TechEd 2011 Video Encoding Process and Status Update

Update (12 Sep)

All of the session videos are now up and the high-quality video files are linked to the thession pages - Step 11 is COMPLETE

The encoding process is proceeding apace and last I looked, there are 10 sessions to complete encoding - Step 12 is 93%

I now need to a final pass through the system and find any videos that had errors in encoding. I'll do this over the next few days. If you find a session with missing formats or with incorrect links, feel free to leave a note here or directly on the session page.


A couple of days ago, I blogged about uploading and encoding the session recordings from TechEd Australia 2011.

Some people have had a less than optimal experience streaming the videos. That's because the original WMV file for each session is about 200MB and the Smooth Streaming version isn't available yet.

This post is a little more detail on the process itself, as well as a look at where we're at in the process and how long it's likely to be before all of the sessions are up in all their formats.

The Process

  1. Send the Channel 9 team details of the event so they can create an event landing page
    • Create a banner and a bunch of other artefacts to conform to their standard format and to match the theme of the event
    • Get admin access to the site, and then make sure that admin access includes the sub-parts of the site
    • Done pre-conference
  2. Record the sessions (all 160 of them)
    • whatever goes to the screen and whatever comes through the speakers to a 640x480 WMV
    • Retrieve each raw file from each room after each session and give it to the editor
    • Sessions were captured onto a dedicated PC by putting a USB pass-through video capture card directly into the AV stream and using Expression Encoder 4.
    • Done
  3. Top and Tail the recorded sessions (all 160 of them)
    • cut out the 10 minutes between when record was hit and when the speaker started and the 10 minutes from when the speaker stopped to when the stop button was hit
    • Re-encode
    • This was done on-site at TechEd and over the following weekend by one person dedicated to the task (thanks Nick - you're a legend)
  4. Transfer the Edited Files (all 160 of them, about 50GB in total)
    • From the editor to the processing team
  5. Sanity Check 1
    • check that the naming conventions are right and that the files are a sensible size
  6. Retrieve the final decks from the speaker manager
  7. Upload the Slide Decks to Azure Blob Store (all 160+ of them, about 890MB in total)
    • Use a custom uploading app written by the Channel 9 team
  8. Upload the Edited Files to Azure Blob Store (all 160 of them, about 50GB in total)
    • Use a custom uploading app written by the Channel 9 team
  9. Create a Spreadsheet with
    • Session Details (Code, title, abstract, date and time of session, Speakers)
    • Name of the WMV file and the PPTX file (generate a URI based on some assumptions)
  10. Sanity Check 2
    • Check that the URI for each of the files generated in the spreadsheet doesn’t 404 using a link checker I wrote for the purpose
    • Fix any mis-named files, either in the blob store or in the spreadsheet
  11. Send the Spreadsheet to the team at Channel 9 so they can create the individual pages for each session
    70% Complete 
    • This step can be repeated any time info changes, new files are added, etc
  12. Encode the WMV file
    40% Complete
    • multiple other formats
      • Smooth Streaming
      • Low resolution WMV
      • MP4
      • Low resolution MP4
      • WMA
      • MP3
      • JPG thumbnail (multiple sizes) from the first frame of the video
    • Upload the encoded formats back to Azure blob storage and get it out to the CDN
    • Link to the various formats from the session page when they’re done
    • This is all done automatically and asynchronously using background processes. We can monitor the status of the encoding jobs
  13. Deal with exceptions manually
    • Speakers needing session recordings removed/edited
    • File name changes/errors
  14. Explain the process to as many people as possible
  15. Monitor Twitter and the comments on the sessions themselves so anyone who hasn’t read this can be pointed at it

Where We're At

Steps 8 through 15 are repeated as more and more files become available.

Steps 8-10 (file upload) : At the moment, we've uploaded 152 of the video files up to the blob store and 157 of the slide decks, so there are only a few exceptions to track down. We'll call this part pretty much done.

Step 11-12 (update by Channel 9 folk and encoding) : The session details for all sessions, the slide decks for all sessions and the video files from Wednesday and Friday at TechEd have been submitted via spreadsheet to Channel 9 and have therefore kicked off the encode process. The encode process is (as you might imagine) fairly processor intensive. There are 4 machines dedicated to encoding Channel 9 videos and each session takes about 2 hours.

Step 13 (Exceptions) : There have been a few of these, but dealing with them manually has been pretty straight forward.

Step 14-15 (communication) : This post is part of that, but I'm also monitoring the #auteched tag on twitter, the individual comments on the sessions and direct emails to me and the rest of the TechEd team. If you see someone who doesn't understand the process or is wondering about when things will be "finished", please point them here. If you've got questions about any of this, please feel free to leave a comment here and I'll do my best to clarify.

Bottom Line

By my calculation, if the process continues to go as smoothly as it has to date, we should have the rest of the links to the high-quality (but slow to download) videos up by Thursday evening AEST (8 Sep), and the encoding to multiple formats done by Sunday evening AEST (11 Sep). If that changes, I'll update this post.