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March 28, 2007

You Too Can YouTube

The mission of the Snelling Center for Government is to foster responsible and ethical civic leadership, encourage public service by private citizens, and promote informed citizen participation in shaping public policy in Vermont.  It was established in honor of former Governor Richard Snelling whom I had the honor of working for as Transportation Secretary a long time ago

A friend of the Snelling Center generously paid for the professional production of a video introducing the Center to prospective students, donors, and other members of the community. Initially the video was distributed on DVD.  But, like many other organizations, the Snelling Center is finding that it communicates more often with its community by email and through its website than by snail mail. I volunteered to upload the video to YouTube so I could learn how to do this.

It worked! You have to click on the arrow below to get the video to play.  If you get Fractals of Change by email, you have to click on the title bar to get to the website in order to see the video.

This is an incredible new tool for any organization, profit or nonprofit, with a website.  No charge for the storage space the video occupies.  No worry about bandwidth because the video is actually viewed from YouTube’s website even though it appears to be on yours. Little worry about reliability because YouTube is owned by Google. And easy as pie to integrate with an existing website or link to in email.

You don’t even have to be a nerd to introduce this capability to your organization.

The rest of this post is a howto. If you’re experienced with video and YouTube, class dismissed; see you next post.

First thing you have to do is sign up for a YouTube account. That’s free and easy at www.youtube.com.

If you have video in one of the formats that YouTube supports (.WMV, .AVI, .MOV, and .MPG) and it’s less than 10 minutes and 100 megabytes, you just fill in a little descriptive information, click upload, and you’re done.

But this video was professionally produced.  It was in .VOD (Video on Demand) format and, in its high quality version, it occupied almost 500 megabytes even though it’s only about six minutes long.

Googled “video format conversion” and found the shareware version of WinAVI, shareware which looked like it would do the trick.  I chose to convert to .WMV format (doesn’t matter to the people who later view from YouTube because it’ll be converted again). To make the file smaller, I specified 50% quality and only fifteen frames per second.

It almost worked.  The converted video was only 41 megabytes; the quality was fine. The problem was that the shareware version of the program puts its publishers logo in the middle of the screen. Since I already knew it was going to work, I shelled out $29.95 via PayPal for the registered version of the program.

After you upload your video, YouTube lets you decide whether to make it public or not and whether to accept comments. It also give you a widget (a small bit of HTML code) to put on your website so that the video can be displayed directly from there. That’s what I inserted in this post to make the video accessible here. You also get a link suitable for emailing and you can send email with a graphic link from the YouTube site.

Have fun.

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