News and Notes related to Digital Media Transcription, Analysis, and Captioning.
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  • Video Conversion Tools

    Posted on October 2nd, 2014 Alex No comments

    Sometimes you go to transcribe your video in InqScribe only to find that InqScribe won’t play that video type. InqScribe relies on the QuickTime 7 or Windows Media Player 11 specs for media playback, and is able to play most anything that can be played in those players. But if your media is not supported by either of those two players, you’ll need to convert it to a format that is.

    Converting, or transcoding, involves decoding the original file, and then encoding the file into a new format. It’s not quite as simple as renaming a file “Example.avi” to Example.mp4.” If you’re totally confused, check out our blog post “What is a Codec Anyway?” for an explanation of codecs, containers, transcoding, and more.

    After a quick Google search for “media conversion tool,” you’ll soon realize that there are a lot of options out there. Some of these tools will be more useful to you than others, and some might even install unwanted malware on your computer. Which one should you use? While we don’t endorse any single media converter, here are a few that have worked for us (and our users) in the past:

    HandBrake

    https://handbrake.fr/
    HandBrake is a well-known, trusted, and free conversion software available for Mac, PC, and Linux. Since it’s a software, you won’t need to upload or download your video to a website (unlike Online-Convert below). Everything is done locally on your machine and you don’t need an internet connect to convert files. HandBrake supports batch file processing, which comes in handy if you’re planning on converting multiple media files. The drawback is that video conversion is limited to MP4 and MKV outputs. However, if your goal is to convert a video into an InqScribe-compatible format, the MP4 container will work just fine. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to HandBrake:

    1. Download and install HandBrake from their website.
    2. Open HandBrake and click “Source” in the upper left portion of the window. Select the video or audio file you wish to convert. For example, “Desktop > Documents > My Videos > SampleVideo.mov.”
    3. Select where you’d like to save the new transcoded file by clicking “Browse” in the Destination section. By leaving it blank, it will save automatically to your desktop.
    4. Select the Container of the transcoded file. For video, you’ll have two options, MP4 and MKV. MP4 will work best with InqScribe.
    5. Next, in the bottom half of the HandBrake window, you’ll be able to edit various settings such as the frame rate, bit rate, and codecs of your media file. Adjust them to your liking.
    6. Click “Start” and your file will begin converting. HandBrake will notify you when the converted file is finished. It will then appear in the location of your choosing.

    Online-Convert

    http://www.online-convert.com/
    Online-Convert is a relatively new conversion tool that is gaining some traction. This website supports a wide variety of formats and, best of all, using the website doesn’t require you to install any software. The only thing you’ll download from Online-Convert is your converted media file. Note that, as a web-based converter, this option requires you to upload your video to the Online-Convert server. If you have a very large file and/or a poor internet connection, this option may not be the best for you. As per their terms of service, all uploaded files are deleted from the Online-Convert database within 24 hours, though even this policy may be an issue if your files are confidential.  Here’s how the site works:

    1. From the homepage, select your converter and file type. For example, “Video converter > Convert to AVI.”
    2. You will then be taken to a new page where you can adjust your  media settings. First, upload your original media file by selecting “Choose files…” You can also convert files from a URL or directly from a DropBox account. Going along with our example, you might select “Desktop > My Documents > Videos > SampleVideo.mov.”
    3. Adjust the settings to your liking. These settings will vary depending on whether you’re converting audio or video, but know that you’ll have the option to specify the audio/video quality, bit rate, frame rate, and length of your media file.
    4. Once you’ve chosen your settings, select “Convert file” to proceed. You should see a green bar appear indicating the progress of your upload.
    5. When the upload is complete, you will be taken to a new page with the text “Your file has been successfully converted.” Your converted file will automatically begin downloading. Soon you will have your converted media file ready to go! In my case, I received “SampleVideo.avi” in my Downloads folder.

    Do you use a different media conversion tool? We’d be happy to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Email us at support@inqscribe.com.

  • Second Language Learning Using Films

    Posted on April 19th, 2011 ben No comments

    A part of our occasional series highlighting interesting uses of InqScribe

    In addition to transcriptionists and documentary filmmakers, researchers make up a large portion of InqScribe users.  Although, in this case, we hit two of our favorite topics simultaneously: research and education.

    Alex Gilmore, a professor at the University of Tokyo, just published a book chapter on using InqScribe to produce film-based teaching resources based for second language learning.

    InqScribe screenshot

    Why film?  Think about it, wouldn’t you rather learn a language by watching a film than reading boring text or hokey audio tapes? Films are a naturally motivating platform for teaching language. They’re also useful because they have contextual and discourse features like colloquial language, politeness strategies, and vague language that make them valuable for developing listening skills. They represent a much more authentic use of language.

    Why not just use the subtitles present in many DVDs? Subtitles are actually often condensed versions of what is actually said. In language learning, it’s important to have the full text. So you have to take the time to produce quality learning materials.

    In the chapter, Professor Gilmore details a procedure in which he uses InqScribe to produce teaching materials for an episode of Fawlty Towers, a British comedy television series. This includes subtitles as well as classroom materials. He covers ripping from DVD all the way to producing subtitles, so it’s a pretty thorough tutorial.

    He’s generously provided a PDF of the chapter. You can download the paper here.

    Gilmore, A. (2009). Catching words: Exploiting film discourse in the foreign language classroom. In F. Mishan & A. Chambers (eds.), Perspectives on Language Learning Materials Development. Oxford: Peter Lang AG.

  • Dive into Video

    Posted on October 16th, 2009 eric No comments

    If you’re at all interested in where video and audio for the web is going, this chapter by Mark Pilgrim is required reading. Mark does a great job providing background on the core cross-platform codecs that are in use today (with the cross-platform bit ruling out WMV) and talks about how HTML5 will offer native support for video playback.

    His focus is primarily on h.264 and Ogg video, since offering video in those two formats will cover all modern browsers. He also describes methods and tools you can use to encode your videos in those formats (including Firefogg, which was new to me, and FFMPEG2Theora for Ogg, and Handbrake for h.264).