Streaming Video on the Web24th August
The web is becoming awash with video... and why not! To coin a Chinese proverb, a video is worth a million words. Fuelling the flame are video sharing sites such as Dailymotion, Veoh and of course You Tube. It's a powerful media type, engaging, fun... and as bandwidth speeds increase, so does our appetite for larger, sharper, longer video experiences.
So how do you make video look great and work reliably on the web? We have found that there are 2 important factors involved in producing a great online video:
- the player
Every visitor to your website is unique. They may arrive using a variety of web browsers, operating systems and plugins. The first step in producing a great online video is to make sure your visitors do not have to interrupt their browsing experience to install something. The best solution therefore is to serve your video using the very popular Flash Plugin. Our current statistics indicate that 98% of visitors to our client sites have Flash installed, and 95% have the latest version (9). Flash delivers video using the FLV format. Once our video has been encoded into FLV format we then serve it using an FLV Player. Our player of choice is the JW FLV Player (Thanks Jeroen). If you use the player for commercial purposes, you must buy a player licence beginning at 20 Euro. While the feature is not heavily documented, the JW FLV Player does its own bandwidth detection and can serve an appropriately encoded FLV from your FLV stack. The result is a stutter free, visually rich online video experience.
There is extremely fast internet, extremely slow internet and everything in between. It is very important therefore that the file size of the video being served can be downloaded without causing buffering. While buffering is common place, and often accepted, its not ideal. We want our video to hit the visitor quickly, play without delay and not be interrupted. The secret is in the encoding. We follow these steps:
- Work with only high quality video files i.e. DVD, AVI, MOV
- Convert your high quality video files to AVI if they are not already. We use AVI.net
- Determine your visitors common bandwidth speeds and set your encoding bit rate ranges accordingly. In Australia, your visitors will typically be connecting over cable, ADSL, ADSL2 or dial up. We set our encoding ranges at 100kbps, 200kbps, 500kbps and 1000kbps.
- Confirm that your FLV encoder is producing file sizes that match your chosen bit rates. For example, a 60 second video encoded as a bit rate of 100kbps should produce an FLV file size of 6,000 bits, or 750kBytes. If it is not, then reduce the bit rate in your encoding software to suit. We use the standalone video encoder that ships with Adobe Flash.