On online video quality

I’m preparing a series of screencasts as part of the session at the Open Education 2007 Conference (with my co-conspirator, Rev. Jim Groom). We’re doing a two-fold presentation.

  1. Creation of an open education resource on early American history.
  2. Documentation of  the processes used to build said resource, using freely available applications and services.

We gave ourselves a very simple constraint. Use only tools that don’t require access to a server, and don’t require any money. The idea being that we would be able to come up with a process that didn’t require a great deal of technical skillz, and wouldn’t require a budget to implement.

So, as part of the Documentation of Processes effort, I did a basic screencast to introduce the 3 people on the planet who don’t use WordPress to the WordPress.com interface – how to create a blog, how to create content, etc…

The screencast looks pretty darned good in the original QuickTime H.264 file. Glorious, even. I can read the scaled-down text on the web page. Exactly what I need.

But, WordPress.com won’t let me embed a .mov file, as it dutifully strips out the object/embed element if I add it. Doh. OK. Plan B. I’ll chuck it up to DivShare.com. Oh, wait. There’s still the object/embed problem, because DivShare doesn’t have a “Post to WordPress” button (it does allow posting to Facebook and del.icio.us, though…)

Plan C. Google Video. Transcoding to Flash Video. It worked, but man does Google Video (or probably more appropriately does Flash Video) ever suck the shiny out of a video. It looks like it was downsized to 320×240 and then upsized for display. Remember the video in the original Quake? Or maybe Doom? Yeah. It’s like that. Big blocky pixels. Muddy. Blurry.

But, WordPress.com will let me embed it, so that’s the version of the file that I’ll use.

The original, QuickTime video encoded in standard H.264: (original file: 10.34 MB .mov)

OpenContentDIY WordPress UI Screencast, QuickTime H.264

The fracktastic, muddy, blurry mess that got spewed out of Google Video: (transcoded file: 17.1 MB .flv)

OpenContentDIY WordPress UI Screencast, Google Video spewage

I could live with the dramatic drop in size and quality, if the file were dramatically smaller. But it’s almost 70% BIGGER than the original file! WTF? Oh, well. At least it’s embeddable…