Sharing Wedding Video Online (A How-To Guide)

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    • #36933
      AvatarAnonymous
      Inactive

      I am a web developer and have solved some of the difficult problems of conversion, password protection, tracking, and paying for bandwidth in order to share entire wedding video online. For those who have the money, time, and technology resources to create their own solution I have given extensive observations and guidelines below so you can do this yourself. For those who don’t have all of the above, info about my website is listed at the end of the discussion below for those who are interested. Please note, my experience is with flash video conversion of slow moving source video usually shot with a tripod, for wedding videos. The information below does not apply to you if you are shooting car races or underwater fishies.

      The problem I have now is how to approach creators of video content who are set in their ways. Where do I go to find accomplished videographers who are willing to speak with an equally accomplished technician about their online video? And there’s a very definite distinct way different videographer generations accept or reject an online video sharing service. The younger videographers are more accepting. I see a distinct hostility and distrust in the small number of older generation of videographers I have approached. I don’t know why any of this is true, it’s just what I’ve observed, from the small number of people I have come into contact with.

      For those of you who are thinking of doing this on your own, here are a few guidelines on how to create and share web video online. It’s a bit tech heavy and detailed, but when I was starting out there was no real place to learn this except for spending a lot of time and making my mistakes. Hopefully this will set you a few steps ahead of where I started. Let me disclaim, I am not affiliated with any of these companies, I just use the best technology which gets across the stuff I need. The main things I’ve learned about web video are

        User Accessibility

        Compression Quality

        Bandwidth

        Streaming method

      You should remember that on the web mobility and flexibility will win over highest quality

      User Accessibility
      As much as you may like any one codec over the other, the name of the game online is user access. If they can’t see it or will hesitate when consuming your video users will not follow through and watch. So whatever your own feelings about Quicktime, Real, Windows Media or Flash, if you want people to see your video with the least amount of problems try to go with the codec which the majority of your users have. As of January 2007 Flash is installed on the most user browsers. Whatever the official stats are, you have to know your own audience. Mine have about 90% compliance with flash, so I use it for everything video related I do. The rest of the video codecs have 60% compliance or less (Disadvantages of lower compliance rates are that someone will have to update their plugin if they don’t have what you created in, and may not stay to watch your video). Disadvantages of any video codec are that no matter what the acceptance rates are, some people have it turned off. People who don’t like Real, Quicktime, or Windows Media will not install it on their machine. People who don’t like flash advertising will add a flash block application, which works to block your video too. And for these users, whatever you create you just have to accept that they will not watch your video.

      I do like that I can create my own interface, round the corners, make partial transparency overlays, get rid of black bars, and create stats for my flash player. Some of the scripts I’ve built into my player which interest me tell me what version of player my users are coming with, whether they used the scrubber bar to click onto a different region of video, and how much actual total video they have watched. Like if they watch the first 5 seconds, then scrub to half way and watch another 5 seconds, and then scrub to near the end and watch the remaining 10 seconds, I know that someone came by and watched 20 seconds and what sections they have seen. While these things may not be useful to you, it does help me to know a little more about my user habits. And if you really come up with stuff you want to know about, just create the code script for it.

      Flash video is a bit more complex than the other video solutions in that you build your own player. It is separate from the actual video file. The video file is proprietary and needs to be created from some other video source. Whatever your original video source, avi quicktime, or mpeg your final flash video is the FLV file. And to view this flv file you can either use the standard video player which comes with flash or build your own. Building your own has the advantages of giving you the types of user usage information you are looking for in a very small filesize. You can easily build a 4-10kb player with incredibly complexity embedded in it. This player then begins requesting your flv files randomly, in a set order, from a database call, ordered by size, popularity, unimaginable possibilities. You can put branding on it, set a 3 second delay, fade video in, overlay legibly clean vector text on top of transparent bars running over your video, embed links at any location.

      Compression Quality
      There is a give and take when it comes to web video. As a videographer you want your viewers to see the absolute best quality. But online better quality means that you have to encode with higher bitrates, which results in larger file sizes. So the give and take you play with is creating watchable bitrate video versus small filesize. If you encode very high bitrates video files it takes you longer to encode, your video is a very large filesize, it looks good, but users have more to download. If you encode at lower bitrates, encoding time goes down, your video quality goes down, but it’s a smaller filesize for people who watch. Youtube video is a very good realworld example of compression speed and quality: They achieve fast compression because their final product is automated and very low quality. Sometimes you can even see the actual blocky pixels in high motion video, because it has been encoded with such low compression bitrates. End users don’t care in that kind of medium, they just want to watch.

      A very important distinction you have to know about are versions of your user player. Flash version 6 and Flash 8 have different codecs for encoding and decompressing video. Flash 6 & 7 players can use Sorenson video, and Flash 8 allowed both the new On2 codec and Sorenson codec. Advantages of On2 have always been lower filesize with cleaner video. But again, you have to know your audience. A more compressed video with Flash 8 means that your user has to have a much more powerful processor. So if your audience is worldwide, your users just don’t have the processing power to decompress your video, don’t encode in Flash 8/ On2. While the Sorenson encoding process gives you a larger filesize, it takes less resources for your users to decompress it. So you really have to know wheter your viewing audience has the latest processor and large memory to decompress your latest compression encoding, or whether you are trying to reach a more general audience who have average processor power and memory in their computer.

      A much finer point is single versus dual pass when you encode, just like creating DVD quality material. More passes take more time to encode but give back cleaner video. The products you get to encode video range from open source FFMPEG which cost nothing to encode video and compress very fast, to Sorensen Squeeze and On2vp6 encoders, which cost hundreds of dollars but result in really good looking dual pass end video.

      Bandwidth
      Bandwidth is both important for you and your end user. When you create video your users must have broadband to watch it. If they have dialup then even if their computer is powerful enough to decompress your video they just don’t have the bandwidth to accept your file. It has to do with kbps. Dialup peaked about 56k modems. That means they are allowed theoretically 56 kbps. If your video is encoded at 128 kbps or 256 kbps or more, the math just does not work out to allow them to watch. They will download a bit, then video will stop, then download some more, then they watch more. This used to be standard 10 years ago. Video would be 120 pixels high and 160 pixels wide. And you would download it. And then a few minutes later you would watch it. Broadband using cable or dsl rates allow your users 300kbps or 768kbps allowable, depending on whatever they have subscribed to. As long as your video is encoded below their broadband capability, it will play as it downloads. The other reason bandwidth is important, is if you become popular. If 100 people watch your 3 minute sample in one day you will pay for the bandwidth they use. They just sit back and enjoy your video. Math on this is pretty easy; if your file is 30 megabytes for your clip and 100 people watch it, you are suddenly responsible for 3 thousand megabytes of bandwidth transfer. 3,000 Mb is 3Gb worth of transfer. Watch your limits if you pay for your own traffic. Your ISP charges you both for how much is on your server AND how much bandwidth your users consume. For most of us text and image files are such low bandwidth and so few people use it, bandwidth has never been a problem. If you have a popular podcast, a video podcast, or serve up heavy video files, you will begin seeing your bandwidth bills costs grow and become more important than just the encoding tool costs for your video.

      Streaming method
      The final point to consider is streaming method. There are very few things in life which need to be streamed live. Breaking news, world events, and a few other things. Again, this comes down to quality versus access. A few years ago when the Iraq war just started reporters wanted to get the shot and get away from the scene, so they started using video cellphones. They tried to broadcast this on television, and we all remember the blocky dark images, but it was important. This idea is true for streaming. If you need to serve it up right now then you stream it live. And people come right at that time. And you pay for the bandwidth. Quality is lower mostly so that bandwidth can be affordable. Or if your compression is great, then just remember that your end user should have powerful processors to decompress your video. If you can edit and serve it up later you can cheat. The cheating happens in encoding bitrates. As long as your encoding bitrate is lower than your user broadband capacity, your video will begin playing as they land on your website. You are not streaming it, but their pipe to accept data is larger than your encoding bitrate, so it looks to the user like they are watching it without having to first download, wait, and then watch like we used to do 10 years ago to watch video.

      There are lots of arguments for and against live streaming, including cost, and quality. But in the end you have to know your audience. There is a cost to immediate availability. I created lots of video podcasts, and I have always found it much less expensive to serve up edited files later. The reasons for this that you can spend time editing your files and making them look great. Compression will do the work of lowering your quality, but using dual pass encoding and spending the time to set up your files will make it look better to your end user. A final overlooked advantage to serving up your files later is that you work with your users time schedule. For national or international users they don’t have to be awake during your stream. They can see it when they want, and you don’t have to pay for streaming servers. Streaming servers take care of predicting how many people are viewing, it doesn’t give up your whole video if they only watch 20 seconds, and it is very intelligent about sending video. But it’s for enterprise level work.

      Again, mobility and flexibility win out over quality on the web. The easier you can make your video accessible online to your users, the more likely they will accept a bit lesser quality. They probably don’t see all the artifacts you do.

      I use Flash 8 but save to flash MX 2004 version to increase the userbase who have flash installed on their machines. I encode video using dual pass, in Sorenson Squeeze.


      Sharing My Joy
      http://www.sharingmyjoy.com

      For anyone interested, a quick summary of my website is allowing brides/grooms to share their Wedding Video online in a protected space. I cooperate with the videographer, have the videographer mail me content in raw format, and I convert in multiple passes. I place the finished file in the wedding couples’ password protected space. They evite friends, so the entire video up to 2 hours can be seen up to 500 times. Or 1 mom watches it 500 times. Advantages to the wedding couple are legitimately sharing their video among tech aware friends & family, with consent of their videographer. Advantages to wedding videographers are getting their video seen legitimately by up to 500 people per couple who come specifically to see the wedding video. It’s a marketing tool for videographers, but some sales are made when this many people watch the video. People who watch the video comment on its quality and some do make recommendations to friends about the videographer whose video they watched. I don’t charge videographers who want to send a sample, and I try to break even by charging the bride/groom. I don’t know what the website will become, but I’m experimenting with new ways of allowing videographers to get more views of their high quality work.

      If you have observations, comments or questions please don’t hesitate to post here. It’s a great time to be experimenting and learning about internet technologies.

      virtualscribe

    • #163951
      Avatarbirdcat
      Participant

      How are you handling the music royalty issue?

      Are you putting yourself at risk if the videographer inculdes Top-40 music without securing a license for it?

    • #163952
      AvatarAnonymous
      Inactive

      Birdcat,

      I make all parties aware that I provide conversion technology, this video will be online, to be consumed by third parties. Both videographers and bride/groom couples know the rules. So far I have only gotten videographers who use music, no vocals. Sounds to me like MIDI music or instrumental of some sort.

      I expect videographers respect their art enough to pay for audio which enhances their final product. But I certainly understand that money is tight and the point of view of some video pros who opt not to share his/her work among 500 viewers so that extra payments don’t accrue. It is a give and take business, though. By having more people see the video it’s more likely more people will purchase video services. But by not sharing video one can save money on audio royalties.

      But good point. When I start getting videos which are generously using top 40 hits, who gets the money? Does it depend on how many users watch? Or how popular the music is? Do music industry heads charge videographers more if say, YMCA is used? or some Menudo tune from the 80s? While I am good at technology, I am not a lawyer.

      ————————-
      virtualscribe

      Sharing My Joy

      http://www.sharingmyjoy.com

    • #163953
      AvatarAnonymous
      Inactive

      How do you handle it, CompuSolver?

      It looks like you have a similar business model, you charge $299 for clips, post videos in a password protected place at your site OK Video Guy

      Your website says:

      ============

      We’ll take the preparations, the vows portion of your ceremony, and highlights of your reception and post as separate 320×240 web clips in Flash format, for the viewing pleasure of your far-flung friends and family.

      Of course, if you have different preferences as to which parts of your wedding are posted, what size and format, etc. we can most likely accommodate you with no extra charge.

      Your wedding video clips will be posted on OKVideoGuy.com using your name and a log in page so that they are viewable only by people you send the info to.

      ============

      Have you already been through these issues?

      I agree with all the legalese and rights protections, musicians do need to be paid for their hard work, and the multinational corporations which represent them also need to be paid for whatever it is they do. Make shiny plastic covers, ship it to stores, sue mp3 downloaders, market the RIAA, whatever else, I don’t know.

      This service is just conversion of video, for a wedding couple to show their own friends their own wedding. Privately. Dozens of couples I asked a few years ago would never think of putting anything up online. They were just against it, a distrust of all things internet. Times are subtly shifting, the younger crowd is more willing to broadcast their lives, as long as they have controls to let in who they want. The brides and grooms I work with want assurances that their privacy will be respected, and that just anyone won’t come in to see their personal lives. They want control of their information, to share it with people they want. Broadband is nearly ubiquitous, and the younger people are beginning to share large portions of their lives online. From texting, to IMing, facebook, youtube, myspace, and a dozen other ways to keep connected.

      And I also agree with you; the randomly generated passwords for each visitor can easily be put up on websites for all to see. Do you see that in your wedding couples’ guests online behavior? So far mine have been pretty excited to see the video. It’s kept quick, simple, accessible, and guests respect the privacy concerns of their wedding couple friends. People log on, they comment, and then they leave. A few moms and aunts come back a few times and selectively watch portions of video often.

      I’m also looking at the actions of youTube, the largest bad video sharing website in the world. Before youTube there was no way to publicly share cell phone video of cats, people getting hurt, and babies. They took the bold step of saying, we respect that you want to share and please respect other content creators’ rights. Their policy is to be very quick to remove offending content. Yes, they get law suited. But people generally are good, and sharing drives the consumption. Fear of lawyers has not prevented people from sharing some really cool stuff online. In mid March of this year the low rated Saturday Night Live show had a video skit called Lazy Sunday, and it was funny. Kids posted it to youtube, and NBC sued the service. It went up over and over and over. NBC actually saw a resurgence in people watching Saturday Night Live because people shared material and wanted to willingly watch it. Some of the fancy lawyering forced removal of content. And fast forward to the end of the year; Google purchased youTube, NBC made deals to sell their own content on youTube, and now all 3 network stations have grudgingly put their content online. You know what? More people watch their shows now than they did before. You can see shows like The Office whenever you want, you don’t have to be in front of your TV screen on Thursday, and these online videos saved that show. Because of convenience. And accessibility. I have taken the approach of trying to attempt to understand the law and push boundaries without breaking the law. If I broke the copyright laws, can you imagine? I would be in jail and have to tell my poor mom that I am serving time for helping couples share their wedding video X-D And the other inmates would snicker when they put me in solitary confinement for optimizing dual pass Sorenson codec for flash, and actionscript / php calls!!!

      My bride/groom couples, videographers, and their friends seem to actually enjoy being able to see all this content. They are pretty vocal about appreciating the shared nature of it. Are most professional videographers hiding from innovation because they are afraid of obtusely worded legalese? As far as I can tell, people use tapes, VCRs, DVDs, digicams, mp3 players, and something called the internet to share.

      It’s true, I don’t have control over what people do. I can’t watch every password. But even videographers are beginning to feel the shift. If videographers are scared to work with this type of service, they will miss out on what happens after they shoot video. We all see video posted by brides and grooms on youTube and google video. It’s small, the youTube/google video compressors do an awful mess with the conversion, and the end result is grainy, watery sounding work. Not really something you want to represent your own work with. By controlling the quality of conversion, there is future revenue to be generated because of the hundreds of people who see and appreciate quality of the work. But I do think if videographers sit this one out, a new technology will be used to share the video anyway. I choose not to be on the sidelines while technology to share and show off really good quality video improves. I choose to participate and create the technology.

      virtualscribe
      Sharing My Joy
      http://www.sharingmyjoy.com

    • #163954
      AvatarAnonymous
      Inactive

      Wow !!!

      We have similar code instances. I have a database count up the number of times the video file has been accessed, from a call inside the video player. Once the 500 view limit has been reached, different sample videographer content plays in the place of original video, and the couple is notified that their bandwidth access limits have been over reached. It’s not happenned, but I can imagine a military couple considering the entire military to be their friends and family.

      If at the end of your limit you are serving up the message, "Limit Reached" consider instead, serving up some other clips of your best examples. It might cost you bandwidth, but your video gets shown. I am also writing error codes on my apache server to serve up random video clips during 404 errors or authentication errors. It’s a kinder, gentler way of saying, sorry about the mistake, but here’s what I do.

      And the database counter gives videographers stats about how heavily their content has been viewed; whether it was legitimately or through the 404 or some other error codes.

      virtualscribe

      Sharing My Joy
      http://www.sharingmyjoy.com

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