April 15, 2014

A Video Hosting Solution for Schools

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Podcasting was all the rage a few years ago, but these days, video reigns supreme. In New York’s recently released Common Core (CC) exemplar modules for English Language Arts, about half of the tasks required of students in grades three to five either expressly stipulate video or lend themselves perfectly to a video assignment. So under CC, students will be writing scripts, reviewing books, making public service announcements, and creating other content, all using video. For schools, this presents a technical challenge: Where to host all this video?

Luckily, I found a solution. Over the summer, we had to review our video streaming after our provider lost the rights to some critical content, and we were less than satisfied with the remaining options. So we decided to handle this ourselves, streaming content we already owned. With the thousands of dollars we would have spent on a subscription, we could acquire the material that best met our region’s instructional needs. Next, we had to host and stream all of this content without being overwhelmed by the resulting increase in workload.

While my team’s technical expertise is high on the geek end of the scale, we’re always concerned about taking on new tasks. Every system we have to maintain takes time away from real innovation. For our Digital Media Festival, we developed an open-source solution to convert, host, and stream video. With Drupal providing the base site, we turned to FFmpeg to convert the files into a Web-streaming format and JWPlayer for a combined Flash and HTML5 (for iPad) player. Still, we didn’t want that project to become a full-time mission. So we turned to the cloud.

Vimeo has been streaming video since late 2004; it actually launched four months before YouTube. The first video-sharing site to offer HD playback, it’s remained a favorite destination for commercial hosting. With Vimeo’s PRO hosting service option (vimeo.com/pro), there’s a flat rate for video streaming. For $199 a year, you get up to 50GB of storage and 250,000 video playbacks. Add another 50GB of storage for an additional $199 a year. Need more playbacks? Another 250,000 is, no surprises here, just an additional $199 for the year. From a budgetary perspective, knowing exactly how much this costs sure beats a flexible rate for storage and playbacks.

The up-front cost for the PRO service includes priority video uploads, the conversion of files to Vimeo’s format, and loads of security options. While uploading a large collection can be a bit of a pain—the Web uploader only takes five videos at a time—the process isn’t all that bad. The ability to drag and drop files onto the page in the browser speeds things up a lot. If you allow it, users can download your clips.

With PRO accounts, you can turn off the Community Pass, which means your content won’t show up in searches and can’t be played on Vimeo’s site. You can also specify which domains on which the videos can be embedded on. This level of security is what allows us to host our licensed content on Vimeo.

So go forth and create video without worrying about where to host and stream it. Vimeo PRO will have you covered on the technical side and it provides generous storage capacity and playbacks for $199 a year. This represents the best of the cloud. A basic service that we could do ourselves, but nowhere as easily or as cheaply as Vimeo PRO does.

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About Christopher Harris

Christopher Harris (infomancy@gmail.com) is coordinator of the school library system of the Genesee Valley (NY) Educational Partnership.

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