Last Updated 7 Nov 2010, Broken Link Cleanup 31 Aug 2016.
Welcome to a brain dump on web video as it stood in 2010. Check out the List of Streaming Movie Websites for more up-to-date information.
Here’s my short list of sites that do ad revenue splits:
- Atom Films (and sister site Addicting Clips)
- Blip.tv (compatible with Miro)
- Revver – careful: may go out of business soon
- Start Your Tube (startyourtube.com)
- YouTube (you have to apply and be approved – and as of Feb 2009 they began testing paid downloads)
I do not know of nor recommend any websites that pay you for exclusive rights to stream your content. See my post about why filmmakers should not give up exclusive streaming rights.
As of September 2010, Hulu, iTunes (paid) and Netflix are not open to small content creators, although there are back doors if you really want to get your content distributed on these commercial networks.
Here is a short list of sites that don’t pay you money, but will host your content free: Babelgum, Current.tv, Dailymotion, Funnyordie.com, Guba.com, Kaltura, Porkolt.com, Vimeo, Vo.do (P2P distribution)
If you want to distribute video podcasts through iTunes, you will have to find your own hosting. Blip.tv, for example, is built to plug in to iTunes’ free podcast distribution system.
If you’re posting web video, especially if you are making money off them, you should be getting the necessary clearances, and following these Guidelines for Fair Use in Online Video.
FreeSound.org has Creative Commons sound effects.
Archive.org is great for public domain music and stock footage. (Keep performance rights and use of image in mind.)
CCMixter and SoundCloud have Creative Commons music samples.
Optimizing for Auto-Compression
Remember that the site can only compress the video to look no better than it does when given to them. Garbage in = garbage out.
Some sites will not compress (shrink file size by reducing image quality) if you have already compressed to their specs. This is the best option, because it gives you control over the final look. Otherwise, you should compress to their maximum upload size and no more, since they are going to further compress the video.
Example of specs: YouTube has two aspect ratios SD 4×3 and HD 16×9 and distributes in two formats, the fast-streaming Flash .flv with Sorenson Spark H.263 encoding and mono mp3 audio; and the H.264, Stereo AAC version they added for AppleTV and iPhone use.
As for the resolutions, the minimum on YouTube is 320×240 pixels; the max is 1920 x 1080. Sites like Vimeo and Blip.tv have carved out niches from YouTube by offering better quality video. But they also take longer to stream, which can mean lost views from impatient internet viewers.
What are the best resolutions for web video (if you have to choose)?
Of course, you can’t go wrong mastering in 1080p. Provided you shot HD, you should master at the highest resolution of the footage, either 1080p, 1080i or 720p. If you shot SD, master at 480i anamorphic (since everything is widescreen 16 x 9 now, if your footage is 4 x 3, just pillarbox it).
Tube Mogul has a handy chart of different formats supported by different sites. I haven’t checked this in a while, so it might be outdated.
Ken Stone has a good, if now dated, tutorial on going out of Final Cut Pro to a number of H264 formats for web distribution.
Video File Conversion Software
A cheap program that can go between many formats is great; but a true web video mastermind needs a professional compression suite to output in the many competing web formats.
Media Cleaner, Sorenson Squeeze, and Compressor are the big three. With a little bit of training, you can do automated compression for web videos. Apple’s ubiquitous Quicktime has a Pro version that’s pretty versatile when it comes to format conversions.
Although I haven’t used it personally, I’ll pass on Mark Frauenfelder’s recommendation for VisualHub:
From the maker of the free iSquint (an application I use all the time to convert videos to iPod format) comes VisualHub, a $23.32 application that does everything iSquint does and more, including fitting “up to 18 hours of video on one DVD” that you can play on “any standalone DVD player.”
I have also heard recommendations for Handbrake. I mostly use Compressor, Media Cleaner and Quicktime Pro.
File Formats and Free Players
Quicktime and Windows Media players come in free versions that support a variety of formats (and codecs). DivX encoding seems to be too complicated for most web users, requiring a separate codec to be installed in the player.
Google Video originally wanted everyone to use the open source VLC player which pretty much plays everything and will continue to play everything, since it is open source. Speaking of open-ness, a strong newcomer is Miro, a more ‘open’ web tv player than the buzzed-abou- but-handcuffed Joost. As of Sept. 2008, Joost abandoned the downloadable player for a Hulu-like web interface.
What is the best length for a web video?
The consensus is that shorter is better. If you have a video that is longer than 10 minutes, consider breaking it up into parts. In the NYU Alumni Web Series Showcase, creators aimed to make three webisodes of five minutes each. One of the web’s breakout shows, The Guild, has 3-7 minute episodes.
Getting Web Video on Your TV
I’ve had a strong recommendation for software like TVersity which allows you to stream videos and music from your PC to a PS3 or XBox. Of course Apple is pushing AppleTV which streams your iTunes collection and can play podcasts, and rented or purchased media from the iTunes store. Netflix is on the Roku box as well as many web-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players.
Boxee offers a solution to convert your laptop or desktop into a DVR and TV. Many new HD televisions also accept DVI inputs so you can potentially connect them as a second monitor or have a stand-alone computer like the Mac Mini that acts as a so-called ‘set-top box.’ If you just want to take directly from your computer to your tv, consider programs on this wiki list.
If you want to go in reverse, streaming TV content to a computer, I recommend Slingbox.
If you want to ‘capture’ or ‘ingest’ or ‘digitize’ video into your computer, you’ll need a video card or firewire solution and probably an NLE (non-linear editor, a program like Final Cut Pro or Avid). That’s a subject unto itself.
Rocketboom recommended web video tools
Ten Things a Marketer Should Know About Online Video
Notes on Online Video Distribution from LAFCPUG Oct 07
LonelyGirl15 Creators get $5M and Brightcove ends Pay Media Service