Richard and I monkeyed around with the new Firefox 3.5 release candidate and the new HTML5 video tag for OGG/Theora content over the weekend. Even though we haven’t figured out how to do some things with the player controls, we were able to post a sample screencast in OGG format. I won’t post a link to it just yet because we’re still playing with it. The result looked outstanding. The video was crystal clear for a screencast. No blurryness and no artifacting. I bet our viewers are going to love this. The only hiccup I could see was that it didn’t stream the video as well as Flash regarding our intro at the beginning of our screencast. The actual Inkscape tutorial played well. Not sure why the intro was a little choppy. Is that bandwidth related?…is it CPU related?…I’m not sure. Maybe it just needed to cache a little more before playing. Regardless, I don’t think it’s a deal breaker. Perhaps I’m not doing something right. With some more experimenting maybe we’ll figure it out. Oh, Richard did claim that we wasn’t hearing any sound but that’s probably just due to the fact that he runs Linux completely in a terminal without any GUI. Who needs audio when you’re compiling kernels all day? Yes, he’s pretty hard core. 😉
Anyway, it’s hard for me to hold back the excitement of it all. To move away from x264/mp3-AVI’s and Flash is really going to save Richard and I a lot of encoding time and OGG/Theora/Vorbis is an open video and audio format that soon will be supported by most major browsers…natively…no plug-ins required. Plus, we already screencast into Theora/Vorbis and have been for a very long time. Being able to rename those OGV screecasts to OGG (Why is this?) and uploading to our server is all that it takes to get a video on the web with FF 3.5 (well, beside the small HTML doc that needs to be written). It’s that easy. Of course it will take a little ffmpeg2theora to prep our videos first but that isn’t anything major. It’s still a time saver over our present Mencoder scripts that we use. Moreover, we’ll only have to upload a single OGG file and not two separate AVI and FLV files. That will make my World of Warcraft family happy since I won’t be hogging their bandwidth. Pft! Stupid games anyway. 😉
So what does this all mean for the Screencasters.heathenx.org? Buckle up folks because we’re moving to this format really soon (next few weeks). Nothing will change in terms of how you will download and watch a screencast on-line…we’re just changing the video format to OGG only. No more AVI’s and FLV’s (not sure what we’re going to do with our Microsodes yet). Gone. But don’t freak out. Stay calm. We know people hate change. You’ll still be able to download a screencast for off-line viewing and you’ll still be able to watch screencasts for on-line viewing if you have a browser that supports HTML5. And most likely you’ll still be able to use your favorite media player to watch the off-line OGG files…VLC, GMplayer, SMplayer, Mplayer, Totem, Kaffeine, and Media Player Classic among many others. Linux users will have to do nothing since OGG is supported out of the box. Windows and Mac users can even opt to install the free OGG codec if you want to.
As far as the IE6, IE7, and IE8 users go, you may be SOL if Microsoft doesn’t implement the HTML5 video tag. Maybe IE8 already does, I don’t know. I don’t use IE and quite frankly hate it so I don’t keep up with the news. But don’t fear. Even if IE users can’t watch our screencasts on-line, you’re still able to download the OGG for off-line viewing. If that’s the case don’t blame us…blame Microsoft.
There is still some bumps that need smoothing. We don’t have everything figured out yet but we’ll be experimenting more in the next few weeks. Once we get a sample ready we’ll post a link so that you can test things yourself. Hopefully we can get some feedback from you. We want everyone to be happy, although, that’s sometimes impossible. Just as important, we want to make things easier for ourselves so that we can continue to make Inkscape screencasts with less effort. Easy is good.