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Adding Video Content to Your Website

Add Video content to your website - Improve Customer relationsTelevision has to be the major promotional tool for any company, because it is much easier to get a message across visually than by any other means.  As the internet has expanded as a form of entertainment and information gathering, technologies have developed to combine these two media forms, and allow people to add video content to their websites which can either be viewed online (streamed) or downloaded to a customer's hard disk for later playback.  Even internet advertisers, like Phorm, are starting to see the benefits, providing video playback instead of banner ads.

Shoot a video and stream it from your websiteMany websites have evolved around the ability to offer video content and video clips - perhaps the widest use on the internet has been by the porn industry (out of which have been born many millionaires).  Television and media companies are just beginning to join on the bandwagon and starting to offer their programmes over the internet and to mobile phones as well. 

However, this industry still remains fairly small scale and has only just been marked by the release of specific options in Google and Yahoo search engines to look for video content as well as the evolving PODcast industry - which provides video for download onto Apple's Video iPod.

The phenomenal growth of the Youtube website has helped to show how popular internet video can be, although apart from 'How To' videos, many companies still do not make the most of the facilities available and tend to only offer video clips with an option to purchase the full video on DVD or VHS video.  The main reasons affecting this are the perceived limitations placed upon offering streaming video.

Video Download

Real Networks - Try RealOne Player for free

A video downloaded direct to a visitors hard disk offers the best possible quality for playback.  However, there are various video formats out there and you cannot be certain which type of format a customer can support, or the player a customer is going to prefer.  Remember that there is a sizeable number of people who surf the internet using systems other than Windows, such as Linux.  As a result, most sites seem to offer download options for each of the three main players in the field, each of which offer varying degrees of quality as well as user friendliness (namely Microsoft Media Player,  RealPlayer, and Apple Quicktime).

You also have to balance the quality of the video with the time taken to download the video over a dial-up connection or a broadband connection and at the standard 512Kb broadband, it is still going to take a long time to download a 20 minute video, let alone anything longer.  However, as more and more providers offer 1Mb broadband services as standard (and much faster services), then this will not be a problem, apart from the fact that some ISPs place caps on the maximum downloads available to their users and other "fair usage" policies. 

When designing websites you always have to bear in mind that not everyone will be using fast broadband for access and some may have older computers which cannot support the latest media player software.  You also have to consider how easy it is to upload your video content in the first instance and the speed at which your web site hosting provider will be able to serve the content to your visitors.

From your website point of view, if you want to add video content to your website, you have to balance the amount of storage space and bandwidth required for such large files. 

You will generally need a dedicated server.  If you only intend to offer one or two videos on your website, a cheaper option might be to use Globat as your web site hosting provider, as they offer low cost bandwidth of up to 300GB per month and 10GB of storage.

One thing which you may wish to do if you offer video for download, is to allow the ability for your visitors to convert video to play on mobile devices. Companies such as PQ DVD offer software specifically designed to convert DVD movies onto various mobile devices, such as the Sony PSP, Pocket PC, Palm devices and Apple's video iPod.  This software allows users to convert DVDs, or standard video files (wmv, avi, mpg, mpeg, rm, rmvb, Tivo2go, etc) format on their PC and the software provided by PQ DVD is easy to use and low cost.  At least this does tackle one of the potential pitfalls, in that your visitors may not have the right codec to play your video download.

Video Streaming

The other option for providing video content is to offer video streaming.  This solution sends video to your customer's computer in small packets, which allows the customer to start watching the video almost immediately - whilst they are watching the first few seconds of video, the next packet is buffered in the background, which should help to provide a seamless video experience, although on slow internet connections, they can often be left waiting for the next packet to buffer.

Because the video is transmitted in this way, there is no long delay whilst the customer waits for whole of the video content to download before they can watch any of it.  It also has the added benefit that the visitor will need to return to your website to watch the video more than once. 

However, there does have to be a trade off in quality.  We have found that many streaming videos are also difficult to watch over a 56K dialup connection, with the sound and pictures often getting out of sync - presumably as the video has not been fine tuned to work on either broadband or dial up internet connections.

Macromedia Studio MX allows you to create Flash VideosOne alternative solution which has been used by HIT Entertainment plc (who make children's television programs, such as the infamous Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder), is to create movies with Macromedia Flash which can then be played over their website.  This works really well for short animated movies and we have even seen this method used for streaming small presentations with real people.  However, we have found that the Flash PlugIn (v9) does not appear to install correctly on some setups running Microsoft's Internet Explorer v7 (IE7) - this can be rectified by downloading and installing the Macromedia Flash Active X control instead.  However, this highlights one of the problems with relying on  a separate video player to show your content in that if the user does not have the rights to install an updated or different version of the player, then they will be blocked from accessing your content.

Again you generally have to take account of the various forms of internet connection and media players, which are available to your customers and  provide different versions of the video stream for the varying speeds.  You will also need to bear in mind the high bandwidth and storage space requirements for this type of service, and will undoubtedly need to use a dedicated server

Choice of Player and Video Codecs / Plug-Ins

As well as deciding on the type of video content to supply and how to provide it, you will have to consider which media player the majority of your customers are likely to have installed on their computer - the most popular are Microsoft Media Player,  RealPlayer, and Apple Quicktime, as well as the Macromedia Flash player.  However, even these come with their own problems in that the user may not have the relevant codec installed (this is the software which converts the video to images on screen) or even the latest version of the Media Player. 

Firewalls and browsing control software, which is now commonly used within companies to restrict the sites and types of content which their employees can access may also block video content served in this method.

In either case, your customer may have to download more software from the internet before they can even begin to view your video content which is frustrating, particularly if they do not have rights to install new software (remembering that parental controls and firewalls may also block this).

If your visitors have to go to these extremes in order to access your video content, many will decide to use another web site - no matter what quality of content you promise, if they are unable to view it immediately, people are unlikely to stay around to find out.

JAVA based Video Players

One way around all of these problems is to look at using a Java based video player.

A Java based video player is a small piece of software which is actually embedded within your video content.  This means that whenever a customer wishes to view your video content, they are always ensured of having the correct version of the player for use with your video, without having to download or install any software.  The video displays from within any java enabled web browser, whatever operating system it is running on.  In fact this leads to seamless video streaming.

This can have some huge advantages, as has been shown by GMTV who have adopted Forbidden Technologies java video streaming solution to allow their foreign correspondents to watch the television show from anywhere in the World, without needing to pay for expensive satellite links, in order to enable them to find out what is happening within the programme.

There are various companies who provide Java players (and the facility to convert your video to this format), including Forbidden Technologies, Eyewonder, Oplayo and Clipstream.  The video at the top of this page, was created using Forbidden Technologies software, which we prefer for the quality of sound and video, as well as a consistent frame rate.

The advantages of using the Forbidden Technologies solution are:

  • FORUpload from Forbidden Technolgies plc provides a free entry level video capture and upload program.Video and audio can be sent on a tape to Forbidden Technologies for conversion, or you can convert it direct from a DV tape machine or mini-DV camera connected to a PC via Firewire, or from a Quicktime movie file, using the free FORUpload Windows (or MAC) program. 
    Professional users are also able to purchase a dedicated FORScene compressor which works much more quickly and can handle larger volumes of video. The latest version of FORUpload has a much improved user interface and is now easier to use by novice users.
    Professional use of this product is now starting to be seen, with FORScene being used to edit Super Vets on BBC1 and "Trust Me - I'm a Holiday Rep", which was broadcast on Channel 5.

  • As well as being able to use FORUpload to upload Quicktime video files, and to capture output from DV video cameras, you can now use record CIF resolution video (approximately VHS), with high quality audio, on your mobile phone, and then upload it over the air for editing.
  • FORScene provides an excellent Java based tool for editing and publishing videosOnce it has been converted, you can then edit it online using the low cost Java FORScene program which has features comparable to those expected in television editing suites.  FORscene makes it easy to work collaboratively, since more than one person can have access to the same file and again all you need is a Java enabled web browser to use the software. Prices for editing start from only £1 per hour.
  • There is no need to convert your video content into more than one format, because your customers do not need any special plug-in or player to view your content - 9 out of 10 customers will have all the software they need already, namely a Java enabled web browser.  What is more, you do not have to worry as to whether viewers will have rights to install a player (for example, if they are behind a corporate firewall or have parental controls set), which ensures the widest possible audience for your video content.
  • Video and audio clips can be published from within FORScene to either a web page (FORWeb), a PDA or mobile phone (FORMobile), included within emails (FORMail) or within advertising banners and even uploaded to iTunes for download and viewing on one of the new video Ipods from Apple (PODcasts).  It can also be streamed live if you purchase a FORScene compressor.
  • The video content is highly adaptable, with the ability to add slides, subtitles, splash screens, company logos, chapters and links to websites to the actual video.
  • The FORweb solution (providing video for use within a web page) can sense the datarate of a connection and adjust the size of the video picture to suit the visitor's internet connection speed
  • The video loads as soon as the user clicks on your website - a picture can be displayed within the video whilst the player downloads and initialise.
  • FORMobile works over GPRS networks as well as 3G networks and has been developed to work on
  • the Nokia N-Gage, Nokia N70, N90, 3230, 3650, 6600, 6670, 7610 and 7650, Sony Ericsson P800, P900 and P910i as well as Symbian based phones. Videos can be charged using either a Bango micropayment facility or through an SMS billing system, ensuring that mobile users can easily pay to watch new video content.  With the advent of Viewtooth, mobile users can also share videos and the player between themselves, and this has been successfully used to broadcast video to tradeshow visitors for example, to provide them with free details of what is happening at the show.  With the opening up of the 3G network by Orange, videos created with FORMobile can now be watched on Orange Nokia 6630 mobile phones.
  • The video content can be served from your own server or stored on the Forbidden Technologies' web server at fairly low cost.  Live video content can also be served direct from a FORLive compressor based on location, which, if you have an SDSL (Symmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) can be uploaded to the internet at modem, midband and broadband datarates simultaneously.

Obtaining Video / Sharing Videos

All of this ability to create and store video has lead to the need for Forbidden Technologies to look at creating a website which can form a central source of video content for download and sharing.

Clesh - Edit and Share your Video ContentForbidden Technologies have now released a new website (www.clesh.com) which provides a website for uploading, sharing and downloading video content, including the use of this for private adverts.  This will enable you to use FORScene to edit video clips and upload them from a computer or a mobile phone to a central server where they can be shared with other users, who can access the clips using a PC (or MAC), or mobile.  When you create an account to allow you to store your videos, then you are able to specify who can access the videos or place them in public folders (for example you may wish to open a group account to allow your family to upload and share videos).

This type of video sharing website is becoming more popular and Clesh looks to take off with some quality videos having been submitted in response to a competition run in conjunction with Tiscali.  Alas, with the massive surge in traffic towards Google's YouTube video sharing website, Clesh appears to have taken a back seat, allowing Forbidden Technologies to concentrate on the online video editing capabilities of their solution.

How Do I Protect my Rights in Video?

With the increasing use of search engines to look for videos on the internet, it is essential that you take some action so that if a video is viewed out of context from your own website, any copyright notices are embedded within the video itself and it attracts people to come to your own site to look for more video content.

One of the great benefits of video streaming is that you can control your copyright in the video - without a file to download and store on their computer, people cannot copy your video to DVD or share it as a bit torrent or using any other sharing software.  If they add the video to their own website, you can keep track of which sites are calling for your video and then take action if required.

However, beware that there is software which can capture video as it is viewed on someone's PC - this could then allow the video to be redistributed by others.  The solution provided by Forbidden Technologies has the advantage that you can include a link back to your own website as part of the java controls as well as a watermark in the video itself, thus making it more difficult to remove details of where the video was originally from.

How Do I Use this To Make Money?

Video streaming allows you to make access to video content cheap.  Instead of a user paying for each video which they download, you can introduce a members section on your website where fully paid-up members can watch the videos available as often as they like, provided that they maintain their membership.  Our programming team would be happy to assist with implementing this if you require.

If you wish to offer video streaming to mobile telephones, then this can be implemented using FORMobile and a Bango micro-payment facility or SMS billing system which are both implemented by Forbidden Technologies.

SiteSeer Help to Implement Video Streaming Solutions on your WebsiteWe cannot assist with implementing the actual videos on your website, and would recommend that you use one of Forbidden Technologies' partners, such as SiteSeer



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