When you have a class in one of the large auditoriums on campus (specific list available by request), ISS provides a skilled technician to help you smoothly integrate any video clips you want to show during your lectures. The name of the game isminimizing downtime as you shift from your lecture to each of the clips you show to illustrate your points.

In a smaller classroom, when you’re using installed self-service equipment, fumbling with finding just the right two minute segment in that 45 minute video can cost you valuable lecture time, as well as allowing your students’ attention to drift.

One thing you can do to help resolve this is to work with our video digitizing specialists to create DVDs with your important clips pre-cut and organized into groups.

But what if, stored on your hard drive, you have a collection of video files that you’ve collected from various sources over the years? What if many of these have a valuable minute or three here and there, but you don’t end up using them because it feels clunky to load a long video file just to then have to scrub through the timeline to find that valuable moment in the middle of your lecture? What if you’d like to handle this yourself, instead of relying on ISS?

What if you could, with just a few simple lines of text, and the gentlest wisp of file management, make it so that you could instantly get to the exact start of the clip you want in that video file with just a click of the play button?

I am here to tell you that you can!

Here’s what you need:

  • A Windows computer
  • The Notepad text editor application
  • VLC Media Player
  • A calculator

Luckily all these are installed as part of the standard equipment in every self-service enhanced classroom overseen by ISS on central campus!

Before I go any further, I want to first assure you that reading and understanding my explanation of how to do this will be more complicated and difficult than actually doing this yourself. It’s always amazing to me when I find something this simple and powerful.

Here are the steps for preparing your playlist:

  1. Make a new folder and put the video you are cueing into it.
  2. Watch your video in VLC, and note the time cues for your clip’s start and end points.
  3. Using your calculator, convert those hours:minutes:seconds times to seconds only.
  4. Open Notepad and cut and paste these two lines of text into the blank Notepad window.                  #EXTVLCOPT:start-time=0     #EXTVLCOPT:stop-time=0
  5. Replace the zeroes at the ends of the above lines with the start and end cues you converted to seconds in step 3.
  6. Copy the exact file name, including the dot and file type designation, and paste this on a line immediately below the time cues. You can also type it in, but copy/paste ensures that you don’t miss something or make a typo.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 for any additional cues that you want grouped together.
  8. Save this with the file type designation “.m3u” instead of “.txt”.
  9. Make sure this .m3u file is saved into the same folder you created in step one.

The playlist file needs to be able to find the video(s) to which the codes in it refer. Having all the files in one folder ensures that everything will run smoothly. As a bonus, having it all in one folder also makes it that much easier to put it cleanly onto a USB flash drive, or even upload it to a cloud storage site without any concern that you might have accidentally left something out.

If you’d like to see a different version of these instructions see the explanation on the VLC Help site.

P.S. I have it on good authority that this will also work on VLC for Mac computers.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to email me at jimpyke@umich.edu