Reducing video file size

I have come to really value the use of video in the classroom. I started teaching nine years ago and I have always embraced video, but it’s so much easier now than what it was when I started. I hope to always make high quality content, and with that content comes some massive file sizes.

There’s always a debate on which size to record your footage in and I am of the belief that you record your content in the highest quality that you can. For me that is 4K. My student’s however, cannot view 4K content at school or on most of their devices.

What that means is that I produce my content in 1080, about 1/4 the size of 4K. This takes a video file that is several gigs in size down to a gig or less. While that’s a great reduction in size, it’s not enough. The content that I am making for my students does not need to be Hollywood quality, but it should still respect my students. They have come to expect crisp videos with a good level of focus and lighting.

That’s just one of the problems. I also have to be consider to my school’s network needs and how my 30 students playing a video at the same time impacts other classes. I also have to think about the limitations of my LMS and how much space I have to store files and stream them at quality.

With those considerations, I have started using HandBrake as my video processing tool of choice. HandBrake is an open source video transcoder. In short, it takes your original file and processes it to use less space while trying to retain the original quality.

What I use it to do is take my 1080 video, that looks super sharp thanks to downsampling, and compress it to produce a lower file size. This has a few impacts.

  1. Smaller file size
  2. Quicker download/playback
  3. Less stain on your local network
  4. Students watching on cellular networks use less data

Take a look at the images below to see what HandBrake was able to do to the file size of my five-ish minute video:

As you can see the file size has been shrunken to roughly 1/5 of it’s original size. The great thing about this is that the quality loss (because there is some) isn’t noticeable.

I’ve used this tool to reduce my files on my LMS but also other places like Google Drive and DropBox. I don’t always need to have the highest quality available to me at any one time, but it is nice to easily be able to pull up something on the go without having a massive impact on your data usage.





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