You’ve just finished compressing your great video. You’re ready to distribute it using online video-sharing sites. But wait! Not all video-sharing sites are created equal.
You can host your precious video on websites which use different techniques to display video. Some are streaming in glorious high quality, while other sites may not be equipped to handle your next viral sensation. Features for sharing abound, but they do little for you if the video quality is poor. And you, the Videomaker reader, want top quality! So, read on to discover which online video-sharing sites offer the best quality for your video.
The Superstars of Online Video
YouTube, can anyone stop them? After years of supplying huge amounts of sub-standard quality video, they add high-definition options. This rounds out YouTube’s three-tier video quality offerings: you can now view HD, High Quality and Normal Quality at YouTube.com. YouTube’s HD video plays at 720p resolution (1280×720), followed by 480p and 240 for High and Normal respectively. While videos uploaded in High Quality do look nicer than they do at Normal, they require a faster Internet connection to be viewed smoothly (don’t expect many of those cafe-dwelling laptop users to be watching in High Quality). Luckily, YouTube automatically encodes your video into both High and Normal Quality, if you upload a 640×480 resolution (or higher) video to begin with. YouTube scores extra quality points by finally allowing you to embed your High Quality videos in blogs and websites.
Openfilm is cause for excitement, especially since the service offers some of the highest-quality streaming videos available. Very clear video is mixed with an intuitive website that begs to be used. One caveat though, is access to high-speed internet. While Openfilm’s library of crisp video plays smoothly over our home network, the video is a bit more than your average Wi-Fi cafe can handle. We found that playing video at full screen gave us better playback performance. Uploading our video took less than twenty minutes to complete, which was slightly longer than it took with competing services. Openfilm’s playback feature is so good that it matches other services’ HD quality. Your videos shot in HD will definitely stand out from the crowd.
Vimeo is a leader when it comes to HD video online. Vimeo’s on-site video looks great, and it allows us to download and keep the original video file that was uploaded (QuickTime, H.264, M4V, WMV). We uploaded our video in under 10 minutes (quickly). HD videos automatically play at HD resolution, which hinders playback smoothness on slower internet connections. But if you (and your audience) have the speed, HD is the way to go. Vimeo lets us upload 500MB per week, and allows one HD video per week. Vimeo also offers a paid service called Vimeo Plus ($59.95/year), with unlimited HD uploading, along with priority over other users when we do upload video. Vimeo also shows off a growing community of enthusiastic users. Now that’s a way to get your video out there!
ExposureRoom isn’t about getting money for your video views. Well, not directly anyway. Super-duper high-quality video plays at multiple resolutions, so ExposureRoom is the place to channel your inner Director of Photography. Much of the video content here is shot on film or broadcast cameras. Seeing XDCAM, Red and DVCPRO-HD in the video details is typical. Even though the videos are downloadable, ExposureRoom’s streaming videos play very well and keep their detail in moving shots. Playback defaults to Medium (640×360 resolution), which is in between two other playback options, Lo (336×189) and HD (1280×720). ExposureRoom’s 640×360 resolution videos looked as good as 720p videos on other sites. We’re able to start viewing videos immediately at our local wi-fi cafe. It’s just too bad we’re not in the market for a DoP.
Metacafe is all about fun and how-to videos. While playback quality isn’t tops, most of the videos present here are lower-res anyway (see Funny Water Accident). Videos run smoothly in both windowed view and full-screen. Like we said, compression is pretty heavy, which puts Metacafe’s video slightly ahead of YouTube’s Normal Quality video. Metacafe also seems to emphasize their adult demographic; even with their Family Filter button set to On, we see liquor ads front-and-center. With other online video sites, Family features try to hide content unsuitable for viewers under 18. Jim Beam also hosts a video contest which takes up a sizable chunk of the website. However, Metacafe allows its video producers to set up Channels and earn Producer Rewards (real money). Some producers have already earned a five-figure paycheck (take that, slow economy!) from their Metacafe viewership.
In a not-too-distant past, web video occupied the lowest rung on the ladder. That is to say, it was surpassed in quality by every other type of video distribution; cable TV, local broadcast, DVD and heck, even VHS tape was better. Now web video occupies a new space – one all its own – even surpassing the other forms of distribution. With its meteoric rise in popularity and quality, video is only a high-speed internet connection away. If you envision yourself uploading lots of HD video, be sure to look over the service limits on uploading HD. They differ with each service and may change as HD uploading becomes more popular.
Contributing editor Andrew Burke is an independent producer and has worked in all areas of video production on three continents.