Rebecca Osborne, India Kee, Patrice Myers
MIST 7500: Internet Technology
G2 – Video Best Practices
Even though the capability to embed videos in web pages has been around since the inception of Macromedia Flash (now Adobe Flash) in 1996, the widespread use of video online has only become truly mainstream during the past few years. Therefore, the guidelines and best practices for Internet videos have still not been completely codified yet. However, in 2005, Adobe posted some best practices for delivering video content:
Stream. There are three ways to deliver video content: downloading, progressive downloading, and streaming. If a user has to download a video file to play, he or she has to wait until the entire file downloads in order to watch it. In the case of large files (TV shows or movies, for example), this can take over an hour. Progressive downloading stores the meta information necessary for playback at the front of the file instead of the back, allowing the user to start playing the file before it finishes downloading. Streaming does not download the file to the user’s computer at all. Not only does this let users view live events, it also protects the creator’s copyright, since the data is never stored anywhere but the server.
Pause. If the video loads with the first frame displayed and the video paused, the user can a) get a cursory idea of the video’s content and b) decide if and when they want the video to start. YouTube is a high-profile offender: if you search for a video, then open multiple videos in new windows or tabs in your browser, all of them start playing at once and you have to manually pause each one.
Preview. This does not seem to be widely implemented, but Adobe suggests playing a five-second clip on mouseover. This would give a better impression of the video’s content than just showing the first frame.
Detect. Some users simply do not have Internet connections that can handle large downloads. If at all possible, a lower-quality version of the video should be available. If working with Flash Media Interactive Server, the Server auto-detects the user’s connection speed and serves up the video with the optimal quality for that connection.
Standardize. There are common naming conventions to be observed. If a movie called “filename” is encoded at 600 Kbps, the Flash movie file should be named “filename_600”. This allows the Flash Media Interactive Server to more easily deliver the proper file according to the connection speed it detected.
Trace. Trace statements aid in identifying server side errors by following the application access activity on the server. It allows you to debug before the page even reaches the user.
Optimize. The most annoying facet of streaming video is rebuffering. Make sure that you calculate the buffer time accurately. Adobe provides a tutorial on how to calculate this.
Define. Who are you trying to reach? What are their connection limitations? Is the majority of your audience on dial-up? Answering these questions will help you determine what video content you can provide.
Encode. The only way to distribute high-quality video is if it is encoded properly.
Other sites add a few more things to think about:
- Arun Chaudhary suggests that when shooting video initially, you should find a location that will enable you to get good sound. Visuals are not nearly as informative if there are no discernible sounds to accompany them. Also, choose descriptive video titles to aid in searching.
- Eric Carlsen suggests that companies should invest in hiring a video professional instead of displaying “user-generated” content. This avoids the amateur feel that pervades many YouTube videos.
In short, the basic underpinnings of video distribution best practices are similar to those of search engine optimization: Create good-quality content that is relevant and easy to find and view, and the visitors will come.