Rocketboom Online Video Tool List
See all video, edit all video, create all video

Unlike the audio medium which has enjoyed compatibility through the .mp3 file format, compressed video online is a mess due to competition, yes, but also due to the complexity of the moving image itself. It's great that so many groups are working on these problems. A high end data transfer rate today can break a gig a second which allows for instantaneous playback of uncompressed video. Due to more competition, regulation and who knows what else, most people wont be seeing those speeds at home or on their portable devices for many years. So we have a long way to go with compression and any attempt to converge the industry into one CODEC appears to be a steeper hill then we had hoped for.

Instead of going over all the options here, I'm going to highlight the tools and some of the methods we use to create Rocketboom because, consequently, I have amassed what I would call not just a killer app, but a killer briefcase filled with lots of killer apps that all together allow us to see all video, hear all video and speak all video, not to mention create, tweak and seek. I haven't been stopped by a file yet (knock on wood).

This is what we use to make Rocketboom:


http://www.apple.com/quicktime/

ESSENTIAL: Progressive, Fast Start, Scrollable, Scrubbable, Jumpable, Frame Advance Playback

1. Quicktime Pro - $30US - Quicktime is not a CODEC, like .H264 or .MPG, but rather a wrapper for playing or creating videos enclosed inside of a .mov file. Quicktime creates/plays H.264, MPG2, 3gp, for example.

Quicktime is like the center-of-attention-"killer app"-for-online-web-video (c.o.a.k.a.f.o.w.v. for short). In otherwords, it's so great, it's worth buying a computer for, I would say. That sounds like a pretty strong statement for a $30 piece of software. But yes, I'm standing behind it. When it comes to versatility, especially regarding, viewing, importing and exporting video, I see Quicktime as being the c.o.a.k.a.f.o.w.v.

Quicktime for the Audience:

The major technical considerations for producing video online are determined by user experience. For several reasons, Quicktime is indisputably the most advanced and attuned technology to accommodate the best human experience, where broadband speeds currently lie en masse:

(1) Fast Start technology. Without the need to use streaming, progressive Quicktime .mov files begin playing after a certain amount of the file is loaded into RAM. Because the video plays back from RAM, and not the online connection stream, a video of comparable size and quality can play back much faster, on demand and not get clogged up by future speed variables.

(2) Playback Controls. In addition to starting up quicker, and maintaining a constant playback speed, the .mov file, when played back in Quicktime, allows the user to scroll, scrub and jump around through the file with the least amount of latency and the finest amount of resolution between frames. As a result, the user is able to consume the content in a more customizable way by scanning the entire piece visually at various speeds, jumping back and forth between points along with frame advance which provides more detailed information about the dynamics of the content.

(3) Interactivity. Quicktime has the ability to handle hyper-linking of space within a video, chapter reference points, SMIL which is useful for stringing multiple videos together and text tracks, to name a few. A Quicktime file can also send pings when certain points are viewed in the file.

(4) Cross platform playback. While .mov files do not reach every operating system, Quicktime is available for Windows and is capable of exporting to wrapper-independent files that will work on various operating systems. A little known fact is that Quicktime can also play and create Windows Media .wmv files (via FLIP4MAC).

(5) Importing/Exporting. This is an end-solution for importing and exporting to and from any file format. I have never seen another player that can handle as much video so well.


The two main arguments against using Quicktime as the first delivery option: (a) Claim for Flash: "Flash has 98% penetration because people who have web browsers have flash and thus do not need to install any third party software or additional plugins to obtain the video". While this is often touted as the main reason people choose Flash (ie. for lowest-common-denominator presentations), the trade off is a much poorer video quality and a much greater file size. If the differences were slight, they could be permissible, but due to the extremity in quality degradation, Flash can not be taken seriously for providing users with a quality image, relatively speaking. Sub claim: "But the New version of Flash is really good". While new versions should always be better than old versions, each new version of any technology requires the audience to download the new version in order to take advantage of the new features. Therefore, most people will be required to download a new player in order to see video that meets today's quality standards, no matter what player they are using. Furthermore, out of all progressive files available, Flash files present the most problems for portability, as they are often dependent on eminent metatdata that is not attached to the file itself, making playback decentralized and thus too easily separable.

(b) Claim for Window Media Progressive: "Windows Media, .wmv progressive files are close to the same in value, but over 90% of the people in the world use Windows OS, and the Windows Media Player, which does not play .mov files, is the most common solution for Windows OS users." This is a compelling argument and it's the reason that I recommend .wmv files as an option for people who would prefer this. When taking extra steps to accommodate people who may be at a computer without the right to install the latest Flash plugin or Quicktime, .wmv is a worthwhile option to consider. There are still a lot of 233 MHZ Windows 95 machines all around the world and it's likely that those machines can play .wmv files, if they can play anything at all. When looking for the best delivery method however, most .wmv progressive files must be completely downloaded before they are viewable (i.e. no fast start like quicktime) which knocks wmv files completely out of the running for quality user experience. To make matters worse, even the optimum user of .wmv files will not be able to scrub, scroll, or jump to the resolution of quicktime. Also, while files sizes are often similar for comparable quality, .wmv are typically more costly.


Quicktime for the producer of video:

While this can all be done in a Windows environment, because the Quicktime functionality/brilliance is limited on Windows OS (due to age old competition) and also because Final Cut Pro, an industry standard editing suite is also killer, and the architecturally sound killer Firewire protocol which is the most common protocol for killer digital video hardware (e.g. cameras, decks, realtime hard-drive recording, etc.) is also so killer, I have migrated from PCs to MACs because obviously, it's way more killer. I can most quickly and easily streamline any task that I need to do with video including importing and exporting video that is compatible with any other platform, including Windows media. On the contrary, I have been stopped with some videos that simply could not be played or transferred, or imported or exported, without serious to critical strife. The Windows environment can not be ignored as an audience machine because of the sheer audience number. These people can all be taken care of perfectly from files created on a MAC.




Even though I prefer .MOV files, I decided I wanted to make .WMV files available and also wanted to be able to import .WMV files to be worked with. Flip4Mac is so seamless that I often do not even know that I'm working with Windows Media files. When viewing embedded files in a browser object, .wmv files play within the Quicktime container and even fast start! When viewing any video within the Quicktime player, including .MOV files, Flip4Mac allows you to export to .WMV. I have found that the .WMV files are beautiful and smaller in size with better quality than I could get from Windows exports anyway.

Flip4Mac replaces the need for Windows Media Player for Mac, however, if you only wish to view .wmv files and you don't want to pay for an application, the Windows Media Player will be fine (no fast start though). If you wish to import, convert and export .wmv files, you'll need the $99 Pro Version.

Features of Flip4Mac as mentioned on their website:

Flip4Mac WMV Player
Playback: Windows Media Video 7,8,9 SD and HD and Windows Media Audio 7,8,9 Professional & Lossless in QuickTime Player
Safari Plug-in support
File HTTP, MMS-HTTP


Import Windows Media Video 7,8,9
Convert to other QuickTime formats
Edit Windows Media files


Up to 48 kHz audio sampling rates
Select from pre-configured encoding presets to quickly create high-quality Windows Media files
create your own custom encoding configurations from within your favorite application
export Windows Media Video & Audio 9 Standard
single-pass video encoding
constant (CBR) and variable (VBR) bit rates



CODECS:
All of the following CODEC can be dealt with inside of Quicktime Pro:


3IVX Compression for Quicktime
3IVX is a compression compatible with MPEG-4 and it's my choice for the CODEC to use when creating .mov files. Instead of exporting a final video to an MPEG-4 compression, 3iVX allows you to export to an MPEG-4 compatible compression that is WAY better in terms of quality/file size ratio. According to the 3IVX website:

1. 3ivx is up to twice as efficient as Apple MPEG-4. It produces the same quality video in half the size.
2. 3ivx is up to five times faster at encoding.
3. 3ivx is completely compatible with the Apple MPEG-4 Decoder built into and shipped with every copy of QuickTime 6.
4. 3ivx is a faster and better decoder, but you don't need 3ivx to decode.

I have seen these claims to be true myself as a standard. Therefore, when making .MOV files, because MPEG-4 is perhaps the most pervasive, cross platform CODEC, using 3IVX is the best option for creating quality files at the best file sizes that I have found, while not requiring your audience to install additional plugins or obscure 3rd party players.

Rebuts: "But why not just make an a .MP4 file or a .MPEG4 file? Why enclose it in a .mov container file? Answer: In order to enjoy Quicktime Fast-Start. This way, when web surfers click on the video to play, it actually plays. In the latest QT playback version, MP4 seems to work with quick-start. This claim may need to be revisited, but I fear this may be a short-lived alternative, depending on H264 adoption.

H.264
http://www.apple.com/quicktime/technologies/h264/ This new codec looks phenomenal for the dimension/file-size value, especially, with HD video when the user has a fast processor to play it. Takes forever to compress when making H264. Depending on adoption, this could be great in the future and worth providing a copy now as an extra option.

.MP4
This is a wrapper like a .mov file that can contain different codecs including H264. It was chosen for the PSP so if you want to distribute to PSP, well there ya go. It's also seems to have the most promise right at the moment for catering cross platforms.

.3gp
According to some reports, there over now over 2 billion mobile phones in circulation around the word. The most likely file to play on the greatest number of phones is the .3gp file.

mpeg-4
Stable, steady, codec of choice for the web through the last few years, before things changed. If 3ivx is not available to act as a 3rd party replacement, mpeg-4 is probably the most likely choice for quicktime .mov file compression. H264 may replace use in the long run, not sure.

.wmv
As mentioned above, unless you want to lead a revolution of solidarity or wish to avoid an audience, you might as well join the gang and offer Windows media compatible files.

.mpeg2
This is the standard for a lot of older hardware that is TVIP ready. Big bulky files are expensive compared to newer codecs, especially when transporting such large files.

Other codecs
I don't really enjoy streaming, pseudo-on-demand files. I never make flash, real, or asx files. When you want to import these files, besides using a variety of minnow apps, screen capture is the best solution I have found for importing anything you can see playing on your screen.



Snapz Pro with Movie Capture:
This is the end-all application when nothing else works to capture a video. As a premiere screen capture tool, it has a lot of options to create video out of anything that you see on your screen. In other words, if you can see it, you can capture it - A flash animation, a .wmv video, a java game, a muxed .mpg, whatever it may be that you see, you can lasso a section of the screen and tweak your virtual camera's settings to record it to any quicktime capable file. This also works great for creating narrative mashima works by screen capturing your action while playing halo, sims, second life or other games. Also great for creating tutorials or demos of the actions you perform while clicking around and operating your programs. Spaz works notably better with a faster processor and more ram.



EDITING:


Audacity
Free, powerful audio tool of choice for podcasters: recording, importing, stacking tracks and editing audio. I have had great luck doing quick and complex audio treatments.


i-Movie
I'm not too embarrassed to say that I have edited over 80% of Rocketboom episodes with iMovie. It's a really limited application, though I like really limited editing.


Final Cut Pro is the industry standard professional editing software package. You could edit Star Wars on this (not saying it would be easy). Adobe After FX is really nice too. Apple acted on the notion of "killer app" when it bought Final Cut and then axed the PC distribution. PC editors with clout likely use Avid.


PUBLISHING:


Weblog Software: Moveable Type
This just happens to be my software of choice. It's really well done, versatile and has a lot of powerful plug-in support that is relevant to the weblog publishing activity specifically. The tag scripting elements make if easy to manage repetitive and predictable kinds of data when coding whatever language. In building a network of sites, this tool is working well in helping to easily maintain our individual look-and-feel as well as consolidating the backend publishing platform.

RSS with Enclosure DIY in Moveable Type
In order to generate an RSS feed with enclosures, within Moveable Type, you can copy the standard xml template and add the enclosure syntax to appear within each post entry. This can be done most easily by dedicating an entry field (e.g. the extended entry field, or the except field) to a url with a direct link to the enclosure. Then, within your xml template, add the entry field tag as the variable for the url of the enclosure. If you feel like you need a variable for the file size of the enclosure as well, a couple of lines of php or pearl can grab it.

Otherwise, try Brandon Fuller's Pearl MT Plugin or, for the blogger.com of close-my-eyes-and-shoot rss enclosure feed generation, just type your url into feedburner.com, select "podcast enabled" and it will generate a free feed which you can use. Be sure and take advantage of their option to create a feed that maintains your own url as the root.


Prodigem - Very easy to setup and use. Also creates an RSS with enclosure feed. Allows you to offer pay-per-torrent files if you would like. Seeding a new torrent manually is very easy, but gets to be a pain on a regular basis. So, Prodigem recently released a useable API with a PHP script that allows you to seed your torrents automatically through your RSS feed. Yea, way to go Gary! This is a first; each day when I publish a new file, in order to offer a bittorrent version I do nothing. That's what I call painless.


Creative Commons Publishing
This is not a grassroots movement created to use something other then legal copyrights, this is legal copyrights. The structure of the rights, however, presents this main advantage for the content producers: by allowing your audience to copy and redistribute your work, as long as it's not for a monetary gain on their part, the intention is that you are enabling your content to flow and thus reach a larger distribution potential in numbers. No matter how you look at it, the more people that see your work, the more valuable your other work that they can't see becomes. If they can see all of your work, the value can be extracted in future work.


List rushed for 10/06/05. Update [incl. grammar-check, known bugs, preferred compression settings and hardware list] coming soon!

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