Video Essentials

Got an Online Video Question? Ask Jan!


Need help with your online video efforts? Have no fear, Jan Ozer is here!

Ozer is a tremendous source of online video information, and has written some of the most-viewed articles on OnlineVideo.net, including:

To promote his new book, Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5, Ozer will answer one reader-submitted question each weekday for the entire month of June. If you’ve got questions, he’s the person to turn to. Want to know which camera to choose or how to improve your mic technique? Ask Jan. Want to sharpen your encoding settings or get your videos playing on every device? He can help with that, too.

If you’ve got questions—and we hope you do—just leave them in the comments at the bottom of this article. Each weekday in June, Ozer will pick one, and we’ll run his answer here. Please ask your questions in detail, so Ozer has all the information he needs.

As for that book, it’s an essential resource for professionals who need to distribute video over the Net and to mobile devices (especially Apple devices). Check out Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5 on Amazon. Look to the Related Posts section (below) to read three excerpts from the book.

Note: June is now over, and so is the month of Jan. Thanks to all who wrote in with questions.

Thursday, June 30: Investments

Where are the investing opportunities in online video? Are there any small companies that you see big things for?

Or if not companies, what areas show the most growth potential?

Hermie

Hey Hermie:

Thanks for your question. I think the entire streaming market is a rising tide; picking a particular boat is tough to do, and not something that I’ve given a lot of thought to.

Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

Jan

Wednesday, June 29: Silverlight

JUST bought your new book — and, based on some preliminary reading, upgraded to Squeeze 7.

I have a quick question – and I KNOW if I read the book carefully, I’ll get my answer, but I can’t wait!

I edit in FCP (haven’t migrated to X — yet!) and need to create Expression Encoder-ready WMVs, as our firm uses Silverlight for delivery. (Yuk!)

Anyway –- what workflow will give me the BEST looking video from my FCP timeline -– can I go to Squeeze and encode in VC-1 without harm? Or should I just keep exporting with conversion from FCP into a WMV file?

Kirk Lohse

Kirk:

Thanks for buying my book, and for your question. I’m just a bit unclear as to what you’re trying to do.

When you say “need to create Expression Encoder-ready WMVs,” does that mean you’re getting files ready to encode in Expression Encoder? In that case, I would export a QuickTime movie in ProRes format from FCP, and encode that in Expression Encoder.

If you can encode in Squeeze, it’s a great choice on the Mac, since it’s faster than Episode. Quality will be about the same, but Squeeze will get you done quicker (see page 183 for details). Again, export a QuickTime file in ProRes format.

Finally, note that you can use H.264 in Silverlight, which is what I would try to do in your shoes.

If this doesn’t help, send me a note with some additional information and I’ll fill in some more blanks.

Thanks!

Jan

Tuesday, June 28: Moov Atom

Hey Jan:

You use the term “Moov atom” in one of your answers here, but I’m kind of lost about what it is. Can you explain it in a little more detail?

Aries

Hey Aries:

The Moov atom issue pops up when a video file has to download entirely before playing. Here’s a blurb from my website — you can go there to view the entire story.

Here’s a description of the Moov atom from http://lists.apple.com/archives/quicktime-talk/2000/Dec/msg00044.html:

“A QuickTime movie file contains information about the movie, stored in a ‘moov’ atom — which contains one ‘trak’ atom for each track in the movie, a ‘udat’ atom for user data, and so on. This information tells QuickTime what’s actually in the movie and where it’s stored.

QuickTime needs to load the ‘moov’ atom into the computer’s memory in order to play a movie. When you save a self-contained fast-start movie, QuickTime puts the ‘moov’ atom at the front of the file (it’s usually only 1 or 2 Kbytes), followed by the movie data, arranged in chronological order. When you download the file over the Internet, the ‘moov’ atom arrives right away, so QuickTime can play the movie data as it comes in over the net.

If the ‘moov’ atom is at the end of the file, QuickTime doesn’t know what’s in the movie or where it’s stored, so it doesn’t know what to do with the movie data as it comes in, and the movie can’t play until the ‘moov’ atom arrives at the end of the file.”

Though the blog post refers to the QuickTime Player, the Flash Player needs the moov atom to start playing as well. So, when encoding with Compressor, you have to use the Fast Start option to make sure the moov atom is at the start of the movie. Don’t use the Fast Start — Compressed Header option, because the Flash Player can’t play files encoded using that option.

What to do if you have a file with the moov atom at the back of the file? Well, you can re-encode the file selecting the Fast Start option or download the QTIndexSwapper. It’s a free Adobe Air application that analyzes the file, determines if the header is in the right place, and corrects the problem if necessary. Once you install the application and get it up and running, click File or Folder to add single or multiple files, then click Process. If will either fix the file, or tell you that it wasn’t a problem.

Hope this helps.

Jan

Monday, June 27: Podcasting

I want to start a video podcast and get it onto iTunes, but I’m not sure where to begin. The few resources I found online made it seem too difficult. Do you know any free tools for getting my video into the right format? And then where do I store the video online so iTunes can get it? Help — a lot of people do it, so it can’t be that hard, right?

Medea

Hey Medea:

Thanks for your question. It can’t be that hard, but I’ve not done it, so I can’t help with the iTunes part. For free encoding, check out MPEG Streamclip or Handbreak. For more on how to encode, check out this presentation I gave at streaming media east this year.

Best of luck, sorry I can’t help more.

Jan

Friday, June 24: Bandwidth

I’m planning on using an OVP to deliver my videos and they charge for bandwidth consumed. For adaptive streaming situations (multiple streams at different bitrates) would I be charged for the cumulative total bandwidth of all the streams, or just the one (or two) streams that are actually viewed?

Leo

Leo:

Thanks for your question. Plans vary by OVP, but in general, you would be charged based upon the actual bandwidth that you serve to the viewer, not the number of streams that you produce. Of course, there may be a storage charge for the files to you upload and encode, so you should check that as well.

Hope that helps.

Jan

Thursday, June 23: Budget

I work for an electrical supply company and we’re going to start doing some in-house videos and putting them on our site. We’ll do some interviews with our executive team, record movies from the events we sponsor, and we’ll do some Flash animation videos showing off our weekly specials. We’re going to convert an unused office into a place to shoot and we’ll have one person doing all the editing, probably with Final Cut.

What kind of investment are we looking at? I need a figure to bring to my boss for approval. Are there any extras we should buy that I’m forgetting?

Festus

Hey Festus:

Thanks for the question. In your shoes, I would start with this article: Buy the Best Video Gear: A $2,000 and $4,000 Buying Guide. In it, I detail five items:

  • Camera (don’t forget the SD cards, tape, or other storage)
  • Tripod
  • Microphone
  • On-camera lights
  • Gear bag

If I was starting a studio, I would also budget for a light kit, which start at about $200 and up, and a portable backdrop, which start at about $200 and up.

On the computer side, you should budget in for the computer, either a 31-inch monitor or two smaller monitors, software, and any capture hardware that you might need, which depends upon the camera that you buy and the format that it uses. If you don’t have one, get a good set of headphones.

If business is good, think about buying two cameras and two tripods. The easiest way to make your video look polished is to shoot with multiple cameras — it looks great and is actually pretty easy to do.

I’m sure I’m missing some things, but this gear can take you a long, long way.

Good luck and have fun!

Jan

Wednesday, June 22: Ogg Theora

Whatever happened to Ogg Theora? It was written about like it was going to be the savior of online video. Then I never heard about it again. Is it totally dead? Is anyone actually using it?

Dion

Hey Dion:

Thanks for your question. To make a short story even shorter, (and convert an adjective into a verb), Ogg was essentially obsoleted by WebM. Both are free and open source, and WebM offers substantially higher quality, plus the backing of Google.

Read this for a look on how Ogg compared to H.264.

Read this for a look at how WebM compares to H.264.

And read this if you’re looking to see how bad you get slammed if you criticize an open source technology (and some obstacles that will slow WebM’s acceptance and adaption). I tell ya, you just can’t reason with some people.

Thanks for writing in.

Jan

Tuesday, June 21: HTML5 Video

hi

We’re looking at starting up with an OVP (we’re a sporting goods company) and we’d like the one that does the best job of making HTML5 video usable (ie adding all the features that Flash has and HTML5 still doesn’t) with their own proprietary systems. which one to you recommend?

Helen

Dear Helen:

Thanks for your question. I’m not current on the up to the millisecond product offerings of the various OVPs, but I would assume that all the bigs — Brightcove, Kaltura, Ooyala, Sorenson 360 — and the like, support iOS devices, which is the big feature most folks want from HTML5.

Brightcove gave a very informative webinar last week with StreamingMedia.com, and if you want to spend an hour getting up to speed on the state of the state of HTML5, it’s a good place to start. It’s free, of course.

Beyond mobile support, I’m not sure why any Web publisher would want to work hard to make HTML5 video as usable as Flash when Flash is still available. As you’ll hear from Jeff in the Brightcove webinar, HTML5 browser penetration is still around 40 percent, and not all of those share a common codec. As a sporting goods company, I’m not sure why you would want to be out front of the desktop HTML5 wave while still having to produce a Flash option for the majority of desktop viewers without an HTML5 compatible browser.

Just my $.02.

Thanks again for your question.

Jan

Monday, June 20: WebM

Hi Jan

My CEO wants us to make WebM versions of our videos. I say the format is dead in the water and not worth supporting. Which of us is right and why?

Leda

Hey Leda:

If you’re distributing pay-per view or subscription-based content with H.264, you may be subject to a royalty obligation to MPEG-LA. So, in this case, it might be worth looking into WebM.

Otherwise, as a standalone technology for general distribution, WebM is an incomplete solution. According to most sources, the percentage of HTML5 compatible browsers is between 40 to 45 percent, and not all of them are WebM compatible. So, at the very least, you’ll have to fall back to Flash for most other browsers, and create an H.264 version for iOS devices, which is the main focus of most Web producer’s HTML5-video related efforts anyway.

I see no reason to move into a new technology unless it allows you to do something you can’t currently do, or lets you do something that you’re already doing in a better or cheaper way. At least today, with the exception of distribution to iOS devices, HTML5 doesn’t let you do anything you can’t do in Flash, or help you do anything you can do in Flash better or cheaper, unless you’re charging for your videos.

In fact, for many producers who distribute live or adaptive streams, or DRM protected content, all of which HTML5 can’t currently deliver, HTML5 is clearly an inferior solution. That’s why the vast majority of commercial broadcast, B2B and B2C websites out there still use Flash for desktop computers, with Silverlight a distant second.

So, unless you’re charging for your videos or otherwise trying to make Google like you or your company, I would think that you’re closer to correct.

Of course, the last time I disagreed with a CEO, I got fired. Actually, the last two times. So be careful.

Jan

Friday, June 17: Streaming Rates

hey jan —

what bit rates do you recommend using when streaming a live event? do those recommendations change if it’s video-on-demand?

Hector

Hey Hector:

Thanks for your question. At last year’s PGA Championship, Turner streamed six different bitrates from 500kbps to 2.5Mbps, and delivered the streams adaptively. Turner reported that 75 percent of viewers connected using the 1.5Mbps HD stream.

You can get additional stream related details for events like Sunday Night Football and the Olympics.

So, in a perfect world, unfettered by bandwidth and encoding concerns, I would look to these sources as my recommendations. My world, however, is not perfect when it comes to live streaming. When I’m producing an event, my first concern is getting the video out of the building or stadium. Whatever bandwidth you produce has to be small enough to comfortably fit within the outbound bandwidth that you have at your disposal. So, if all I have is 850kbps output DSL, I stream at about 500 combined.

The second factor is what can your encoding station produce? Turner has rack mounted systems that cost a fortune; I have to get by on my PC-based encoding stations. The last event that I produced, my single CPU computer could only output three streams, one for mobile and two for desktops.

The third consideration is what your live streaming service provider can carry. I used Livestream for my last event, and they can handle multiple streams with a single stream devoted to mobile and the rest for computer playback. So you need to check with your service provider and see what they’re capable of.

From my perspective, I’d want at least one medium quality stream for Apple iOS devices (like 400 x 224 at 450kbps and a decent quality computer stream, maybe at 640 x 360 at 800kbps. Of course, I couldn’t push that out of the building with my 850kbps outbound DSL.

There are services coming, like Sorenson Live, that can take one reasonably high quality stream and repurpose it for multiple uses. So, if I could get a 640 x 360 stream out to that service, they could encode multiple streams for mobile and the desktop. This is great if you have limited outbound bandwidth and/or limited onsite encoding capabilities.

Hope this helps. Note that I go into issues like choosing a live streaming service provider, encoding tools, and configuring multiple streams in detail in my book.

Thanks.

Thursday, June 16: H.264 Payments

Question on formats…

I understand that for non-commercial online vids, H.264 will be free to use forever. But what about for the rest of us? Is my company opening itself up to future bills by using H.264 video? Who’s going to come at us with a bill — and when? — and for how much?

Priam

Hey Priam;

Thanks for your question. As you say, there is no royalty in perpetuity for H.264 video distributed over the Internet free of charge. However, there are currently royalties (and have been since January 1, 2006) on pay-per-view and subscription based distribution.  There are some noteworthy exclusions though:

  • Subscriptions: there’s no royalty if you have under 100,000 subscribers. Then it’s “greater than 100,000 to 250,000 subscribers during the year = $25,000; greater than 250,000 to 500,000 subscribers during the year = $50,000; greater than 500,000 to 1,000,000 subscribers during the year = $75,000; greater than 1,000,000 subscribers during the year = $100,000.”
  • Pay-per-view: no fee if your video is under 12 minutes long. Thereafter, it’s “the lower of 2 percent of the price paid to the licensee (on first Arms Length Sale of the video) or $0.02 per title.”

I’m quoting from a FAQ you can download. If you qualify, there’s a chance that you’d hear from MPEG-LA, though I know very little about their enforcement arm.

Hope this helps.

Jan

Wednesday, June 15: Solid State Hard Drives

What are the best tools for capturing video to solid state hard drives? Entry level all the way to enterprise. Thanks!

Jose

Jose, thanks for your question, an interesting one. For the benefit of folks who don’t know, solid state drives have no moving parts, so are more shock-resistant than traditional drives, and are much faster, so boot time is quicker and many operations are faster. The downside is cost and capacity. For example, a 120 GB Intel SSD drive costs $244 on Amazon. In comparison, for well under $100, you can get 2 TB of storage with traditional drives.

I have mixed feelings about SSD drives in video applications. If you’re capturing uncompressed 1080p footage, it’s great for capture but useful only for small editing projects since capacity is low. But if you’re shooting in the most common formats like AVCHD, HDV, MPEG-2 (for JVC and Sony) and DVCPRO HD, your capture data rates are well below levels that would stress a traditional hard drive, so SSD provides no benefit. If you’re capturing and immediately converting to streaming format and storing the result, you don’t need the high capture speed. For this reason, while I have some older 60 GB drives around, I really haven’t installed them.

I’m not aware of any special capture devices for SSD drives, and you didn’t state whether the capture device was for editing or live capture. In general, here are the items I consider when choosing a capture device.

1. Is it compatible with my software. Companies like Adobe and Telestream provide lists of compatible capture devices. Make sure it works with your software first.

2. Can it connect to my camera? Sounds silly, but some newer capture devices only capture HD-SDI, which only high end cameras output.

3. Does it fit in my capture station. Some high performance capture cards need special slots in your computer, which you may not have or which may not be available. This is especially true for notebooks, though expansion devices like the Magma PCI Express Expansion system can add a PCI Express slot to a notebook with an Express card slot. I used that card on an HP 8740w notebook in capture trials discussed here.

Hope this helps and thanks for the question.

Jan

Tuesday, June 14: GPU-accelerated Encoding

In your book, Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5, you mention an issue with CUDA encoding via GPU (pages 148-149).

I’ve heard of other issues with the MainConcept codec, being faster but of poorer quality. In other words, it doesn’t appear that this issue is a Sorenson-only issue, so what should users do in the meantime, to avoid having a faster-speed GPU encode outputting as a much poorer quality version of encodes done with a CPU?

Tim Siglin

Tim:

Thanks for your question. By way of background, CUDA stands for Compute Unified Device Architecture and it’s an architecture that lets the graphics processing unit (GPU) on your computer accelerate encoding. Someday, it will be standard for all codecs and graphics cards, but so far, only MainConcept has integrated NVIDIA-based GPU acceleration into retail products that use this codec, though not all licensees have implemented GPU acceleration.

As you note, Squeeze has implemented GPU acceleration, and in the configurations, the quality of video produced with GPU acceleration is lower than video encoded via the normal CPU. You can see an example of that here.

Fortunately, Squeeze lets you disable GPU acceleration in several ways, including asking if you want to use GPU acceleration each time you apply an H.264 setting. Or, you can permanently disable GPU acceleration in the preferences dialog, GPU tab, which is what I’ve done. Another tool that has accelerated GPU acceleration is Microsoft’s Expression Encoder 4, but the result is the same, so I disable GPU-acceleration there, as well.

Adobe, Telestream, and Rhozet are three other high-profile MainConcept licensees, but to my knowledge, none of these companies have elected to enable GPU-acceleration in their products. When they do, I’ll compare the quality of both approaches and write about it here or at StreamingMedia.com.

In the meantime, Sorenson has promised to let me know when this issue is resolved, and I’m guessing that Microsoft will do the same. In the meantime, I would disable GPU acceleration on these tools until the companies issue an update that boosts GPU-encoded quality to CPU-encoded levels.

Thanks for your question.

Jan

Monday, June 13: JVC Video Camera

I have just purchased a GY-HM JVC camcorder. Can you tell me anything about it? Model #750.

Cleaveland Sparks

Hey Cleaveland:

Thanks for your note. I’m going to assume that you meant the JVC GY-HM700U. If so, we’re both lucky on this one, since I reviewed the GY-HM700U for EventDV in a review you can read here.

Here’s my pithy, put-it-all-in-perspective conclusion:

Otherwise, I’m totally ready to leave tape-based shooting in the rearview, as my aging HDV camcorders suffer more frequent dropouts. The HM700U sold me on the shouldermount form factor, and auto-focus and image stabilization seem a lot less essential than before I spent my time with the HM700U, especially given the size and clarity of the LCD and viewfinder.

Overall, the attractions of this camcorder are pretty clear in the ENG, documentary production, and broadcast markets. In the event world, if your bread and butter is linear recording to DVDs (as with concerts and ballets), you probably can get by with a less expensive, all-in-one camcorder. If you’re starting to focus more on the art of the production and want to experiment with multiple lenses, variable-speed recording, and more storyboard-based productions, the JVC GY-HM700U should be on your short list.

You can see the differences in the camcorders here. It looks like the key differences are that the 750 can write to two SD cards simultaneously and has SD recording. That’s all that jumped out at me.

Nice camcorder; enjoy it.

Jan

Friday, June 10: OVP Job Hunting

Hi Jan – I would like your advice. I aim to become an online video platform (OVP) product manager and have been working on a career change from another IT profession. Over the last year, I have been trying out several OVPs through their free trials, and blogging about the results (what I call a “test drive”), and even been recently contacted by some developers looking for advice on certain OVPs. In addition, I’m reading the news and staying on top of a very fluid market. Is there more I can do to build my credibility so I become an attractive hire to an OVP company? Thanks!

Chaz

Hey Chaz. I’m a compression guy and may not be the best place to seek information about job hunting. That said, I have some thoughts.

First, I think the OVP market is a good one to target and learning the business is a good way to start. You’ve taken some good steps.

Second, rather than blogging on your own site, you might want to contribute to sites that already have credibility and mindshare, like Reel SEO and VidCompare. You probably won’t get paid, but you’ll get noticed.

Finally, I’d be monitoring job activity in the market now, and would certainly apply for any open positions. Don’t wait to build the perfect resume. I’d be working on the job hunting side as hard as I was on the knowledge acquisition side.

Hope this helps.

Jan

Thursday, June 9: Cropping Video

I’ve run into some issues cropping video in Sorenson Squeeze and iMovie — mainly, the video quality seems to drop noticeably after I’ve cropped it. Is that just par for the course, or am I doing something wrong? (I shot a talking-head video and didn’t realize until after I imported it that there was an extension cord hanging down near the left edge of the frame!)

Joe Schneider

Hey Joe:

Thanks for your question. Tough to say exactly what’s going on, but both programs are credible, so I’m guessing it’s not a bug or something similar. Cropping can be an issue, however, when you crop pixels from the frame and either scale back out to the original resolution, scale to an arbitrary aspect ratio, or both.

That is, if you’re staring with a 1280×720 frame, then crop out 10 pixels on each side, and still produce a 1280×720 frame, the editing tool has to scale the video out to fit the space, which means a loss of detail. It’s better to output to 1260×700, though that probably won’t match the window you have to fit into.

That said, I tried something like this in Squeeze, and the result wasn’t bad. On the left is the cropped and zoomed image, on the right the image at normal resolution. Again, if you combine that with zooming to a new aspect ratio, however, I could see things getting pretty funky, though Squeeze makes this hard to do. I haven’t messed with iMovie in awhile.

Overall, if you have to crop and zoom, make sure to crop a region that fits the same aspect ratio as the source video. If you tried to cut only the bottom 40 pixels in a video, for example, you’d end up with some noticeable distortion.

Hope this helps.

Jan

Wednesday, June 8: Preloader Problems

Hey there;

A number of years ago, I created a website with numerous Flash movies. At the time, I hired someone to create a preloader for me. I hated seeing the dreaded, loading, loading, loading, but back then Web speeds still were in the dumps and preloaders had to be used.

I assumed that as the years went by and Web speeds increased, the 1 to 2MB files would eventually load so fast that the preloader would “vanish.”

It hasn’t. I can go on my work computer, which gets download speeds of say 11Mbps, and I still have to endure that freakin’ preloader.

Is that normal? Or could the preloader actually be slowing things down?

PS. if you need to know the file setup. I have a container file, which loads in a song file, which loads in and out a sequence of smaller flash files. I see the preloader at work at the beginning heavy load of music file then content, and then see the preloader at work for each flash file in the sequence after that – and these flash files are all 1 to 2MB in size.

Thank you for taking my question.

Hoss

Hey Hoss:

At 11Mbps, you shouldn’t have much of a wait for a 1MB file. Unfortunately, I’m not a coder, so I’m not sure if the preloader is helping or hurting (I’m not aware of many sites using these any longer). But, it sounds like your files may be downloading completely before they play, which could be a Moov atom issue, not a preloader issue.

Briefly, when you deliver an H.264 file via Flash, each file’s “Moov atom,” which contains index information and other file details, must be located at the start of the file. Otherwise, the file will download completely before it starts to play. The tool that I’ve used to test for and resolve this problem is QTIndexSwapper, an Adobe AIR app by Renaun Erickson.

If you are using the H.264 codec, this may be your problem. Download and install the tool and analyze your file. It will tell you if the Moov atom is in the right place. If that doesn’t resolve your problem, sorry, but I’m out of ideas.

Thanks again for your question.

Jan

Tuesday, June 7: Video-editing Apps

I’ve been seeing a lot of apps for editing video. Is there a particular app you’d recommend for editing on-the-fly via smartphone? Are they even worth it?

One other question, Jan. Our company owns a variety of sites and a couple are using video really well but the others aren’t at all and it’s been a bit of a hard sell. What would be a good pitch for getting these guys on board with video? Their targets are all over the board from librarians and customer service to developers and database management.

Sheila Fonken

Sheila:

Thanks for your question. The only smartphone editing program that I have played with is iMovie for the iPhone, and you can read the review here.

As you’ll see, I liked the program and found editing straightforward and reasonably responsive. I’m sure the experience is even better on a new iPad 2 with a faster CPU and a bigger screen. Basically, if you’re using video from a smartphone on one of your websites, even a simple cut and paste editor can improve the quality and help you deliver video faster. So I’d check one out.

On your second question: I hate to use a bromide, but nothing succeeds like success. If video is working well in a couple of sites (your words), that means it has a positive result in some relevant metric, whether page views, customer satisfaction, revenue, or site stickiness.

Assuming that the same metric is relevant to the other sites, and other dynamics reasonably similar, all you should have to do is present the evidence in some kind of one page case-study-like style at the next staff meeting. Here’s the problem or goal, here’s what our solution cost and here’s the result. Throw in some fancy acronyms like ROI and CAPEX, present it to the decision makers and their bosses, and it should be a slam dunk (speaking of which, go Dallas).

I’m sure I’m over-simplifying, and if I was good at corporate politics I wouldn’t be a freelance writer working alone, but quantify the benefits and show the other stake holders how it can work for them.

Jan

Monday, June 6: Video on the Cheap

My company is going to start posting videos soon and we’re trying to do it as cheaply as possible. Will we get decent results if we shoot with a Kodak pocket video cam or should we spring for a higher priced professional camera?

Jason

Jason:

Thanks for your question. Tough to come up with a cohesive answer without knowing the market that you serve and the types of videos that you intend to shoot. But, you don’t need a higher priced professional camera to produce high quality streaming video.

In my view, the biggest mistakes new producers make are poor lighting, poor audio, and shaky video. If you already have even a decent camera, get a cheap light kit (I have an ePhoto kit with two soft boxes that cost around $200 that I use all the time), a decent microphone or external recorder, and a solid tripod. You can check out some gear recommendations at Buy the Best Video Gear: A $2,000 and $4,000 Buying Guide.

Light the heck out of your scene, keep the camera still and capture good audio and you’re 95 percent of the way there.

Beyond that, learn basic concepts like rule of thirds positioning, and shot framing for close-up, medium shots and full shots. Keep your backgrounds and clothing simple with good contrast between background and subject. Download the PDFs available at this Video Production for Streaming page for some good basic tips.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to produce high quality streaming video, but you do need to know some basic production concepts.

Hope this helps and thanks for writing in.

Jan

Friday, June 3: Laptops for Video

Hello,

I’m searching for a new laptop for video editing and streaming video. Which feature is more important to have – a fast speed HD (7200 RPM) or USB 3.0 ports (for future cameras that use 3.0)
I hope this makes sense. Thanks for viewing my question.

Best,

Steve Stiffler

Steve:

Thanks for your question, an interesting one, but one that’s tough to answer without more information, like the formats that you’ll be editing and whether you’ll be streaming live or encoding for on-demand.

In general, for operations that are slower than real time (encoding, most single or even two or three stream editing), faster hard drives provide little benefit. Of course, if you’re editing uncompressed HD video, it might make a difference, but it’s tough to do that on a laptop. So, if you’re editing DV, HDV, AVCHD, DVC Pro, or any of the 50 – 100Mbps Sony formats, I wouldn’t think that a faster drive would deliver that much extra performance for most applications like event, corporate, or similar editing, or for streaming encoding.

Not that you’d try this on a notebook, but if you were creating a streaming server for HD content, you’d definitely prioritize disk speed over file I/O. But not for most editing/streaming that you’d perform on a notebook.

On the other hand, since video ingest is almost always a gating factor for many editing and encoding activities, USB 3.0 would be a priority for me.

Otherwise, as I wrote here (The Moving Picture: How Powerful a Notebook Do You Need for On-Location Editing and Streaming?), I would always prioritize memory over CPU. That is, a 6-core system with 4GB of RAM would run slower in most editing/encoding applications than a 4-core system with 12GB. So I would budget for maximum RAM first, then see how much I had left over for cores. I mean, try to seek a balance — don’t go single core with 24GB RAM, but maxing out RAM is never a bad idea. Assumed, but left unsaid, is that you should choose a 64-bit OS.

Also, make sure that the notebook has an NVIDIA graphics chipset since that accelerates both editing (Adobe’s Mercury Engine) and encoding (Sorenson Squeeze, Microsoft Expression Encoder, Telestream Wirecast, and others), and if you’ll be doing serious editing, you should strongly consider the new HP notebooks with the Dreamcolor display. More accurate color means improved color correction and similar adjustments.

Hope that helps, thanks for writing in and have a great weekend.

Jan

Thursday, June 2: Gamma Shift

Hi,

I’d love to know the answer to this one: How to eliminate gamma shift in H.264 exports for upload to Vimeo/Youtube etc. My goal is to achieve reasonably consistent colour rendition in online video.

Exports to H.264 using QuickTime not only change gamma but desaturate. Uploading to Vimeo only compounds the problem, as different browsers render the video differently.

I understand that colorsync plays a part in Safari, but even rendering using the “x264″ codec and eliminating the “nclc” QT atom in favour of a forced 2.2 “gamma” tag doesn’t seem to help.

Any tips?

Tam

Hey Tam:

I’ve eliminated the issue by using the x264Encoder when exporting from Compressor. I haven’t tried it from QuickTime Pro, but it should work.

You can see what I’m talking about in these images from my standard test file.

Here is probably the most comprehensive discussion of this issue with x264Encoder.

I hope this resolves your problem; circle back if it doesn’t and we can noodle some more.

Jan

Wednesday, June 1: Where to Begin

Hi Jan,

I’m a newbie to online video and we’re in the midst of a web redesign. I am being approached with several projects including video training, video accounting news updates for embedding into our newsletter, and new website features. I’m not sure where to begin – hosting, media management, compression, etc.

What do you recommend to someone trying to get a quick handle on online video basics?

Thanks!
Rochelle Otterstrom

Rochelle:

Thanks for your question.

If you’re in a situation where you have to get things done quickly, I would consider using an Online Video Platform like Brightcove, Kaltura, Sorenson 360 or Ooyala (there are tons of others) to host your videos, or, if you have minimal budget, a user generated content site like YouTube or Video. That way, the OVP/UGC site takes care of things like compression, player creation, and distributing the video.

To choose such a UGC site, check out Choosing a UGC Video Site: Six Sites Compared.

For OVPs, check out Choose Wisely: Selecting an Online Video Platform.

To figure out how to encode your video for uploading, check out Encoding Video for YouTube, Vimeo, and other UGC Sites (or send the link to your video production types).

To learn how to upload and embed your videos to either a UGC or OVP site, watch How to Upload a Video and Embed it on Your Website.

To experiment, open a YouTube account and start messing around. This stuff is way easier than it looks from the outside, and the best way to start is to get your hands dirty.

Hope this helps.

Jan




Discussion

Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Hi,

    I’d love to know the answer to this one:

    How to eliminate gamma shift in H264 exports for upload to Vimeo/Youtube etc.

    My goal is to achieve reasonably consistent colour rendition in online video.

    Exports to H264 using Quicktime not only change gamma but desaturate. Uploading to Vimeo only compounds the problem, as different browsers render the video differently.

    I understand that colorsync plays a part in Safari, but even rendering using the “x264″ codec and eliminating the “nclc” QT atom in favour of a forced 2.2 “gamma” tag doesn’t seem to help.

    Any tips?

    Posted by Tam | May 27, 2011, 8:46 pm
  2. Hi Jan,

    I’m a newbie to online video and we’re in the midst of a web redesign. I am being approached with several projects including video training, video accounting news updates for embedding into our newsletter and new website features. I’m not sure where to begin – hosting, media management, compression, etc.

    What do you recommend to someone trying to get a quick handle on online video basics?

    Thanks!

    Posted by Rochelle Otterstrom | May 30, 2011, 12:45 am
  3. Hey there;

    a number of years ago, I created a website with numerous of flash movies. At the time, i hired someone to create a preloader for me. I hated seeing the dreaded, loading, loading, loading, but back then web speeds still were in the dumps and preloaders had to be used.

    I assumed that as the years went by and web speeds increased, the 1-2 mb files would eventually load so fast that the preloader would “vanish”.

    It hasn’t. I can go on my work computer, which gets download speeds of say 11mbps, and i still have to endure that freakin’ preloader.

    Is that normal? Or could the preloader actually be slowing things down?

    PS. if you need to know the file setup. I have a container file, which loads in a song file, which loads in and out a sequence of smaller flash files. I see the preloader at work at the begining heavy load of music file then content, and then see the preloader at work for each flash file in the sequence after that – and these flash files are all 1-2 mp in size.

    Thank you for taking my question.

    Hoss

    Posted by hoss | May 31, 2011, 4:03 pm
  4. Hello,
    I’m searching for a new laptop for video editing and streaming video. Which feature is more important to have – a fast speed HD (7200 RPM) or USB 3.0 ports (for future cameras that use 3.0)
    I hope this makes sense. Thanks for viewing my question.
    Best,
    Steve Stiffler

    Posted by Steve Stiffler | June 3, 2011, 10:55 am
  5. My company is going to start posting videos soon and we’re trying to do it as cheaply as possible. Will we get decent results if we shoot with a Kodak pocket video cam or should we spring for a higher priced professional camera?

    Posted by Jason | June 6, 2011, 6:07 pm
  6. I want to start a video podcast and get it onto iTunes, but I’m not sure where to begin. The few resources I found online made it seem too difficult. Do you know any free tools for getting my video into the right format? And then where do I store the video online so iTunes can get it? Help — a lot of people do it, so it can’t be that hard, right?

    Posted by Medea | June 6, 2011, 6:18 pm
  7. I’ve been seeing a lot of apps for editing video, is there a particular app you’d recommend for editing on the fly via smartphone? Are they even worth it?

    Posted by Sheila Fonken | June 6, 2011, 6:44 pm
  8. One other question, Jan. Our company owns a variety of sites and a couple are using video really well but the others aren’t at all and it’s been a bit of a hard sell. What would be a good pitch for getting these guys on board with video? Their targets are all over the board from librarians and customer service to developers and database management.

    Posted by Sheila Fonken | June 6, 2011, 10:40 pm
  9. I’ve run into some issues cropping video in Sorenson Squeeze and iMovie — mainly, the video quality seems to drop noticeably after I’ve cropped it. Is that just par for the course, or am I doing something wrong? (I shot a talking-head video and didn’t realize until after I imported it that there was an extension cord hanging down near the left edge of the frame!)

    Posted by Joe Schneider | June 7, 2011, 9:53 am
  10. I am trying to get a live-to-internet biz going. What’s the best way to get a hook-up on-site for HD capt and streaming? I was just going to sub it out. But at some point, I need to line item it. Microwave T1? WiFi? Satellite? I would need it mostly for urban and city use – no desert islands. Looking for a practical solution for a wide enough bandwidth connection for events that may only last a day.

    Posted by Dan Foegelle | June 7, 2011, 5:46 pm
  11. Hi Jan – I would like your advice. I aim to become an OVP Product Manager and have been working on a career change from another IT profession. Over the last year I have been trying out several OVPs through their free trials, and blogging about the results (what I call a, “test drive”), and even been recently contacted by some developers looking for advice on certain OVPs. In addition, I’m reading the news and staying on top of a very fluid market. Is there more I can do to build my credibility so I become an attractive hire to an OVP company? Thanks!

    Posted by Chaz | June 8, 2011, 5:03 pm
  12. I have just purchased a gy-hm jvc
    cam corder, can you tell me anything about it? Model # 750

    Posted by cleaveland sparks | June 12, 2011, 8:41 am
  13. In your book, Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5, you mention an issue with CUDA encoding via GPU (pages 148-149).

    I’ve heard of other issues with the Main Concept codec, being faster but of poorer quality. In other words, it doesn’t appear that this issue is a Sorenson-only issue, so what should users do in the meantime, to avoid having a faster-speed GPU encode outputting as a much poorer quality version of encodes done with a CPU?

    (Jan’s book can be found at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0976259508/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=wwwbraintru0c-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0976259508 )

    Posted by Tim Siglin | June 13, 2011, 10:26 pm
  14. What are the best tools for capturing video to solid state hard drives? Entry level all the way to enterprise. Thanks!

    J

    Posted by Jose | June 14, 2011, 5:39 pm
  15. hey jan —

    what bit rates do you recommend using when streaming a live event? do those recommendations change if it’s video-on-demand?

    Posted by Hector | June 16, 2011, 4:11 pm
  16. Question on formats…

    I understand that for non-commercial online vids, H.264 will be free to use forever. But what about for the rest of us? Is my company opening itself up to future bills by using H.264 video? Who’s going to come at us with a bill — and when? — and for how much?

    Posted by Priam | June 16, 2011, 4:20 pm
  17. Hi Jan

    My CEO wants us to make WebM versions of our videos. I say the format is dead in the water and not worth supporting. Which of us is right and why?

    Posted by Leda | June 20, 2011, 11:42 am
  18. hi

    We’re looking at starting up with an OVP (we’re a sporting goods company) and we’d like the one that does the best job of making HTML5 video usable (ie adding all the features that Flash has and HTML5 still doesn’t) with their own proprietary systems. which one to you recommend?

    Posted by Helen | June 20, 2011, 11:45 am
  19. Whatever happened to Ogg Theora? It was written about like it was going to be the savior of online video. Then I never heard about it again. Is it totally dead? Is anyone actually using it?

    Posted by Dion | June 22, 2011, 11:38 am
  20. I work for an electrical supply company and we’re going to start doing some in-house videos and putting them on our site. We’ll do some interviews with our executive team, record movies from the events we sponsor, and we’ll do some Flash animation videos showing off our weekly specials. We’re going to convert an unused office into a place to shoot and we’ll have one person doing all the editing, probably with Final Cut.

    What kind of investment are we looking at? I need a figure to bring to my boss for approval. Are there any extras we should buy that I’m forgetting?

    Posted by Festus | June 22, 2011, 11:44 am
  21. I’m planning on using an OVP to deliver my videos and they charge for bandwidth consumed. For adaptive streaming situations (multiple streams at different bitrates) would I be charged for the cumulative total bandwidth of all the streams, or just the one (or two) streams that are actually viewed?

    Posted by Leo | June 23, 2011, 9:44 am
  22. Hey Jan:

    You use the term “moov atom” in one of your answers here, but I’m kind of lost about what it is. Can you explain it in a little more detail?

    Posted by Aries | June 27, 2011, 12:07 pm
  23. Where are the investing opportunities in online video…? Are there any small companies that you see big things for…

    Or if not companies, what areas show the most growth potential?

    Posted by Hermie | June 27, 2011, 12:14 pm
  24. JUST bought your new book -and based on some preliminary reading, upgraded to Squeeze 7.

    I have a quick question – and I KNOW if I read the book carefully, I’ll get my answer, but I can’t wait!

    I edit in FCP (haven’t migrated to X -yet!) and need to create Expression Encoder ready WMVs as our firm uses Silverlight for delivery. (Yuk!)

    Anyway–what workflow will give me the BEST looking video from my FCP timeline–can I go to Squeeze and encode in VC-1 without harm? Or should I just keep exporting with conversion from FCP into a WMV file?

    Posted by Kirk Lohse | June 28, 2011, 5:35 pm
  25. There is no mention on your website or in your book of Emblaze which has a patent for HTTP live streaming on smartphones and currently has a court action in the USA (California) against Apple Corp who it claims is infringing the Emblaze IP.

    http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2010cv05713/365992/1/0.pdf

    http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2010cv05713/365992/1/1.pdf

    Emblaze has recently informed the IETF on 28 June 2011 that use of a new standard for HTTP live streaming requires a licence from Emblaze

    http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/06/28/idUS101254+28-Jun-2011+PRN20110628

    Posted by colin | July 5, 2011, 6:08 am