Converting videos so they can be edited

April 18, 2014

At Cramlington, we don’t currently have a third-party video service.

Not that sort of video service!

Not that sort of video service!

Instead, having an entirely Windows server environment, we’ve used Windows Media Encoder and WMV files to stream all our videos.

Together with Graeme Porter (since moved to be Walbottle Campus’ VLE Coordinator), I put together our own video database system (CramTube – yeah, our naming’s not got better either).  We also methodically went through all of the encoding settings in Adobe Premiere to determine best compression – size ratio.  Using WMV we achieve around 4 Mbs per minute.

  • Bit rate encoding: CBR, 1 pass
  • Maximum bit rate: 550 kbps
  • Width: 640, height: 480

At this setting, you see a little artefacting (it’s not yet a word, but I’m holding out hope), but the file size has to double before the quality noticeably improves.  And so far, we’ve only rolled out Android devices to students which can play WMVs fine.

 

The problem

Of course, there’s a problem.  In this case, it’s our students, who use their Android tablets and phones (only in 6th form supposedly) to record video.

I'm currently pushing for month long detentions for filming the wrong way.

I’m currently pushing for month-long detentions for filming the wrong way.

Shockingly, they also to want to be able to edit it.  Trouble is, there’s no app in existence (I’ve looked) that allows the user to record video as WMV.  And if the student wishes to edit the video, generally it involves a trip to the IT support office with a memory stick.

Our Solution

Please note, that this bit is entitled Our Solution.  I’m sure there are many other ways to achieve this, but this is our solution using products we had to hand.  The solution required:

  1. Some way of students uploading video (large files).
  2. Have it convert automatically.
  3. Be able to download the new file.

1 – PL Upload
To solve the first point, a Google search (sorry Bing – I never even considered you) discovered PL Upload.  This system is a lovely bit of code which allows large files to be automatically uploaded by users.  This gets round the problem of standard file upload forms timing out.  The documentation is a little off-putting, but the example file provided works just fine.  From there, it’s easy enough to adapt to suit your own design.

2 – Adobe Media Encoder
The next part involves converting the video from whatever format into the editable WMV.  We’re lucky enough to have Adobe CC for our department.  It’s meant we have the latest versions of all the Adobe products, though I think AME has had watch folders for some time.

Hang on….sorry, got ahead of myself.  In AME, you can set up the program to “watch” for new files on a network drive.  So every time a user uploads a video file using PL Upload, it drops into one of these ‘watch folders’.  AME, running on a spare PC detects the new file, converts it and saves it into another folder.

3 – Auto menu – PHP
On upload, we used a bit of our own code to rename the video file with the user’s username, time and date.  Using a variation on the auto menu code I shared last time on this blog, the user sees a list of all the videos containing their username.

And that’s it.   Obviously AME can be set to convert to formats other than WMV, but seeing as our students use Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 (site licence years ago) and Windows Movie Maker (free), we find it’s the easiest format.

So far, only our sixth form students have used the uploader, but our Year 7 students are using a stop motion app which only saves in MOV or MP4 formats.  PL Upload being a web-based tool should allow them to upload and convert.

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PrimoPDF

July 21, 2010

Here’s a couple of quick tips in one post.   If you want to drive up viewing figures for your blog, just pop the word “iPad” into your post somewhere.   Actually given the amount of spam that post attracted maybe that’s not such a good tip 🙂

Ok, onto the actual tip.

PrimoPDF

This really handy bit of software sits on your computer like a printer.   You “print” to it and it outputs a PDF file of whatever you have sent.

It’s very handy for converting any Office document into something anyone on any computer or mobile phone can read.   Adobe Acrobat (the software that reads PDFs) is free and already on 99% of the world’s computers so that makes it VERY compatible.

 Printing isn’t limited to Office documents of course, photos, posters, web pages can all be converted for ease of distribution.  

I wonder if the iPad reads PDF?  🙂


Xilisoft Video Converter

July 5, 2010

In recent posts I’ve spent some time talking about getting videos off youtube, or old tapes etc…but not mention the best way to get them to your students.

There are dozens of video converters out there, but my preference lies with Xilisoft. (I pronounce it “zilly-soft”, but that’s a guess)

Xilisoft Video Converter

This software just works.   It’s $35 (don’t get confused by the Platinum and Ultimate additions – the standard does everything you need).  Just drag your video into the software, set your type of video output (it has dozens of optimised presets – everythign from iPad and Android phones, to general web video – even has MS Zune !!?)

Like I’ve said, there are plenty of video converters out there, some for free, but Xilisoft works and works well.  It especially good at keeping audio and video from YouTube synchronised.