ramen and pickles

science, technology, and medicine served up with some tasty noodles

Educational videos onto your iPad

I’ve written a little bit in the past about how to get medical videos from online onto your local machine.  However, I thought it was a good time to write a little bit more about it.  If anyone has better suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  These are some free and relatively simple options for use on the Mac.

1) Getting videos from online streaming sources like YouTube

Wondershare has a tool that lets you download content from streaming video sites, like YouTube.  I’ve only used the free version which only works with YouTube and is pretty limited in scope, but it works great for getting stuff from YouTube.  They also have a full version which is supposed to let you grab content from a whole bunch of other streaming sites, including Vimeo, TED, etc.


If you don’t want to download any software onto your machine and you want to use a web only tool, there are a few different options out there, but I’ve found that KeepVid seems to sort of work once you can get it started and once you can figure out which buttons are advertisements and should be ignored.  It lets you save streaming video content from sites like YouTube directly to your drive.  It has the advantage of being a website that you can just surf to, although you need to execute java on your local machine.


2) Converting different video file formats to work on your iPad

You can use VLC to play a lot of different video formats, but if you want to load things into iTunes and want to play content with the builtin viewer on the iPad, then you’ll often need to do some file conversion.  I’ve found the Miro Video Converter to be very simple and straightforward to use, and it seems to work with a lot of different formats (including .flv).  You can quickly convert to something which will play on your iPad/iPhone.  You don’t have to worry about a ton of different settings.  Things like Handbrake are powerful tools for doing all sorts of different things, but I never know quite which settings to use.  With Miro, you just drag the files into the window and pick the target device (iPhone, iPad, etc.) and let it go; it will happily chug away and dump the converted videos into a ~/Movies subfolder.  Best of all, it’s completely free.


3) Downloading from SCPD

If you’re a Stanford student taking a recorded course on the main campus (as opposed to say the medical school which has its own recording archives), you might want to be able to download your recorded course videos for use offline.  Unfortunately, they make this very difficult for you, and even if you spring for the premium version of Flip4Mac, it doesn’t handle the saving and conversion to Quicktime well.  However, some smart Stanford students have written a python script to do the automatic downloading.   It’s a bit technical, and you’ll need to know a little bit about programming, i.e. have installed the Xcode command line tools, Mac Ports, etc., but it works quite well.


4) Variable speed playback

Variable speed playback used to be easy on the iPad, but in an effort make things simpler, they removed a lot of functionality, or at least embedded it only in the video Podcasts.  You can trick iTunes into thinking any video you’ve downloaded is a podcast, but there is also a simple, good app, Swift, that works well at speeding up or slowing down videos.  It also has a nice function that lets you flip ahead (or back) a fixed amount with a finger flick.  I have mine set at 30 seconds, so as I’m watching things, I can just flip ahead quickly through things, or jump back if I miss something important.  When running Swift, you just click on the little iPhone like icon in the upper corner and it goes to your regular video library, where you can play the videos in Swift instead of the standard player.


Hope these tips help you in helping you get good quality educational video content onto your iPad, and I hope you can use your iPad to help your learning, whether it is on a beach, on a plane, or on a treadmill.






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