I’ll start with YouTube, which seems appropriate. All users can upload a video at least 15 minutes long to YouTube, though there are account types that enable you to upload longer videos. Maximum size for the proletariat is 2 GB, though some accounts can go as high as 20 GB. Resolution can be as high as 1080p, perhaps even higher (YouTube isn’t always explicit on these details). With drag and drop multiple file uploading, getting your files up to the site is a breeze.
YouTube produces all videos at multiple resolutions, with the 720p video I uploaded encoded at 240p, 360p, 480p and 720p, the smaller videos using a codec that MediaInfo couldn’t identify, and the HD videos encoded with H.264. YouTube also encodes all HD videos to WebM format for HTML5 delivery, and delivers H.264 videos via HTML5 for browsers that don’t support WebM.
At the maximum size, YouTube’s resolution and data rate for all videos topped those produced by all other free sites, with only the fee-based service VideoPress producing higher data rate video. YouTube didn’t adjust the resolution of our DV video to square pixel, but did deinterlace very effectively and the video looked great, as did the screencam-based tutorial video, and our iPod Touch video was presented right side up.
The only presentation that I didn’t like is that 4:3 videos appear in a letterboxed 16:9 window, where other sites display 4:3 video in a 4:3 window. Otherwise, YouTube’s quality is absolutely top notch for a free UGC site.
Embed options are good; you can customize resolution for your site and specify whether the embedded video is SD or HD, but can’t specify the color. All files played in Flash on legacy browsers, with Safari playing HTML5 video encoded with H.264, and Opera and Mozilla playing HTML5 video encoded with WebM. The videos played well on my iPad, though there was some extraneous letter boxing around the videos that wasn’t present in the Flash or HTML5 videos. You can view the embedded videos at the end of this article.
YouTube started out as the site with content so compelling that no one cared that the quality absolutely sucked. To paraphrase a politically incorrect cigarette advertisement that few readers born after 1985 will recognize, they’ve come a long way, baby, and unless your content runs afoul of YouTube’s upload limits, you’ve got to strongly consider the site both for accessing the constituency and embedding video into your own site.