there is value in using these “cheap” cameras to enhance and enrich learning? How many duplicate lessons need to be learnt? How many learners need to experience the use of video before it is accepted that this does contribute to the learning experience? I can accept that every institution is different, but how different are they? We are in fact much more similar than we think.

If only a single small pilot has been run in the country, then yes there is probably sensible to run a pilot. But when we are talking about Flip cameras, hundreds of institutions have run pilots and projects involving these cameras, and other similar cameras. Papers have been written, presentations given, case studies disseminated.

Southwark College: The impact of low-cost video cameras across the curriculum

Gateshead College: Successful staff coaching through video footage analysis

West Kent College: Dance and IT capture evidence using pocket video camcorders

The Production of Generative ‘fly on the wall’ Mini Documentaries Capturing a Physiotherapy Students’ Personal Experience of their First Practice Placements

ESOL Students Interview Staff

Flip Cameras arrive at Wisewood

Basic guide to using the Flip Digital Recorder

Move industry into the classroom and the classroom into industry Flip It

Web Video & Healthcare Case Studies & Best Practices

How many pilots do we need? Or is it more a question that we need to run a pilot at our institution before we think about “rolling” it out across all curriculum areas. I am also aware of successful pilots in one curriculum area which have been followed by virtually identical pilots in a second curriculum area… Why? Well the learners are different! Really! How different, they have two heads or something? That actually raises a question on any pilot, well successful pilots have resulted in a roll out across the whole institution?

We do see institutions that use tools such as Powerpoint across the institution, similarly we see some institutions have embedded the use of the VLE. However was this via projects and pilots? Or was it something different?

Do pilots actually help institutions move forward in using learning technologies or are they causing problems rather than solutions?

If we don’t learn from pilots that others do, is there any point in talking about pilots?

So is there a use for the pilot? I believe that we can use the lessons learned above to change how we use pilots in institutions and use them for staff development to improve the use of learning technologies.

Though it would appear from talking to delegates at EdTech and elsewhere that most institutions do not have consistent use of the VLE or other tools. This is down to many reasons, some are fear and apprehension.

However prejudice, lack of training, lack of understanding, lack of knowledge play their part too. Some staff perceive that some tools or technologies are “not suitable” for their learners. Some staff don’t have the skills to fully utilise the tools. Many staff have a lack of understanding about the capabilities and potential of technologies. Others have trouble transferring activities from say face to face to the internet.

Whenever I run training sessions at the college or as a MoLeNET mentor I often talk about a range of learning activities, new gadgets, tools and services; and I know for many this is overwhelming. I will usually tell the participants that they should take “just one thing” away with them and embed that into their practice and make a difference to their learners.

This brings us back to the pilot!

Generally in a lot of institutions pilots are run by the e-learning team or an enthusiastic individual. They try one pilot after another…

This doesn’t always get the holistic results they intended, very much seen as a get the project done, then move onto the next new technology… “…did I say I was going to get my iPad this week?”

Why not get all staff to run a pilot, everyone runs a pilot of some kind, evaluate the results, embed into their teaching and then start another pilot…

There is plenty of ideas, guidance and case studies on the web and from other institutions, so support is much simpler than it was say ten years ago.

Staff don’t need to be restricted to the pilots, but for many staff it will be a way of using a wider variety of learning technologies than they were before.

So next time you suggest a pilot, think is this necessary, is this going to work? Maybe we should get everyone to pilot something.

Photo source.

Clean and tidy

One of the annoyances of using YouTube in the classroom is the “untidy” YouTube interface. It has got better recently, but one annoyance remains, the comments.

For some reason many people who comment on YouTube videos seem to have to use profanities or make weird or rude comments.

As a result when you are showing a YouTube video in a classroom or at a conference, people get distracted by the comments and miss the video.

I did mention QuietTube in a post last week, I was recommended by Ellen to have a look at SafeShareTV.

Not only does SafeShareTV remove distracting and offensive elements around YouTube videos, but it also allows you to crop videos before sharing them.

A neat little idea to sending YouTube links by e-mail, or posting links in the VLE.

It helps avoid some of the distractions that the main YouTube sites offer and is in some ways better and easier than trying to embed the YouTube video.

Another way of showing your videos in the classroom is to use the channel and find the videos that way rather than using the direct URL.

As you can see you also avoid the unecessary comments and distractions, but stil not as clean as SafeShare.