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Announcing Robert Reinhardt's FFmpeg Workshops at Streaming Media East Connect

Steve Nathans-Kelly: I'm about to be joined by Robert Reinhardt, founder of VideoRX, and Contributing Editor of Streaming Media magazine. We're going to be talking about two upcoming in-depth online workshops that Rob is doing on FFmpeg in conjunction with Streaming Media East Connect:

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Steve Nathans-Kelly: Rob, since you're doing a beginning and an advanced workshop, let's start with a question that the beginners might have, which is: Why FFmpeg?

Robert Reinhardt: So, why FFmpeg? FFmpeg is an open-source encoder that you can compile virtually anywhere. You can put it on Mac OS X. You can put it on Windows. More importantly, you can compile it and put it on a Linux server that's running in the cloud so it can fit into your existing encoding workflow just about any way you need it to.

Steve Nathans-Kelly: If I have some experience with FFMpeg, how do I know which workshop is for me?

Robert Reinhardt: I wrote an FFmpeg Diagnostic Test that you can take to see which workshop you should start with. It's not the end all and be all of measuring your aptitude for FFmpeg, but it does cover the material that I am going to be covering in the intro class. So it gives you a sense a of what I will be discussing in depth during the intro class. It's not comprehensive, but it also gives you a baseline for understanding the concepts that I expect you to understand going into the advanced class. So the intro class is definitely suited to someone who's never used FFmpeg. If you've used it just a little bit, I would highly recommend you still take the intro class because we cover everything about the general syntax with FFmpeg so that you know how inputs and outputs work. We get into the codecs, and from a video and audio point of view, it establishes a foundation so that when we move into the advanced topics, we're not stumbling on building blocks.

At the end of the day, I want people to be able to know how to solve the problems that their encoding is going to present them. You need to understand all the fundamentals--and I would say both classes cover fundamentals of different aspects of the tool. The advanced class is going to be covering things like compositing, so that you understand how video filters work. We'll look at audio filters to a certain extent in both workshops. But once you understand how those parameters work, it makes it a lot easier for you to solve your own problems once you have to come up with something that's customized for a very particular problem. If you come out of the workshops with a fundamental understanding of all the key ordering of parameters and FFmpeg and all the filters are available to you, I think you will have a quicker path to success when you're solving your own problems so that you know exactly what to search for. I want people to know what to search for with FFmpeg when they come out of this class so that you know very specific keywords that you wouldn't have known prior to coming into the class so that you'll get right to the root of either documentation or even the track Wiki that FFmpeg contributors maintain.

Steve Nathans-Kelly: Let's talk a little bit about your pedagogical approach. What's it like spending three to six hours with you in an online workshop?

Robert Reinhardt: What's it like? Well, hopefully fun, not that it's a requirement, but I hope that people can stay engaged with my banter during the class. I do like to go down a rabbit holes when it suits the purpose for a demonstration. So I'm hoping that we'll see the same kind of interactivity, maybe even more. I have a feeling that these virtual workshops may encourage people to ask more questions because they can be a little shy about it. Whereas, when we're in person, you're sitting right in front of me. It might be intimidating. I don't think I'm intimidating, but I do think that the virtual classroom may allow people to ask questions more easily because there's going to be a Q & A pod right there.

So, if you have questions while I'm in the middle of talking about something, you can put it into the Q & A pod, and then I'll see it. When we take a break, we can potentially go into that as a discussion. A workshop that's done in person typically follows that format where, when questions come up, I want to finish this particular exercise. That's also the beauty of breaking up this workshop into two sessions. Now it gives us a little more time to address specific questions that students might have. I'm even going to reach out to students ahead of time, and--for anyone who registers within a few days of the workshop--I'm going to email them and ask them if they have particular issues that they'd like to see addressed.

I'm not making any promises for the scope that I can cover, but I want to have a better understanding of what people are hoping to solve. Most of the time when people come to these types of workshops, they have a particular problem that they're trying to solve. They expect to have some kind of real-time engagement with an instructor such as myself. So, hopefully, they get some insight into that. That's what typically happens at a Streaming Media workshop during break time. So I'm hoping we'll be able to enjoy that. And like I said, maybe even to a fuller extent since it's virtual.

Steve Nathans-Kelly: In past presentations, you've described FFmpeg as a sort of "Swiss Army Knife" tool. What does that mean?

Robert Reinhardt: Basically, it means that FFmpeg can save the day. I've been in several situations where an encoding tool wasn't working like I thought it would, whether it would be a hardware encoder or a software encoder, and FFmpeg could be pushing this stream live if we need it to. It's quite amazing how FFmpeg can fit not only into VOD workflows, but also live streaming workflows. So if you've compiled FFmpeg with the right libraries, you can grab from security cameras, you can grab from Blackmagic devices. It's a very versatile tool for you to take a variety of inputs and push out in more than one format. So it's the Swiss Army Knife of streaming as far as I'm concerned.

Steve Nathans-Kelly: Great. So, again, this is Robert Reinhardt, founder of VideoRX and contributing editor to Streaming Media. He's going to be doing two FFmpeg workshops, May 27 and 29 at Streaming Media East Connect. We hope you'll join us.

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