It killed the radio star

Let’s face it: the web has been about more than text and images for a long time. Now that we’ve got the bandwidth in most cases for delivering HD quality video, it’s almost become expected that video will be a part of your content strategy. How you use video is entirely up for discussion of course, but I want to delve a little more into the technical side of video for this post.

A big part of the Welaptega site content strategy revolves around video. Initially, this video relies heavily on CEO Tony Hall’s personality, passion and knowledge of the offshore as it relates to subsea asset integrity. Since video is so important, we wanted to ensure that it was well presented and very much a focus of the site design.

The video player we created for this is based on a custom implementation of the JW Player with Stream Video Player implemented in the backend of WordPress for easy control of video file formats. There are a number of great things about this combination of tools:

  • You can create a custom player with controls that are integrated with the look of the site. We first used a similar implementation and custom player for Calder Bateman’s Lottery Management site.
  • Video can come from a number of sources, including YouTube, or your own server
  • Specific video files can be uploaded for SD, HD and iPhone/iPad
  • You can use your own still image for the placeholder, which means that you don’t need to rely on one of the three auto selections Youtube makes.

Controls

It’s pretty obvious to me why this is a good solution. Although the stock YouTube controls are better looking than they used to be, I still find them large and cumbersome and decidedly out of place in many corporate sites. We use the standard YouTube embeds here on our site for now, but that will likely change as the site evolves.

Video Sources

The good thing about using YouTube or another video service like Vimeo is that the bandwidth consumed is not your own. In many cases, hosting your own video can be costly – especially if the video is well received and viewed often. This can be quite taxing to servers that are not optimized for serving video, and if you go over your bandwidth limits, the cost per megabyte adds up pretty quickly. For Welaptega, we took a wait and see approach. We wanted to have more control over all aspects of the video experience, and since they are such a niche service provider, it’s not like their videos would go viral with the general public. However, we’ve also posted all of their videos to a customized YouTube channel so that they can be accessed a number of different ways.

Video Formats

It’s no secret that Flash is one of the most popular video file formats. FLV files are used as the default for most of today’s video sharing sites. They’re well compressed, look great, and can easily be set to go full screen. But, the caveat is that they don’t work on iOS devices, which are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the browser landscape. Since JW Player allows discrete files for different devices, we chose to create three videos for each: an SD and HD FLV file, and an MP4 file for iOS devices. This way, virtually all devices have access to the videos, and generally see them within our custom player (iPhones will see the standard video player, however).

Custom Images

Every time I upload a video of myself to YouTube, it randomly generates three images to use as the static placeholder. Invariably, each of these makes me look like a complete dork. JW Player’s custom static image allows you to choose exactly which frame to show. It can even be something that looks nothing like the video, but has custom instructions or imagery. Even though it’s a bit of extra effort, the results are worth it.

Video isn’t going anywhere, and anything we can do to make the experience more seamless for users and content managers is a good thing. How are you using video in your web properties?

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