One of the sub sites of the Staff Gateway is the Media Library. Over the course of three and a half years the Twynham Systems Team have digitised over 5,000 video and audio clips and these are made available to staff both within the school and at home via password protection. The use of the Media Library is now widespread with televisions and DVD players a thing of the past across the site. Teachers access the media simply by clicking on the asx files shown below which brings up a media player.
Video can also be directly embedded into pages on the Gateway so that these can be directly accessed by students through an in-house built SharePoint Media Player.
Now that we had all of our media files in one location it just came down to the delivery method and media library look and feel which you can see below in the screenshot of our media library. The gateway page show below is made up of 3 elements: the media document library; a search box and a recently added list.
The only thing left to add was the delivery method, this could have been a list with hyperlinks to the videos but the best solution we found was ASX files and example of which can be seen below.
<asx version = “3.0″>
<ref href = “mms://mediaserver/media/4082.wmv”/>
Using ASX files allows you to download the file and place it on any part of the gateway where if we had used a links list we would have had to rewrite the link every time we needed to place a wrapper file anywhere else on the gateway. This also allows us to track our video resources as I stated in a previous post as we numbered the videos rather than naming them so as long as we maintained backups of the ASX files and video files then both could be tied together. We can also tag the ASX files to help with the searches for end users and a good example of this was an old Betamax video with a Volvo car in which all staff knew had a Volvo car but could never remember the title. The ASX file method would also allow hosted solutions of SharePoint to stream their own videos as the wrapper file can point to an internally hosted Windows media server but the ASX files reside on the remote server.
The next problem was enabling backup and restore which is a two part process with the ASX files being backed up on a nightly basis as well as the rest of the SharePoint farms content using Avepoint Docave. The video files were then backed up once a month using Symantec backup exec. We chose once a month simply because of the size and length the job takes to run (Currently three days) the most videos we would lose during a month would be about 20 so which is not a major issue.
I hope you have enjoyed this three part series on streaming media if you have any questions you can always ask via twitter @davecoleman146 or through comments on the site.
Following on from yesterday, at Twynham School we have been delivering our media resources online since 2005. The development which has taken place in the last 3 years has been delivering digital media through SharePoint. When looking at how to deliver media through SharePoint the first thing we discovered was the lack of resources available and in fact the only book we could find on the subject was Windows media services resource kit. This book proved invaluable in providing a set by step guide to media streaming in SharePoint. Before this however the first thing to consider was the physical architecture needed to deliver streaming media.
In early 2008 we had the opportunity to move our resources over to a new setup as we were upgrading our SharePoint farm and it seemed the ideal timing for the move. Below you can see the SharePoint setup we decided on. The application server not only handles the SharePoint indexing service but also windows media services. This was built on a Windows Server 2008 64 Bit install with the application server attached directly to a Dell Power Vault MD3000. The MD3000 had 2 TB of storage and this allowed us some flexibility and future proofing with the onset of high definition video and the file sizes associated with the HD format media files.
One of the reasons for wanting to deliver our media files through SharePoint was the indexing capabilities IN SharePoint. Quite early on we decided to number our video files not name them as naming would leave us open to typing errors and given we now have over 4000 video files all numbered but with no reference to the name. In the next part of this blog series I will tell you how we delivered the video and audio files to the end user and also touch on the important subject of how to backup and restore digital assets
Guest blog post by Dave Coleman Network Manager at Twynham School
Over the next few days I will cover media streaming and how we deliver all of our digital assets through SharePoint. In the presentations that we give on our learning gateways this subject always gets a good reception as this is a great way to engage staff in the whole gateway experience. Before I get into details I thought I would take you through the media streaming journey.
The way we deliver media streaming through SharePoint now is actually version three of our digital media gateway and this all started with the release of windows server 2000. Media services was one of those hidden gems that Microsoft never seem to talk about and so few people in education seem to have installed it. In our set up there are so many other advantages to moving from Windows NT 4 to Server 2000 with active directory and group policy deployment high on the list of big wins. Given this we also put media services on the back burner until the release of windows server 2003 when it was a much more mature technology but still very much unknown. But it was not until 2005 that we started digitizing all the video tapes and DVDs in the school. In many ways we were very fortunate that Dorset County Council decided to reroof the main block of our school during the summer holiday of 2005 and this is where our server room and the majority of IT suites was located. Given this I had find work to cover for the staff during this summer period so a team of 4 set about digitising the entire video stock of the school over 6 weeks from home.
After much research we decided to purchase seven pinnacle studio movie boxes which gave us the ability to connect to any video recorder or DVD player through a scart lead. I also purchased seven video recorders from comet (I am sure the salesman thought I was mad) and a Dell server with 8 drives bays giving us in excess of a 1 TB of local storage on the server. The call went out to staff for their departmental videos in early July and hundreds of tapes turned up which we then divided up and with the help of the techies Christian Drewson, Sylvia Haghighi and Dan Rolles (and even family members!) we started the mammoth task of digitizing the schools video stock. After six weeks we had managed to get over a 1000 pieces of digital media online and delivered through an HTML website on the media server. With the arrival at Twynham School of Darren White we did take the next step and Darren wrote a PHP website allowing us to make the delivery of digital assets to staff more automatic. But it was the next step that was our biggest leap delivering media streaming through SharePoint and I will cover how we did this in the next post.
To finish of this section on Streaming Media in SharePoint I thought I would show you a more visual way to set your media on the page. In part 1 I covered the basic concept of Media Streaming and part 2 showed a demo of our use of asx wrapper files. Of course this works really well but can further add to the document library feel of SharePoint. To overcome this we have created a Media Web Part for SharePoint so that our users can play video directly in the page. Take a look at the video below which shows this.
The Media Web Part for SharePoint can be placed anywhere on SharePoint sites and brings a more visual feel to the pages. In this example I have media files on the right side in asx format but I use the Media Web Part to highlight the video I want students to focus on in that particular week. If you want any further information about our Media Web Part contact me on twitter @mikeherrity or email email@example.com
Following on from my earlier blog on Media Streaming in SharePoint I thought I would put out a Camtasia Video showing the ways in which we present video. The key to placing media throughout our SharePoint site is the use of asx wrapper files which link to our media server. At Twynham we have one central repository for these files, The Media Library, which is administered by the Network Technician who digitises clips. The Media Library is only available to staff who can then place individual clips around their sites to allow students to see them outside lessons. Because only the wrapper file is available to staff and this is a 1Kb file the media server itself is never exposed to anybody outside the Systems Team which prevents deletion of the actual WMV files.
In the Camtasia video above you can see the Media library with a folder system and search functionality. After this you see various sites where teachers have made digital media available such as the Revision Gateway. Streaming Media has had an enormous impact on teachers ability to deliver digital media to students both in lessons and beyond. If you would like to consider support for installation of this product you can contact me using the comments section on this blog, on twitter @mikeherrity or via email firstname.lastname@example.org we can give you a further demonstration using webex.