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Converting VPME 9.1 Training Videos to Run on Mobile Devices

Last week a VPME 9.1 user who has the VPME 9.1 Training Videos asked how he could convert the videos to run on his iPod. He had tried several video converters but hadn't found any that worked.

The user's question piqued my interest and I did some research. To make a long story short, after trying numerous video converters, I found a free product that works. It's Any Video Converter.

While knowing that AVC will do the job may be all you need to know, there's more to this story. If you want to learn more and hear a little bit about the history of ProMatrix training videos, read on.

I used AVC's Mobile Phone Mpeg-4 Movie profile to test the conversion. By default that profile is set up to create MP4s with a 176x144 frame size and 64 bit audio with a 11025 sample rate. I found that the default settings didn't provide satisfactory quality. So, I changed the settings to a 640 x 480 frame rate, 128 bit audio with a 44199 sample rate. My changed settings produced a MP4 file that was 5 times the size of the file produced by the default settings (40,000kb vs 8,000kb) but I thought the quality improvement was worth the increase in file size.

I used the "01_VPME Overview. wmv" video for my conversion tests. That video's file size is 22,680kb. The size of the converted MP4 file is 34,035kb.

While I don't have an iPod, I tried the converted MP4 on my iPhone 4 and my 120GB Zune (yes, I have a Zune and I love it - no cracks Smile), and it played great on both devices. MP4 seems to be the standard for mobile devices these days. For other devices like the iPod, you may need to try a lower frame rate for best results. There is a Pro version of Any Video Converter that sells for $29.95. The Pro version claims to create converted videos that will run on anything, but the free version will probably handle most needs.

While the quality of the MP4s that AVC creates are fine for a mobile device like an iPhone, they are not suitable for viewing on your computer desktop. The quality just isn't good enough for that.

Now, it may be that you already have a video converter on your computer that will do the job. I tried a lot of video converters and most didn't work, but a product I already had, 4Media Video Editor 2 ($49.99), would create a MP4 that would play on my iPhone if I did the conversion in the H.264/Mpeg4 format. A straight Mpeg4 conversion was not acceptable to my iPhone. So, you may want to try whatever video editors you already have.

This user's experience in trying to convert the VPME Training Videos didn't surprise me because when we started creating training videos almost 9 years ago the last thing on our mind was creating videos that could be easily converted to run on a video iPod -- there were no video iPods or iPhones 9 years ago. Aside from creating useful training videos, our number one goal back then was to create videos with a minimal file size so that we could minimize the number of CDs required to hold the complete set of videos. We later moved to DVDs and downloadable videos and continued to find ways to minimize video size without sacrificing quality. So, it's no surprise to me that the videos we now provide can't be handled by most video converters.

We produced our first training videos for VPME 6.0 in 2002. The complete set of videos required 7 CDs. DVDs weren't a real alternative back then because few computers had DVD drives. Downloadable videos were out of the question because most user's internet connections weren't fast enough to download 7 CDs worth of files in a reasonable time.

Finally, in 2006 we moved to DVDs and downloadable videos. The technology available to ProMatrix users in 2006 made that move possible. Even so, we spent a lot of time figuring out how to minimize the size of the downloadable videos without sacrificing quality.

Then, in 2008 we went solely to downloadable training videos. Broadband had become ubiquitous, and people didn't want to wait for DVDs to be shipped to them.

We are going to convert the VPME 9.1 Downloadable Training Videos to MP4s and make them available on the ProMatrix Web. We'll let you know when they become available.

I am posting this article in the Chatter Forum of the ProMatrix Forums so that those of you who have questions or comments can post them there.


Joe Lawson