How to Prep a Video Clip for Inclusion in an iBooks Author Document

It’s a lot easier than you might expect.

iBooks Author’s Media Widget enables you to include video files in your books. I recently took advantage of this feature in the iBooks 2 Interactive Edition of my book, iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Ebook by including a total of 53 videos in the book.

iBooks Author is picky about video formats, however. It only accepts videos encoded with the AAC and H.264 codecs with the .m4v filename extension. While this format isn’t uncommon, it’s not the QuickTime format you might have expected.

So how do you convert a movie file that isn’t in that format to the format iBooks Author can understand? Oddly enough, you can use QuickTime. There are a number of different ways to do this. The easiest is to use the Export command.

  1. Open the movie file in QuickTime Player 10.1 or later.
  2. Export DialogChoose File > Export or press Shift-Command-S to display the Export dialog.
  3. Enter a name and choose a disk location to save the new file.
  4. Choose a FormatChoose an option from the Format menu. I normally choose iPad, iPhone 4, & Apple TV. This gives me high enough resolution for the iPad’s screen without generating a very large file. You can experiment with other formats if you like.
  5. Click Export.
  6. Export ProgressWait while QuickTime Player exports the file. A progress dialog appears while the file is being exported. When it’s finished, the file is ready for use.

I’ve been very pleased with the size of the exported file. For example, the movies I created for my book were shot full screen on a MacBook Air set to 1280×800 screen resolution and encoded with Apple Animation/Linear PCM. The resulting movies were downsized only slightly to 1152×720 resolution when converted to AAC/H.264. A 53 second movie that was 59.9 megabytes was compressed down to 6 MB — with virtually no quality hit.

Although the new iPad announced today has a much higher resolution screen, it remains to be seen whether higher resolution files are really necessary in your iBooks Author documents. If you have a new iPad, why not experiment a bit and let us know?

Making Movies: A Guide for Serious Amateurs

A step-by-step approach to making quality video productions.

Making Movies book cover

Tired of turning video footage into ho-hum productions that make people yawn? Or, worse yet, just putting raw video out there and hoping for the best? If so, this guide is for you. It clearly explains how to research, plan, shoot, assemble, edit, and fine-tune video productions for just about any purpose. Richly illustrated with stills from an example movie, it’ll get you on the right track to making movies that’ll inform, entertain, and impress your audience.

Buy from Amazon’s Kindle Bookstore

I’m really pleased to announce that the first book in the Maria’s Guides series — Making Movies: A Guide for Serious Amateurs — is now available.

About the Book

I originally wrote the first draft of Making Movies as a personal guide to help me remember how I created my first “watchable” movie, Cherries: From Tree to Truck. Later, I rounded it out into a series of articles for InformIT. To create this book, I added and revised content and formatted it for print and ebook publication.

This book differs from most of my computer how-to books in that it concentrates on theory rather than specific how-to tasks. For example, it doesn’t explain how to edit moves in iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Instead, it tells you about the kinds of clips you should acquire and why. It also goes into a great deal of detail about the part of movie-making that’s most overlooked by inexperienced movie-makers: the planning process. The idea was to write a book that could benefit all first-time movie makers — not just the ones using a specific camera or editing software package.

Inside, you’ll find chapters for the following “steps”:

Introduction
Step 1: Explore the Topic
Step 2: Plan the Shoot
Step 3: Shoot the Video
Step 4: Create the Rough Cut
Step 5: Fine-Tune and Complete
Step 6: Publish and Share
Conclusion

The printed version of the book runs 66 pages, including cover, front matter, and index.

The book uses two examples throughout the text: the existing cherry harvest video I created and a hypothetical home movie of a kid’s soccer game. There are screen images and other figures to help illustrate important points.

I think the book is a great guide to help new movie makers learn the lingo and get a feel for making good movies. Its step-by-step approach can help keep readers focused on the tasks that need to be done to ensure success.

Buy the Book

The book is available in four formats from three sources (so far):

EPUB and Kindle Ebook

I wrote the book primarily for distribution as an ebook. As such, it’s available in EPUB and Kindle formats from two popular sources at a very reasonable $3.99:

Print and PDF Ebook

The book is also available in print and in a PDF-style ebook format from MagCloud.

MagCloud is a print-on-demand publisher that calculates printed cost by the page, so the longer a book is, the more it costs. The printed version, which is in full color, is available for $12.95 plus shipping. Be advised that it may take up to two weeks for the book to arrive.

MagCloud also offers a ebook version of the book. Unlike the EPUB and Kindle versions, the MagCloud version is based on a PDF, so it’s formatted exactly like the book. The cost of this ebook version is $3.95 and it downloads immediately upon purchase.

Note that when you buy the print version, you get a free copy of the ebook version.

Additional Material, Feedback, and Support

You can find additional material about making movies on this site. Just follow the Movie Making topic link.

You can also post questions and read questions and answers on the book’s support page.

Video Blogging with Viddler and WordPress, Part IV

Displaying a list of your recent Viddler videos in your WordPress blog.

If you start using Viddler regularly — either to create video blog entries as discussed in the previous article of this series or to simply get video content online — you might want to make those videos accessible from within your WordPress blog. Fortunately, there’s a WordPress plugin that makes this very easy: viddlerRSS.

The ViddlerRSS plugin works like most other WordPress plugins. Drop it in your plugins folder and activate it. (You can learn more about how to do that in our WordPress book, so don’t expect to find details here.) Then open your WordPress dashboard and choose Options > viddlerRSS. Enter your Username in the appropriate box, select the number of videos to display and, if desired, enter the HTML code you want before and after each video thumbnail. Then click Update viddlerRSS.

viddlerRSS Options

Now roll up your sleeves and open the template file where you want to insert the Viddler video thumbnails. (Need help modifying theme files? You can learn about that to do that in our WordPress book, too.) In most cases, this will be your sidebar.php template. Insert the following code into the file where you want the thumbnails to appear: < ?php get_viddlerrss(); ?>

Or you can get fancy like I did and put some intelligence into it, in case you ever need to disable the viddlerRSS plugin. Here’s the code I use, which includes a heading and other formatting settings:

< ?php if (function_exists('get_viddlerrss')) { ?>

  • My Latest Viddler Videos

    < ?php get_viddlerrss(); ?>

  • < ?php } ?>

    Save the changes to your template file.

    My Viddler VideosNow check your blog to see the results of your efforts. As shown here, I’ve got viddlerRSS set up to display thumbnails for my most recent three videos in my blog’s sidebar. Pointing to a video’s thumbnail displays the title of the video, which can help people decide whether they want to view it. Clicking a thumbnail image opens the video on the Viddler site.

    Easy enough, right?

    The next (and last) article in this series will explain how you can include a video commenting feature in your WordPress blog. Stay tuned!

    Video Blogging with Viddler and WordPress, Part III

    Recording and posting a video.

    If you have a camera — like a built-in iSight, WebCam, or DV camera connected via a cable — you can record video using tools on the Viddler site. This is probably the fastest and easiest way to get a video blog entry recorded and online.

    Recording a Video

    Here are the steps to record a video:

    1. Log into your Viddler account at http://www.viddler.com/.
    2. Click the Record button in the green navigation bar (or elsewhere, wherever you see it).
    3. Recording VideoThe Record from WebCam screen appears with an Adobe Flash Player Settings dialog atop it. Click the Allow button so Flash can access your audio and video input devices.
    4. Recording VideoIn the Select Quality dialog, choose an option suited to your connection speed. I usually choose Medium because I have a relatively slow (512 Kbps) Internet connection. Then click Okay.The screen should show an image of whatever your connected camera is looking at. In my case, I’m using a built-in iSight Camera on my 24-inch iMac, so it’s looking at me:
      Recording Video
    5. Check the Audio, Video, and Quality settings. In the illustration above, it’s using my externally connected iSight for audio, which is wrong. I want it to use the Built-in Microphone, so I select it from the pop-up menu. My built-in iSight camera is identified as a USB Video Class Video — it works, so I won’t argue. I believe the external iSight connected to my computer does not appear in the menu because it’s being used by other software (Evocam, which produces my WebCam).
    6. When you’re ready to record, click the red Record button. The status bar animates with a diagonal red stripe as you record. When you’re finished, click the Red button again.
    7. Wait while Viddler saves your video. It’ll display a status arrow thingie as it works. When it’s finished, it shows the poster frame of the video. If you wait long enough, it’ll play back to you:
      Recording Video
    8. If you like what you see, click the Save button. If you don’t, hit that red Record button again to discard the video and record a new one.

    Please remember that I simply cannot provide details about every single camera that you might be using with your computer and I can’t offer troubleshooting assistance if you can’t get this to work. If you have problems, consult Viddler’s online support options. Although you can post a question in this post’s Comments, be aware that I won’t reply if I don’t have an answer. Someone else, however, may have the information you seek.

    Setting Video Options

    When you save a video, it appears in a Recorded video window:

    Recording Video

    There are a few things you should set for it:

    • Click the Edit link beside the name of the video (“Recorded video”) and enter a more appropriate name for the video. Don’t forget to click the Save link beneath the new name to save it.
    • If desired, enter tags in the Tags field on the right side of the video. You’ll need to enter each tag separately and click the Add Tag button after each one. (I’m not big on tagging, so I don’t usually do this.)
    • Under Sharing Options, choose Everyone. After all, if you’re going to put this on your blog, you want everyone to be able to see it, right? If a Save Changes button appears there, be sure to click it.

    Posting the Video on Your Blog

    This is where the setup covered in Part II of this series pays off.

    1. Click the Blog This button under the video.
    2. In the list of blogs that appears beneath the video, click the link for the blog you want to add it to.
    3. Fill in the blog post form that appears:
      Recording Video
      The title will be the title of the blog post. The Post is the text that will appear in the post with the video. (I got fancy with some HTML to link to the first blog post in this series.) You can select a radio button at the bottom of the form to determine whether the video should appear above or below the post text. (I usually choose below.)
    4. Click the Send button. A message should confirm that the video has been successfully posted to your blog. Here’s what mine looks like:
      Recording Video

    Now wasn’t that easy?

    I should note here that you can use the Blog This button under any public video you see on the Viddler site. So if another Viddler user creates a cool video you want to share with your blog’s readers, you can add it to your blog, along with some comments, as discussed here.

    Next up: Displaying an archive of your recent Viddler videos in your WordPress blog.

    Video Blogging with Viddler and WordPress, Part II

    Setting blog options on Viddler.

    Once you’ve set up your Viddler account, you’re ready to set a few options that’ll make blogging from it easy.

    1. Log into your Viddler account at http://www.viddler.com/.
    2. Click the Options button near the top of the page, under the “Hello, yourname” greeting.
    3. In the Account Options screen, click the Blog Settings link. You should see something like this, although there won’t be any blogs listed for you.
      Blog Settings
    4. Click the + Add Blog button to display configuration fields.
    5. Enter your blog’s name in the Blog Name box and select the type of blog from the Blog Type drop-down list. The entry area expands to offer options applicable to your type of blog. Here’s what it looks like for a WordPress blog:
      Viddler WordPress Settings
    6. Fill in the rest of the fields. The Blog API Endpoint is the URL to your blog’s Home page followed by /xmlrpc.php. You should know the Username and Password.
    7. To prevent having to enter your password every time you send a Viddler video to your blog, turn on the Remember Password button.
    8. Click Submit.
    9. Viddler checks the information you entered. If it is correct and provides access to your blog, a green “Success!” message appears. Click the Awesome button. The blog is added to a list under Your Blogs.

    You can repeat this process for as many blogs as you have access to. And, as you may have noticed, Viddler supports many different blog types, including TypePad, Blogger, Movable Type, Manilla, and Vox. So even if you’re not a WordPress user, you can use this feature. And yes, it does work with WordPress.com based blogs — not just the server install blogs.

    What does this do for you? It sets up your account so that whenever you see a Viddler video that you want to embed in your blog, your account information is already provided and you’re good to go.

    Next up: Recording a video on Viddler.