Adding Creative Commons licenses to Kaltura MediaSpace videos

I’ve been working on an internal BCcampus project to set up and configure Kaltura MediaSpace for our internal use. We have a number of use cases, not the least of which are providing a central hosting space for videos created as part of a grant associated with the BC Open Textbook Project. Since these videos will be openly licensed (as is everything we create at BCcampus), I want there to be a visible Creative Commons license with each video to let users know the terms of usage for each video.

Out of the box, MediaSpace has a lot of functionality, but the ability to apply a Creative Commons license to a video is not one of them. So, with a bit of consultation with my colleague (and knower of all Kaltura secrets) Jordi Hernandez at UBC, I was able to add a basic CC license field to the videos we host in Mediaspace.

It is actually a pretty straightforward 2 step process. First, you need to create custom metadata fields in the Kaltura Management Console (KMC), then you have to enable the fields in the Kaltura Mediaspace administration console.

I am using an OnPrem service of Kaltura. The MediaSpace instance I am working on is 5.38.07.

Create Custom Fields in the KMC

After logging into the KMC, I went to Settings > Custom Data. This is where I will set up the custom data scheme and define the CC licenses. Click Add New Schema to create a new Creative Commons Metadata Schema. Give your Schema a name, description and a system name. The system name should be one word and short. We want each video to be able to have their own CC license, so we want this metadata schema to apply to Entries and not Categories.

Once you have the Schema set up, you will want to add the actual licenses as field values. Choose Add field and enter in the different CC licenses that you want to make available to your users. These are the options they will see when they upload a new video, and what people who view the video will see on the screen associated with the video. I chose to make my list a Text Select List so that it would appear as a drop down menu for the person uploading the video.

One nice feature of the custom metadata schemas in Kaltura is that you can enable these items to be searched for in the built in search engine. So, with CC licensed material, someone could come to our video portal site and search for nothing but CC0 videos in our collection. I haven’t explored this fully yet, but it does seem to work at a granular level. Which is both good and bad. Good if you want to search for a specific type of CC licensed content in our collection, like a CC0 or CC-BY video. But not so great if you wanted to search for all CC licensed videos regardless of flavour.

Once that is done, the Schema is setup and we can now slip over to MediaSpace to apply it.

Add the custom fields to the upload form in MediaSpace

I logged into the MediaSpace admin console. The area we want to play in is called Customdata. It may appear with a line through it in your admin console. That just means that the module has not been activated.

Go into the Customdata module and make sure it is enabled. In the profileid field, you should be able to find the custom metadata schema that you just created in the KMC. Choose that. You can also make the field a required field and, if you wish, enable the showInSearchResults field to enable the search index.


That’s it. Save the changes and you now have added a custom CC license field to your videos. When someone uploads a video to MediaSpace, they will have an additional field in a dropdown menu that they can choose a CC license to apply to the video.

And, when people come to view the video in the MediaSpace site, they will see that the video is licensed with a Creative Commons license.

Now when we upload a video to our MediaSpace site, we can assign it a Creative Commons license that people can see.

Good first step

For me, this is a good first step that gives us the option to apply a visual marker to the video in MediaSpace. However, what would be great (and I am not sure that this can be done) would be to have that CC license metadata embedded in the page in the correct metadata format for CC licenses. This would ensure that it would be found in search engines when people search for CC licensed content.

The second improvement would be to somehow embed that CC license metadata right in the video so that if some were to take a copy of this video, the original license information would go along with the actual video when they downloaded it. Doubt that is possible, but that would be a great feature for organizations like ours that produce a lot of openly licensed content.

Finally, I think that it might be a good idea to add a visual bumper as part of the video that would spell out the CC license. It is what we currently do with our videos, and is good practice to help make it clear that the content is openly licensed.

Photo: CC Stickers by Kristina Alexanderson CC-BY


A good use of video

I stumbled across a number of Biology video resources via the iBiology site earlier today and took a minute to watch a few shorter clips in the collection and came across this one. Not only does it prove that octopus are pretty amazing creatures, but I also thought it was a decent example of how video can be used effectively in a lesson. Here’s why I like it. But first, the video:

So, why is this a good use of video? Well, before I get into that, I should say that the part of the video I want to focus on is the video within the video. So, even though this is essentially a video lecture, it is the way the instructor uses video within that lecture to illustrate something that might otherwise be difficult to explain that I find particularly well done.

First, it shows a field scene – something that would be very difficult to otherwise explain in words and static images. Using video makes the learner feel like they are right there in a place that they might otherwise not ever see. In this case, the bottom of the ocean. Effective video takes learners to places (or times) they might not otherwise be able to go to.

The dramatic effect of the octopus changing from camouflaged to visible happens virtually instantaneously, and that instantaneous moment simply would not carry the same weight if the instructor tried to talk about it or show a series of photos. It is unexpected. It piques the learners interest. Notice how the instructor builds to that moment in his lead up as well, setting the scene of the shot as a rather boring underwater scene. His language signals that something is going to happen that will soon transform that boring underwater scene. He is building curiosity through his language, and when the moment of unexpected transformation happens, you are engaged.

Notice, too, how the instructor is not simply playing video and having students watch it, but is actively interacting with the video and explaining what is happening while it is happening. At a number of places, he is pointing and drawing the learners attention to details in the video as it happens. For example, at :27 seconds, he points to the screen and says “now watch here”, making sure that the attention of the learner is in the right place to catch the key concept he is trying to explain

Then, after the video has been played in forward at full speed, he plays the video at half speed backward, giving you a completely new perspective of the phenomenon the student just witnessed. Again, at :40 seconds in, he makes sure to point out what he wants the learner to see “watch the ring form around this eye”.

He then pauses the video and brings up a series of stills to further explain the concepts, adding a text overlay to the video with a bullet list of keywords explaining what a hi-fidelity match would be. This further underscores what he is saying. And then in his summary he augments the video on the screen further with a few more points underscoring the key concepts of the short video. Key here is that he includes question prompts to spur deeper thinking for the students and spark some curiosity about the concepts introduced in the short lesson. There is a slight problem in that the juxtaposition of the final shot overlay’s the teacher on top of the text, obscuring some of the text, but it’s a small quibble.

So, even though this is a video lecture, I think it is a well done bit of lecturing based around a compelling video. The instructor is naturally engaged and dynamic and the presentation is snappy. Having the instructor on screen humanizes the lesson and allows him to carry out the kinds of interaction with the video that make the video clip pedagogically strong, like directing attention to key moments in the clip. There is a lot packed into this 2 minute video and if I was working with faculty in a traditional f2f classroom, this clip would probably make its way into my training arsenal as an example of how to effectively use video in a lesson.


So, here's the thing about the video in my Coursera course

I’m taking a Coursera course, and the primary content delivery tool being used is video. Talking head video of the instructor switching to voice over PowerPoint lectures with bullet point slides and diagrams.

Now, I wish I could leave my first impressions aside, but can’t (because I’m a bit shallow and judgmental this way and first impressions count), but I am staring at PowerPoint slides primarily composed of bullet points of text (bad) in FREAKIN’ COMIC SANS.  I mean, bullet points of texts are bad enough in terms of adding nothing to my understanding of what is being said, but it’s FREAKIN’ COMIC SANS. I am in a kindergarten class.

Anyway, where was I. Oh yeah. Video.

So, a little technical & pedagogical note about using video as a content delivery method. Web video can be great in that it allows students to interact with the video. Learners can pause, rewind, fast forward and otherwise move through video at their own pace. Going back to review content they may be fuzzy on. As  Zhang, Zhou, Biggs and Nunamaker noted in their 2005 research study Assessing the impact of interactive video on learning effectiveness (pdf) , the interactive nature of web video – this ability to stop, rewind and replay – is one of the prime pedagogical affordances of web video .

Results of the experiment showed that the value of video for learning effectiveness was contingent upon the provision of interactivity. Students in the e-learning environment that provided interactive video achieved significantly better learning performance and a higher level of learner satisfaction than those in other settings

Now, for me, if you are going to make video your primary content delivery platform and take advantage of that pedagogical affordance of video – this ability for learners to manipulate the timeline – then the video should be a true streaming experience. Coursera videos are not.

What does that mean? Well, there are 2 ways you can deliver video on the internet: progressive download and streaming. I won’t get into the technical details of each (you can read for yourself a bit more if you like), but one of the major differences between the two methods of video delivery is how quickly you can move thru the timeline. Progressive download buffers the video, meaning when you move the timeline, you get the hourglass for a few seconds while the video buffers and then restarts. Whereas in streaming video, you get no buffering. You move your cursor on the timeline and the video starts at that point instantaneously.

Imagine this (and I am sure you have experienced it yourself). You are a student and you are trying to find a specific spot on a video, how frustrating is the progressive method? You move the cursor back. Wait (buffer). Wait (buffer). Wait (buffer). The video plays. Whoops, wrong spot. You move the video back a few more seconds. Wait (buffer). Wait (buffer). Wait (buffer). Hmmm. Too far. Move the cursor forward. Wait (buffer). wait (buffer)….you get the picture.

Knowledge is created in instants. When you are on the verge of connecting concepts, these little delays matter. You want to find the spot you need, not give your mind even that extra couple of seconds to wander or worse, get frustrated interacting with technology.

On the plus side for Coursera videos, the videos appear to be short (less than 6 minutes), so shuffling back and forth and buffering to find an exact spot is reduced as there isn’t much of a timeline to slide through. And you do have the option to play at slower or faster speeds – great if you want to review a 5 minute video in 3, or slow down the pace to catch concepts. But, if you are going to make video your pedagogical tool of choice for content delivery, and the primary pedagogical advantage of video is the ability to move thru the timeline and review what you saw, then it is worth it to invest the extra dollars and make the video true streaming video for a seamless user experience where the technology gets out of the way and not in the way.


Screenr: free web based screencasting tool

Screenr is a web-based screencasting tool that allows you to quickly create screencasts. Free and web-based, there is no software to download, unlike Jing, which Screenr is very similar to. Videos are limited to 5 minutes and Screenr will host your videos, providing you embed code to put the videos where you want. You can also tweet the screencast out on Twitter, download an MP4 version, or publish the final result to YouTube.

Here’s a demo.

Besides Camtasia and Captivate, the two mainstream commercial products that allow you to do very sophisticated screencasts that include interactivity, post production editing, and branching, there are a number of free screencasting tools similar to Screenr out there, including Screenjelly and Screentoaster. For Firefox users there is also a handy FF plugin called Capture Fox.

In my mind, the difference between Screenr and these other tools is that Screenr is coming from the e-learning world and is suported by Articulate, a company that makes a very succesful line of e-learning application products. And, as Articualte CEO Adam Schwartz says, the cost for Articulate to run Screenr is:

…really cheap for us. We’re hosted on the Rackspace cloud, and the cost for doing this is like two orders of magnitude less than it was when we looked at this two years ago. It would cost more as a marketing fiasco to shut this down than it would to keep it running.

From the same article, Schwartz also said that Screenr

is a first step in the company’s creation of a new group of e-learning products, which he compares to the popular software-based screencast products from Camtasia. But with Artculate’s focus on education, the tools will be “more about interactivity, branching, learning, and simulation.” His fully developed screencast tools will have the capabilities for grading and quizzing, and will be integrated into more fully formed educational suites.

So it sounds like Articulate has some pretty big plans with Screenr and this is just the beginning.

You do, however, need a Twitter account to use Screenr as the service is completely integrated with Twitter. This might deter some who have been reluctant to take the Twitter plunge, or might be the deciding reason for some to start using it. A big part of the idea of Screenr is to allow people to quickly make a screencast and then publish it to their network via Twitter, reinforcing the idea (for me at least) that one of the core values of Twitter is as a network notification (distribution) system.


Academic Earth: free and open video lectures

Open Educational Resources

I am not a big fan of iTunes U. I know there is a lot of great content there, but unless you use iTunes it is inaccessible (and if you do know a way to access iTunes U content without iTunes I would love to hear about it). So, I am always on the lookout for resources like Academic Earth.

Academic Earth is a website featuring video lectures from Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Princeton and Yale.

While collections like Academic Earth are not new (you could find many of these lectures on each institutions YouTube channel), what is nice about Academic Earth is that it filters and packages the collections in a very friendly and easy to use way. For example, on the Playlist page you can view thematic collections put together by the site editors that group lectures from different instructors and institutions around certain themes like Love is in the Air, a group of videos on emotion, love, dating, marriage, and sex that cross disciplines and combine lectures from Psychology, English, and Economics.

The site also features all the Web 2.0 goodness you would expect from a video site these days – embedding, the ability to subscribe to specific courses, and user feedback where logged in users can grade the lectures. One added academic feature of the site you don’t normally find on other video sharing sites is the citation feature, which gives you a nicely formatted snippet of citation code that you can cut and paste when referencing the video. There are also links to transcripts and other related resources like PowerPoint slides and (in some cases) captures of blackboard/whiteboard notes, adding further value to the video lecture.

Right now there are over 1500 lectures on the site, which seems to be heavy on Business lectures. But as the site grows I would expect that to change and balance out in terms of subject matter. Still, sites like Academic Earth are nice alternatives to the locked down world of iTunes U.

Image Credits: Open Ed Poster by riacale. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license

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Encouraging citizen filmmaking

This is a bit of a plug for our College Relations people as well as a nod of the cap lens to people powered media. My Camosun is a video contest open to anyone in the community. The idea is to create a 1 minute that answers the question “what does Camosun mean to you?”

A couple of interesting notes about the contest is that it is open to everyone and anyone, regardless of your involvement (or lack of) with Camosun. The second notable is that the videos will be posted on YouTube. The College marketing department obviously has their eye on the fact that prospective students search for their potential college’s on YouTube as part of their decision making process on what school they will attend, so why not try to flood it with feel good positive vibes about Camosun?

Imagine you are a potential student and you do a quick search on YouTube for Camosun. Right now, the results are pretty sparse and don’t tell you much about the college or its culture. Do the same search in January after these videos have all been posted and I am sure you will have a good idea of what Camosun is all about – a third party picture of our institution, completely created by Joe Q. Public.

I am very interested to see the results of this contest. I suspect we will see quite a few entries from our Applied Communication Program and Visual Arts program, which has a strong filmmaking component to it. But hopefully we will see some general community members contribute as well. With $1500 in prizes out there, I am hoping that the general public will be encouraged to pick up their camcorders and tell some great stories.

Deadline for entries is October 31st. And even our President is getting in on it. Check out her moves in this entry…she’s grooving in the Paul Building around 37 seconds in.


Adobe to add DRM to Flash video?

I imagine video remixers around the world are holding their collective breath today in hopes that Adobe will not go ahead and include Digital Rights Management (DRM) encryption in the new version of Flash servers.

One of the great byproducts of the emergence of powerful, free and easy to use media production tools like Jumpcut, iMovie and Windows Movie Maker is the emergence of the video mashup. Someone posts a video, perhaps to a video sharing site like YouTube, DailyMotion or a similar site, which then gets captured by someone else, remixed and recut to create something new.

Flash video is one of the technologies that is making this easy to do. The vast majority of video sharing sites are using this relatively new video protocol which, up until now, has been DRM free, unlike many other streaming media technologies like Real and Windows Media which have had DRM encryption fro quite some time. Ironically, the new version of Real Player includes a video download tool that allows you to download and save Flash video, but not Real video. Go figure.

Remixing is nothing new. But in a digital age, video remixing is becoming a powerful tool of both expression and media literacy. Seth Schoen at the Electronic Frontier Foundation makes a great point in his article:

Before we understand how to read media messages, we must first learn how to speak their language — and we learn that language by playing with and remixing the efforts of others. DRM, by restricting the remixing of Flash videos, stands to bankrupt a rich store of educational value by foreclosing the ability of students and teachers to “echo others” by remixing videos posted online.

There is another angle to this story. The fact that Adobe can use this new tool to effectively lock out any client side player except for an Adobe player. I don’t imagine Adobe would be so stupid as to shoot themselves in the foot and do this. One of the major reasons we are currently looking at purchasing a Flash server at our institution is precisely because it is much more platform neutral than Real, Windows Media or Quicktime. But corporations have done sillier things in the past in an attempt to control a market.

This will probably be a minor annoyance in the future as workarounds and hacks will become available should Adobe follow through with the plan to do this. But still it puts a hurdle in the way of remixers looking to build upon previous works to create new forms of art and express themselves in new and interesting ways.


MIT Lecture Browser – text search for video content

I just came across the MIT Lecture Browser and am a bit smitten.

Essentially, it’s a combination speech to text converter and search engine for video lectures at MIT. Enter in a word and the search engine will not only find the videos that the word is used in, but it will also take you to the exact spot within the video where that word was used and give you a running transcript.

With more than 100 million videos online and another 100,000 being uploaded each day, there is an awful lot of great content that is, for the most part, hidden away from search engines that do nothing but search on tags, keywords and descriptions.

I imagine this kind of search will be much more common in the next couple of years – in fact, there are already some options emerging in this area.

The speech to text recognition isn’t perfect. I used the example search term of “wine”. one of the videos returned was from Nicholas Negroponte, talking about the hundred dollar laptop at the 2005 MIT Emerging Technologies Conference. I was intrigued. Where in that address did Negroponte talk about wine? Well, here’s the text quote:

show you a few slides so wine doubt laptop it does you could that that creek slips out and see sells word eat else can slip and

And here is Negroponte’s actual quote:

show you a few slides. It’s a wind up laptop. (bit of a stumble) that crank slips out and c cells or d cells could slip in

So the speech to text is a work in progress.

But besides the technology, the ability to access and search the MIT lecture library for content is also very cool. However, it looks like there isn’t a heck of a lot of content there yet. Do a search for “television” in the category “Media” and you only get a single video returned. I suspect the word “television” might be used in a few more classes than that in a Media Studies program.

Maybe part of the reason I am smitten is that it reminded me of a project I was working on about 5 years ago. We have a large collection of digitized audio and I was trying to build a web based application using an XML based language called SMIL that would do something similar with audio clips. That project eventually died, and I was a bit sad that the use of SMIL was never really mainstreamed, despite being a W3C technology. It looks like the MIT site uses some SMIL program and that brought back some warm fuzzies of my bygone project.

Really, how can you not love a programming language called SMIL?


Animoto creates very slick videos automatically

This was way too easy to do.

I finally had a minute to test out a new video creation service called Animoto, which promised to automagically create a very slick video with a few clicks of a button. So, to test out the service I choose some photos I took during the recent U20 World Cup here in Victoria. I uploaded the photos, picked one of their music tracks and hit create. All the photo transitions are done by the site. And you can see, it did automagically create a very slick video that I can easily embed into my site.

The service is still in beta. You have to sign up and wait a few days for your invite. And it is limited to 30 seconds for the free service. You can, for a fee, create longer videos. But this was about the easiest piece of multimedia I have ever created.