Wednesday, March 7, 2007

video podcasts

I have to mention video podcasts because they're the latest. But I decided to put them into a separate category because I think "they're not quite ready for prime time." There are a lot of issues with copy protection, incompatible formats, conversion software... I get all excited when I find some great content and then exceedingly frustrated when I can't get that content to work on my player.

Now that iPods and other MP3 players have video capabilities, there may be interest in downloading free video content to watch on your computer or portable device. I'm really not a big fan of watching videos on a microscopic screen but the quality is amazingly good. And it's a trend worth knowing about. You need to pay attention to formats particularly if you plan to watch it on a portable player. For example, keep in mind that iTunes uses some Apple only copy protected formats. So, while you should be able to watch virtually any format on your computer (with the right software), it would be difficult to get them to play on a device other than an iPod.

There may be some video programs that you'd like to download onto your library computers for people to watch, but be sure to check them out first to see which players they use. The following is a good cautionary lesson.

I was really excited to find some video podcasts about Yellowstone Park on iTunes
  • Inside Yellowstone - 25 episodes each around 2 minutes long introducing park highlights and features
  • Yellowstone InDepth - 5 episodes thus far running from 3 to 9 minutes long with more detailed information on geysers, bears, etc.
I thought, what a great thing to have loaded on your library computers, especially for libraries in the Yellowstone Park area! You could put them in a folder on your desktop and let people watch them on your computers.

But as I looked into it further, I discovered that these videos used a copy-protected .M4V format. When I tried to open the file, Windows didn't recognize it and wasn't able to find a program that would play it. I discovered two options that would work - the player within iTunes (but that's a painfully small screen) and Quick Time. So, they might be worth downloading and adding to a desktop or two as long as you have Quick Time on the computer and set up the video properties to work with Quick Time.

Next, I wanted to see if they could be converted to play on my Sansa player. It looks like I'd have to purchase some shareware to convert it to the modified Quick Time format that my player uses. A lot of this gets into some dodgy legal areas so I'd advise libraries to steer clear of video conversion.

In summary, I'd say there's some interesting video content being produced and distributed as podcasts. Keep in mind, however, that there are competing standards and copy protections in place. You certainly want to test it with your software and players to make sure it works before you go public with your latest find!

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