After the video capture experience at the Borland Conference (see this blog entry for more info) I've done some more experiments. I really find instructional videos to be a very informative and direct way to provide training on a development tool like Delphi. Showing live demos is what I do is most of my classes, in which slides play a very limited role. Of course, capturing these videos and editing them a little bit takes time. That's why I'm trying to figure out a way to make a little money in the process, enough to pay for the time devoted to it.

Enter Google Video. In theory, this service provides all I need: (almost) unlimited downloads of free videos and mechanism for selling videos on a per-view/per-day or on a permanent basis, the possibility of downloading a video file (using their custom palyer) for plyaback on the PC or online viewing with the browser. This sounded exactly what I was looking for. Well, the pay-per-video service is currently limited to given parties, but it should be a matter of time before this is opened up a little more.

The problems with Google Video are on the technical side. The system is optimized for real videos, not screen captures. It uses very strong compression and delivers rather poor quality, in my opinion. This might be OK on a general purpose video, but doens't work for a PC capture in which a user should be able to read the actual text on screen. Aftrer a mail exchange with Google Video technical support people and some trial and errors, I've figured out that for good quality video capture you have to go down to a resolution of 480x360 for the video player, while the embedded (flash) player uses 320x240 native resolution.

So I've made an experiment and captured this demo video of my screen (while I was playing with Delphi 2006 live templates) captured at 480x360. If you download it to the video player, it will look OK (dont' care about the audio as the PC fan caused a lot of noise during the capture). In the browser it looks far from good, but not too bad. When I tried at a larger resolution (640x480) the result was far inferior and barely understandable, as you can see in this other demo (spoken in Italian, again download it to see it at a slightly better resolution). I also uploaded one of the Borland conference files, but the resolution was much higher (1024x768, I guess) and it is totally unusable. I've seen a few other PC video captures on the services (like some from Keystone Learning, see this one for an example) that are equally unreadable (they also have severe audio problems).

As working in Delphi 2006 at 480x360 is a totally frustrating experience, for now this is a roadblock. Any alterantives to sugggest? I could of course set up my own video streaming server, but managing the payments would be a lot of work and I probably won't have enough bandwidth (still, I could try an open source Linux streaming server if I could fine one!).

I could revert to the classic DVD-based video training model, but having to produce an entire DVD with tens of hours of captures before you make a dollar out of it scares me a little. And people won't be able to buy only the videos they need or want to try out. Also, not living in the US, I'd have to find someone to manage shipping and handling for me, which adds extra costs. Rather than in this direction, I looked for services similar to what Google is offering but with better resolution, but could not find anyone (well besdie a couple of very expensive ones that provide only free streaming).

So I'm very open to any suggestion/experience you might have. I would like really to work on this area and I'm looking for a solution. Feel free to post a suggestion here or to email me on my marco.cantu GMail account.