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Web Video Creation and Optimization Forum

    
Rough Guide to Web Video 2007
where we are now and how we got here
Samizdata




msg:3454480
 2:26 am on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I will not claim to be an expert (especially here on WebmasterWorld) but this new forum needs a kickstart so I will give it a shot - and I will be keenly interested in any corrections and improvements...

Plugins, Players and Formats

I use all of the following to deliver video on the web:

Flash
As seen on YouTube, currently the most popular format with the widest computer support, but useless for mobile devices. Video was introduced with version 6 and has improved a lot over the past five years. Made by Adobe, formerly Macromedia. Free player.

QuickTime
As used for Hollywood movie trailers. Historically poor Windows support has improved with the popularity of iTunes (which includes the basic free QuickTime player). Made by Apple.

Real Media
Once a popular option due to excellent compression and cross-platform capability, now apparently in decline, though it is supported on some mobile devices. Made by Real, free player available.

Windows Media
An obvious choice on Windows, but not recommended for web use due to cross-platform and codec issues. Made by Microsoft, no longer available on Macs (though Safari can use the free Flip4Mac plugin).

ShockWave
Not strictly a video player, but video can be embedded in ShockWave files. Free player made by Adobe, formerly Macromedia, now effectively obsolete on the web (you should have been there in 1999).

Ogg Theora
Open source cross-platform alternative, not yet fully developed, patchy performance. May well suffer the same fate as Ogg Vorbis but popular with Linux users. Made by the Xiph.Org Foundation, playable in QuickTime, RealPlayer and some others using free codec.

MP4 and variants
Possibly the dominant format of the future - an ISO specification supported on computers, many phones, PlayStations and iPods (including the iPod Touch). Enthusiasm from Microsoft seems lacking but if you want one format that can be played on multiple devices this is currently it.

---

MIME-Types

Depending on the video format you choose and your server setup, you may need to set the appropriate MIME-Type using .htaccess - Mp4, 3gp and WMV all need explicit settings on the shared servers I use.

---

Embedding and EOLAS

In 2006 Microsoft changed the way Internet Explorer handles embedded content due to a patent dispute with EOLAS Technologies. This meant that the old methods for delivering rich media that were found in textbooks and software packages were no longer suitable.

The workaround is to use JavaScript to embed your videos in webpages. There are ready-made solutions available from the player manufacturers and others but essentially they all do the same thing.

I know that the patent dispute was recently settled, but I have no idea what the effect will be and as the JavaScript workaround conveniently provides valid HTML markup I don't really care.

---

Streaming Video

It is technically fairly simple to broadcast live if you have a camera, and there is software available that will let you run your own TV station, mixing live camera and pre-recorded video.

You will need a streaming media server and some knowledge of firewalls and ports to do it, and a lot of bandwidth for each viewer, but embedding the stream in your website is no problem at all.

---

Conclusion

People love video. They carry their phones and iPods everywhere. Think ahead.

...

 

Tastatura




msg:3454494
 2:47 am on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks for nice summary.
What kind of a (flash) player is on your doo-wop site?

[edited by: Tastatura at 2:48 am (utc) on Sep. 19, 2007]

trooper27




msg:3454911
 2:02 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

thanks, that was a nice review! It sheds light on some of the things I was wondering about being worthy or not.

pageoneresults




msg:3454916
 2:06 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Wow, that appears to be an excellent overview and I'm no expert either, not even a novice yet. ;)

Windows Media
An obvious choice on Windows, but not recommended for web use due to cross-platform and codec issues. Made by Microsoft, no longer available on Macs (though Safari can use the free Flip4Mac plugin).

That explains one of my issues right now, thank you.

vincevincevince




msg:3454918
 2:09 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ogg Theora

I use Istanbul Desktop Session Recorder - very easy to select an area to record - and it outputs as Ogg Theora. I've found the files to be very efficiently compressed and of excellent quality. For creating tutorials for the use of websites or software Istanbul -> Theora is the way to go.

stef25




msg:3455061
 4:28 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

can we conclude that flash is the best way to deliver video content to all platforms (mac, pc, nix) and browsers, but not for other devices?

scottperry




msg:3455086
 4:47 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

We have been using video on our site for over a year. We have higher conversions on our items with videos.

It's not the best quality, but we are getting better at it and are the only ones in our space doing it. We use .WMV streaming video, it has worked well for us.

Send me a PM if you want to see how we do it, sorry for posting link!

carguy84




msg:3455127
 5:14 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

can we conclude that flash is the best way to deliver video content to all platforms (mac, pc, nix) and browsers, but not for other devices?

Depends on your definition of best. I think .mov or .mpg have the capability to provide the best quality at the lowest bitrates, however WMV movies can be streamed FREE with Windows Media Services. To stream movies to a flash player is a $4500 investment for Adobe Media Server.

Tough to swallow if you're on a smaller budget.

edit: Oh, while .mov videos can look way better, bitrate for bitrate, I blacklist any site that tries to use an MOV file embedded in their site as I don't like sites that make my computer hang.

TexasWebDevelopers




msg:3455134
 5:25 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Microsoft's Silverlight is getting some good press and my experiences with it has all been positive.

Samizdata




msg:3455175
 5:52 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

What kind of a (flash) player is on your doo-wop site?

Those are produced with Flash 8 (from a QuickTime source), similar to YouTube.

Flash is probably the best way to go for most people at the moment as it is installed on the largest number of computers - and unlike some of the others does not try to make itself the default media player (a perennial problem for Windows users when they install RealPlayer). I did not mention Silverlight, which I have never seen in action.

The web changes fast and it is always difficult to predict what will catch on, but I have been using Mp4 for several years and like the fact that it also works on many handheld devices. Once the web-enabled iPod hits the stores it may become more important.

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments.

pontifex




msg:3455394
 10:07 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I like the .flv format very much. It compresses nicely into small files without loosing too much quality, if you do it right and there are so many open source tools already for that format, that I really think this is it!

The only thing that is missing are the pre-installed players on the mobile devices!

P!

aleksl




msg:3455517
 1:03 am on Sep 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Microsoft's Silverlight is getting some good press

anything that you'd put on a home page of microsoft.com will probably get lots of press. It's penetration, however, that counts.

night707




msg:3455769
 9:11 am on Sep 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Samizdata,

good idea to start such a thread. We have loads of streams on the air and the whole operation was started in 1999.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Plugins, Players and Formats

I use all of the following to deliver video on the web:

Flash
As seen on YouTube, currently the most popular format with the widest computer support,

... personal experience ... a bit messy to use on your own server, ok for small amounts of videos.

using the youtube or livevideo services and embedding these streams into websites is not too bad at all. The audience gets widened and it reduces the traffic load.


QuickTime
As used for Hollywood movie trailers. Historically poor Windows support has improved with the popularity of iTunes (which includes the basic free QuickTime player). Made by Apple.

... still exotic in terms of reach. Not very comfortable for programers.

Real Media
Once a popular option due to excellent compression and cross-platform capability, now apparently in decline, though it is supported on some mobile devices. Made by Real, free player available.

... BBC and many other big shots still use real videos because of decent quality, fast streaming connection and very comfortable for programers.

Windows Media
An obvious choice on Windows, but not recommended for web use due to cross-platform and codec issues. Made by Microsoft, no longer available on Macs (though Safari can use the free Flip4Mac plugin).

... will hopefuly die away soon. Takes ages before the stream starts. Many technical issues on servers, codecs and so on.
Awful!

---

MIME-Types

Depending on the video format you choose and your server setup, you may need to set the appropriate MIME-Type using .htaccess - Mp4, 3gp and WMV all need explicit settings on the shared servers I use.

---

Embedding

real and youtube flash offer the best solutions.

---

Streaming Video

You will need a streaming media server and some knowledge of firewalls and ports to do it, and a lot of bandwidth for each viewer, but embedding the stream in your website is no problem at all.

..... real videos can run on almost every server via http. No server requested.

Never had any FWQ issues and bandwidth is cheap now.

Video is coming up strong, but only few people know how to produce good videos and video sites as yet.

Samizdata




msg:3455791
 10:28 am on Sep 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's penetration, however, that counts

I think we can assume that penetration will not be a problem for a free player from Microsoft.

I really should have included Silverlight in my original post, but I have not used it and as few people currently have it installed it is probably more an option for the future rather than immediate deployment in 2007.

For the record, the player is available for OSX and a Linux version has been promised.

[edited by: Samizdata at 10:29 am (utc) on Sep. 20, 2007]

vincevincevince




msg:3455795
 10:35 am on Sep 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

a Linux version has been promised.

Which won't be supported by any of the big vendors or installed by most linux users because they're not releasing it entirely as open source.

Flash is, as said above, the best option for most inline applications - but I don't believe it's the best for presentation quality video. If you want your user to be able to 'view fullsreen' and put it up on a digital projector you need something much better.

night707




msg:3456546
 10:25 pm on Sep 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

aleksl

many people would love to escape Microsoft because they are not happy about the product quality.

This w media player system is awful and their whole approach to the Internet is a disgrace.

Do you remember their first video upload service?

Man, they can't even get a simple beta test organized!

MSN live search is a total failure and so on ...

Why do many people still prefer W2K?

kapow




msg:3457468
 6:53 pm on Sep 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

Its one thing to create your own videos, its another leap of technology if you want a website where the members upload videos. You need a system that formats the video automatically on upload i.e. server-side encoding - to convert their .AVIs (or whatever) into .FLV (flash video) - well thats what youtube do.
Last time I look there were some very expensive solutions to do this, OR the possibility to do it via a combination of open source / free tools (but its not easy).

crobb305




msg:3457692
 12:26 am on Sep 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

Where do you start if you want to put video on your site, and you are on a shared server?

Samizdata




msg:3457912
 11:25 am on Sep 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

Where do you start if you want to put video on your site, and you are on a shared server?

All the formats discussed above work on shared servers, though some may need the MIME-Type set.

Streaming (by which I mean real-time broadcasting) will not work, but most people probably won't need it.

Choose your format(s), decide on size and aspect ratio (discussed elsewhere), embed with JavaScript, and always include a download link for the required player(s) - getting people to download and install players can be problematic, which is partly why Flash video currently dominates.

Bit-rate and frame-rate settings are also important, but at least you no longer have to worry about 56k modems these days. A frame-rate of 12-15 fps can be acceptable, but 24-30 fps is probably ideal.

jtara




msg:3458100
 5:55 pm on Sep 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

I really should have included Silverlight in my original post, but I have not used it and as few people currently have it installed it is probably more an option for the future rather than immediate deployment in 2007.

Silverlight isn't a video player, though. It's an entire client-side platform for plugging multiple programming languages (other than Javascript) into the browser.

Silverlight is the devil itself, IMO.

Several here tried to install it, after a thread here on WebmasterWorld about a Microsoft website that requires it. Few if any were successful at installing it.

That's webmasters. You really want to foist this on your users?

Samizdata




msg:3458212
 8:19 pm on Sep 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

You really want to foist this on your users?

As an habitual Mac user I am not cheerleading for Silverlight.

As someone who hasn't used it I cannot criticize it (the OSX player seems to work though).

If it is used on the next "must-see" website after YouTube I will have to deal with it.

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