We signed up for this service called ClickView which allows us to stream videos to any machine on the school network. The idea is quite good, they worry about the Copyright (as long as you get their videos) and all you have to do is install the software on your server, load in the videos and then install the client on all the machines you want to use it on.
It hasn’t all been without issues though, here’s my experiences with it:
Installing the server part was quite easy, we bought a new machine for this task, it’s an i5 with 4gigs ram and a 1tb Hard Drive, pretty much overkill for what we need. Keep in mind, if you’re thinking of going with ClickView, make sure you get a machine with lots of hard drive space and a gigabit network card.
Installing the client was just as easy. ClickView provides an MSI based installer though which does make life MUCH easier though you need to install either DivX or XviD to allow the videos to play. I chose XviD as it keeps out of the way and doesn’t try to install the “DivX Video Player” and other useless crap.
It only took me an hour or so to build/test my “special installer” which (with the help of a batch file) installs ClickView, Xvid and sets it all up to talk to our server (big thanks to the ClickView people for allowing you to set the server with a registry key). If you’re after a copy of my installer, send me an email and I can either send it to you or show you how I made it.
The ClickView software is very intuitive, there’s not much you need to do to get it to work. You can search for videos using key words or browse through the collection. To play a video you just double click on it (you can also skip to a particular chapter of a video).
While it is easy to use, it could be better. When you double click on a video to play it, it will load the first chapter before it starts playing. If you’re doing this on a wireless connection and the first chapter is long (over 10 minutes), it could take a couple minutes before the video even starts playing. This would be fixed if ClickView made a client that streams the video rather than downloads whole chapters at a time.
Another issue with it is that the interface locks up while it’s loading a chapter, while you’re watching a video it starts loading the next chapter, the video will keep playing, but you can no longer use the video controls to pause or control it while it’s loading.
The only other issue I’ve had with the interface is that it looks… average. Most other media players have nice looking bits that fade in and out, ClickView has an ugly green thing that hangs in the bottom corner being ugly.
The method it uses for displaying the video on screen is using a thing called an Overlay. The overlay means the video is sent straight to your video card to decode the video and display it on the screen for you. We use Interactive Whiteboards here so every machine has mirrored video with the projector. The problem we’re getting is that the video card will send the rendered video to the projector and not the monitor, leaving a blank window on the monitor. The fix for this is to tell the nvidia control panel to not provide any hardware decoding for the ClickView program (this setting adds about a minute to the time it takes to set up each machine). I wrote to the developers of ClickView asking about this and they suggested I turn off hardware acceleration for the entire machine (which will affect every other program and is generally a bad idea).
EDIT: There’s an updated version of the client that has 2 different modes, one is the old way that plays it through the client (and has the issues I mentioned above) the other way though is a silverlight player, you can embed videos onto a Learning Management System through this method too, so it’s kinda like a locally stored youtube, so it causes no stress on your internet connection, just the server itself.
The primary school set of videos contains about 400 videos, the secondary school one comes with even more. The selection is good, I found a lot of the old VHS tapes we’ve got are already loaded onto ClickView for us.
They offer a set of extra free videos every term as well as an online store with more. The extra videos however are priced at around $90-$120 each, about 3-4x more than the cost of a DVD. On top of this, they’re always trying to up sell us to their extra services, such as a TV recorder, live streaming and the ability for kids to view videos from home.
This is a little bothering as you pay a heap of money per year for this service and they’re still trying to get more money out of you.
EDIT: We had a trainer come out from ClickView to teach us how to use the ClickView Exchange (it’s really easy), there’s thousands of videos on there on pretty much any topic and it’s all videos that are uploaded from teachers at other schools off Free to Air TV (seriously, there’s a video on *anything* there). The ClickView exchange pretty well moots the point I’ve made above.
When we bought this for our school, the idea was that I would take our entire VHS and DVD collection, convert it for ClickView and then we can get rid of all the DVDs/Tapes and that ClickView would “worry about the copyright for us”.
This is not the case however, even if you own the media you can only convert it to ClickView in certain situations.
This website explains the rules for Format Shifting. http://www.smartcopying.edu.au/scw/go/pid/529
Basically though, if you want to convert a video for ClickView you have to:
1. Make sure you can’t purchase it for ClickView already (this essentially means, if it’s available on the ClickView store, you MUST purchase it from the ClickView store (which in turn will cost you 3-4x the cost of the DVD as mentioned above))
2. It must be used for educational instruction in the near future (you can’t convert it just in case you’re planning on using it).
3. It must not be copy protected. Most commercial DVD’s are copy protected which means in some cases, converting it to ClickView is impossible.
4. You must own a legal copy of the media.
Other Technical Concerns
The codec they’ve chosen for ClickView is the DivX/Xvid codec, this used to be the “cool” codec to use, however these days it’s getting replaced with the h.264 codec (in the mkv container) which allows you to do proper High Definition videos, multiple subtitle tracks, multiple audio streams and gives you much better quality for the size.
That being said, the DivX codec is still pretty good, if they let the videos stream as they play rather than downloading a full chapter at a time it would be a lot better though.
Also when you’re importing videos, they have to a specific format. When importing VHS videos for example, my recorder records into .mov format (as an mpeg4 video), I trim it down to size using MPEG StreamClip and save it as an mp4 (if I try to save as an avi, ClickView won’t read it) and then I use HandBrake to convert it to x264 in an AVI Container (xvid works too).
EDIT: The latest version now supports High Definition, as far as I know they’ve moved to using WMV (but don’t quote me on it!)
At the time of writing, it’s $700 for the server per year plus $2 per student per year for the video library.
For a school of about 500 students, that’s $1700 per year.
Now sure, it does make everything nice and easy, but $1700 per year just so you don’t have to carry DVD’s/TV’s/Videos around?
Paying $700 for the software is pretty steep
It would be nice to see the software licence be a one off cost of $100 and just charge for the video pack because it’s not really a very complex piece of software. They could also add in a yearly fee for support too.
All in all, it’s a great idea, the interface could use some work and the videos could be cheaper but for teaching it’s an invaluable tool.
If you think I missed something or you want to talk more about it, leave a comment or shoot me an email!