If you are relatively new to creating a classroom utilizing 21st century technology , you might not know what the need for this program is. What exactly is a file converter? Just like the pieces of paper in your filing cabinet, everything on your computer is a file of some sort. As you and your students start to create media (see my previous post of the amazing 17 year old backyard chemist) you are going to begin generating all kinds of files (pictures, video, music/podcasts, etc).
These files can get really large, and that can be difficult to manage on your computer or the Internet. For example when I first record a tutorial on CamStudio, it can get up to about 30 Megabytes of memory (which is too large to send by Gmail, but not too large to share on Google Docs). When my teaching partner created animated recreations of Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" (Link to video) the files were 100 times larger than that (which was too large for Google Docs or YouTube to accept them for Uploading).
The solution is WinFF, which easily converts your files from a larger file to a different or smaller file so you can share it (Email, Facebook, YouTube, CD/USB Drive, etc). There are a lot of other types of file converters out there but this one has been around for a while and is widely accepted as both the easiest and best out there.
How to use WinFF:
Step 1: Go to WinFF.org, click download (this software only works on Windows or Linux), and install.
Step 2: Start up WinFF and you should see this:
Step 3: Click Add and select your files. I have a couple of video tutorials that I made for my students, but you could add any sound or video file that you have.
One of the features of WinFF that you should take advantage of is the ability to convert more than one file at a time. This can be a blessing when you have 25-300 students' work to convert. If you have more than one file, then just click "Add" and select all of the files before clicking "Open".
Step 4: Now you need to select what you are converting your file to. There are many options but here are the ones I use most often and why.
- Audio - If you click on this one then you will most likely want to click on the menu below it and choose "MP3" from "Device Preset" as this is the most popular choice out there (e.g. iPods)
- AVI - This is the most versatile video format out there. If you send this to someone they will certainly be able to play it or download free software like VLC Media Player to watch it. CamStudio automatically creates your video in this format. Note: These files tend to be the largest so while you gain versatility and quality, you may limit your portability or ability to upload to YouTube if it is too large (more than 2000 Megabytes)
- iPod/iTunes - I mention this as it is so popular but I would actually suggest you do not convert your files to it because you will be unable to play your files easily on other computers or hardware that isn't made by Apple.
- MPEG - Similar to AVI, a little smaller in size and if you want to store subtitles, this is the way to go.
- Quicktime - Another proprietary format by Apple that I would also encourage you to steer clear of for it's lack of portability (requires the Quicktime player).
- Websites - This one has a misleading name, what you are actually converting it to is a format called "Flash" (flv). This format is made by Adobe (the same who created Photoshop) and while it is proprietary, it is so widespread on the Internet that you will have no problems finding a player for it.
- This is the one I use for my video tutorials because it will turn a large file into an incredibly small file suitable for emailing for transfering by USB.
- You may lose some quality so if you are uploading it to YouTube and are under the 2 Gigabyte limit then just keep it as a AVI.
Finally go to the "Output Folder" selecton. This is where you would like your converted files to be saved to. Personally, I always have them go to the Desktop so they are easy to find and then move them later, but if you have IT restrictions on that you might have to use another location so just click that button and choose the appropriate place.
You are ready to go! Just click the "Convert" button and a "Command Window" will popup. If you have never seen a DOS command window before you might be a bit overwhelmed, but don't worry the program is taking care of everything automatically. In fact this is the real program, WinFF is just an easy to use GUI (Graphical User Interface) that does all of the work for you after you set it up.
You can keep working on basic tasks like Email and such but it would be best to leave it alone while it is working. Depending on the size and number of files it could take anywhere from 5 minutes to hours so plan ahead. When it is done you will see this on the Command Window:
and push any key. Then your files are wherever you saved them to. Congratulations you have converted your files!
While that may have seemed like a lot of instructions, it will take minutes to get ready. The potentially long part is the conversion but it is as easy a job as your going to find.
If you need additional advanced features (like frame rate, size, quality, etc) click on the "Options button in the upper right. While the majority of you will never need this, if you have a particular situation then Google "WinFF and ________" and you will find that there are always helpful people willing to share tips (isn't Open Source wonderful).
Now your files are ready to be shared and I look forward to seeing them. If you would like, please post links to an example you are proud of in the comments so we can share ideas and suggestions. Good luck and happy converting!