How to Send Video Files to your Client (Part One)

This article is in reference to sending video to your clients. It could be as simple as sharing a video via Bluetooth or as complicated as distributing different video versions to several countries.

All said and done, only you know your client. This article is just an exercise in analysis, and shouldn’t be followed as-is, in any way. Please.

First, a bad analogy

How to send video files
2003 2013
You export to tape – DigiBeta or D5. You encode your video to one or ten formats. Then you do it again and again until the data rate is just right.
You gift-wrap your tape and label it. You organize your videos one by one, into folders, with the correct metadata and versioning system in place.
You call your favorite mail service. Your favorite search engine finds your favorite online video service. You log in, now a proud member of a monthly plan.
Mailman shows up and you hand over the package. You spend hours uploading. Twice the upload breaks due to some arcane error.
You call your client to announce the mail’s on the way. Client smiles. You email your client the link with detailed instructions on how to access the video, including passwords, etc. Client frowns.
Client calls to say the link is broken. Their firewall is blocking Javascript, Flash or some other crap. Their IT guy blames us.
The link is working now. Client sees red because their Internet connection is slow, and it’ll take four hours to download the video.
Client calls to say they have received it. They get what they asked for. Client wants to know why your carefully encoded video is of poor quality, unwatchable on their 27″ iMac. Didn’t you shoot with a 4K camera and charge four times the price?

There are two types of people – whose who don’t have a problem sharing videos with their client, and those who do.

Those who are Internet-savvy (everyone likes to think they are) might feel the analogy is unrealistic. It’s easy to share videos online. Yes, it is….until it isn’t. The reality is that sharing videos online is not a pleasant experience for anyone who cannot unload the dirty work to lowly paid IT personnel.

This article explains how to send video files to your client. First, let’s address a monster I just raised with the analogy: shipping.

Video Rainbow

Why not ship drives to your client?

The low-end

If you have a free Dropbox account you can upload a 2 GB file within your free 2 GB quota. According to this article on how to compress video for the Internet, you can get the following for 2 GB:

  • About 30 minutes of 1080p @ 8 Mbps.
  • About 13 minutes of 1080p, 2K or 4K @ 20 Mbps.
  • About 50 minutes of 720p @ 5 Mbps.
  • About 130 minutes of SD @ 2Mbps.

Most client-based videos are in the 15 seconds to 15 minute zone. These are corporate videos, music videos, commercials, reports, etc. However, there are also longer videos like events, weddings, documentaries and features.

720p @ 4 Mbps isn’t bad at all, and you’ll get an hour’s worth of video. A single free Dropbox account can handle this.

If you have a 2 Mbps upload connection, it’ll take you about two hours to upload your content. It’ll take the same time or faster for your client to download the video. Actually, if you send your clients a link, they don’t have to download it – they can watch it online (which is actually downloading it!) Four hours – half a day’s work. All you’re paying for is the Internet connection ($15-$20 per month).

Downside? Your Internet connection is clogged during the upload process. If your connection is shaky, you might have to start from scratch (then it might take a whole day).

What about shipping your 2 GB video? You could do it two ways:

  • Media card or USB drive (about $6.50 for 2 GB)
  • DVD (about $0.50 if you buy it in packs)

The choice boils down to what kind of clients you have, and what devices they have access to. The downside is that only one client can get each copy. You pay $5 or more for shipping. The cheaper the shipping, the more time it takes.

That’s at least $10 per shipment, to only one client, that might take a whole day, and not playable on all devices.

It’s easy to pick Dropbox in this case.

The high-end

What if we flip things around? You need to send 2 hours of 4K material at 50 Mbps. That’s 45 GB.

Here’s a comparison:

Dropbox USPS
Hard drive/Media (64 GB) $0 $35
Shipping $0 $10-$40
Cost of online service $9.99/mo for 100 GB $0
Total cost $29.99 (Incl. Internet) $50-$100
Upload time on a 4 Mbps line 3 hours 0 hours
Download time on a 4 Mbps line 3 hours 0 hours
Delivery time from scheduling to drop 6 hours 12-24 hours or more

For shipping, don’t forget to factor in the inconveniences of purchasing the drives, packaging, etc. There’s also the fear of loss.

Don’t forget that downloading will totally clog up your client’s Internet connection. Uploading will also affect bandwidth on your end.

Finally, the costs for Dropbox and the Internet connection are billed monthly, and are lower, usually, on a project-by-project basis.

The extreme end

What about shipping 1 TB? Here’s a quick comparison:

Dropbox USPS
Hard drive (1 TB) $0 $50-$80
Shipping $0 $10-$40
Cost of online service $66.25/mo ($795/yr) + $60/mo Internet $0
Total cost $126 per month $65-$100
Upload time on a 25 Mbps line 4 days 0 hours
Download time on 25 Mbps line 4 days 0 hours
Delivery time from scheduling to drop 8 days 24 hours or more

Ha! For really big files, it is no longer feasible to upload files online. Even if the costs are somewhat on par with shipping (remember, shipping is still for one delivery only), the time it would take to upload and download a 1 TB file is impractical. And don’t forget, not everyone has access to a 25 Mbps fiber line.

If you only have a 10 Mbps line both ways, it will take almost a month!

This begs the question: At what point does shipping make more sense than online video sharing? Cost-wise, shipping is always more expensive, especially when you factor in more than one client. However, in many countries the shipping costs are far cheaper than they are in the U.S., so you’ll need to calculate your own hard expenses. Bulk buying always makes things more manageable, but do you have the business to sustain it?

For what it’s worth, here are two charts that compare the prices and total times:

Video Sharing Chart1 Video Sharing Chart2

Note: In the first chart, the red line is shipping. In the second, the red line is online video sharing. The x-axis represents file size, from 1 GB to 1 TB.

Shipping will always be expensive. You’ll just need to figure out at what point it makes more sense to ship than wait for your video to upload or download. As far as the above chart is concerned, that limit is 150 GB.

As long as your video is under 150 GB in size, sharing videos online makes sense. After that point, even with a 25 Mbps fiber line, shipping is better. You could use the above methodology to find your own ‘breaking point’. Start with Internet speeds, delivery requirements and your budget.

In Part Two we’ll look at the typical issues encountered in sharing videos with your clients. After that we’ll compare various real-world solutions.


2 replies on “How to Send Video Files to your Client (Part One)”

  1. He does mention Hightail, in part three (albeit briefly).

    Personally, I have had best success with unlisted URLs on YouTube for client approval (after which they’re deleted), then Dropbox for the final delivery (USB stick when Dropbox not appropriate – about 1 in 50 occasions).

    I’ve not experienced problems with uploading longer videos (I don’t think I have ever gone much beyond an hour of material in a single video but I often get up to 45 minutes) but I am increasingly interested in Vimeo’s offering – particularly if the client can download the video (saving me the effort of uploading it to YouTube AND to Dropbox).

    My output is typically in the 2 to 5 minute range, mostly business to business promos, case studies etc, with longer training and event videos every now and then. I am fortunate in that I have a 200mbps broadband connection :-)

  2. Why didn’t you mention Hightail service where I’ve been able to upload two hours of video to a New York agency? That seems to be an excellent solution for $15 a month and the ability to cancel anytime if you go through a down period of not needing it.

    Or sometimes when clients aren’t hep to that yet, I just do a duplicate backup on my i-Mac computer, then send the original SD card to the client. When I do the editing, another option is to post the final results on Vimeo, then have the client download it on their end, or just use the Vimeo video. Many like the latter and I can even give them statistics on usage at any later time. Unlike YouTube that seems to be a problem posting longer videos, Vimeo can use videos that are even two hours long. When working as a news videographer, that is our solution when we embed the videos with the articles.

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