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Categories: Video - Overview

Whether you're watching television programs, movies, or home-made videos, combining motion images and sounds can bring back memories. When you tell children that in the "olden days" TVs came without remote controls, a "test pattern" played when no programming was available, and people went to a video store to rent videotapes, they may stare at you with horror. Today's youth grew up watching movies Blu-Ray and their favorite shows on Netflix.

From the news channels to feature films, most people spend some time each week watching video. Increasingly, people are finding that video is available from a variety of sources from broadcast television to digital programming.

Video Formats

From DVD to satellite television and Internet streaming, videos can be viewed many different ways.

In addition to the entertainment value, video is recognized for assisting educators in conveying difficult information and subject matter to their students. It can also supplement classrooms that have limited resources by bringing to them events and materials that otherwise would not be possible. At a fundamental level, video can provide viewers with outside stimulation, broadening their world and extending their commonalities.

Video involves the presentation of images on a screen. It usually includes audio played through some type of speaker system. Today's flat screens and projection systems have become popular ways to view video. However increasingly, smartphones and other handheld devices allow access to video anytime, anywhere.

For decades, motion pictures were stored on film of different widths such as 70mm, 35mm, 16mm, and 8mm. By the mid 1960s, video recorders were used by television stations. Video cassette players were introduced in the late 1970s and by the early 1980s were commonplace. Videodiscs and laserdiscs were also popular for a while in the 80s and 90s. DVDs gained in popularity in the late 1990s. By the early 2000s consumers were watching videos on Blu-Ray. As people increasingly stream their video selections over the Internet, physical formats are declining in popularity.

According to Fortune Magazine,

"there’s certainly no denying physical media sales are declining in the U.S. Sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs fell 12% in 2015 to $6.1 billion, according to the Digital Entertainment Group after an 11% drop in 2014.Meanwhile, digital revenues rose 18% in 2015."

Although consumers are shifting to streaming content, 44% of U.S. broadband households still own a BluRay player. In addition, 15% of U.S. homes don't have broadband making DVDs and BluRay discs still important (Fortune, 2016).

Read DVDs? Blu-Ray? Streaming? Media Access and the Sense of "A-la-Carte"? (February 15, 2013). Public Libraries Online.

Although it's likely that your library may still circulate DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, libraries are quickly shifting to digital video. However if you're involved with archive collections or building digital collections, it's likely that you'll be handling a wide range of video format. Let's take a trip down memory lane to review formats of the past few decades.

Film formats. Most libraries maintained film collections through the 1980s. From 16mm films to film-loops, films were extremely popular. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a projector that will play old films. Unless your library has permission to transfer large collections to a digital format, it's easiest to simply send in the films and have them converted by a reputable company.

Videotape. During the 1980s and 1990s, videotape technology dominated the consumer video industry. A videotape is a ribbon-like, flexible strip of materials that stores magnetic signals. A videocassette is a plastic box that holds the videotape on two reels. The standard VHS format contains an analog signal. At 230 by 250 horizontal lines, it's low quality compared to digital. In addition, the quality of the signal degrades over time as the tape wears. A VCR is used to play the videotapes.

Although there are several videocassette formats such as 8mm and Hi8 have been in use, the most popular for both local production and the distribution of commercial video programming was 1/2" VHS (Video Home System). The primary reason for the VHS videocassette’s widespread use is its affordability. When developed, VHS technology was significantly lower in price than the larger 3/4" U-matic predecessor and also lower priced than its direct competitor, 1/2" Betamax. VHS videocassettes travel at 1.31 inches per second in standard play speed and can store 2 hours of programming on a T-120 tape, 6-hours at the extended play speed. Video is magnetically recorded onto the 1/2" videotape as analog data. Most libraries have eliminated their VHS collections. Like film, it's possible to find companies that will convert videotapes to a digital format. Keep in mind that many commercial videos have already been converted to either DVD or a digital format. It many cases it's less expensive to purchase a new digital copy rather than converting the tape.

Laserdiscs. Laserdiscs are an optical technology that store visual and audio information. This information can be accessed through the control panel on the player, a remote control, a bar code reader, or the computer. Laserdiscs were popular in the late 80s and early 90s, but can still be found in the back rooms of some libraries. Images displayed from a laserdisc are sharper, higher-in-quality than those from videocassette tape, but not as high as DVDs. Laserdiscs do not wear with use and require minimal care and storage consideration. Laserdiscs were 12 inch platters. Most people skipped laserdiscs and moved directly to DVD technology.

DVD. DVDs became popular in the late 1990s. In 2006, the first Blu-ray discs were introduced. Both are still common formats in libraries. However, digital video has replaced them in many settings.

Read the article Infographic: Next-Gen Video Formats and examine the infographic.
What are your thoughts on the next generation of video formats?

smallAnnette's Reflection
How many times do you need to purchase the same video? Gettysburg (1993) continues to be popular with Civil War bluffs. I own it on both VHS and DVD... I skipped the blu-ray version. But when it was on sale recently at iTunes for $4.99, I considered purchasing it again. A quick check of Can I Stream It? shows lots of digital options for this movie.

Keep in mind that many older movies continue to be popular in new formats.

Video Distribution

A number of video distribution systems are used to bring programming into homes, schools, and libraries including local and remote access.

DVD and Blu-Ray discs continue to be distributed by many libraries depending on the setting.

Broadcast television is an audio and video transmission sent through the airwaves and received through television receiver. It delivers both commercial and noncommercial network programming such as ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS. Librarians frequently record programs from a network like a news broadcast, a documentary, or popular situation comedy, and use by their users. NOVA and Scientific American Frontiers are two examples of popular science programming that is often used in the classroom. These broadcasts are free to those who are in an areas where they can receive the digital signal. On the other hand, much of this programming is also available through the websites of television stations. As a result, an increasingly number of people are simply streaming the online version.

Cable television is an audio and video transmission sent through a cable and received through a television. It was first developed to bring broadcast network programming into isolated communities where households were unable to receive television programming. Today, cable systems exist in most areas. In addition to network channels, cable systems provide programming such as Discovery Channel, History Channel, A&E, AMC, Family Channel, C-Span, CNN, Nickelodeon, Disney, and The Learning Channel. Premium channels such as NFL network, HBO, ShowTime, and others are offered at an additional fee. These networks are not available from regional broadcast stations. A basic fee is charged for access to this service. Additional fees are charges for particular channels or packages of programming. Broadband is an extension of this service and provides a combination of television and Internet services.

Satellite television is an audio and video transmission uplinked through a satellite system and received by a satellite dish. Cables and a receiver box connects the dish and the television. Some systems even build-in two-way video communication, by including video origination and uplinking capabilities along with reception capabilities at all sites. The programming for satellite television is similar to cable television. Major network stations are only available to people in qualifying areas. Many home users DirecTV or DISH.

Most television programming is offered using an established schedule. However, most cable and satellite services now offer on-demand programming. Users access a database of programs that can be selected and played based on an expanded schedule or instantly on request. Most users are incorporating DVR (digital video recording) options into their packages allowing them to record programming for later viewing.

Closed circuit television (CCTV) systems are small, wire or fiber optic cable distribution systems within a single building or within buildings of an institution or an organization. CCTV systems are not government licensed; they are unregulated. Schools and universities sometimes use their own CCTV network to carry programming to classrooms throughout their buildings.

Downloadedvideo is copied from a remote web server onto a storage device such as the hard drive of a computer. It can also be stored on a smartphone or other device. The major disadvantage of downloading video is speed. It can take hours to download high-quality video using a slow Internet connection. In addition, video takes up storage space. The major advantage of downloading is availability. Once the video is on your hard drive it can be viewed over and over again.

Streaming provides video over a data network. Streamed video is also downloaded from a remote web server, but the files are only temporarily stored while they are being played. In the past, video programming on the Web was limited to brief video clips. However with the advent of faster connections, streaming video has become a popular alternative to broadcast, cable, and satellite options. Most of the popular video services such as YouTube and Hulu stream their videos.

What is streaming video?

“Streaming video is a method for delivering video content through networked devices, which does not involve downloading that content. Streaming video files are hosted on a server and require the end user to have software capable of decoding the file installed on his or her device. Such software includes QuickTime, Windows Media Player, Real Player, or applications specific to sound of video card vendors. When an end user accesses a streaming video file that exists on a library server, the file is not transferred permanently to the user’s device. Multiple users can view the same title at the same time, pause, stop, rewind, and - in some cases - make clips of the files for future use.” (Duncan & Peterson, 2014, x)

Why streaming?

“Streaming is a convenient way for patrons to be able to access video content. It offers faculty and students much greater flexibility in when and how they watch video content and how they use it in their classes and assignments. Acquiring subscription-based streaming collections provide access to a much larger variety of titles than even the largest library would be able to develop and manage as a physical collection. Finally, delivering video content online slows the growth of the physical collection and can relieve demand for high-use items.” (Duncan & Peterson, 2014, x)

Websites such as Zamzar and Vdownloader can be used to download videos from some services. However it's important to check with each service to see if downloading is permitted under the Terms of Use.

try itTry It!
Go to the Dalai Lama video page. Pick a video. Notice how viewers have the choice to stream the video on YouTube or download two different qualities. The page also provides information about downloading.
Which of the distribution systems have you used?
Which do you see as the systems of the future?
Which do you see as part of your "collection"?
How will you provide access to videos on topics of interest to your library users.

Strengths and Limitations of Video Technology

Due to its ease-of-use, affordability, and reliability, video use has become one of the most often-used technologies in the library. Its fundamental strength is to convey motion sequences. It can bring remote experiences from all over the world into the library. Library users can visit other countries and study the culture of other peoples. Through reenactments and dramatizations, viewers can be mentally transported into different times and different worlds. The medium can also be used to display fictional events and scenarios that can be used to help learners explore their feelings and attitudes about situations.

Video can be used to spark library users to pose solutions to practical and theoretical problems. Through motion, television can display any number of processes, showing the learner exactly how something is done. Learners can be shown a specific skill by an expert. It can give them a close-up, first-hand view, and show them important details as in a microscopic view of cell-life or a surgical procedure. Views from extreme distances can also be shown, such as when a telescopic lens is used to show distant views of another planetary object.

The technology can alter the time frame of events. It can be used to analyze the movements in a tumbler’s somersault by slowing things down (slow motion), or speed events up (time-lapse) in order to watch a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. Animation can be incorporated, altering both time and space, to simulate movement or give movement to inanimate objects. Video can provide a safe observation distance by physically relocating the learner away from potential danger. The viewer can observe an explosive chemistry procedure or travel inside a tornado.

The combination of moving images and sounds can inspire, relax, or teach. Watching a feature film may bring a teenager closer to a great grandparent, promote an act of kindness, or inspire a career change. After watching a movie like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, a viewer might be inspired to watch other movies based on their favorite books. Although reluctant students might not read Pride and Prejudice, they may watch the movie.

Along with the many strengths of video, there are also a few limitations. From "copycat" crimes associated with movies to accusations that television promotes obesity, some people like to blame video for the problems of society.

Another issue is video distribution. On-demand, streaming video requires access to high-speed Internet access not available to all citizens.

For some video distribution systems, the viewer has little useful control over how the material is viewed other than changing the sound level or turning it off. Some services embedded commercials and other types of marketing into their videos. Video programs can lead to misinterpretations, either intentional or unintentional. Inaccurate documentary presentations can be taken as absolute. Brief clips can be edited and placed within sequences to give inaccurate representations.

The equipment necessary for the reception and recording of video is available at a relatively low price; however, the cost of producing quality programming can also be a limiting factor. Moreover when libraries do invest in the needed equipment to do professional production, they are often unable to commit enough people, time and other resources for the effective design and development of quality programming.

Subscription-based Video Services

The digital collections and services on this page aren't exhaustive. Instead, they represent general audio and video information sources you should know. In other words, if a library user asks how are Amazon Prime, HuluPlus, and Netflix alike and different? You should be able to jump right in with an answer without needing to do extensive research.

Subscription-based and Licensed Entertainment Video

Although these services provide some educational programs, they are mostly aimed at the general public.

Subscription-based and Licensed Documentary/Educational Video

Open Access Video Resources

From huge digital collections to small, focused websites, there are endless online video resources to explore.

try itTry It!
Browse the videos at Ted Talks and Khan Academy
Think about how they might address an information seeker's needs.

Popular Video Sharing Services

Streaming video has become one of the most popular uses of the Internet. You're probably most familiar with services such as YouTube which is also owned by Google. Many organizations are using services such as YouTube to host their content. It's easy to get lost in the endless video clips available.

An overlooked aspect of YouTube is the many high quality educational and government channels. Look for YouTube channels that are focused on your area of interest:

Programming is also available for children such as Storyline Online: YouTube Channel. Famous actors read picture books aloud. Below are a few geared to children and teens:

Check out a few YouTube channels focusing on historical footage:

The WatchKnowLearn website does a great job of organizing YouTube videos by subject area.

YouTube is filtered in some school libraries, but there are alternatives that provide content such as SchoolTube and TeacherTube. In addition, many schools have worked with YouTube to provide limited offerings for students.

Keep in mind that there are also many other video sharing sites such as Vimeo. Increasingly, services such as Hulu are streaming entire broadcasts of popular programs. You can also watch many episodes of television programs at the network websites.

try itTry It!
Explore 100 Incredibly Useful YouTube Channels for Teachers. Also, check out 47 Alternatives to Using YouTube in the Classroom. Get an account at youtube and subscribe to some channels.

The WatchKnowLearn website does a great job of organizing YouTube videos by subject area.

try itTry It!
Go to Wikipedia for a comparison of video services.
Explore alternatives to YouTube for video sharing.

Television Programming

Could you watch the Weather Channel or Food Network all day? Are you a fan of Gilligan's Island or CSI  returns? Maybe you're involved with longtime favorites like Doctor Who. Through sporting events, soaps, sitcoms, reality shows and dramas, you can experience people, places, cultures, and ideas from around the world.

There are two ways for people to experience television programming. First, they can watch the scheduled shows presented through broadcast, cable, satellite, or webcast. Second, they can enjoy video recordings that can be purchased on DVD, downloaded or streaming through online services, or recorded through digital video recorders (DVRs).

Increasingly television shows are accessed through open source, on-demand, and subscription services.

Television Programming

Dozens of producers develop hundreds of programs each year. Some programs are watched millions of times, while others gather dust on the shelf. Like the film industry, there are a wide range of television genres including dramas (science fiction, fantasy, horror, cops), reality shows, action, soap operas, game shows, sports, sitcoms, animated, music programs, music videos, children's, news, weather, documentaries, instructional, educational, talk shows, variety, religion, infomercial, miniseries, reality, and more.

Video Recordings

Entertainment Series. Past and present popular television series are now available on digital video including classics and current programs. Series are popular in libraries. People like to hold television marathon parties or spend a rainy weekend with a series. In some cases, people prefer the video format over broadcast television because they are commercial free. They can also be viewed all at once rather than stringing it out over days or weeks.

Specialty Shows. People like to purchase television programs that aren't available in all areas. For example, some people don't get HBO. Programs like epic miniseries From Earth to the Moon and Tuskegee Airmen are examples. The program's website often contains additional information and resources beyond the video. Public television and particularly Ken Burns are know for great documentaries such as The National Parks: America's Best Idea.

Many libraries purchase these types of programs for people who don't subscribe to specialized television services, don't want to record them for later viewing, or simply missed the programs when they were aired.

Television Websites

Television websites are useful in identifying programming and availability.

Television Advertisements

Live, Real-Time, or Archived?

smallAnnette's Reflection
Live programming is particularly popular during special events.

I remember watching the NASA channel for the Mars landing.

CSPAN is a great way to access live government programs.

Many websites advertise "live streaming" or "real-time webcasts". What do these terms mean?

Webcast refers to all kinds of programming played over the Internet. For instance, the Library of Congress Webcasts page contains links to a wide range of live and recorded programming.

Streaming refers to the technical process of sending audio and video through the Internet. The audio and/or video play more quickly than traditional downloading

The word "live" can lead to confusion. Some people call streaming media "live" because it plays almost immediately rather than waiting for a download. Although it's accurate to say that you're listening to the webcast "live" as it is being downloaded, it's often not actually a "live webcast".

Real-time events are live programs, archived events are recordings of live events, and packaged programs often contain elements that were recorded live. For example, you can listen to a basketball game as it happens, a recorded version (delayed webcast), or an edited version. It works just like television.


Online Programming

Online programming includes real-time events, archived events, and packaged programs. While some live events are accessed through web browsers, others through mobile app.

Real-time events. Real-time events are viewed as they are happening. In some cases, people can even interact with the event. Interaction is generally referred to as video conferencing. Exploratorium Upcoming Webcasts, and NASA TV are just a couple of the organizations that host webcast special events. The Annenberg/CPB and CTV are available 24/7.

Delayed webcasts. Sometimes programs are shared the same day they are recorded. This is often the case with sporting events or current news programs. The past programs are then archived.

Archived events. Many times real-time events are recorded, archived, and can be played back later. The TEDconferences are a great examples of this. For historical videos, go to Archive.org.

Many streaming websites allow users to watch to real-time events as well as watch the recorded, archived version later. For example, you can choose programs in the Video Gallery from NASA's Multimedia section.

See and listen to Booknotes programs in their entirely at the archives. Watch BooksTV programs on adult and children’s topics.

Packaged programsPackaged programming has gone through post production. In other words, they have been edited. These packaged programs may be full-length or simply clips from the entire work. For example, you can view news features from National Geographic News. You can also watch PBS NOVA Programs including Life's Greatest MiracleCracking the Code of Life, and Cancer Warrior. You can also purchase these programs on DVD.

Go to PBS Video or PBS Kids Video to see what's currently available. Watch a program. How does this experience to compare to watching it on traditional television?

CombinationsA few television stations provide webcasts of their programming. Some stations are on 24 hours a day. These are often a combination of real-time events, archived events, and packaged programs.

Educational Projects. Many national projects use a combination like this.

K12 ProgrammingMany schools are developing their own streaming video webcasts. The best example is CHSTV at Carlsbad Unified School District, CA.

Streaming Video Webcasts

Real-Time and Archived Streaming Programs

Archived Programs

Library Webcasts

Live Cams

Do you want to see what's happening right now in Hawaii, China, or your local school? Check out a web cam. These are cameras that have been set up to display a live picture. They may be still pictures, delayed pictures, or live, real-time feeds.

Read Dreier, Troy (September 2015). NASA streams the universe. Streaming Media Magazine, 18-20. Available through IUPUI.

Videocasting and Vlogging

From vlogs to videocasts, there are many video resources available through videocasting. Webcasting, vlogging, videoblogging, and video sharing are all ways to share video-based content on the web. In most cases, those who share video encourage viewers to respond to their work by adding comments or providing suggestions. Learn more at Wikipeida: Video Podcast, Wikipedia: Vlogs, and Wikipedia: Webcast.

Webcasting or Videocasting: Video recordings can be uploaded to the web and linked from blogs or other websites. These videos may be streamed or downloaded to computers or handheld video devices such as an iPod.

Vlogging: Sometimes web-based videos are embedded as the main content of a blog. These are called vlogs. One of the best known is the Vlogbrothers featuring popular YA author John Green.

Open Access Video Collections

Watch and listen to an elderly man discuss his life in a concentration camp in WWII, analyze a chemistry animation, or review a shuttle mission. These are just a few of the learning experiences you can have with video clips. Besides serious uses of video, you can also watch the preview for the latest Harry Potter movie, catch clips of your favoriteStar Trek episode, or instance, iTune is one of the best places to see movie trailers.

Go to PBS Learning. This free service provides access to video clips that complement learning.

Many video clips are available through the Internet. Rather than full programs, these materials are short, easy to manage digital video files. Some files are only few second, while others may run for an hour or longer. Although most people start with YouTube, there are many individual websites that contain video also.

Websites with Video Clips

Culture, News, Speeches & Interviews

General Video Sources

Open Access Collections

Popular YouTube Channels

Connect history with music through music videos from History for Music Lovers with songs like Renaissance Man or French Revolution. Make your own!

Most of the popular publishers have YouTube Channels. These are a great source for book trailers:

Subscription-based Video Collections

Digital distribution companies provide access to subscription services. Some of these services such as OverDrive focus on a wide range of options such as audiobooks, music, and video. Others like Discovery Education are known primarily for their video and educational services. Librarians should check with their regional associations and state representatives to see what services might already be available.

Popular Public Library Subscription-based Services

Below are a few examples of popular services offered by public libraries. These services are often available through state or regional consortium.

Read Holzberg, Janene (October 8, 2015). Maryland’s Howard County Library expands access to free online education tools. ilovelibraries.

Popular University Library Subscription-based Services

Many university libraries offer subscription video services. The specific offerings are normally connected to the disciplines offered in the college programs.

Available through IUPUI and/or Inspire:

try itTry It!
Spend some time exploring each of the subscription-based collections above.
1) Explore what's available and how the service works.
2) Visit your public library online and note what video services are available. If you live in the Indianapolis areas, you have access to Overview eVideo, Freegal eVideo, and Hoopla.
3) Visit the IUPUI library online and note what video services are available.

Video Chat and Conferencing

“Video chat is very popular among Internet users, but not so with libraries. The authors found only two out of the 362 institutions employing Skype, a software program allowing for synchronous video communication. One college library advertises Skype on the library's website to provide distance reference service for international students. In the second case, a reference librarian lists his Skype ID in his contact information. In spite of these welcoming efforts by a few librarians, video chat is not being used as a reference service… . Even though video chat was not a popular tool in 2013, it might be more common place in the near future." (Yang & Dalal, 2015).

Would you like to visit lions at the San Diego Zoo, artwork at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, or museums around the world? Video conferencing, or interactive video, provides two-way audio and video opportunities. In addition to interacting with people in remote locations, videoconferencing is also used for college coursework and professional development activities, telemedicine, and remote laboratories.

Access Points

Many schools and libraries have access to state, provincial, or regional video conferencing networks. For example, teachers in Indiana work together with the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration to access, plan, and facilitate videoconferences. Use the Program Search to explore the varied types of programming available. Many people also use the Internet for video conferencing.

There are a number of ways to access video conferencing systems and equipment.

Video conferencing rooms. Some systems are housed in a special videoconferencing room that contains fixed cameras, monitors, microphones, and wiring. The room may contain an instructor's unit, document camera, and other hardware and software for teaching and learning. This is common in schools and libraries where courses and meetings might be held regularly.

Portable video conferencing systems. In some cases, portable equipment is used. For example, a cart might contain a monitor, camera, microphone, and computer. This video conferencing cart can be moved from room to room and plugged into wall outlets.

Web video conferencing. Finally, some systems use the Internet. This is often referred to as desktop video conferencing. In this case, a regular videocamera, or webcam, is hooked to an individual computer. Sometimes a large monitor is set up for a small group.

Software such as Skype can all be used for point-to-point web video conferencing; some of them work for multi-point video sharing.

Point-to-point video conferencing involves sharing between two computers, while multipoint sharing is between more than two. With point-to-point you simply need the IP (Internet Protocol) address of your computer and the computer on the other end of the system. A reflector or mirror site or web server is required for multi-point sharing.


Rasmussen, Diane (2012). Knowledge and Information: Indexing and Retrieval of Non-Text Information. Water de Gruyter.

Duncan, Cheryl & Peterson, Erika Day (2014). Creating a Streaming Video Collection for Your Library. Rodman & Littlefield.

Thelwall, M., Kousha, K., Weller, K., Puschmann, C. (2012). Assessing the impact of online academic videos. In G.W. Wulff & K. Holmberg (eds.), Social information research, 195-213. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Yang, Sharon Q. & Dalal, Heather A. (2015). Delivering virtual reference services on the web: an investigation into the current practice by academic libraries, 41, 68-86.

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