Podcasts and Video Come to alexsbrown.com

Alex S. Brown, PMP IPMA-C

The audio and slideshow recordings that have been on this site are now getting unleashed as podcasts and on-line video.

I resisted on-line video in the past because I could not get the quality I wanted. I found a way to get better quality than what I see on most sites, and with open-source tools. You have to see it to believe it. Take a look at the first speech I have put into the new format, “Project Charters Bridge Cultures”.

New Podcast Feeds

This same presentation is available in audio and video formats through three new podcast feeds. Subscribe to these feeds now, and look forward to regular updates as new speeches and programs are published there:

I am going to convert every speech that I have in the old “Speechy” format to these new formats. I also have recordings of more speeches that I can publish, now that I have a good way to make them available to you. Someday I might do some special recordings just for podcasting, but for now I have a lot of great material to publish.

If anyone has a special request for a particular speech, let me know or post a comment on this page. I do not have recordings for all of my speeches, but I do have recordings for most of them.

New Video Approach

The new video player on the site is driven by a combination of open-source technologies. The slideshows are created using DVD-Slideshow. The DVD video files become Ogg Theora format. The player is based on the ITheora web-site software and the Java-based Cortado player from Flumotion.

I initially played with YouTube, Google Video, and Flash video. I got very close to what I wanted to see in terms of video quality and file size, but something was always missing. Either the web-site player had difficult restrictions, the quality of the slides were too low, or the conversion process was too cumbersome.

Finally I began investigating Theora-based players, and I was amazed at what they could do. I was inspired by Wikipeda and Wikimedia Commons. They run entirely off of open-source tools. If you share a video there, it must be in the Theora format. When you browse videos there, they provide the Cortado player to view the Theora files.

The Incredible Shrinking Video File

Web-based video systems are amazing now. A 50-minute video file started as 785 MB, for high-quality DVD.  Flash video reduced that almost 10:1, to 88 MB or even 73 MB for certain quality settings.

Ogg Theora formats made the file much, much smaller — with similar quality. At its leanest settings, I was able to get the 50-minute slide show down to 19 MB with nice audio and video quality. Some players would not support such low frame rates for the video and such low sampling rates for the audio, so the final file grew to 36 MB.

Some people asked me, “Why not just upload it to YouTube and forget about it? Why sweat all these formats and problems?” I wanted a better experience for my readers. I wanted really clear text on the slides and a large viewing area. I wanted to be able to ensure that they got good quality results. I wanted to avoid the licensing and distribution restrictions of other companies, and to avoid being dependent on them to deliver good information.

The Proof

I am so glad I went through the trouble. Click the play button and see the results — see the proof:

Try clicking on the buttons in the player.

Try clicking on the “Options” button and then “Play with the Java Plug In”. You should be able to “seek” within the video clip, dragging the progress bar back and forth. With just a short wait, the player will jump to the spot you choose. Doing that with Flash or other proprietary video technologies would be difficult and expensive. Once I got this player set up and working, it just worked by itself.

Wow.

It does not work 100% of the time. I have seen it get caught and stutter, and I have had to reboot my browser sometimes when it gets hung up. It is still amazing to see video work this smoothly. When it works, it is fantastic.