We get approached all the time by customers looking to display videos on the web. For the purposes of this blog entry, I thought it might be handy to jot down a few common discussion points and the issues to be wary of when putting video on the web.
What to consider?
When you add video to your website there’s a couple of things you should consider:
- Video tends to take up quite a bit of space (in terms of file size) – Make sure your web hosting will allow enough space for housing videos.
- Video tends to increase the bandwidth usage on your hosting (For those that don’t know, bandwidth is the amount of data transferred over a certain period of time – most web hosts will allocate a certain amount of bandwidth to customers over the period of a month).
- Video needs to be optimised for web use – Videos need to be compressed and saved in the right format to ensure that can be viewed online.
Options for web video
When it comes to displaying videos on your site, as with most things in life, there’s any easier way as there is a more complex way.
- Simple – Popular video sharing websites such as Youtube and Vimeo, allow users to upload their own videos. The sharing sites take care of the upload and conversion process, the video is hosted on their servers and you are free to add the video to your own website. After you have uploaded a video you will be provided with “embed code” that can be dropped into your website. Once the code is in, when your web page loads, your video will display (streamed from the video sharing site) including the playback controls. The main downside to this approach, is that your videos will often contain branding and marketing for the video sharing website which may not be suitable, particularly in a corporate environment.
- Advanced – Alternatively, you can record the video yourself, encode and compress this into a format and then display the video on your site. The downside to this is that you need to have some knowledge of web video formats and be comfortable with using video compression, encoding and playback tools. In most cases, this is the reason people seek guidance from a web expert.
Media Players and Video Formats
What’s handy to know before you start considering video for the web, is the difference between a player and the video format itself. The media player is essentially the software that plays back the video. The video format is the specific type of video. Getting your head around it to start with can be confusing as sometimes both the Media Player and the Format can have the same name. (I.e. QuickTime)
- Media Players: Flash, Windows Media Player and Quick time
- Video formats: Flash Video, Windows Media Video, MPEG, AVI and QuickTime
In terms of choosing the right Media Player, here are some handy facts to remember:
- Flash: comes installed on PC and Mac
- Window Media Player: comes installed on a PC
- QuickTime: comes installed on a Mac
So without giving too much away, it’s easy to see why Flash video has become a popular choice for web video. (Youtube and Vimeo both use Flash video)
Choosing the right format…
Choosing the right format is important when you are considering displaying video on the web. When choosing the right format to use, the following should be considered:
- The size of the video (ensuring a suitable file size can be achieved)
- Quality of the video
- Compatibility – Whether the video will play in common web browsers
Outlined below are some of the most common formats and a brief run down of each.
MPEG videos tend to have a higher output quality, but the drawback is a higher file size. Users will need software such as Windows Media or Quick Time in order to view MPEG videos.
Windows Media (.wmv)
WMV videos tend to be poor choice of video these days, given the number of Mac users in the world (WMV’s do not play on Mac standard Mac software)
Apple Quick time (.mov)
QuickTime is a container format, which means you can use various different codecs for compressing the software. Quick Time Videos tend to be of high quality and also relatively small file size. The downside of course is that most PC’s do not come with the software to play back this video format.
Flash (.flv, .swf)
Flash is the most common web video format these days given the fact that is had the greatest compatibility across end user machines. In addition Flash video also provides a smallish file size compared to some of the other. The .flv file is the video itself and the .swf is the software that plays back the video
AVI tends not be used much on the web these days. AVI is also a container format also – it comprises of video compressed with another codec. What you’ll find with AVI files is that some videos will play (if you have the correct codec installed), whilst others won’t (you will need to correct codec in order to play).
A few flash video examples: