Are you making plans to add video content to your website? If so, your timing could not be better. More and more business communicators are leveraging the power of video to engage, inform and entertain their audiences in a variety of settings including content marketing, corporate, human resources/internal communications, training, and more.
As our clients plan for video production and distribution, we're noticing a common set of questions that come up. We’d like to share our thoughts on these topics, and hope you find them useful as you consider your own first steps into offering video on your website.
(Note: There are myriad variables when working with video, for which there exist volumes of technical information. This article focuses on providing just a quick overview to get you started with your planning.)
Question: In what format is web video?
Answer: The word “format” when referring to video can mean different things to different people. When people say “format” they may be referring to video standards like NTSC or PAL, standard definition or high definition, 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio, .MOV or .MP4 file format, or something else. There are typically a collection of specifications to keep in mind for web video, where format is just one of those specs. The following specs have produced good results for projects in which we’ve been involved.
Format (there’s that word):
Here are four common web video formats: Standard definition (SD), 4:3 aspect ratio
Standard definition (SD), 16:9 aspect ratio 720p high definition (HD), 16:9 aspect ratio 1080p high definition (HD), 16:9 aspect ratio
There are several common frame rates, but for web video 30 frames per second (fps) is one of the more widely used. 24 fps and 25 fps are slower frame rates usually associated with a more film-like or cinematic look, which of course is found on the web as well.
One of the main ingredients in determing video compression, "codec" refers to the software algorithm with which the finished web video is encoded for playback. H.264 for the video data along with AAC for the audio data provides a favorable balance of quality and file size. And speaking of audio (oh yes, sound!), it’s common to target a sample rate of 48 kHz.
Sometimes referred to as Data Rate, which influences the finished web video's visual quality and file size. We've had good luck starting with Vimeo's suggested bit rate ranges (below), and then tweak from there.
2,000 – 5,000 kbps
2,000 – 5,000 kbps
5,000 – 10,000 kbps
10,000 – 20,000 kbps
(** In kilobits per second)
One can certainly go lower than these suggested ranges in order to achieve smaller file sizes, but visual quality will degrade as the bit rate goes down.
The file type that contains both video and audio data. We’ve found .MP4 to deliver the greatest compatibility, both when reviewing video edits with our clients and for final distribution/playback.
Question: What format, resolution and frame rate should we target when making our web video?
Answer: It depends on a number of factors, but the specs of existing assets that are to be used within the video – especially existing video footage – are often an important factor. Older footage is typically in standard definition, with a 4:3 aspect ratio. If your video is to be made largely out of older footage, you may end up going the SD 4:3 route. However, there are many creative ways to incorporate older assets into a more modern-looking 16:9 presentation – potentially even in high definition. Generally speaking, because we live in an increasingly hi-def world, we look for ways to target HD specs when planning web video projects. HD projects can always be re-exported for SD.
Question: How long should the web video run?
Answer: That depends on the intent of the content and the makeup of your audience. But generally speaking, shorter is better. Even if the video is meant to be a longer piece (say for educational purposes), don’t make it any longer than it needs to be. If the video is running longer than you think is appropriate for your audience, splitting the video into shorter segments or chapters is always an option.
Question: Should I stream my videos from my own web server, or should I upload them to a web video service like YouTube?
Answer: Let’s look at this topic with respect to two potential scenarios: self-hosted streaming and video-sharing streaming.
In this scenario, your videos are uploaded to your own web server and played back from pages on your website. Although the level of technical detail that this topic can cover is beyond the scope of this article and the services we offer, we can give you two important things to consider: user load and compatibility.
User Load: how many people will view your video via your website? And more importantly, how many people will view the video at the same time? If you have just a few videos on your website that receive infrequent traffic, then streaming from your current web server may work (always check with your web hosting company first). However, under certain conditions, your requirements may point to the need for specialized video hosting. Also know, like with most things, the more robust your hosting requirements, the higher the cost for the service.
Compatibility: Is your audience mainly tied to their desktop/laptop computers? Or will they view your videos from a mobile device? We can probably all agree that mobile computing is playing an increasingly important role when building one’s web presence. If capturing an audience on the go is important to your business, then it’s important to keep mobile compatibility in your plans. Without going into all the technical details behind video compatibility on the mobile web (intrepid readers can Google “Flash vs HTML5”), self-hosted video will require video playback objects programmed into your pages that are compatible with both standard web browsers and mobile web browsers.
Yes, self-hosting can be complicated. But, if complete control over user experience and your website’s hosting environment are objectives when planning for video, then self-hosting may be the way to go.
This scenario has plenty of service options. Two common ones of course are YouTube and Vimeo. As most are probably familiar, this involves uploading your video to your chosen sharing service, copying the embed code generated by the service, and then pasting the embed code into the appropriate web page(s) on your site. Another approach is to simply link from one’s website to the video (i.e., instead of embedding the video), which will take the viewer over to the video-sharing website.
Just like the self-hosted option, there are numerous advantages to going the video-sharing route. Two commonly noted advantages are:
Offloading the management of video hosting and requisite technology to an established third-party service provider.
In the case of YouTube especially, realizing the benefits of social interaction with your content. Social interaction is certainly possible with self-hosted video, but YouTube exists specifically for this type of engagement.
That's a Wrap
We hope this helps you better understand some of the common topics around the production and distribution of web video. We encourage your feedback – what things do you commonly run into when working on web video projects? Are there other questions you have about web video? Feel free to comment below.
For today's episode of Marcom Talk, Mike Gastin and Mike Nelson outline the steps of a video project. With video becoming a bigger part of content strategy, we hope you find this talk helpful in planning your next video project.
What’s been on your marketing mind lately? What burning questions from your corner of the marcom universe are in need of answers? Let us know! We’d love to help by offering some of our thoughts in future episodes of Marcom Talk. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below.