The State of Video Education

Having started a school of sorts, I’m interested in anyone pushing the envelope of what can be done to teach people, and lately I’ve turned my attention to reaching more people with sessions online rather than only in the classroom. The first generation of “distance education” from universities mostly sucked; schools were sold software that forced them to shoehorn pedagogy into a particular medium (discussion boards, online text, chat rooms) and it really only worked when you had a perfect storm of content that fit the medium, students and teachers comfortable and patient enough to use the medium, and classroom instruction that filled in the gaps. I taught an information architecture class at the New School/Parsons School of Design years ago and it was a royal pain in the ass, but for those few people in Asia that had no other option, it was probably fairly useful.

Fast forward several years where Web 2.0 meets the classroom. Specifically, with broadband our palette of media opens up to include audio and video, and our business models open up to include architectures of participation. YouTube is now the richest playground of education experimentation online. Here’s two examples:

You Suck at Photoshop
Boring, technical techniques are thwarted with dark humor. Perfect for graphic designers.

Team Ukemi Parkour Tutorial
Instructional techniques lifted from technical illustration, mixed with attitude, and applied to video (“just take the marker and draw right on my back”)

Awesome, but this just scratches the surface. How can we use this approach to teach business, design, and business design? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

DIY Home Projector

Though I quickly corrected my broken TV problem by picking up a used model on Craigslist, I’m still fascinated by the projector option. Here’s a guide to a $200 DIY projector using an LCD panel and an overhead projector. Part of the appeal is having a school-like overhead projector in your living room, very retro. During parties you could leave some overheads next to the machine and see how people reacted.

Projection TV

We came back from vacation on Monday and when my wife pressed the power button on the TV remote all that happened was click, click, click…

I’ll check in with my local repair shop tomorrow, but I thought it was a good time to figure out the brave new world of televisions. My current set is a hand-me-down from my father, so I haven’t actually bought one in over 20 years (a 13″ Emerson to use with my Commodore 64. [sigh]).

In short, it seems like good old fashioned CRTs still look good and provide the most bang for the buck. The ‘flat’ CRTs aren’t as flat as LCDs or Plasmas but are much thinner than our father’s sets. LCDs and Plasmas look great but aren’t that big yet and are molto expensive. Rear projection sets are giant, affordable, and look crappy.

Then there’s front projection, like in a movie theater. My friend Leah had talked about using a projector as a TV years ago, and now the price has come down to where they are being marketed (and sometimes tweaked) for home theater. It’d be nice to ditch the big box, and have gorgeous, huge video projected on the wall (with the project 11 feet away from the wall, the screen will be 65 inches diagonal minimum). Drawbacks seem to be 1) connecting the projector — which is close to your sitting position — to the audio gear which is across the room, and 2) putting a screen on the wall.

ProjectorCentral is an excellent resource. Their recommended list makes shopping easier and their projection calculator is perfectly executed.

On the bargain side (< $1000), Infocus seems to have the lead with performance in their X1 and X2. Here's a thorough X1 review. The X2 seems to be the successor, increasing the brightness for the same price. Here’s a story — not entirely complimentary — of someone who upgraded. Apparently Infocus subtracted some features to sell a premium version of the X2 labeled the 4805 for $200 more.

Also interesting is this Dell vs. Toshiba shootout in which the Dell wins, but they mention the Infocus might be a better option for movie use and the Dell better with more computer use. The comments section there is very astute, but this one is more emotionally charged. The Epson Powerlite 10 is similar, as is the BenQ 6100 which, with the current $100 rebate from Amazon, would be my first choice.

Broadcatching

I recently thought it’d be nice for digital video recorders like TiVo to access parts of programs, so if I wanted to see that one joke from a movie, not the whole movie, I could find it. Just tag and syndicate the video, right? Webjay Brett Singer has the seeds of an implementation, publishing clips of news video. Webjay creator Lucas Gonze calls it broadcatching.

1fps

Adrian Miles’ first axiom of network video:

legibility is more important than the representation of movement.



Which means that over the web when we have to decrease the size and resolution of video we should also lower the frame rate instead of trying to jam 24fps down the wire. How low can the frame rate go?

…1fps with a continuous intelligible soundtrack.

why only 1fps? because people are much happier people when what they see is able to be seen. who cares if it don’t move much? at least you can see it. this works for all content. and more importantly 1fps works over a domestic modem right now.