ChoralTech: Storing (and Moving) Big Audio/Video Files
Date: May 31, 2013
E-mail is a great tool for sending text and documents to each other, but before too long, you'll run up against one of its limitations: you can't send big files with it. For most users, that's not a huge issue, but when we want to send large bits of audio or video to our musicians, we can get in trouble pretty quick. Gmail, for example, has an attachment size limit of 25 megabytes (MB), which will buy you just over 2 minutes of CD quality audio, or only a handful of seconds of HD video. If we're sending high-quality examples out to our ensemble or accompanists, this clearly isn't going to work. We need an alternative to send out multimedia. Enter two options: File compression and cloud storage.
Take the Air out of the Bag of Chips: File Compression
An easy way to save a little space is to compress a file. Think about the last bag of chips that you opened (if you're not a chips fan, try cereal instead): remember how much of that bag seemed to be taken up with air? If you squeeze the air out and reseal the bag, it would be much smaller. File compression works on the same principle. While computers do a pretty good job of using space efficiently, we can remove bits of code that are unnecessary and end up with smaller files. It's pretty easy to compress files into one of the common compressed (or "archived") file types: .ZIP or .RAR are the most common. You can do a quick search for "How to compress files" to learn how to do it with the operating system that you have on your computer.
The only problem is that audio and video files don't have a lot of fluff in them. Compared to some file types, you're not likely to save the kind of space that would make a difference with e-mail. If you're close to the attachment limit for your e-mail and just need a little squeeze, compression might get you there. For something larger, though, let's try a different method.
It's Raining Media! (In the Cloud)
"The cloud" is a generic term for high-capacity storage that is accessed over the Internet-- in other words, lots of space that can be accessed from anywhere. When you need to get large files out to someone (or a group of someones), the cloud can be a free and easy way to drastically increase your sending capacity. Services like Google Drive (using your existing Gmail or Google Account), Dropbox or Microsoft SkyDrive all give you free storage to a point and let you upload files to a folder that you create. This works just like folders on your computer, and as a matter of fact, each of these have an application that you can use to create a real folder on your desktop that will automatically send files to the cloud account for you.
But once they're there, what do you do with them? Once you have uploaded a file, either through one of these applications or the website for the service, you can choose to share the folder with anyone that you wish. If you know that you send lots of audio or video to your ensembles, you can create a folder and share with all of your musicians and upload files throughout your concert season. They can then download them to their own computers and do with them as they will. This is great if you plan on sending many files over a long period of time, but it does require a little setup to use.
The second option is to use a mailing service such as WeTransfer. If e-mail is like the mail carrier for letters, consider WeTransfer your UPS/FedEx/DHL-- this is the shipper for your major packages. Again, it's a free service, and it also requires no registration. For files up to 2 gigabytes (GB), you can enter your e-mail, the e-mail of whoever you wish to send the files to, and push the button. All of your recipients will get a notification that they can download the file when they're ready.
The Right Package for the Right Content
Neither of these options are going to replace e-mail, but e-mail just isn't the best solution for moving big things like audio and video. As we get more storage and transportation methods, it'll be easier to move huge amounts of data (without having to resort to those all-night CD burning parties for practice tapes). Use one of these options to make it easier to send out the examples that you want to share with your group!