Articulate Video Encoder ‘09 makes it quick and easy to convert your videos to an FLV format. This tutorial shows how to do it, including some tips on choosing your publishing options. If you want to make enhancements or changes to your video while you’re at it, check out some of the other Video Encoder tutorials in the sidebar.
Here’s how to convert your video to FLV:
- Open Video Encoder and choose Import a video file.
- Choose your video file and click Open. Video Encoder can convert almost any current video format, including AVI, WMV, MOV, MP4, and any others.
- When your video appears, you can use the controls at the bottom to play the movie, or click on the timeline to jump to any point within the video. You can also make changes and enhancements to your video — see the other Video Encoder tutorials if you need help with that.
- When you’re ready to convert the video to FLV, click Publish.
- Use the Folder field to choose the location where you want Video Encoder to create your FLV. You can click the ellipsis button (…) to browse to a location.
- In the Name field, you can type a different file name for your FLV if you like.
- Now choose your publish settings. You can pick one of the preset options (Small, Medium, or Large) or you can click Customize to choose your own values for bitrate, dimensions, sample rate, and other settings. See the sections below on movie dimension tips and customization, if you’re not sure what to choose.
- Click the Publish button. When publishing is complete, you’ll see the message below. You can click View Flash Video to watch the converted movie, or you can click Open output folder to open the folder where the FLV was created.
Once your video is in FLV format, you can insert it into any e-learning content you build with Articulate Presenter, Articulate Quizmaker, or Articulate Engage.
Tips for Choosing Movie Dimensions
- Start with the end in mind: Look at the “Fits inside…” dimensions for each choice. Consider which choice best matches the place where you’re going to use your video. If you have a large video that you want to consume most of the real estate on a Presenter slide, you’d probably go for the Large setting. If, on the other hand, you only need the movie to consume a small space on the slide or you plan on inserting it in the Presenter panel, Small would probably be the better choice. Medium works well if you want your movie to play back at about the size of a standard YouTube video.
- Can I just choose Large and then shrink the movie in Presenter later? The larger the dimensions you choose, the more data Video Encoder packs into your output to ensure decent-quality playback. If you don’t really plan on playing your video at large dimensions, it’s best not to choose a large setting, because it makes your file unnecessarily big. Even if you manually downsize the dimensions of your video in Presenter, Quizmaker, or Engage, the file size itself doesn’t change. And file sizes make a difference if users will be playing your output over the internet or an intranet. Depending on their bandwidth and your video length, users might have to wait a long time for the video to load. So keeping file sizes to a minimum is a good practice.
- If file size is that important, can I just choose Small and then manually increase the size of the FLV when I insert it in my course? That might seem like a good option, if file size were your only concern. But playback quality is important too! There’s definitely a tradeoff between the two. If you encode your video at the Small setting and then manually upsize it after inserting it in Presenter, Quizmaker, or Engage, the video quality will suffer. Images and movements become blurry and pixilated, because the file only contains enough data to ensure good-quality playback at the smaller size. Your output won’t be very useful if viewers can’t tell whether that’s a CPR mask or an alien costume in your safety video.
- How can I be sure I’ve picked the right choice? The best thing to do is test the options to see which one gives you the output you need at a reasonable file size. Convert a few samples of your video using the different options available, and try them out in the environment where you ultimately plan to use them. For example, if you’re going to use the video in Presenter, insert a few samples, converted at different dimensions, and see how each looks in your published output. It’s also a good idea to test the output from a computer whose bandwidth matches the bandwidth your users have. In fact, the closer you can replicate the users’ viewing environment (including the monitor they’ll be using), the better.
- Time-saving tip: If you want to save yourself some time, you can always do your initial tests on just a representative portion of your file. Make a copy of your video and use the Trim option in Video Encoder to narrow it down to a shorter sample clip. Publish that clip at a few different settings and then see how each sample looks in your published output. Once you choose the settings you want, be sure to take time to test the whole video before publishing and deploying your content, so that you’re certain the video plays the way you expect.
- I used the Large setting to publish my FLV, but my output didn’t get any bigger than my original video. How come? The preset dimensions are designed to make sure your video fits and plays within the dimensions specified. If your movie’s current size already fits within the dimensions you pick, Video Encoder won’t enlarge it to fill the space – in other words, it’ll never upsize your output to play at larger dimensions than what you started with. If you choose dimensions that are smaller than your movie’s original size, though, Video Encoder will reduce the dimensions of the converted movie. You can find out the original size of your video by looking at the Source field in the lower-right corner of your Video Encoder screen.
Tips for Customizing Your Publish Settings
If the preset options available in the Movie Dimensions part of the publish window don’t suit you, you can always create custom settings. Here’s how:
- On the Publish window, click Customize.
- The Custom Encoding window appears. The first two options have to do with bitrate. This determines how much information is preserved in your encoded movie file, per second of playback time. Next to Encoding Method, use the dropdown to choose an option:
- CBR stands for constant bit rate. This means Video Encoder applies the same bitrate to the whole video, start to finish. This enables the video to stream at a predictable, constant rate. The downside is, the quality might not be consistent across the whole movie — for example, complex scenes with lots of motion end up being processed at the same bitrate as static scenes, so scenes with lots of movement might appear to have a lower quality. The quality differences will be more noticeable at lower bitrates. We'll discuss bitrates in a minute.
VBR stands for variable bit rate. With this choice, Video Encoder devotes higher bitrates to more complex scenes and lower bitrates to static scenes — and keeps the average bitrate at the value you specify. The upside is, your video quality will look more consistent if you have a blend of active and not-so-active scenes. The downside is, streaming might be less consistent, since different portions of the movie will have different bitrates. Many developers use VBR for videos that will be played locally or over higher-bandwidth connections. 2-Pass VBR generally gives you higher-quality output, but the publish time's longer.
Both CBR and VBR options produce files of about the same size.
- Next, use the Bitrate dropdown to choose a video bitrate value. This determines the amount of information for each sample in your output for every second of playback time. If the bitrate's high, it means your file has more data in it, so it's capable of higher-quality playback. The larger the area in which you plan to play back your video, the higher the bitrate you'll need to avoid blurriness or pixilation. But a higher bitrate also means a bigger file size — so it's definitely a bit of a balancing act.
- For the Fit Inside setting, choose your preferred dimensions in pixels. Remember, this isn’t a setting that determines the actual output size – it just ensures that the video will fit within the dimensions you choose. To change the actual height and width of the output, you can use the Crop feature in Video Encoder. (Learn more about cropping.)
- To adjust even more video settings, click Advanced Video and set these preferences:
- Motion Estimation: This improves the interpretation of data between frames when there is a lot of motion captured in the video. The default is Optimal but you can change this to Deep for more complete motion estimation.
- Deinterlace: Interlacing is a compression technique that causes the video to use less bandwidth when it’s used in an analog broadcast. Since most e-learning videos are used in a web environment or deployed locally from a standalone computer, you can choose to deinterlace with this setting.
- Noise Reduction: This refers to visual noise. Typically, changing this from None to Light or Heavy will actually reduce your video quality, since reducing the visual noise often blurs the video slightly.
Keyframe Period: This setting affects the user’s ability to scrub through the video. The value here is in seconds, so if the setting is 2, a seekbar for the video will allow the user to scrub through at 2-second intervals. You can use the arrows or type in the field to choose a different value. Deblocking removes artifacts in the converted video to improve visual quality. Smoothing reduces the appearance of sharp edges.
Click OK when you’re finished adjusting the advanced video settings.
- Now choose your audio settings from the right-hand side of the window. Again, higher numbers produce better quality but larger file sizes:
- Bitrate: This determines how much data is included when Video Encoder samples the audio in your movie during conversion.
- Sample Rate: This determines how many audio samples per second are used to digitize the audio.
- Channels: Choose Mono or Stereo. Stereo allows you to create an illusion of spatial dimension, with some sounds seeming to originate from different locations during playback.
- Now enter a name for your custom settings and click Save to preserve them.
When you return to the Publish window, your new settings will be available from the Presets selector.