Stephen Speicher

Videos and computers

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I have a question for you guys who know all about video formats and computers. Is it feasible to make a 2.5 hour VHS video available for viewing on the internet? If so, what is the best format to use, and how large a file might the final product be?

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It is totally feasible, but you'll need appropriate software and it might cost you a bit to get it.

I assume that what you want to do is to allow the viewer to begin watching the video before the downloading is finished, and if so there are currently three major formats: Quicktime, Real Player, and Windows Media Format.

For examples of the Quicktime technology, go to

http://www.apple.com/trailers/

It is a website with all of the major upcoming movie trailers. When you try to watch the trailers, you will notice that you will be able to watch the trailer as it is being downloaded, and there is an easily recognizable bar which shows you how much of the download has been completed.

For examples of Real Player technology, as well as the Windows Media Format technology, go to:

http://www.c-span.org

If you click on any of the links under Video/Audio (right under "Featured Links"), that automatically launches the player and you'll be able to watch it right away, regardless of how long the video is and how much of it you have to download. Many of the shows featured there run for 2-3 hours, so both technologies are well suited for your purpose, whereas I am not sure how well Quicktime is suited for such demands. Oh, and for the example of Windows Media Format, again go to that C-Span link above, scroll down to the "Live Feeds" at the bottom of the page, and choose to watch any of those channels with Windows Media. C-Span is a cable channel funded by the cable companies, and it provides free access to all of its channels right from the website, via either RealPlayer or Windows Media Player. As you try the Live Feeds option, you'll notice that there is no "download bar", because you're getting fed the latest video content and there's no predetermined length of video to download. In one sense, you're downloading an infinitely long video B)

So on the subject of RealPlayer vs Windows Media: RealPlayer seems to be exclusively designed for the kind of task you're describing, but it is a bit proprietary and I think it costs you money to get their video software (but be aware that I've never tried it and only know all this ostensibly). Windows Format, on the other hand, plays right in your Windows Media Player, and the videos can be created with the Windows Movie editing software freely included with all Windows XP copies. I've worked with that program in the past and it is actually quite nice. So I'd go with the Microsoft here; the only issue would be that your viewers would be required to have one of the recent versions of Media Player, whereas RealPlayer format is less restrictive. Plus, ARI uses RealPlayer, and I suppose it would be useful to ask their IT people why they went with that choice.

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http://www.c-span.org

If you click on any of the links under Video/Audio (right under "Featured Links"), that automatically launches the player and you'll be able to watch it right away, regardless of how long the video is and how much of it you have to download.

When I click on any of those links I get a message saying "rtsp is not a registered protocol."

Do you know what the file size might be for a 2.5 video in either of those formats? Do people regularly download (to save on disk) files that large? What about creating the video in a DVD format? Will that reduce the size of the file?

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When I click on any of those links I get a message saying "rtsp is not a registered protocol."

Do you know what the file size might be for a 2.5 video in either of those formats? Do people regularly download (to save on disk) files that large? What about creating the video in a DVD format? Will that reduce the size of the file?

DVD stores the video in MPEG (I think either MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 are recognized) format. .WMV (Windows Media format) files are compressed differently, and generally more efficiently given the smaller sizes.

The final size is dependent on at least two major factors - size of the video (number of pixels of width and height) and compression quality. If it's a "talking head", generally the compression should be higher because video compression formats are designed to efficiently encode deltas from frame to frame, and in that kind of video there's a lot of relatively constant data between adjacent frames.

There are some amazingly inexpensive gadgets now that will take a video input signal and digitize them. Some of them work as an external box that hooks to your computer via USB. I forget the exact price but they're under $100 and most of them probably include at least some rudimentary video editing software. I would check CompUSA, Best Buy, or Fry Electronics.

I could also give it a shot myself, because I have a high end video card that also can do video digitizing, and a VCR that I seldom use anymore. Let me know. B)

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When I click on any of those links I get a message saying "rtsp is not a registered protocol."
Hmm, that's strange, and most likely because you don't have RealPlayer installed. Can you attach the screenshot of the error window, or somehow describe it (i.e. what's in the blue title bar, does it look like an Internet Explorer error or some other program error, etc)? I think that if you download RealPlayer it will solve that problem, and a free plug-in can be found at http://www.real.com (in the past they did their best to hide the free version's download link, but looks like that's changed now).
Do you know what the file size might be for a 2.5 video in either of those formats? Do people regularly download (to save on disk) files that large? What about creating the video in a DVD format? Will that reduce the size of the file?
The big question is: what kind of quality do you want the video to be in? Let's take Lee Sandstead's 5 min video which is in Quicktime I believe. From memory, I think it was about 5 megabytes, or maybe a little less. So extrapolating this pattern of 1mb/minute, you may be looking at 2,500 megabytes, or 2.5 gigabytes, of raw video. However the video quality could still afford some degradation and still remain presentable, but most importantly the format is not very well suited to huge videos because of lack of proper compression. Given a better format, I would guess you're looking anywhere from 400-800mb of video.

However, In general, I don't think you should worry about your viewers having to suffer large video downloads. If you have luck with running videos from the C-Span website, and especially from their Broadband section ( http://www.broadbandc-span.org/ ) which streams extremely high quality videos, you will see how the program progressively adjusts the quality of the video, to stream an optimal quantity of content given the speed of your connection and level of computer hardware. I really recommend you look around the C-Span website in general, and the Broadband section in particular. Some shows last for hours, and you never have to wait more than a few seconds to watch them. And while you watch them, the program continues downloading a few minutes ahead, and adjusting the quality of its content so you don't download slower than you watch, and can always enjoy a continuous video experience (given reasonable parameters and excluding watching Broadband videos from a dialup connection, for example).

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I could also give it a shot myself, because I have a high end video card that also can do video digitizing, and a VCR that I seldom use anymore. Let me know. B)

Thanks for the offer. I'll follow-up privately.

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When I click on any of those links I get a message saying "rtsp is not a registered protocol."

Hmm, that's strange, and most likely because you don't have RealPlayer installed. Can you attach the screenshot of the error window, or somehow describe it (i.e. what's in the blue title bar, does it look like an Internet Explorer error or some other program error, etc)? I think that if you download RealPlayer it will solve that problem, and a free plug-in can be found at http://www.real.com (in the past they did their best to hide the free version's download link, but looks like that's changed now).

I have RealPlayer installed. The blue title bar on the message window just says "Alert," and below that is the message I mentioned. To the left of the message is an exclamation mark in a little yellow triangle, and below the message is a little box that says "OK." Oh, and I am using Firefox, not Explorer.

Thanks for all the information, Free Capitalist. Phil has kindly offered to assist in converting it over, so I will follow-up with him privately.

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I've always had the exact same problem at C-Span that Stephen is having, and have missed quite a few clips like Peter Schwartz's recent interview. I am running Firefox as well, so I thought I'd make this post to let you know it might be the browser.

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I've always had the exact same problem at C-Span that Stephen is having, and have missed quite a few clips like Peter Schwartz's recent interview. I am running Firefox as well, so I thought I'd make this post to let you know it might be the browser.

I just fired up Explorer and with that browser it is even worse; I get "The page cannot be displayed" message. I can go anywhere else with Explorer with no problem, but I cannot get to C-Span at all. Maybe my computer is as allergic to the general attitude of C-Span as I am. B)

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Have you guys tried watching the Windows Media pages? i.e. does this happen with all of their video pages, or only with Real Player?

For me, the "LIVE FEEDS" play just fine as "Real Media" or "Windows Media." It is the other shows under "RECENT PROGRAMS" that generate the "rtsp ..." error message.

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