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Webinar: Using Cloud Storage for Accessible Video

By: Art Morgan

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In this webinar we discuss cloud file storage platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox, and how they can be used to provide accessible video to viewers when you do not have access to an online video platform.

Video Transcript

>> Art Morgan: Hello, this is Art Morgan. Welcome back to our webinar series. The topic of today’s presentation is how to use cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and others to provide accessible video content.

We’ll talk first about the scenarios where using cloud storage services are most appropriate compared to other options, then we’ll review the workflows for making content stored on these services accessible. We’ll go through the pros and cons of various cloud storage services for different use cases, and finally we’ll show an example of how you can make it easier to use accessible video stored on these platforms within your learning management system.

First, let’s start with some definitions. I’m sure everyone is familiar with cloud storage platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox, which are designed for storing files, but not specifically for video. You may not think of them as place to store and deliver video to end users, but with a little bit of advance planning they can actually be a very good option for many scenarios.

For the purposes of our discussion I’d like to separate these platforms into three categories. The first category is what I would call consumer-oriented platforms, like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box. These platforms have features that make it easy for individuals to upload and organize files, even without any technical background or special software. I’m showing Dropbox’s logo as an example of this category.

The second category is what I call enterprise storage platforms. The best example of this is the S3 service from Amazon Web Services, or AWS. These are geared toward web developers, as opposed to end-users. We’ll talk about some of the pros and cons of these two types of services in a little bit.

The third category is hosted FTP servers, or web servers that allow you to upload video files via FTP. I would say this option is kind of in between the consumer platforms and the enterprise platforms in terms of ease of use. FTP is just a method of uploading and downloading files to web servers, and since it’s been around since the beginning of the web there are now many tools and service providers that make FTP server storage a practical option for both developers and end-users. BrickFTP is an example of one commercial FTP service, but there are many, many options in this area. We’ll touch on the details of these options later in the presentation.

So what are some scenarios where you might want to use cloud storage to store your videos rather than YouTube or other video platforms? YouTube is free, up to a point, but there are are lot of potential distractions for your end users, meaning the viewers of your videos, and there are also a lot of limitations that may make YouTube unsuitable for your use case. On the other end of the spectrum there are video platforms designed for educators that can help you create your own private YouTube, so to speak, but they can be very expensive. The other challenge, at both ends of the spectrum, is that the video players provided by these platforms may not be as accessible as you would like, or they may not be as customizable with all the learning features that you would like.

We’ve seen organizations use cloud storage effectively for hosting curated video collections that they make available on their public website. Another common scenario is that a faculty member has created a set of videos for one or more of their courses, but the department or campus doesn’t have a video platform license. Finally, if you want more control over privacy or branding than what YouTube offers and you don’t have access to a high-end video platform, a cloud storage platform can be a good alternative.

Next let’s talk about some questions that you should ask before deciding what type of cloud storage option to use. The first question is who will be uploading video files that need to be captioned? If you have a large number of faculty and staff who will who uploading videos, then you may want to use a consumer-oriented platform like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box, because they have simple and familiar user interfaces for uploading files from your computer. If you’re dealing with a video collection and there is just one person uploading the videos in batches, then one of the enterprise options may be better.

Next, you should think about what video player you want to use. All modern browsers include a native video player that can be used to view video files, and some of the cloud storage services include their own players for previewing video files, but they are typically very basic players that don’t make it easy to add captions or use other accessibility or learning features that we’ve become used to. If you use CaptionSync to caption your cloud-hosted videos you can use the CaptionSync Smart Player for playback, or if you have your own web development resources and you’re building out a new website, there are also other players like the Able Player that you could use for playback.

Finally, think about how will you or your users will request captions and/or audio descriptions. I’m showing on this slide a diagram that I often use to describe captioning workflow integrations. With a video platform like YouTube we can create what we call a round-trip workflow, with the video file being routed to a transcriber and then a caption file being pushed back to the video platform to complete the round trip. However, most cloud storage platforms won’t automatically associate a caption file with a video file, so you need another solution for that last leg. We’ll talk about that in a moment.

Now let’s talk through some specific platform examples. We’ll start with Google Drive as representative of the consumer-focused options. Like all of the consumer-oriented cloud storage options, the upload process is easy. The captioning process is also very easy, because we’ve created a workflow integration that allows you to simply right-click Google Drive files, and submit them for captioning. I’m showing on the on this slide the user interface for the Google Drive integration. Once you select one or more videos for captioning, you’re prompted for the remaining information, such as your desired turnaround time and notes to the transcriber. Google Drive also has convenient security and privacy options, and it’s very inexpensive, as far as video storage options go.

The one significant con to Google Drive is that there is that there are file size limits, including one that makes it challenging to easily caption videos that are larger than 100 megabytes.

Let’s talk briefly about the FTP web server option next. If you’re an individual faculty member creating videos you probably wouldn’t want to set this up yourself, but if you’re an educational technology department this is a very practical option. This uses all the same technology and tools that you’d use to create a website, and the captioning workflow is easy because the video files can accessed via standard URLs that point directly to a video file, which can be submitted for captioning using our List of URLs submission method. The only downside is that FTP servers don’t always have a user interface the makes it as easy to upload and organize your files as a consumer service does. Let us know though if you’re interested in this option; there are now ways to make things simple for your users using FTP.

Finally, let’s touch on the enterprise cloud storage option. This is really just meant for technology departments that have some development resources, but if you do this option is very scalable, inexpensive, and flexible. We’ve seen some teams using this type of platform set up a captioning workflow in less than a day. If you want more information about how to do this, please reach out to us.

The last thing I’m going to show is a benefit that’s common to all of these cloud storage platforms. If you’re hosting videos on a cloud storage platform, you can use our LTI application to allow faculty and staff to easily embed CaptionSync Smart Player videos in LMS pages. Currently this application is only set up to work in Canvas, but it can be adapted to other learning management systems. The way it works is that it adds a button to your rich-content editor for Smart Player videos, as shown in the image on the left. When you click on that button it pops up a list of videos that you’ve captioned, as shown in the image on the right. You just select one of the videos, click embed, and it places the embedded Smart Player on your Canvas page or assignment. Let us know if you want more information on how to use this.

That’s it for this session. Our resource links include a link to our Support Center articles about consumer-oriented cloud storage platforms. We also have a link to our documentation about how to create your own integration, if you want to use one of the enterprise storage options. Finally, we have a link to more information about the LTI application. As always, our support experts are available at, to help with your questions.