The truth about internet video
Adding video to your web site can help attract visitors, add value, and increase site visibility. But you've got to do it right. If you're not careful, putting video on your web site can actually backfire, chasing people away and causing a lot of headaches for you in the process.It's never been easier to create and add video to your web site. But just like with anything else, there is a learning curve, and there are pitfalls.
Just because it can be done, doesn't mean it should be done. You need to know when and where to use web video - and when not to.
Your goal should then be to create videos that are accessible to the greatest common denominator. You'll want to make sure any video you offer is viewable to as many visitors as possible, while minimizing hassles and tech problems for your viewers.
One solution is to offer your video clips in as many different video formats as possible. Unfortunately, this can be a frustrating and time-consuming process for you. (However, there is a video format available that can help you to avoid this - more later...)
Introduction to Video on the WebWhile it's true that placing video on the web is now quite easy, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea. Sometimes, your message can be better told using text with a few images. In other instances, an audio message will suffice. Video isn't the end-all solution for everything you have to say.
So before you rush into posting video on your web site, consider these points:
1. Web video done poorly is worse than no video at all.
This is especially true if your video clips don't play properly, or if the quality of the video reflects poorly on you or your site. In these cases, it would be better not to use internet video on your site.
This is why we produce our web video tutorials - to help you create the best web videos possible.
2. Internet video may not work for all visitors.
Some web surfers are still using Windows 98 or older operating systems. Many of these older systems do not support the playing of video very well. But there is one format that works on most computers, most of the time (more below).
3. Know your target market.
Not everyone experiences the internet the same way. People access the web at very different connection speeds. While more than half of the U.S. web-connected population now enjoys a high-speed broadband connection (and for these people, video is no problem), there are still many people connecting via antiquated (and painfully slow) telephone modems.
By knowing who you are targetting, you can better determine if video makes sense for your site, as well as the best way to deploy it.
4. Video requires a lot of storage space.
On average, a one-minute video clip in medium resolution often requires at least 2MB of web hosting space. If you offer that same clip in the six most popular formats, it is possible that you would need 20MB of space -- just for that one minute of video! And if you offer a total of 20 minutes of video, and provide it in all different formats, you could easily consume 400 MB of web space.
This is why we offer high-speed internet video hosting to our members.
5. Video is a bandwidth hog.
If 100 people click to view your 5 minute video at the same time, they could jointly require and consume 2 gigabytes of bandwidth, all at the same time! Depending upon your hosting package, that alone could exceed your allocated bandwidth.
Imagine what would happen if 1,000 people clicked to view your 5 minute video... your web host would likely crash, due to the inability to fulfill the huge bandwidth request. And your web host won't be very happy. And neither will you, when they send you they bill.
Again, another reason for our members-only web video hosting, on servers dedicated to the playing internet video.
6. Clicking away from your site and your internet video is effortless.
Even with the fastest web connection, viewing high quality video on a computer monitor can be tedious - especially compared to watching that same video on TV. For best results, web video clips should be short (under 3 minutes) and to the point.
Once the novelty wears off (and it will, once video becomes commonplace - very soon), people are going to be less willing to sit there and watch some idiot skateboarding off his roof.
In order to grab and hold attention, internet video needs to be: compelling, useful, and/or entertaining.
And that's what The Web Video Zone is all about: We're a community of like-minded people working together to help each other develop and profit from effective internet video.
7. Be careful choosing internet video formats.
Whether the video you plan to offer is a computer screen tutorial (created with a tool like Camtasia Studio, or live video footage shot with a camcorder, you may want to offer your video in multiple formats, making it viewable by as many people as possible.
At the same time, too many choices may confuse and overwhelm your audience. In addition, there are time and cost considerations for creating and deploying your videos. If you offer five different choices, you need to render and upload five different videos (and what happens if you need to make a change to the video?).
Here are the most popular internet video formats:
WMV - Windows media viewer format Will play on Windows reliably. On a Mac, it will not play if the video was edited using Windows Movie Maker. On a Mac, requires Windows Media Player for Mac.
AVI Video format Introduced by Microsoft in 1992 - not actually a format, but a container that can hold many different formats. On the PC, compatibility is excellent. On the Mac, it can be hit or miss. AVI files tend to be HUGE (as they are usually uncompressed) and therefore take forever to download and play. Not recommended for streaming video.
MOV - Apple QuickTime Format Plays very well on the Mac (it better, since it was developed by Apple). Plays well on the PC if the Apple QuickTime Player for Windows has been installed. Important file format for video podcasting.
RM - Real Media Format Requires Real Media Player - which some consider to be spamware (or worse). Despite good quality at high speeds, not recommended.
SWF - Small Web Format A proprietary vector graphics file format produced by Adobe/Macromedia Flash software and other applications. Plays well on both PCs and Macs. Not recommended for videos longer than 30 seconds, as video will not start playing until the entire SWF file has been downloaded.
FLV - Flash Video Compatible with approximately 98% of all computers. Created by converting other video formats to Flash using (using the Flash authoring program, or other conversion tools). Very good quality at high speeds.
Choosing the right video format for your web siteIf you are presenting short clips in small display sizes, consider providing the video in just the flash SWF format. It's fast, easy, and most people will be able to quickly download and watch them without any difficulty.
However, if you are presenting longer video clips where quality is more important, you'll probably want to provide visitors the option to view the video in one or both of the following formats:
1. Flash Video (FLV) - FLV files are played in your visitor's browser via a Flash player (an SWF file). It estimated that 95-98% of web users have a Flash player installed on their computer. Flash is currently the most compatible video format, requiring the least amount of file space and bandwidth.
FLV files take advantage of the "pseudo-streaming" or progressive download capabilities of the Flash player. This means that the FLV will start playing once the player (the SWF file) has loaded.
The user does not have to wait for the entire FLV to download. This is crucial for longer videos, as it is unlikely most people would otherwise wait around long enough for the file to be downloaded.
The most recent version is Flash 8, which utilizes the On2 Flix Video codec. Improved video compression in Flash 8 results in a smaller file size and greater video quality than for previous versions. To view videos created using Flash 8, web users must have the Flash 8 player installed on their computers, and download it if necessary. (The Web Video Zone FLV Player makes this a quick, easy and seamless process for visitors of our members' web sites.)
Flash video is our format of choice here at the Zone. But don't just take our word for it... Flash video has been chosen as the default video platform by the big boys on the cutting edge of web video technology, heavyweights such as Google Video, YouTube and Amazon.com.
The tools needed to create Flash video are very affordable and quite easy to use. If you're serious about web video, you need to take a closer look at the Flash FLV format.
2. QuickTime (MOV) - Mac users and techies love QuickTime. Quality is good, file size is reasonable, and player compatibility is high (but not as high as that for the Flash 7 player). In addition, the QuickTime .mov format is a good choice for video podcasting.
A newer codec known as H.264 is showing promising results. QuickTime videos created using H.264 have stunningly high quality, considering the small output file size. Unfortunately, to be able to view movies created with H.264, the user must have the QuickTime 7 player - a large and not-so-easy installation.
The future of internet video may very well be H.264 (or some variation of it). But until more people have upgraded/downloaded the most recent QuickTime player, I would hesitate to rely on it exclusively.
Web Video Suggestions and Summary
- Correctly implemented, video can be an essential part of a web site's success. Think: video tutorials, "how-to's," and even a "video tip of the week."
- To make video work for your web site, make sure you keep the video clips short, sized for optimal viewing (e.g., 320x240), and you provide video in the right format and size - taking your audience into consideration.
- Unless absolutely necessary, never set a video clip to run automatically, as doing so will probably annoy your visitors - especially if they do not have the proper video viewing components installed.
- When preparing video for the web, start by using the right tools - preferably a video editing program that can render the video into the various formats you need.
- Watch your bandwidth usage - if thousands of visitors link to your video, it can bring down your site as well as your hosting service. For that reason, use video minimally, or rely on the services of a good web video hosting provider.