Lunch & Learn: David Hopkins on Kaltura at Princeton

David Hopkins, who manages the Broadcast Center at Princeton, needed a unified, centralized solution for users to upload, store, backup, edit, and share video. Kaltura is an open source video streaming service that has done those things since its launch earlier this year. The Princeton home page, Blackboard courses, social media venues, departmental sites, and other users have greatly increased the amount of video that they are sharing, and Hopkins needed a tool that would meet those increased needs. The goal was to centralize storage, backup and management of video and audio files, and make them available in a variety of formats to meet the needs of a long list of devices.

In the recent past, video and audio at Princeton were typically stored in lots of different places on campus, like Roxen, personal servers or work machines. Serving video from file servers and other places that are not built for video distribution leads to slow performance, low availability, and very often, a loss of the content if the storage is not backed up.

With Kaltura, there are many benefits in a centralized method of management. The large amount of data storage allows for  high quality video, converted into lots of transcoded (one video format converted into other formats) formats of the original video, called flavors in Kaltura parlance. Built-in file management allows people to organize, tag, and find their content. Adding metadata to video and audio content makes it more reasonable to find, manage and organize. The more information (e.g. author, copyright information, title, and description) attached to the video file, the better. Kaltura asks you to add metadata at the time of upload, and allows you to edit the data as you wish later.

The issue of transcoding is an issue when you need to convert an entire library or set of videos, because it is processor intensive and time-consuming — Kaltura automatically creates multiple formats of each item when you upload it, so that if your particular device does not support Flash based video, for instance, Kaltura will offer an alternative that is more likely to work.

Hopkins explained many reasons that Princeton chose Kaltura. Centralized storage and backup is a key reason. Personal, external hard drives are inexpensive, but flawed, and often fail. Moreover, they are not often backed up. Centralized video storage provides a system wide backup, available from anywhere. Companies such as HBO, Best Buy, the NBA and many academic institutions, including some Ivy Plus ( use Kaltura. The code is open source, meaning that anyone who knows how to program in standard languages can make use of the code to meet their own needs ( and share the solutions with others. Kaltura Exchange ( provides an active developer community and marketplace where plugins are discussed, developed, and used to solve needs of multiple users.

The key features of Kaltura include the ability to record a presentation on your webcam and upload it, organize files, add metadata to video and audio, create playlists and customized players, publish to many file formats, and give access, privacy & copyright controls. The access controls are incredibly important. The TEACH act asks publishers to remove copyrighted content for academic courses for teaching purposes when a course ends. Those date restrictions are applied in advance in Kaltura. Video analytics allow video publishers to know how many people are seeing their video. Simple video editing tools allow for screenshots or video captures (vidcaps) and movie clipping. Plugins exist for Drupal, Blackboard, WordPress, and other publishing platforms that Princeton already uses. Kaltura has mobile device specific delivery abilities (flavors, or transcoding types) that allow iPhones, which do not have Flash available, to see a video in alternate formats. Distribution and sharing tools allow viewers to share to Facebook, Twitter, Email, and many other destinations. If you need people to see the video for your event in real-time, live video streaming and broadcasting are possible.

Perhaps one of the most powerful features in Kaltura is its Application Programming Interface (API) set. Ben Johnston, Manager at the Humanities Resource Center (HRC) at Princeton, spoke about his use of Kaltura’s APIs to solve faculty teaching needs. In helping faculty to merge streaming video into their coursework, he works with thousands of files with his team at the HRC, and Kaltura makes it easy to manage and catalog those files. Johnston says that the API has lots of options, and that he tends to learn the functions he needs as projects call for them. Using commands that you send to Kaltura, you can build a web-based interface to load, play, stop rewind, mute, unmute, full-screen, get the timecode, trigger actions at specific times, skip to a specific time, and set a specific duration with all the audio and video that you have rights to in the system.

Recently, Johnston used Kaltura to create screenshots captured from videos. He built a web site that allows students to grab individual frames from specific movies to analyze a shot in that movie. He made a Kaltura player with a screenshot button for students to use to collect screenshots. Without Kaltura, he said, it would have still been possible, but far more difficult.

Systems at Princeton that connect to Kaltura include WordPress, Drupal, SharePoint, Blackboard, Roxen, and BuddyPress. Hopkins invited people to visit Princeton’s Mediaspace,, to see Kaltura-based Princeton content, and to consider what they might do with the system.

The screencast of Hopkins’ talk is below.