Monday, 24 May 2010

Podcasting and Vodcasting: what's it all about?

As the University is going to introduce iTunes U, I thought it appropriate to write a piece on Podcasts and Vodcasts in preparation.

What are they?
Podcasts and Vodcasts (Video Podcast) are essentially any audio and or video media files that can be accessed on the web or loaded onto portable devices. They are typically used (in academia) to communicate factual information.

Any good for teaching and learning?
Yes, if done properly, students could listen to relevant audio and or video that link into their programmes and modules. Think of them as audio books and or video documentaries to aid and enhance learning.

What devices can play podcast and vodcasts?
Commonly termed the ('pod'-[broad]cast) were originally named after the Apple iPod. These days they can be played on most MP3 players (digital audio players), portable video devices or even mobile phones with built in player capabilities.

How do I create my own?
There is plenty of software on the web that allows users to create audio and or video content. Software however costs money, something that academia does not always have. Freely available software goes someway to solving this problem. Here is a brief list of possibilities (for MS Windows users):

Audio: Microsoft (MS) Sound Recorder (it comes with your (XP) operating system). Want more sophistication? What about Audacity (with a decent microphone simply record your voice and edit the bits out you don't like.)
Video: A webcam, camcorder or equivalent electronic device could be used to capture the video, but what next, what about the editing? How about Microsoft (MS) Movie Maker (it comes with your operating system, its free and allows simple video editing)

How do I prepare these for Podcasts or Vodcasts?
This is probably the trickiest part for most. Essentially, Podcasts created as MP3s and Vodcasts created in MP4 are compatible with iTunes. So we have two problems, the out put from MS Sound Recoder is in WAV format and MS movie maker creates files in AVI format, which is not compatible. These need to be converted into either .mov or .MP4 formats (to name a couple) which are compatible with iTunes.
I have stumbled over a simple one click solution that processes videos or audio very quickly. Im still testing this myself at the moment, so try these with care. The software is from the 'One-Click Video Converter Series' from Similar to other one click solutions on the web, but so far this seems to be the easiest (free) ones to use. Download either the 'Free WAV to MP3 Converter' and or 'One-Click Video to MP4 Converter', install (ignore any website pop-up adverts) Add the video file or sound (to the respective software) and select convert - it chugs away and creates an MP3 or MP4, that's it!

What about online editors? (updated content)
There are other ways to edit, YouTube includes a simple editing facility. There is also an option to set your videos to private, so you can edit in your own time. Completed videos can then be downloaded in MP4 so its in the right format for use on iTunes or even portable devices that support this format! All your editing and converting is done in a web browser, the editor is very basic but it allows simple drop and drag of each video you have uploaded, to make one single video. I think ultimately, software such as MS Movioe Maker could be used to create the video (podcast) and YouTube a way of converting to MP4.

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