WordPress 3.9 + Audio/Video

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Previous posts on Make/Core:
Audio / Video 2.0 Update – Media Modal 
Audio / Video 2.0 Update – Playlists 
Audio / Video 2.0 Update 
Audio / Video 2.0 – codename “Disco Fries”

If you remember WordPress 3.6, we were scrambling to make Post Formats work. They did not, so they were dropped. What remained in the aftermath was rudimentary support for audio and video. You could display one audio file at a time and/or one video file at a time using a shortcode. Good, but not good enough. WordPress 3.9 has a TON of improvements, several related to visual editing, media, and a second pass at defining what audio and video can do in WordPress.

HTML5 audio and video on the web are still the Wild Wild West, I viewed 3.9 as a way to help tame the beast.

Media code from 3.5

Koop wrote an astonishing amount of beautiful Backbone-driven code in WordPress 3.5 related to overhauling and rethinking Media in WordPress. Gregory Cornelius, Andrew Ozz, and I spent the better part of 3.9 swimming around it and its relationship to TinyMCE. While there isn’t a ton of written documentation for media, I did fall on the sword and added JSDoc blocks to every class in media-views, media-model, and media-editor JS files. It is now possible to follow the chain of inheritance for every class, which is 7 levels deep at times. We’ve also built some new features, and learned how to interact with these existing APIs.

TinyMCE Views – Visual previews of your media

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 2.26.34 PM TinyMCE is the visual editor in WordPress. Behind the scenes, the visual editor is an iframe that contains markup. In 3.9, gcorne and azaozz did the mind-bending work of making it easier to render “MCE views” – or content that had connection to the outside world of the visual iframe via a TinyMCE plugin and mce-view.js. A lot of the work I did in building previews for audio and video inside of the editor was implementing the features and APIs they created. gcorne showed us the possibilities by making galleries appear in the visual editor. Everything else followed his lead. Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 2.26.00 PM

Themes now have proper CSS

We went back in time to the last 5 default themes and added the basic styles necessary for audio and video to behave in a unified way. Meaning, if you switch from TwentyEleven theme to TwentyFourteen: videos should always have the same aspect ratio. Same goes for the admin, the video should always appear with dimensions that are predictable.

<audio> and <video> are now responsive

Because of the above CSS changes, audio and video are responsive throughout WordPress and on mobile. Win.

Attachment Pages

If I asked you the question – do players automatically appear for audio and video files on their respective attachment pages? You might answer, of course they do! … they did not, they do now!

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Chromeless YouTube

MediaElement supports the playback of YouTube videos without the look and feel of a YouTube player. This is great because the style of the video player will match the style of your other players.

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MediaElement updated

MediaElement.js has been updated to the latest and greatest version. HUGE thanks to John Dyer for working so closely with us and accepting pull requests when we badger him on random Saturday afternoons.


Turning mp3 URLs into players is awesome and happens automagically in WordPress now. But what if you are sharing an entire album of your band’s tunes, or sharing your music recital on your website? Rendering 10 separate players is visually weird. We already have “galleries” for images, can we reuse the admin UI for those and make it work for playlists of audio or video files? We can (after some sweat and tears), so we did. I remember staying up all night in 2006 trying to figure out how to put my band’s music on our website. If even a niche user base of musicians are able to publish their music because of this feature, it will have been worth it.

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Manage Shortcodes

Your audio and video shortcodes now have live previews in the editor, but that’s not it… you can now click the preview to pop open the media modal and edit your content. Once there you can:

  • Add alternate playback formats for maximum native HTML5 playback
  • Add a poster image for your video, if it wasn’t done automatically on upload
  • Add subtitles to your video

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It’s pretty slick.

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Core Changes

Some other cool little treats:

  • Featured Image is turned on for attachment:audio and attachment:video = when you upload your audio and video files, if the files contain cover images, they are automatically slurped for you, uploaded, and associated as the featured image for the media file. Meaning: you will automatically have a video poster image, or your audio playlist will display the album cover along with the track.
  • Images in ID3 tags are stored via hash to prevent re-uploading = if you upload 10 tracks from an album that all have the same album cover, only one cover will uploaded and associated with all of the tracks.
  • Artist and Album are editable = your media item’s title is always used as the “song title,” but now, if your item did not contain metadata for artist and album, you can set it on the Edit Media screen.
  • The old “crystal” icon set for media items has been updated and MP6ified. They look WAY better.

Have fun with WordPress 3.9 🙂


Stream “Under African Skies” (Paul Simon / Graceland documentary)

There’s an amazing documentary about the making of Paul Simon’s Graceland called Under African Skies that was released recently, as Graceland was just reissued as a celebration 25 years after its original release.

Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the journey of his Graceland album, including the political backlash he received for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa designed to end the Apartheid regime.

Stream the whole thing for free (!!!):


Here’s a trailer:

Movies v0.4, now with MediaElement support!

Just checked in v0.4 of Movies.

In the past couple months, I have learned a LOT about dealing with video on the web. I would describe the experiences I have had as “bone-crushingly painful,” “annoying,” and mostly “a gigantic waste of life.”

In my work building sites with WordPress, and with the work I have done at eMusic, I have been trying to find a default solution to use for video that works cross-browser / cross-platform / everywhere. Something painless, beyond easy, that degrades gracefully.

Here are my observations so far:

  • Ogg Theora (the video codec Firefox supports for native HTML5 Video) plays like hell in Firefox (or I’m encoding it wrong… nah, it plays like hell in Firefox)
  • Flash is mostly better than HTML5 Video in all cases except for WebKit browsers
  • a unified UI is way more important than broad HTML5 support
  • Flowplayer (VideoJS‘s Flash-fallback) is a bag of hell
  • MediaElement gets more right than VideoJS

Accordingly, I have made MediaElement the default player for Movies. You can still use VideoJS by editing one line of  code in the plugin file (you will get an admin warning that makes this painfully obvious) if you want, but I am going to recommend that MediaElement wins this fight.

I haven’t abandoned VideoJS. I updated the JS/CSS to the latest release, and I will keep a watchful eye on their development.

Because MediaElement maintains a consistent UI, I am only setting the MP4 source for the Video tags that are rendered. Flash beats Ogg Theora to a pulp in Firefox – it is sad by how much.

I have also added a new function to the Movies API (the_flash_video()) which will render only the Flash embed code on the page (no HTML5 Video tag) if that is what you desire. I found a use case for this when working on a Theme I am porting from Tumblr – stay tuned.

“Movies” plugin now supports WebM

I just checked in version 0.3 of “Movies,” my HTML5 Video plugin for WordPress. When used with Shuffle, you can now associate an Ogg Theora file, a WebM file, and an image with an MP4 (H.264) file to load into an HTML5 Video player (built on top of VideoJS) that will play native Video in browsers that support it (most of them that aren’t IE, and IE9) and use the MP4 and Flash for browsers that don’t (old versions of good browsers and all versions of IE, minus IE9).

I spent half of the day trying to install ffmpeg on the command line to encode videos into WebM, but I failed miserably/then realized you can encode WebM files with Firefogg, the same tool that is used to encode Ogg Theora files: just select “vp8” instead of “theora” in the video codec dropdown. Easy!

Go here to see what’s supported where: http://diveintohtml5.org/video.html#what-works

My previous post on Movies: http://scotty-t.com/2010/11/24/new-plugin-movies/

New Plugin, “Movies”

UPDATE: Movies now supports WebM

Full disclosure: I know there are other HTML5 video players available as WordPress Plugins. I also know Daryl Koopersmith just wrote a plugin for VideoJS cuz he told me on Twitter. However, his plugin (and none of the others) take advantage of the glory that is Shuffle.

For HTML5 video to work, you need 2 (maybe 3) things:

  • an H.264-encoded video file
  • an Ogg Theora-encoded video file
  • a still image to use as a “poster” image for the video when it loads into the player

VideoJS kicks ass because once you have these resources, it is easy to use their boilerplate markup to insert a video tag and a fallback Flash object. What makes it awesome even further is that the player can be styled 100% with CSS/images, even 100% CSS3 if you want! That’s why I fell in love with VideoJS immediately.

What is not so easy is managing all of these file types in the Media Library. That’s why I wrote Shuffle. Shuffle lets you associate anything with anything, even allows you to re-order using drag and drop (high-fiving myself!). So if you are gonna use Movies, you are gonna want to use Shuffle!

Shuffle allows you to search for Attachments when attaching a media item to a post. When you import your movies, please fill out Title-Caption -Description for Title-Artist/Director/Whatever-Description. Always filling out a title will help you in 2 ways:

  • the items will be easier to search for
  • the information is displayed on the page, or hidden but still crawlable, in the hMedia microformat

I decided that if I was going to make swiss-army-knife media plugins, I would try to do everything as semantic and clean as possible.

But back to how it works… once you upload your MP4 file, OGV file, and image, you want to attach the OGV and image to the MP4 file (you need Shuffle for this). From then on, you can attach and detach the MP4 file from whatever Post or Page you want, and the OGV and image will always remain attached to the MP4, unless you detach them manually. When the plugin loads your MP4s to the page, it looks for its attachments to fill out the and poster data in the HTML5 video tag, also uses the image for the Flash fallback, and uses the MP4 data and the image source for the hMedia data.

To use Movies in your theme, you have 2 options:

  • As a shortcode: [movies]
  • As a function: the_movies() or the_videos()

If you need info on how to encode your videos in H.264 or OGV, go here. The markup for the VideoJS player is loaded automatically, as is the JavaScript to dynamically load the videos when clicked from within the list of videos attached to your post. To style the player and the way the playlist looks, add a video.css file to your Theme directory. It will load with the rest of the plugin files and will override where necessary.


My First Plugin: “Shuffle”

I have been developing with WordPress for over a year now. It is hard to describe how much it has positively affected my development workflow. It’s easy to install, has easy-to-use APIs and great documentation, and its CMS capabilities are amazing. On top of that, it has a peer-less Plugin architecture which allows anyone to get under the hood and add functionality on top of WordPress core. The WordPress Plugin community is so vast and talented that when functionality is missing from WordPress itself, you are usually only one plugin away from tackling any problem you have.

  • I don’t want to write code that smushes my images, don’t need to: WP-Smush.it did it for me!
  • I don’t want to write a caching mechanism for my site, don’t need to: W3 Total Cache did it for me!
  • How do I write a sitemap and get myself up in the Google? No clue, so I’ll use Google XML Sitemaps!
  • I want to jam a social network into my website, oh heeeeyyyyyy BuddyPress!

But in the midst of this, I started building sites that have a lot of Images, Image Galleries, Video, Audio, Video Playlists, Audio Playlists, HTML5 video players, etc. WordPress is great at doing a few things with media:

1. Uploading multiple files at once
2. Hooks into the Upload actions (WP-Smush.it FTW!)
3. Attaching items to a post
4. Retrieving an item’s attachments (sorta)
5. Navigating through the Media Library… um, not really

Well, here’s what I NEEDED to do:

1. Detach images from a Post without DELETING THEM
2. Re-order my attachments by post (changing the order of a Playlist, etc)
3. Ordering my attachments by something other than date uploaded or title
4. Attach images to a video (another attachment) to use as a preview thumbnail
5. Attach album covers to audio files
6. Re-order a photo gallery at will
7. Do all of the above in an EASY way

WordPress doesn’t do any of this (if it does, it is hidden functionality that I don’t know about). So I decided to do something I, personally, have never done: I wrote a WordPress Plugin. Shuffle is the name of that plugin. Shuffle allows you to do a lot of thing with your Media that are not default WordPress behavior/functionality.

In the way that “tags” and “categories” are really just “taxonomies,” an “image” or a “video” is really just a Post type. Attachments live in the wp_posts table just like Posts, Pages, Custom Post Types, and other types of Attachments.

The wp_posts table has a bunch of fields. However, when it comes to attachments, there are 2 that we are really interested in: post_parent and menu_order. The act of attaching an image is really just setting the post_parent on the image to whatever number corresponds to the attaching Post type’s ID. If you attach 30 images to a post called “Hello World!” and Hello World’s ID in the database is 187, all 30 of those images will have post_parent set to 187. So if you want to “detach” the image, all you really need to do is set its post_parent to 0 (zero). Seems easy enough? Yet this is not an option in the Media Library.

If you create a Page and then create child Pages of that same Page, you will notice an attribute you can set by hand in the Edit panel: “order.” This corresponds to the menu_order field in the wp_posts table of the database. When you upload Attachments, menu_order is set to a default of 0 (zero) with no option to even change it by hand. Even if you could change it by hand, doing so for 50 images would be very very tedious. Wouldn’t it be great if you could see all 50 of those images for the attaching post and then re-order the images using a cool Drag and Drop UI that will set menu_order for you? You would think something that does at least half of this would be in WordPress by default, it is not.

I just uploaded a Video and want to feature it on a Page. I am going to use a slick new HTML5 Video Player and my Player wants me to specify a preview image / a “poster” image. I don’t necessarily have to do this, but I’d like to select the still show that shows on the screen before the user plays the video. I also want to set a thumbnail for the video so I can show a bunch of videos in a list or set up a cool HTML5 Video playlist. So how do I attach an Image to a Video in WordPress? You can’t.

This is where Shuffle comes in. Shuffle can do all of these things. Attach anything to anything. Detach without losing your files. Order your attachments by dragging and dropping like other services allow you to do. In your item’s list of Attachments, click on an item to see its Attachments! On so on and so on. Anyways, you need Shuffle! See it in action by downloading here: