May 28, 2010

Developing in HTML5 for version 3

I have been cranking away on a new version of VideoANT over the past week. It is a lot of fun dabbling in a new coding environment, and it gives me the chance to clean up some areas of code that were in dire need of reworking.

With this next version you will have improved functionality over the previous Flash version. Additionally you will enjoy all of the usability common to HTML such as copying and pasting your work like you would with other websites. Other features and functionality are also being included so subscribe to this blog if you are interested in testing out the new beta once it goes live toward the end of June.

I look forward to your feedback!

October 8, 2009

VideoANT Tutorial Video!

Hey everyone! We have developed a couple of tutorials for use with VideoANT. They specifically address how to take your video from your desktop into MediaMill in order to prep it for use with VideoANT.

As a reminder, your video needs to be *.mov (h.264-only) or *.flv in order to work in VideoANT. Youtube links work as well.

The video above is the second of two tutorials that starts with how to grab your video from MediaMill and bring it into VideoANT, but it also mentions how you can use the tool without MediaMill access, but mostly it covers the basic functionality that can get you started with the tool.

Tutorial 1 is dedicated to preparing your video for VideoANT using MediaMill . You can watch the MediaMill tutorial video here!

October 7, 2009

e-Learn conference presentation in Vancouver, Oct. 29, 2010

I will be presenting on some of the design and development concepts in VideoANT along with some of the research currently being conducted with the tool. If you are attending the conference be sure to stop by and say hi!

Date: Thu, Oct 29
Time: 02:45 PM-03:05 PM
e-Learn conference information

Creating links to auto-populate the form fields

If you are familiar with the method of passing variables through the URL string, this technique may prove of some value to you. We have been using this internally with one of our partners tools over the past year and have just received a request for this same functionality so I thought I would post it here in case others could benefit as well.

The variables to pass to VideoANT are: videoTitle, email, and videoURL.

The string must be "escaped" like the example you see below:

The advantage of this is if you have a video URL and you want this video annotated by someone else, you can create your own link to send to this person so that they click once and have the form auto-populated so that they can jump right to annotating without much effort on the front end.

Make sure to use their email address instead of your own in the URL string, and let them know they can edit or modify the form once they have clicked your link in case it doesn't quite meet their needs!

The XML behind your content

A recent request came up for access to the raw text that gets entered into a projects annotations. I have developed a number of primitive tools over the past year that I have been using for internal purposes. In light of this request I am releasing these pages to the public for your own consumption as they cannot be used to edit your content but are simple ways to gain access to the content you develop. Keep in mind they are nothing fancy aesthetically, but are quite functional in nature :)

I recommend that faculty utilize this first page to extract the raw data entered into the system as a back-up should it be necessary. It also is a great way to render the annotations so they can be searched using a browsers built-in search functionality. Below you will see two links that are quite similar:


Same project extracted:

In other words, change the EDIT link from your projects email from vae.php to extractANT.php and leave everything else in place and you get a raw text dump. The time is coded here in seconds so you will get giant numbers that need converted if you want to know their amount in minutes. We have some tools that use this code and need the time in total seconds or I would do this automagically with the php. It is very raw.

You can also get this same data as an XML feed if you would ever need that for any reason:

Same deal, change the EDIT URL to "select.php" instead of "vae.php" and you get the proxy XML. You may need to view source on that link if your browser does not include default XSLT treatment. This version of the data is "escaped" meaning that the text is in unicode which needs converted in order to be read legibly. The extractANT.php was developed for folks that needed simplistic access to the content. For those that have a use for developing around the XML feed, you can use the "select.php" version for your needs if desired.

Hopefully this is somewhat useful!

February 23, 2009

Future updates

I have a bunch of new features scheduled to get implemented in the coming year. The interface will get upgraded, some usability will get improved, and hopefully some additional features including the ability to select a color for a specific annotation, and a few other items I am not ready to list publicly :)

I will post back here as progress is made!

Password protection and privacy rights

Some of you out there are using password protected videos and/or secure URLs that require certificate authentication. Until I am able to build in error support to notify users when they need to first log in, the tell-tale indicator is a blank VideoANT interface when visiting the edit or view-only site links. If this is the case, and you are a UMN staff/faculty/student, simply visit another site that requires accepting that same certificate (e.g., umcal, gophermail) and sign in with your x500. If you are using this tool external to UMN let me know and we can try and troubleshoot the issue.

Youtube support was down

Last week there was an issue with youtube videos working. Originally I was using the link to the physical video file on their server. They don't like that happening for great reason, but it was the best solution for VideoANT since it relies so heavily on a custom timeline. Could you imagine having to use youtubes timeline for adding markers?

When they blocked the most recent method I was using to derive their video link I decided to further investigate their open API project and it turns out that they have finally released a chromeless version of their player sans any of their video controls. This is perfect for VideoANT because having multiple timelines would be confusing to users. I spent last week implementing their approved methods for supporting youtube video links so it should no longer randomly stop working. If anyone uses this updated version with youtube content and finds any errors or issues, please let me know!

November 12, 2008

Embed and Youtube are fixed and up!

Youtube videos are working again in VideoANT. Thanks for all of your patience during that fix! Remember that VideoANT is not vary accurate when using Youtube videos. This is due to the way Youtube compresses their videos. If you would like more accurate markers on the timeline with your video make sure to encode your own video files to post on your own server. They should always have the highest number of keyframes you can get away with and still have acceptable file size. I recommend at least one keyframe every 10 to 15 frames, but this should be adjusted depending on your needs along with the framerate your video is being encoded at.

The embed player is now paused by default. Clicking anywhere on the video will start playback.

More changes to come soon... including proper play/pause functionality.

November 11, 2008

Embedding VideoANT

I added a new embed feature that allows you to embed a smaller player into any page of your choosing. It is the same width as a standard youtube player, but it is a touch taller so that it can properly display the annotations below. If it has any bugs please feel free to drop me an email or comment to this blog entry.

To use it, simply create a new VideoANT and add your annotations accordingly. In the automagically generated email you receive there is now a new link that launches a webpage with some HTML code in it. Simply copy the black text and paste it anywhere you would paste a youtube video and it will show your project! This could include Wiki's, blogs, myspace comments, etc. See the sample below!

To edit them, all you have to do is make edits to your project using the EDIT link in your email and the changes you make will appear in the embedded player!

You will need to refresh the page that the embedded player is on to show the new changes you have made. But the nice thing is that it updates everywhere. This means that if you have the same project embedded in multiple sites, you will only have to make changes once to the EDIT page of your project and the results will update for all of your embedded players!

Youtube links failing

Youtube recently changed the API for how their videos are delivered to their players. This means that I have to find a way to get those videos to my player (VideoANT) as well. I thought I had it fixed, but they seem to keep making changes. I am working on it, but I wanted to let everyone know that it is going to be a few more days. Sorry for the inconvenience it may be causing you. I will make another post here when their links are working again.

June 13, 2008

A new VideoANT is coming soon!!!!!

Hello all! I have been working on a new version of VideoANT! I thought I would take a moment to outline a few of the new changes coming to the tool and let you know where I am at in the update.

I am updating the interface to be a bit easier to interact with. Additionally, I have increased the timelines width to allow for more room to include markers with less overlapping! The time code on the entries are now in minutes:seconds format, and I have added a currentTime/totalTime feature underneath the video. I have also improved the timeline so that you can click anywhere on it to jump directly to that portion of the video clip.

The most exciting addition to VideoANT is the support for h.264 video file types which include Quicktime MOV’s, mpeg-4, and 3GP file types! It does not support other video types currently. I will post a testing component to VideoANT soon so that you can test to see if your video link is valid prior to starting an ANT session, but that feature will have to wait until after this new version goes live. VideoANT will also support Youtube links!!!! While this sounds like great news, it comes with a bit of complications to your user experience. Youtube super compresses its videos, and does not add many keyframes during the encoding process. What this means for you is that the marker on the time will not be very accurate to where the video can jump to for playback. In short, the more keyframes in a second, the more accurate VideoANT’s markers will be. Youtube is pretty much the extreme opposite end of the ideal keyframe count per second so functionality will be clunky. I have done everything on my end to optimize the situation, but it is subpar from what I would prefer to deliver to you all.

I will be posting a screenshot of the new interface later today. I will also be explaining the process for launching it as a beta in greater detail so check back soon!

April 16, 2008

BUG REPORT: large projects = fail for the Edit Page

Apparently there is a bug that causes the authoring page (the original VideoANT you set up) to begin slowing down after 25 to 30 massively large entries have been made. Keeping your entries short while I evaluate the cause will improve performance.


Clicking EDIT in the email VideoANT sends you will cause a failure if the project is 25 to 30 entries or more, and their size is of any significance. I will make another post when I find out the cause, and provide an estimate for when the fix will go live.

I apologize for any work this effects.

February 14, 2008

VideoANT to present at the FlashMN February Meeting

When: Wednesday February 20th from 7 - 8:30pm

We will be showing VideoANT from a completely fresh perspective. Instead of the usual discussion about how it is being used, this presentation will cover how it was developed, goals that were set, reasons for selecting different technologies as a development platform, and where we hope to bring it in the future. This presentation will be a lot of fun so make sure you come check it out! I will likely blog about these concepts and discussion topics in greater detail as time goes on so keep checking back for details. If you have any specific questions leave a comment on this entry!

For more information visit:

Minnesota Futures Symposium

VideoANT was featured as an innovation demonstration piece at the Minnesota Futures Symposium held this past Monday at the University of Minnesota. Hopefully you were able to check it out.