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How to Encode (or Re-encode) a Video

Sometimes you have a video file that is too large in file size, has too large a bitrate or simply is a codec type that isn't usable. Knowing how to encode (or re-encode really) a video file can be super helpful in general. With TouchCast, sometimes it's essential to have the right codec before using Video Import (aka Annotate a Video) or adding a Video vApp to your TouchCast.

Learn About Your Video File

To find out the details of a video, it's easiest to download the file to a desktop. You can right click on the file and use "Get Info" on a Mac (Windows offers some equivalent). This will show you things like the File Type, File Size, Codec (H264 is essential for TouchCast) and Dimensions of the video (a 16:9 ratio is typical for width to height).

One thing that's not typically listed is the bitrate. Here's the good news: if you try to add a video vApp that has a high bitrate, we'll warn you (and in the future, we have plans to re-encode video vApps for you so you'll never have to worry)!

File Type

You notice different suffixes at the end of a filename like .mp4 or .mov or .webm -- there are a too many to list actually. Sometimes these file types are a shell (like .mov) and other times they explain the codec (.mp4 suggests an H264 codec, and this is why TouchCast recommends .mp4 files). If you record a video on your iPhone, you'll typically get a .mov file that has H264 encoding. These .mov files work fine in TouchCast. But other .mov files may not when they aren't H264. For this reason, TouchCast recommends .mp4 file types.

File Size

The smaller the video file size and the faster your device, the easier it's going to be for TouchCast to process the video when recording with it (especially if you're using a lot of other vApps with it). An iPad 2 running TouchCast Studio and using Video Import will struggle with a video file size larger than 50mb or so. An iPad Pro can likely handle a 500mb 4k video with Video Import (we'll talk more about bitrate in a moment which is another variable). Sometimes you'll want to re-encode simply to edit or compress the video to make it a smaller size. TouchCast recommends file sizes smaller than 100mb typically. 

Codec

As we mentioned, H264 is essential for TouchCast. A codec is the language the video is encoded so that the video player knows how to decode it (play it back). TouchCast produces H264 videos (.mp4 file types).

Dimensions (aka Resolution)

Videos are typically 16:9 ratio (width to height) but not always. The dimension of your Video Import or Video vApp does not affect TouchCast recording... but you might not be able to make your video fullscreen as TouchCast Studio produces 16:9 videos at 1280x720 resolution. TouchCast recommends 1280x720 resolution but it's not required.

Bitrate

The higher the bitrate, the more information that is stored about the video inside the encoded file. A high bitrate certainly means larger file sizes. Sometimes you can have a short :30 second video that's 1280x720 resolution with a huge file size -- this is a telltale sign that the bitrate is high. A high bitrate can cause problems as it's more information to pass through TouchCast. For instance, on playback of your touchcast if you notice it takes forever for a video vApp to open or the video vApp buffers a lot on playback, this is a sign the bitrate was too high on this video file (in the future, we have plans to re-encode video vApps for you so you'll never have to worry about bitrate)! TouchCast recommends .mp4 videos with a bitrate set to 1.3mb.

How to Encode a Video File

There are many software programs and online services that can encode a video. For instance, you can upload your video file to YouTube or Vimeo and they will automatically transcode your video. Transcode means they will make several new versions of your video so that there is an optimal size for different viewers (viewers' network connections are varied in speed so some people need a smaller video so that it plays well and doesn't buffer endlessly). 

So option number one is to upload your video file to YouTube or Vimeo, and then find the options to download the video file and choose a smaller file size. Just ensure you're getting an .mp4 file back. 

Option number two is to use software like Adobe Premiere or Adobe Media Encoder to encode your video file. Click the links to find tutorials on YouTube on how to use those programs or search YouTube for the software you already own. 

One note of caution: be wary of FREE video encoding tools that are offered online. They typically produce poor video files and often corrupt the file altogether. 

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