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It’s still a horse race

February 27th, 2006

Flash… Apple…Windows Media… Real Media

Every format has enthusiastic fans who claim their way is THE way to encode video for the Internet.

If only it were that simple.

Flash and Apple have made impressive strides, but according to Jan Ozer, the author of a recent detailed study comparing online video formats, "rumors of the demise of other codecs have been greatly exaggerated.

A press release on the report

What do you use and why?

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  1. Ken McCarthy
    February 27th, 2006 at 22:52 | #1

    The best answer I’ve heard so far is from Martin Wales.
    Here’s my paraphrase:
    “Answering this question with 100% certainty is no where near as important as developing a strategic plan for using video in your marketing – why, when and how to use it – and
    then organizing yourself to get video done.”
    Format options are probably going to be ever changing.
    If you’ve got a plan and you’ve got the video, you can always encode new standards as they emerge – and they will. Count on it.
    On the other hand, if you wait to have perfect clarity on the question before you develop a video strategy and start executing on it, you’re sunk.
    Case in point:
    In 1994, I had the presence of mind to hire a videographer to shoot a conference I
    organized that featured Marc Andreessen – the developer of the first successful web browser – explaining his then still-new business plan.
    It turns out this may be the ONLY good video of him in existence from those historic years.
    What if I had waited until I was 100% sure of which videographer to hire and which camera and what tape format to ask for before I went forward?
    I wouldn’t have the tape.
    Would I do it differently today knowing what I know now. Oh Lord, yes, but here’s the reality:
    “Perfection in infinite time is worth zero.”
    Here’s another wise saying that I’m starting to embrace more and more as I slowly conquer my inner perfectionist:
    “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
    OK, enough of the big picture stuff.
    What format(s) are you using these days for YOUR Internet video and why?
    The world wants to know 🙂

  2. February 28th, 2006 at 00:25 | #2

    The jury may still be out but Flash is ahead in my book for a couple of reasons.
    First, its so easy to embed in a web page plus you can use one player for multiple videos. All the WMM video’s I’ve seen on web take you away from the web page to the player and require viewer interaction to play, close etc. Thats not a good thing in a marketing or business site where you’re looking to channel the viewers attention down to an action step.
    The second reason, I like Flash is that the players allow you to provide a clickable link at the end of the video to faciliate that action step by the user.
    A survey of students in our free internet video training series shows that a little over half are using Windows Movie Marker as their editor and about 35% are using one of Sony’s editors. After editing, we’re teaching them to encode to Flash. Its hard to argue with the ease of use.

  3. Glenn Wallace
    February 28th, 2006 at 02:01 | #3

    Can we go back a step.
    How do you get the video from a digital Sony handycam to the computer. I ahve a cable that goes from the video to the USB port but Windows Movie Maker doesnt seem to be able to pick it up. WMM does recognise a webcam that in the USB port.
    Any help or pointing in the right direction is appreciated. How do I get the digital video fromn the sony handycam to the computer through the usb port?
    I dont know if this is the right place to ask this question.

  4. February 28th, 2006 at 02:59 | #4

    Glenn, Sony handicam is shipped with USB stream set to off, dig around in your Setup Menu and set it to On.
    I also found that the USB connection was too slow and swapping to the iLink (FireWire) produced a smoother result.
    I have a question. The files I am producing are huge and need to be compressed or at least reduced down in some way. I am passing the raw vodeo file through Riva Encoder to produce the flv file. When and how should I try to reduce the file size without killing the quality?
    Ken, I couldn’t agree more about your message…it’s 99% about the message we wish to deliver. The sooner we can step over the mechanics of producing our videos the sooner we can focus on crafting our “video copy”.

  5. February 28th, 2006 at 07:28 | #5

    Why Would A CRAZY Internet Coach Take Advice From A Marketing Legend To Get His Video Onto The Web Now?
    Being a little bit of a tech head (not too much) but a perfectionist with what I try to do I can relate exactly! It took your comment to get through to me finally even though I’d heard it before. Sometimes I’m just stubborn or thick I guess 😉 .
    Anyway it’s done now! No More getting it perfect.
    Great Comment Ken!
    Anyways… it takes too long to be perfect 😉
    Brian Lord
    PS – Great job as usual on the blog. Love it.

  6. February 28th, 2006 at 10:54 | #6

    Hi Ken,
    I find myself asking this question more and more when viewing videos(especially at those sites using streaming videos to market products and services)… “Why aren’t they using Flash…?!”
    It’s almost like I have recently developed this attitude where I expect “everyone” to use Flash and am disappointed when seeing Apple QuickTime or Windows Media Player. I almost never see Real Media anymore(can’t really complain ; P)…
    But why nit-pick about players when content is *still* king.
    God Bless,
    P.S. Where are your videos…? Shouldn’t(isn’t) this be a video blog? Let’s see what media player Ken prefers! ; P
    P.P.S Should we be catering to our visitors(& potential customers) and using the 4 main formats…? Work, work, work… the things we do for you!

  7. RickHap
    February 28th, 2006 at 23:29 | #7

    I have a question about Flash video in particular the wrapper for .flv files.
    The November System CD “The Video Revolution” is an excellent overview of video on the web.
    The CD spoke about several converters that take input video files (.avi etc.) and produce .flv output files. Riva FLV Encoder is one example of a converter.
    Once you have the .flv file what is required to wrap the file into an html page?
    From what I see, the video needs to be wrapped in a Flash .swf file type. This file type is then embedded within your webpage. Example code for Flash media can be found at this webpage.
    What are the mechanics to create the .swf file? Macromedia? Riva Producer? What are people using?
    My next question relates to hosting of flash video. What methods are people using to host the video?
    Once you have your files (.html, .flv and .swf) they are hosted on your website. Most hosting providers only will allow you to utilize Progressive Download Video. An alternative is Streaming Video. From what I’ve researched, most hosting providers do not offer the ability to perform streaming video. Is it correct that in order to stream flash videos, you require Flash Media Server? Which hosting providers offer this feature? Could one install Flash Media Server software on a hosting companies dedicated server solution?

  8. RickHap
    February 28th, 2006 at 23:55 | #8

    Here is a comment to help answer an earlier post on how to capture your video.
    If you have a Mini-DV camera the best method to import video is to use your firewire (or ilink) port on your camera. Your PC needs to have a firewire connection. When you attach your camera to your pc, typically with windows XP will prompt you to import the video using Movie Maker. Movie Maker gives you the hook to import the video from your camera into an .avi file which is stored on your PC. Be aware that video caputre files can be quite large so extra hard drive space is desired.
    As an aside, you could use a USB connection to import the video into your PC. This is not recommended, since the transfer speed is typically insufficient which gives a result of video that is choppy or contains lost frames.
    An alternative method to capture video is to use a program like Camtasia. Camtasia allows you to capture video from your computer screen. This method is beneficial to people who want to demonstrate features of software. With this tool you can capture selected portions of a screen, mouse movements, clicks and much more.
    When you have your .avi file you typically need to edit the video. Many programs exist which let you edit video, VEGAS or Adobe Premiere are two examples of these tools. These tools let you organize the video, add text overlays, overdub audio and much more.
    When you have your video edited you have to render the video. Typically you would render the file into a quicktime or windows format (or flash). The settings for the rendering process set and define the size of video file which will be hosted on your web space (file size in megabyte and video resolution e.g. 640×480) You upload your rendered video file to your webserver.
    Now you need to create some HTML code which allows the video to be played on your website.
    This webpage shows you some simple code which wraps your video file in HTML: http://cit.ucsf.edu/embedmedia/step1.php
    Try creating simple webpage then use a video file on your local machine to test and learn how the code wraps the various video formats.
    I did not reference Flash video since I’ve not explored the mechanics of this video format. From what I see on the web, Flash Video is the way to go.
    The November 2005 System CD gave a good overview on video on the web. I hope this gives you some additional information about web videos.

  9. Gerry Payne
    March 2nd, 2006 at 07:58 | #9

    I quite agree with Martin about “formats” for video on the web. Use something, even if it is not the latest or greatest.
    But that answer begs the question. Our friends who read the newsletter actually want a little information about where to start looking for video collection systems and presentation systems.
    What do you mean by “video?” One can be speaking of an animation made from photos and/or drawings or about a “film” of people or places made in a stream of images like a “movie.’
    Different media, to be sure.
    If you are putting what is essentially a small motion picture on the web you will be using Quicktime. If it’s an animation or slide show it could be in another format like Flash. And, it could be a Flash project with one or more QT films inserted within. I think of Flash as more of a delivery system than as a “format.” Although it does have within it’self its own format – the flash format. A Flash presentation often contains a javascript component as well as flash content and QT content. Confusing? Hope not. Just remember that Flash, as a program, was born to work hand and hand with Dreamweaver, a website creation package.
    Quicktime is a method of compressing and decompressing continuous motion, or “movie” kinds of flowing pictures. If you want your viewer to download a “movie” the best way to deliver it for download or stream is by making a QT movie in whatever output size the recipients internet connection can stand. If the recipient has broadband (T3, T1, Cable or DSN) and is really interested in your movie then a 100Mg. download is not out of the question. If you want your viewer to click on a page link and be treated to a short movie of about 320×240 pixels in size then use a small QT movie. Keep the size not bigger than a couple of mgs. Set the picture to play upon opening and it will start immediately. Nice for short commercials.
    If you want to dazzle the viewer with a group of images combined with programability (Like Javascript) which can summon data of all sorts from the site and respond to choices made by the viewer then find yourself a good Flash programmer.
    I guess the issue is what do you want the viewer to do in terms of immediate response to the media? Make choices which guide the flow of the piece? Flash. See a lovely film of your product, and after it’s over, enter an order? Quicktime with a php response program. Download a document with moving pictures, sounds, and a beautifully laid out catalog with precise data on the product? Call me!
    LOL! That third choice is the Rich Media Acrobat pdf file. I’m transitioning from making print media (industrial catalogs) to downloadable documents which contain QT movies, sounds, and other “Rich” media. Documents which have “life” and are printed on the recipients printer, if he wishes, but not with my ink!
    I think, Ken, that it is all about the participation, or not, of the viewer.

  10. March 4th, 2006 at 12:56 | #10

    This is a bit self serving – but I offer a free internet video training course at my site that covers most of the how-to questions I see here.
    The short answer to how to put flash video on a web is: First, you take your finished video and use a flash encoding tool to created the yourvideo.flv file. Then you use another tool to attach the video player of your choice to your yourvideo.flv file and create the streaming video files. This process takes just a few minutes and creates all the necessary files to upload to your website including the html to put on your webpage. The software to do all this is less the 50 bucks.
    Stop by my site and take a look at how we’re using video to promote our newletter and the video course. Subscription rates to the newletter more than doubled after we added the video promo. The site is http://www.21biz.com

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