Spiral graphic illustrating many different video viewing opportunities, TV, computer, mobile phone, etc.

We’ve all heard the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” Much the same way, if a video is produced but isn’t delivered to its intended audience, does it gain views? Without a proper video distribution network in place, video producers are leaving both money and credibility on the shelf.

While the ghosts of video distribution past may linger in edit bays around the world, a new way of sharing video content has taken center stage. Videomaker has talked with some of the brightest minds in the industry to deliver the insights and resources you need to help make this often overlooked element of business a profit center for you moving forward. But before we can forge ahead, we must revisit the foundation of video distribution and the evolution of moving movies. 

Ghosts of Video Distribution Past

A quick look back at the history of video distribution dates back to the days of analog media. Celluloid plastics and film gave way to magnetic tape, which beget VHS, Beta, MiniDV… large and small, tapes flew out of production houses and producers’ edit bays like hotcakes. However, the cost of capital equipment like tape decks, duplication and transferring machines, coupled with packaging and shipping fees made the cost of producing professional videos very expensive.

As technology evolved to a digital platform, DVDs and flash drives proved to be incredibly cost effective to dub. These require very few resources on the capital equipment front. Other than perhaps a DVD burner or increased RAM for your computer, and allow producers to turn out copies of content exponentially faster. Better yet, video producers can bill clients for the time it takes to duplicate and render the content, which serves as easy money while the computer and capital equipment do much of the work. 

The Enterprise of Distribution

As access to expanded bandwidth increased for small business owners, the ability to transmit large files from creator to customer over Web server and cloud-based connections became affordable, efficient and expeditious. Simply uploading files to private servers or video hosting sites like Vimeo and YouTube meant that the videos were accessible in near real-time. Video distribution has become something of Star Trekian fiction, giving content producers the ability to beam up a file and then having it rematerialize itself in another part of the world. The speed at which producers can share video content today would make Captain Kirk and Spock blush. 

Options-a-Plenty

Creative agencies are often tasked with developing memorable video content that captures the essence of a brand, company or non-profit organization. What helps separate the great creative agencies from mediocrity is knowing the right paths of video distribution. Knowing how to get a video in front of the intended audience, on a variety of platforms, on every device, landlocked or mobile, is crucial. If a video isn't going to work on a device, that's a problem.

"The biggest challenge is getting content out in a format that my clients can use," said Steve Sliker, who created Pivotal Media, a production company in Mesa, Ariz. "It's certainly gotten better. Sending digital files or links from video sharing websites make it easier to cater to our clients."

Leah Teravskis, a digital content producer who has worked with several creative agencies, explained that traditional social media channels offer just the first step in sharing content.

Sites like YouTube, Vimeo — and to an extent — Facebook and Twitter, allow us to start the spread of digital content. But it's the file sharing apps like Egnyte, Hightail and ShareFile — and countless others — that make the delivery of the files so much easier.

The biggest challenge is getting content out in a format that clients can use.

Once the files are sent off to clients, broadcasters and bloggers, getting your content opened and exposed to your audience is the next challenge. Dan Ingvoldstad, the vice president of business development and technology at TalkPoint, says that Web based video distribution offers an element of monitoring that snail mail of hard media could never deliver.

"Video production is easier and less expensive than ever," said Ingvoldstad. "Cloud-based services for live and on-demand streaming are everywhere and offer a 'no barrier' entry for video producers to share their content." Ingvoldstad added that digital video distribution systems that offer tracking and measurement boost the effectiveness of the content video producers are sending out.

YouTube is a quick and easy solution to share your content. Companies that are looking to graduate beyond YouTube are usually looking for some type of return-on-investment. So, they collect registration data from their audience. This allows content creators to see who is actually watching and offer an opportunity to engage with them. 

Understanding Your Video Distribution Service

Moving massive amounts of media over the Internet may look simple to the untrained eye, but understanding how digital distribution works is as simple as 1, 2, 3 … types of distribution methods: Progressive download, streaming, and universal delivery systems.

Progressive Download, without getting tremendously technical, offers a Web server based playback format that calls up a video file from a singular server location. When a Web viewer lands on a progressive download video file, the content is temporarily downloaded onto the requestor’s computer and plays as much of the content as the server can cache at that particular time. This is ideal for shorter videos that offer minimal play control for the viewer.

Streaming Content allows viewers to watch a video without having to actually cache the file. An easy way to understand streaming content is to imagine your computer or mobile device opening a window, which then receives a breeze of data from a streaming Web server. Your computer never caches content, never downloads the video files and offers play control of the content.

Universal Delivery Systems leverage the best of both distribution methods by combining progressive download with streaming content technology. Universal delivery systems allow producers to utilize cloud-based video players, while also offering progressive download content. When a download is required, your computer will pull down the content from the Web server and cache it; when that's not necessary, the video content will blow through like a calm spring breeze.

However you plan to deliver your content, ensuring you have the horsepower to handle the project is incredibly important. Whether you’re working on a Dell Precision T7600 Workstation, MacBook Pro, or HP Z1 G2 Workstation, you’re going to need a lot of RAM. With that capital equipment upgrade comes a lofty price tag, so ensure you have a way to pay down those costs. 

Cashing in on Video Distribution

Having a general knowledge of how a video distribution system works is one thing, but to the average video producer, it's nothing more than tech talk. There is certainly money to be made by sharing your video content with the masses. Websites like Shutterstock, Pond5 and VideoBlocks each have contributing video producers looking to cash in on their stock footage.

"We're constantly looking to improve and expand our collection," Derick Rhodes, video content producer for Shutterstock, told Videomaker in a recent email conversation. "Shutterstock offers affordable, high quality footage from contributors around the world. Our footage has been used recently in Hollywood productions like Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Thor: The Dark World and The Walking Dead." Needless to say, if you have good content, sites like Shutterstock and other video producers around the globe are looking for it.

Rhodes added that if you're a video producer looking to cash in on your creative content, make sure it's compelling. "Shutterstock is the ideal outlet for filmmakers and videographers who shoot useable, commercial content. Shoot what you know, learn from other publishers on our site, and get inspiration." 

Sharing is Caring

At the end of the day, video producers and viewers alike, want to consume content that moves them. How you move that content is totally up to you. Whether you're old fashioned and prefer burning DVDs, or you're innovative and beam up all your content into the clouds, make sure you utilize the technology you have at your disposal. Unless your business can justify the investment in capital equipment that uploads and distributes content in milliseconds, stick with what you know.

"My clients like to know that I get them their content in the most expeditious way possible," noted Teravskis. "If I can make a little extra money by distributing the leftovers to cover our capital equipment expenses, that's even better."

Dave Sniadak serves as the director of visual communications for a marketing agency that caters to several Fortune 500 organizations. Above all else, however, he’s the proud papa of two young, aspiring video producers.

Cloud computing concept image from Shutterstock.

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