In Part One we looked at one way to find an upper ceiling for the file size to determine whether online video sharing is viable or not. Three factors affect this:
- File size/data rate of the video
- Internet speeds of both user and client
Let’s say our needs fall within the ball park we have established and we’re ready to play. Now we need to learn the rules of the game. To do that, we need to find the right questions to ask.
In this part we’ll study the typical issues that crop up in any client-vendor workflow and look at some examples of how to send video files to your client. It should give you enough information to get started.
The typical client-based workflow
It’s very simple, really. You hand over a video. Client gives feedback. You make changes. Rinse and repeat. When no more changes need to be made, the final video is sent.
As far as this article is concerned, all this must be done online. The idea is to do it as quickly and painlessly as possible, especially the parts where clients are involved.
How does a simple workflow turn complicated? Choices. Add choices at every turn and it quickly becomes a maze. Let’s return to our analogy established in Part One:
Look at the choices – all viable for computer viewing (if you don’t know what these terms mean, head over to the Learning Center):
- Resolution: SD, 720p, 1080p, 2K, 4K, etc.
- Frame rate: 23.976p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 30p, 50p, 59.94p, 60p
- Color space: sRGB, Rec. 709
- Codec: H.264, MPEG-2, X.264, DivX, MPEG-4, RED, etc.
- Wrapper: Quicktime, Flash, AVI, MP4, MKV, etc.
- Streaming: HLS+, DASH, Flash
- Encoding type: VBR, CBR
- Chroma Sampling: 4:2:0, 4:2:2, 4:4:4, RGB
- Audio bit depth: 16-bit, 24-bit
- Audio sampling: 44.1 KHz, 48 KHz
- Audio channels: mono, stereo, surround
- Audio codec: Dolby, LPCM, MP3, MPEG-2, AIFF, etc.
- Data rate
Many of the above parameters are easy to choose based on the project, but not so easy when it comes to sharing.
E.g., you might want to shoot in 4K, but there are few players that can playback 4K. You might have shot your video and finished it in Rec. 709, but few clients have video monitors that can accurately represent that color space. You might have opted to encode in Flash, but these are not playable on Macs. Similarly, Quicktime codecs have ‘problems’ with Windows-based systems.
You might even do something brilliantly stupid like sending a client an uncompressed 1080p master, but forget to tell them they can’t play it back in real time without fast drives.
The online service provider
Choosing an online service provider is not always easy. We tend to look after our interests, and sometimes forget that clients might have trouble with our choices.
Take Youtube. Many people think because Youtube is free you can just upload a video, mark it ‘Private’, and send links to your clients. It’s perfect, except for the following problems:
- Youtube further compresses your video.
- You sign away certain rights. Do you know what they are?
- Your clients will need a Google+ account to access your videos.
- Google can remove your video at any time. It can close your account at any time without warning.
Now, if you have a client who is willing to use a Google account and willing to sign away certain rights, then it makes perfect sense. What if they aren’t?
The same applies to Google Drive, which is actually a pretty viable option. You can upload up to 15 GB after which point it’s $4.99/month for 100 GB. A file can be as big as 10 GB. You can share folders with different clients and restrict access to these folders on an email-by-email (all Google accounts) basis.
You can use Google Hangouts to chat with your clients, and record these sessions for future use. You can use Google Drive documents to prepare notes, or your client can give you feedback via these notes.
Very handy – if you’re okay with Google’s terms of service. The same applies to iCloud, SkyDrive, etc.
The problems begin when you (or your client) won’t agree to their terms of service. Now the choices multiply, and the costs go up.
The monthly/yearly plan and the million choices
Every online service ultimately charges by the bandwidth. They also charge for keeping the account active. They do this so they can sustain and grow their business.
You see, nobody knows who’ll be around five years from now, let alone ten or twenty.
Many producers assume that they can pass on the monthly fee to the client and get on with business. That’s a perfectly fair assumption, provided you know the downsides:
- There is a storage fee – if you want to keep your videos online for a longer period, the costs are separate.
- The cost per view is fixed, even if the service says unlimited views. You are almost always on a shared server, completely dependent on everyone’s traffic. Don’t like it? Then get ready to pay based on the number of views.
- There is the problem of organization, media management and password protection.
- There is the problem of making documents, images, music/audio, etc., work on the same platform. You can’t expect your client to log in to multiple platforms just because that’s how you like it.
- You still need emails or phone conversations to educate a client on how this works.
- You have versioning problems for video. It might be weeks before you or the client realize you’ve been talking about two different videos.
- Larger organizations will have many people who need different levels of access to the uploaded videos.
- If you have found a good online service provider with decent rates and service, their encoding or player might suck. Nobody is good at everything.
- You continue to pay even if there’s no business. If you stop paying, your videos online may get deleted. If you’ve accumulated five years’ worth of videos that go into the terabytes, downloading all that content before you close your account will be a humbling exercise. And after you’ve suffered, you still have to find a new vendor and upload all of this again. By then the players and the technologies will have changed.
- Not all technologies are supported on all devices. The more devices you need support for, the more you’ll pay.
- A small and petty matter like forgetting to update your credit card number when it is renewed might bring your whole operation to a stand-still.
- The bigger the vendor, the poorer the customer service. Service is like products. What is good today will be atrocious tomorrow.
All a client wants to do is click a link and watch a video.
Quality will suffer. There’s no way you can equal Blu-ray or cinema quality online. There is no player or codec that can deliver that throughput.
You need to be an expert in compression to get your data rates as low as possible, while not sacrificing any visible quality. But your client doesn’t care. Most people compromise, hoping the client won’t notice.
It’s not for me to tell you how to treat your clients. You could make all sorts of excuses, but ultimately you’ll be judged on what you show. All it takes is for the client’s little girl to say “Yuck, that video looks like crap. My Google Hangout video looks better.”
That little girl could be your competitor.
One very important point that is often neglected is the power of branding. As a business person, you understand the benefit of business stationary having a unified look, with your logo everywhere. How can you claim to help a client’s brand when you don’t pay attention to your own brand?
Why not have the same thing for your video?
Free video services don’t let your brand on the player, period. Even if you plan on watermarking your logo in the video itself, the player will be branded with the service offering you this platform. In order to get their name off, you’ll need to pay more. Some services explicitly forbid branding or advertising in their terms of service.
A good video platform must get out of the way. It must just play the video and not offer ads, captions, social sharing icons, embedding options, etc.
The point of all this is to show you that once you have decided to play the online video sharing game, you are immediately confronted with choices that even experts find hard to answer.
Let’s see if we can whittle away the problems to a more manageable level.
How to send video files
Let’s look at various online video solutions one by one. I’ll try to cover as much as I can, but I can’t cover everything. Not only that, any or all of these vendors can change prices, terms, etc., at the drop of a hat.
Or they might just go out of business. You just make sure you don’t go down with them.
For the sake of clarity, I’m going to group solutions in this way:
- Online Video Platforms (OVPs)
- Email and FTP
- File-sharing services
- Backup solutions
- Enterprise solutions
In Part Three we’ll look at them one by one.