This blog may appear overly technical and long-winded but I can assure you it isn’t. Read right through to the end and I promise you you’ll be wiser for it.
Some years ago it seemed that YouTube was the only major player in the world of online video. Thanks to its success and popularity, other sites followed suit making the Internet awash with video content. Because of this, I’m often asked, “can you upload video to your website?”
To answer that question it is necessary to give an overview as to how video works online. Without wanting to get too technical here’s a very brief summary of how it works.
Video is essentially lots and lots of images and an audio track all in one file. Compared to a song on its own or a single image (especially so for the latter) a video is huge in file size. To make video a viable digital media medium it needs to be compressed first to reduce its size. Once compressed, it then needs to be decompressed by the user. The software that handles this is known as a “codec”—which is a portmanteau of compression and decompression.
In an ideal world there would only be a single codec; it would be perfectly efficient and be available on every computer, tablet and mobile in the world. As is often in the real world, the reality is far from perfect.
There are lots of codecs available. Each one handles the compression/decompression differently. They yield different files sizes and qualities, they are subject to different legal restrictions and are not necessarily available for all devices and computers.
This fragmented situation means that there is currently no standard way to deliver video through the web. Furthermore, an online video needs player controls (E.g. play, pause) for which there is also no standard implementation.
At any one time though, there are usually just a handful of formats that people use that cover the full gamut of website visitors. When adding video to your website it’s important to consider offering more than one format. Because of the huge technological difference between a desktop computer and a smartphone, for example, you will generally need to offer a different format for each one. To make things even more confusing the format you shot your video in may not even be suitable for the web in the first place.
At this point you’re probably ready to give up on the idea altogether. After all, if you knew what formats were suitable for the web, how to convert them and how to deliver the right format based on your visitor you wouldn’t be reading this article. Don’t give up though, the solution is here!
So, how do you learn to do all the above? The brilliantly simple answer is: you don’t.
All you need to do is create an account with an online provider such as YouTube or Vimeo. When you upload videos to such sites they do all the converting for you. They also factor in mobile devices. To add them to your site you simply get something called the “embed code”. This allows you to place the video onto your own website. Ask your web designer for more details on how this is done. It’s quick, easy and free though.
The only major con to the above method is you have little control over how the video looks and it contains third party branding. If you wish to style it yourself you have two options.
Option one is to get your web designer to encode the video and add it directly to your website. However, you will have to pay for their time and you won’t be able to do it yourself.
Option two is to install software onto your web server that works in the same way as YouTube, etc. That is, you upload video in the format you took it in and the software does the rest. While this makes for a very slick site, to do this you need your very own web server and would have to pay significant cost to have it installed, configured and integrated into your site.