Producing video for kuraCloud

Overview

Videos are always popular to insert in a lesson. You can direct a student's visual and auditory attention along a set path in order to tell the story you want them to understand. Like an audio guide tour of an art gallery, you can synchronize a spoken explanation of visual stimuli. When might you want to use a video? Some common examples of videos in education are:

  • Explaining 'how to' perform a certain procedure.
  • Working through the elements of a complicated graph or formula bit by bit.
  • Showing how a process occurs over time such as the movement of a glacier or the metabolism of a drug.
  • Providing supplementary material for struggling or excelling students.
  • Entertaining students with an attention-grabbing 'hook' about a particular topic.

kuraCloud lets you embed high definition videos in your lessons. You can also add a poster image to your video (so it displays a picture when the video is not playing) and include closed captions or subtitles for speakers of other languages. This section covers the essentials of video encoding, poster image and subtitle creation.

Supported formats

kuraCloud uses the H.264 format to display videos - this is a very popular format used across the web. Making (or encoding) videos in this format is relatively easy but there are a few important factors that dictate whether a video will stream well and play well for your students. This section will cover what encoding parameters you need to be aware of so you can correctly prepare your videos for use within kuraCloud.

We're assuming here that you will be exporting your videos from an editor like Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro or Sony Vegas. If these sound unfamiliar, or words like "encoding parameters" scare you, skip straight to the Converting using Handbrake page!

You can quickly check if your videos are suitable by looking at the files' extensions; H.264-formatted videos have a .mp4 or .m4v extension.

Additionally, your H.264 videos must be configured for "streaming". This allows your viewers to begin watching a video immediately, even though it may not have completely downloaded to their computer. When rendering your videos, make sure that you enable any "web optimization", "progressive download" or "fast start" features in your video production software, so that the output file can be streamed correctly.

If a video is not optimized for streaming, the viewer has to wait until the entire video has been downloaded before playback can commence. For this reason, kuraCloud does not let you add incorrectly configured H.264 files; if your H.264 video is not configured for streaming, kuraCloud will alert you when you attempt to drag it into a video panel. Such files can be "fixed", however, using the free Handbrake utility, which converts your video into a kuraCloud-friendly H.264 video.

Using HandBrake to convert video to H.264

The quickest and easiest way to convert your existing videos so that they work in kuraCloud (especially if they are in a format other than H.264) is to use the popular and free HandBrake application. To do this:

1. First download and install HandBrake.

2. Next, create a kuraCloud video preset. To do this:

  • Drag the video you want to convert into the HandBrake window.
  • Always ensure the checkbox for Web Optimized is selected.
  • In the Audio tab, select Stereo from the Mixdown dropdown menu.

HandBrake for Windows

HandBrake for Mac

  • In the Video tab, select the H.264 Level to be 3.1. All other default settings are fine.

  • In the Picture tab, set the dimensions of your output video. kuraCloud supports maximum video dimensions of 1280 pixels (horizontal) by 720 pixels (vertical); if your video source is greater than this, set width to 1280 or lower in the Size field. Select Anamorphic: Loose and Modulus: 2 to preserve the original video's correct aspect ratio. However, if your source video has dimensions less than 1280, select Anamorphic: Strict to keep the video's original size.



 

 

3.  To save the preset in HandBrake, click Add (bottom right of the HandBrake window), enter a Preset name, deselect "Save Video Filter Settings", and click Add again.

4.  At this point it works best to quit and restart HandBrake. Drag a video that you wish to convert onto the HandBrake window.

  • To encode a video using your new preset, ensure the kuraCloud preset is selected.
  • Ensure the checkbox for Web Optimized is selected. This will configure your H.264 videos for "streaming".
  • Then you can Add to Queue, or just click Start.

 

HandBrake will proceed to convert your video into a stream-compliant H.264 video. Once this process is completed, you can import the new video into kuraCloud. Adding videos to the video panel is described here.

Closed Captions and Subtitling

Adding subtitles to your video files is a great way to support all of your students, and they are easy to add in kuraCloud. Simply drag and drop a WebVTT (.vtt) file on top of your uploaded video file while in edit mode. In PREVIEW mode, a small CC will appear in your video panel, just right of the time bar. When CC is selected, the text will be highlighted in yellow, indicating that your Closed Captions are activated. Press play to see them in action! If the CC is not selected (indicated by "CC" in blue text with a black background), your subtitles will be turned off. 

Poster Images

Add a bit of life to your Video panels before they're played by adding a poster image! When videos are added to your lesson, the default poster screen is solid black with a white play button. But with a few simple steps, you can have a vibrant picture that encourages your students to press play. 

 

How to add a Poster Image

Select Add Poster from the Video panel editing menu and navigate to the image of your choosing (JPEG, PNG, SVG, and GIF files are all supported). Or, you can simply drag and drop the image onto the Video panel. It's that easy! If you want your image to be representative of the video, try taking a screenshot of a nice looking frame as your poster image. Just make sure the poster image has the same dimensions as the panel.