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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Video Podcasting Caution

Update: I did end up creating a vodcast

Several people have started podcasting videos (usually mp4 format) in addition to the standard mp3 audio. However, there some issues that you must take into consideration before doing this:

1) Short videos (a few minutes) are probably not problematic but hour long lectures, such as MIT's are generally going to run close to 200-1000 Meg per file.(Thanks Dan for link) This is about 10-50 times larger than the corresponding audio file and this may irritate a lot of subscribers who are not expecting this in terms of memory and bandwidth usage.

2) Even if you provide a separate feed and your subscribers are aware of the file size issue, you may find a nasty surprise server-side as your subscribers automatically download all back episodes. This might not be a problem for a place like MIT but I have heard of servers getting maxed out by smaller operations switching to video podcasts.

3) Think about what you are trying to accomplish by podcasting video. The technology to do it has been around since the start of podcasting but I have not seen the need for hour long lectures for the reasons mentioned above. The reason audio podcasting works so well is that you can listen while your visual system is busy dealing with the world (driving, walking, exercising, etc.). If your visual and auditory attention is available, wouldn't it be better to watch a full screen webcast or screencast?

4) I have usually supported multiple channels to disseminate content so I am not trying to dissuade anyone from trying it. Just keep a close eye on your server bandwidth usage and subscriber experience if you do experiment with it. And warn your subscribers about the file size issue. For my classes I currently podcast PDFs with MP3's, list streaming screencasts in blogs and I provide instructions to download the flash files of my lectures for students who request it. But if demand arises for video podcasts, I'll respond.

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