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Using Video with Transcribe!

Transcribe! can display most video files, synchronised with Transcribe!'s variable-speed audio playback. Basic help for this is in the main Transcribe! Help, but here are some additional notes. You will find a link to view a video of this feature in action, near the bottom of this page

You do need to have the video as a file on your hard disk first - Transcribe! will not load videos directly from YouTube or from a DVD. This is because there are legal issues involved, and because services like YouTube often change their systems in order to prevent this from working. So if we release a version of Transcribe! which can download from YouTube, it's quite likely that it will soon stop working.

If you have any problems with video then there are also some FAQs here.

Downloading videos from YouTube and other sites

Wikipedia - Comparison of YouTube downloaders - it's entirely possible that this may be more up to date than my list below.

FounderJar - a list showing many ways of downloading YouTube videos.

If you search the web for "download youtube video" or something like that, you will find many options. Some have advertisements which you should avoid clicking on. Also one time I saw a dialog telling me to install an updated driver. You should never accept such a suggestion from a website as it would probably be malware.


Apowersoft Video Download Capture.

VideoGrabber online downloader.

Firefox Video DownloadHelper plugin for the Firefox browser.
When you download a video using this, there is a Settings menu - click the "gear" icon - and you can select different formats and resolutions for the downloaded video. For use with Transcribe! you may find it works best if you avoid mkv and webm formats, and choose mp4 instead.

DVD or BluRay videos

You will need to copy the DVD (or part of it) to your hard disk first, as a video file. There are various programs for doing this, search the web to find one.

Transcribe! 8.6 and later

The current version of Transcribe! uses GStreamer for displaying video, and this means that on Windows or Mac you will need to install GStreamer if you want to handle video. This is easy and free. Click here for information about GStreamer.

GStreamer can handle an impressive variety of video types but if it can't read some particular video then you would have to convert it to a different format. Search the web for a video format converter which can handle the video you've got.

If a video plays jerkily then use Transcribe!'s "Export Video" command to copy it, then load the copy. This works because Transcribe! itself functions as a video conversion program - regardless of the original format of the video, Video Export will always save in a format which I hope is portable and will play smoothly in Transcribe! (mp4 with H264 video and aac audio, with frequent iframes, and a bitrate similar to the original).

Transcribe! 8.5 and earlier

On Windows and Mac, Transcribe! 8.5 and earlier uses QuickTime for video display, which means that on Windows you must install QuickTime if you haven't already - it's a free download from Apple, click here for information about installing QuickTime on Windows. If you are having trouble using a video with Transcribe! then the first reality check is to see if it plays ok in QuickTime Player. If it does then Transcribe! should be able to play it too, and if not, then not. It is possible to install plugins for QuickTime to enable it to play additional formats.

On Linux, all versions of Transcribe! use GStreamer for video display. If you are having trouble using a video with Transcribe! then the first reality check is to see if it plays ok in GStreamer - try the default media player on your system, e.g. Parole or Totem, which use GStreamer. If it does then Transcribe! should be able to play it too, and if not, then not. It is possible to install plugins for GStreamer to enable it to play additional formats.

If Transcribe! cannot read some particular video then there are two options. The preferred option is to install a plugin for QuickTime to enable it to play the format in question, if there is one available - you can search for QuickTime plugins on the web. The second choice is to use other software to convert the video to a format which QuickTime can handle. Converting the format is also useful if the video plays, but jerkily. Transcribe! needs to control the playback speed very precisely in order to synchronise the video with the audio at any speed you choose, and some video formats work better than others for this purpose.

If you are using software to convert video from one format to another, or to copy video from DVD, then you may be able to choose what format to use for the resulting video. Try H264 encoding with frequent iframes - perhaps 1 iframe in every 10 frames.

If you are still having problems then of course another option is to update to Transcribe! 8.6 or later which uses GStreamer instead of QuickTime and which may well work better. However you do need to be running Windows 10 or Mac 10.10 or later, for this.

Special note about YouTube (and other) videos with Transcribe! 8.4 on Windows 7 or 8

I have recently (autumn 2016) been getting a small number of reports from people using Transcribe! 8.4 on Windows 7, of videos downloaded from YouTube which play very jerkily, even though they never had a problem before. After some investigation, I think that the reason is that YouTube is delivering more HD (high definition) videos than before, or possibly has altered the format it uses for HD videos. But do not despair, there are solutions.

First, of course, you should look at Transcribe!'s "System Info" on the Help menu, to see what version of QuickTime you have. Make sure you have the latest which is 7.7.9, see here.

Probably the simplest solution is to update to Transcribe! 8.6 or later on Windows 10, however I quite understand that many people are perfectly happy with Windows 7 and don't want to do that.

Otherwise there are two solutions, one is to use the regular (not HD) version of the video, the other is to convert the format as already mentioned. To help you decide, here are some test files. These are all versions of the YouTube video, downloaded using YouTubeInMP4 (which no longer exists), either regular mp4 or HD.

  1. AndyJamesOrig.mp4 (19 MB): non-HD version as downloaded using YouTubeInMP4.
  2. AndyJamesConv.mp4 (22 MB): the same, after format conversion.
  3. AndyJamesHDOrig.mp4 (39 MB): HD version as downloaded using YouTubeInMP4.
  4. AndyJamesHDConv.mp4 (41 MB): the same, after format conversion.

For format conversion I used Transcribe! 8.6, because the Export Video command in this version always produces a portable and friendly format: mp4 with H264 video and aac audio, with one I-frame (key frame) in every 50, no B-frames, and a bitrate similar to the original. If you have a computer capable of running Transcribe! 8.6 or later then you could use it as a video format conversion utility in this way, or alternatively there are countless video editor programs out there which can do this.

My result with these four files on Transcribe! 8.4 on Windows 7 is that they all play fine except the unconverted HD version, which is very jerky. If you have the same result then there is a reasonable chance that you can solve the problem either by using the non-HD version of the video you are interested in, or by format-converting the HD version. Though of course I can't promise, as every video is different.

About Video Key Frames, and why Transcribe! sometimes has difficulty looping videos accurately and smoothly

A video consists of a series of still frames (pictures) displayed in rapid succession - let's say 30 per second. But a video file does not contain 30 complete independent frames for each second. Instead, it contains some complete independent frames, maybe one per second or thereabouts, or maybe as few as one every ten seconds or even fewer. These self-contained frames are known as "key frames", and the frames between them are encoded as the difference between the previous frame and the current one. This greatly reduces the size of the file since most of the time in most videos, the differences between two consecutive frames can be encoded with less data than is required to encode a complete frame independently. And it works fine for playing a video forwards in the usual way. However if you want to start playing from a random point within a video then you must start from the last key frame before the one you are interested in and then decode frames up to the one you want. This can take as much as several seconds depending on how far from the key frame you are and on the quality of the video. A high quality video has more data for each frame and therefore takes longer to decode.

Most media players deal with this by always starting playback from a key frame, and hoping that you won't mind (or notice). In fact most media players don't allow you to specify precisely where you want to start from, they merely give you a slider you can drag from left to right. However Transcribe! deals very precisely with time and where you are in the track, which is necessary for the purpose of transcription, since video of a player's fingers is not much use if it is displaced by several seconds from what you are hearing. This is why Transcribe! cannot always start playing video from any desired point instantly.

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