Saturday, January 05, 2008

Converting .mov to .swf for Mac

In a previous post, I discussed my purchase of two screencast programs. One of them was kind of cumbersome, and the other one was easy to use, but did not output to .swf. I almost spent another $65 for a new program that was easy to use and outputted to .swf (Screen Mimic). Moments before I clicked "buy," a friend suggested I look for a program to convert my Quicktime files to Flash.

It was like a door was opened for me, leading to vast golden fields reflecting the late summer sun... OK, maybe I am being a bit melodramatic, but I was really excited. This means that I could record a silent screencast in iShowU, then import the Quicktime into iMovie 06 to edit the video and add voiceovers at my leisure. I had been frustrated that one stutter or misspoken word in a screencast often necessitated starting over.

So I found a blog post about converting Quicktime files into Flash which also had a tutorial for Mac users interested in using the (free) program FFMPEGX. However, this program only converts to FLA and there is a whole other process to be able to play it on the internet.

I need something simpler.

Video to Flash Converter 5.7 seems to be a popular choice, but it also seems to only work with Windows, despite what some sites claim. In fact, there seems to be no shortage of shareware for Windows use. I was getting discouraged.

Finally, I found Video2Swf which, ironically, is produced by the same company that makes Screenography. For $45 (on "sale") it seems to be a good choice. It even allows you to chose from a number of players to embed your video. (The Luddite in me enjoyed choosing the pretty designs.) The demo was clear and easy to use. (The demo puts a watermark across the middle of your output file.) Here's my first demo sample (a video inspired by a 2006 school trip to Europe):

Thursday, January 03, 2008

iTunes is More Than Just Music

I have to admit, I haven't been keeping up with all the developments of iTunes. For years, I have used it as a great way to purchase music. But a recent article reopened my eyes to the wonderful host of resources within the iTunes store.
He is part of a new generation of academic stars who hold forth in cyberspace on their college Web sites and even, without charge, on iTunes U, which went up in May on Apple’s iTunes Store.
This inspired me look past the search bar in iTunes and to create a list of the coolest things I found that are not music (in no particular order). You will notice, however, that the list is heavily biased towards science. :)

1. Scientific American 60 Second Science Video Podcast - complex ideas broken down into a managable 1 minute segment
2. How Stuff Works - one of my favorite websites - now a podcast!
3. VH1 Best Week Ever - when I gave up my TV, I only missed VH1 and the Discovery Channel. Now I can catch one of my favorite "guilty pleasure" shows. (Totally non-academic)
4. Teacher 2.0 (a group of educators who want to share ideas about using technology to help prepare students for the 21st century. "We're tired of preparing them for the Industrial Age.")
5. National Geographic - Wild Chronicles - cool short video segments on topics like the zoo dentist.
6. iTunes U (I just downloaded a couple lectures from Stanford on Global Warming)
7. KQED Public Broadcasting (QUEST in Northern California) - video segments on topics such as earthquakes, the physics of baseball, forensic science and nanotechnology. You can also download the corresponding educator guides!

For every topic I type in, there are free podcasts and videos. There are tutorials for things like Final Cut Pro and screencasts. And I haven't even started with the music videos yet. (Another unfortunate loss when I gave up my TV.) If you haven't checked iTunes out lately, look a little deeper than your music library.