I recently asked Google this question not too long ago and found nothing but misleading information in the top ten results. There are very few resources out there that spill the beans concerning which video format you should use for the web. If you turn to the video sharing sites for information, you may find nothing but a half-assed manual that reads like stereo instructions. What’s even worse, is that even if you do know which video format is good for YouTube or Google Video, getting the video to that point and making it look good is another struggle.
What do I mean by video format? What I am really saying comes in two parts: the “video container” and the “video codec”. Perhaps you’ve seen some of these containers online: Windows Media Video (WMV), Quicktime Video (MOV), or Flash Video (FLV) to name a few. Maybe you’ve heard of some of these codecs: MPEG, DV, Sorenson, H.264. These are just the names, but what do they mean?
Think of the “video codec” as if it were the brand of film you would put into a 35mm camera (the container). The camera needs the film to take pictures and the film needs the parts of the camera to expose properly. Professional photographers often use different types of film for different situations. Black and white for weddings, slow speeds film for astronomical imaging, fast speed film for sports events. Codecs like DV are suitable for videotaping, editing, and uncompressed Master Tapes. Codecs such as H.264, MPEG4, and FLV are made for streaming on the web. But all of these codecs can be found in a container like Quicktime or Windows Media.
So which codec and container is the best for my website? This really depends on a few key factors: your website’s content, audience, and server capabilities. It is best to consult a professional when attempting to provide video content on your own server. But if you use video sharing sites to host your content and then just embed the videos on your site, this question then becomes “Which video codec is best for the video sharing site I am uploading it to?”.
When providing video on your own server, the best answer I can give you is to provide multiple containers and formats at varying data rates. The worst number in video streaming is 1. If someone cannot view your video and they get a message saying “please download plug-in here”, say goodbye to a potential viewer.
Make the same video available in 300kpbs FLV, 150kpbs WMV, and 300 kbps MOV. This setup will ensure that anyone using any Operating System will be able to view your video content.
I will be providing step by step tutorials over screen captures in the future about the specifics of outputting video in various applications in Windows and Mac OS X. If you want to know how to output video for the video using a specific program, just shoot an email to me at email@example.com. I cannot promise a return email, but I will try my best to reply in the form of a blog post.
– Ken McCarthy
P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.
If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.