What's the current wisdom on playing videos on a website? This is a free website, and we want the videos to be viewable by the widest possible audience.
The browsers we'd like to be able to play in - IE8/9, Firefox, Chrome, Mac Safari.
The formats we'd like to be able to play - WMV, FLV, MP3/4, others if possible.
I know HTML5 exists - what's the browser coverage like? Will it work on older Macs, and what other browsers does it work in?
Thanks and apologies if this is asked more than it should be.
Given that this is a free website, your best option might be to upload your videos to YouTube and then embed them in your site. That way, people can find them on your site and on YouTube, giving you the best possible coverage. YouTube automatically creates lots of versions of your video to suit all the various devices out there, so you don't have to worry about formats.
If you want to use HTML5, you just need to provide fallbacks for machines that don't support it--which is usually done with Flash etc. You also need to provide various versions of your video for machines that DO support HTML5, which is also a real pain (there is no one video codec supported by all browsers). But it's a bit messy and more work for you ... which you probably don't want if you are not being paid.
The site's free for viewers, but because of the industry it's in, it's probably inappropriate to put the videos on Youtube (while Youtube would have no problem with the content, the site is for older people who might see Youtube as frivolous - you'd understand if you knew the industry). Obviously Youtube is the number one most portable solution and one I usually suggest as it can help bring further traffic to the site, but in this unusual case, we can't.
Thanks for the input though, it really does seem like HTML5 is solving a lot these days.
Like ralph said your best option is probably to use Youtube. Your users don't have to visit Youtube to view your videos, just have them hosted on there and you can even just share with those you want to, in this case, you could embed them on your site and it would be completely free!
Hm but when the video is embedded on your site, that's hardly an issue. But there are other video hosting services, like Vimeo, that do the same thing but are a little less tacky.
I second YouTube. There are others as well though (I've had pretty good experience with Fliqz).
Is it a free site as in zero-revenue or ad-revenue. Hosting your own videos can get pricey pretty quickly, so I'd recommend the YouTube route if you aren't going to be making a fair amount of money.
The site we're developing is free as in free-to-view, not free to develop
Just to summarize our experiences and where we got to, in case someone is searching and this comes up.
The issue with YouTube is that we can't remove the logo; we generally use YouTube for most video content because of the incoming SEO advantage. YouTube has a general tackiness issue, by perception, and this industry is all about dignity etc, so it's unfortunately probably inappropriate to use YouTube even if the videos are embedded.
We've ended up using Vimeo, which does allow you to un-brand the player for a reasonable price, and just magically works beautifully and well on everything - iDevices, all browsers, the lot. Turns out there are a lot of sites around that do this well, which is something obvious that probably should have occurred to me! The advantage of using an established commercial platform for video delivery is that they track the video standards and will do what's needed to support emerging devices and new standards over time. And we don't have a high view rate or a high upload rate.
There's a great list here of possible video platforms: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1060020/video-hosting-upload-api-service-for-small-business-other-than-youtube
We did try the Contus HD FLV player - not as robust as we'd hoped - it looks pretty, but doesn't cope with a lot of video types and they carefully refrain from mentioning the types they support in detail on their site. It also doesn't work on iDevices without an HTML5 wrapper - if I'm paying for a player I'd like it to solve those issues clearly and well, instead of in half-documented fashion. (For instance, unsupported video types generated a player message "No such video"!) This player was a disappointment and I'd avoid it based on our experience (early 2011).
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