Part 2 of 2
In Part 1 I covered the easy stuff. Working with audio is trivial compared with working with video. Not only do you have many more file types and codecs, but now you’ve got to worry about aspect ratio for HD and compression quality. Given two video files with the exact same file extension, one might work in one situation, but the other may not. It can be maddening.
The easiest thing to do is to upload your files to a video sharing site such as YouTube or Vimeo. However, sites like that are usually blocked by school districts. There is SchoolTube and TeacherTube, but sometimes those can be problematic, too.
Less likely to be blocked are sites built on the Ning.com platform. A Ning site is free, and will support up to 30 videos as long as each is no larger than 100 MB. That’s fairly generous, and will support most classroom needs. Videos that are uploaded to the site are provided embed codes for blogs and social networking sites. Here’s a sample video I recorded in Space Mountain on a trip to Disney World…
Not much of a video, I’ll admin, but it does get the point across. The embed code includes my site’s logo superimposed on the video, as well as sharing and full-screen options. You can just copy and paste the code, as I’ve done here.
However, some districts even block Ning sites, so this method wouldn’t be available. If you’re fortunate enough to live in South Carolina, or if you have a paid account with Discovery Learning, you can take advantage of their new Media Share site. This new sharing service allows teachers to upload videos (along with other types of files) and share on the web. It does include embed codes.
If you’re really up on web design you could simply create your own YouTube-like environment, like my friend Chris Craft did with his SpanTube.org site for his Spanish classes. His site uses a German product called osTube. This allows you to create your own YouTube, complete with commenting and sharing, but it has to be installed on a web server, and may be more trouble than the average teacher wants to take on.
But let’s say you’re a teacher out there all on your own. You don’t have access to Media Share. Your district blocks just about every conceivable social networking site, and all you’re stuck with is a little bit of web space to host video. All is not lost yet, but it will take some doing to get your videos hosted.
Services such as YouTube and Vimeo take videos that are uploaded and convert them to Flash-based video, or FLV files. This makes it easier to stream and embed without users having to download codecs for every single file. Some video services will let you download the original file, whether MOV, ASF, WMV, or whatever. However, what you’re seeing online is the FLV file.
This being the case, the easiest thing to do if you want to embed is to convert your video files to FLV format. I recommend the ffmpeg converter, which will convert just about any video type to another. The converter is a command line program, but there are several versions available with a simpler interface. I recommend the .net version.
Once you have your video in FLV format, you can copy it up to your web space.
Now that you’ve got your video in place, you need something to play it. There are several online players available, but I like the one from Flowplayer since it’s simple and you can customize it very easily. Just download the files from the site and copy them to your web host. I’ve put mine under the /flv/video/ folder on my site. The two files you need are the player.swf file and the swfobject.js files.
Flowplayer provides a nice setup wizard. However, I’ve found that they codes they generate don’t work well in some situations. For example, you can’t use their embed codes in Google Earth placemarks. I’ve modified the code a bit. All you need to do is modify the code below, and replace the bold parts with the location of your player.swf and swfobject.js files, and the location of your FLV video file:
<object type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” data=”http://www.randomconnections.com/video/flv/player.swf” id=”player1″ height=”320″ width=”470″>
<param name=”movie” value=”http://www.randomconnections.com/video/flv/player.swf“>
<param name=”FlashVars” value=”playerID=1&File=http://www.fakedomain.com/myname/video/somevideo.flv“>
<param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true”>
<param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”>
Once you have these changes made, you can copy this code and paste it into blogs, web pages, Google Earth placemarks, or just about any other place that will accept an embed code. You could copy the code and save it as a text file. Then for any future videos you want to use, you simply upload the FLV file, then change the video name as needed. Here’s a sample using the code above:
FYI, the FlowPlayer program will also work with MP4 video files, but you might be better off sticking to FLV. You could put these files any web space you have available, such as Dropbox or other online storage. Here’s a file that’s been put in a public space in my Dropbox…
FYI, in the above example, the FLV file, the player.swf file, and the swfobject.js file are all sitting in my Dropbox, and are pulled from that location.
So, there are multiple ways to use videos online, even if your school blocks video sharing sites. Some are easier than others, but it can be done. However, if a district employs a bandwidth shaper that blocks all streaming video, then you’ve got bigger problems. The only solution there is to work with your system administrators. But, perhaps that’s not such a bad idea in any case.