How to handle video…

Video is so easy to shoot these days, and with the miracle of software like iMovie, it’s even easy to edit, title, spice up with music and compress for playback. (See my Proud Papa Moment below which took less time to edit, post and embed than it did to watch the rest of the talent show.)

Then what?

For most it’s a no-brainer. Upload it to Youtube, Vimeo or Facebook and let them do the rest. But if you maintain your own website, you might be tempted to try to upload the video file there instead.

I’m here to tell you why that approach is more hassle than it’s worth.

Sure, you can do it. I’ll even go so far as to recommend JW Player as the best method/plugin for handling it, but the challenges are many:

  • The bandwidth and performance depends on your webhost and hosting contract.
  • You have to figure out how best to compress… In other words, formats and codecs (FLV: VP6; MP4: H.264, DivX, Xvid; MOV, AVI, WMV, etc.).
  • How to handle alternate content if the viewer’s browser isn’t setup to handle your file.
  • Hosting your own video limits it’s ability to spread virally, or be seen out of context, unless you do all the work to cross-post it.
  • By default, PHP (which is what WordPress is based on) limits file uploads to 8MB. Video files are typically in excess of 20 MB. This means that the upload limits have to be modified via the php.ini file before you can even post video files to the website. It then takes time for this change to be recognized by the server. Then you have to upload the large video files. This process takes much longer to implement than simply embedding Youtube or Vimeo players via a few lines of code.

Sorry… I got a bit ugly there at the end.

Some reasons why I use Youtube (or Vimeo, or other video hosting solution):

  • It’s easy to simply embed the video on your website in any area (page or blog post) by just copying their “embed code” and pasting it into the New Posts window using the “HTML” option.
  • Let them take your master video file and transcode it to whatever size will reach the target audience optimally. (Also known as bitrate switching)
  • Let them deal with bandwidth and content delivery. Keeps your web server load requirements low.
  • Easy to share videos with other social networks or via email.
  • Youtube has pretty extensive tracking analytics built in.
  • Host as many videos as you want… even ones you might not put on the website but that you want to make available under your “brand” page for Youtube visitors, or for others to reference and display on their website/blog/whatever.
  • Videos can be “found” out of context… Increases the likelihood of a search finding your product/service outside of your website.
  • With a little tweaking in your Youtube account>video settings you can present your video as cleanly as possible. You can even embed your own ads into the video stream.

There is a catch of course. Vimeo doesn’t want it’s community cluttered with commercially-sponsored videos. Youtube’s fine with it, but you’ll spend quite a bit of time in their account preferences area dialing everything in the way you want it.

There is another option… particularly if you’re concerned about who “owns” your video file. Pay for dedicated video hosting. I haven’t done this yet, but here are a few places to start: Bits on the Run, Gravlab and Brightcove.

Need more help? I’m available.