Best practices for putting videos online

17 July 2018. Published by Benoît Labourdette.

How to put a video online? What are the technical, patrimonial, practical, legal issues? Methodological tools for a professional and structured approach to video on the web.

The concepts and methodologies presented in this article, although very simple, are the result of more than 15 years of online video experiences in various professional contexts.

Deconstruct a preconceived idea

When you imagine putting a video online, you immediately think of video sharing platforms: YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion and others. These platforms seem to be the essential tools for publishing videos.

In reality, you can stream a video online without going through a platform. Then why this hegemony of platforms? What is their interest? What is their great danger? How else can we do this? What are the benefits?

The challenge of a digital heritage

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When we decide to put content online (texts, images, sounds, multimedia, video...), this content must be “hosted”, i.e. stored on a computer permanently turned on so that they can be consulted via the web. It can be a computer at home, but we have to take care of it, which is why we most often prefer to use a “host”, i.e. a provider that we pay to keep a computer on day and night so that our content is available.

Two web hosting services adviced

  • Paid web hosting: O2Switch (your own domain name, unlimited storage).
  • Free web hosting: Free pages perso (Free subdomain, 10Gb storage).

On the other hand, the fact that our content is “somewhere online”, with this magical thought of the web, often makes us believe that it is there forever. The reality is that they are stored on a simple hard drive, not in the clouds!

A hard drive crashes, a provider can change policy, business model or go bankrupt, etc.. If tomorrow Dailymotion went bankrupt for example (which failed to happen in 2013 and is not excluded in 2018), overnight all the videos it stores would disappear from the web. Of course, some have been copied elsewhere, but this is far from being the majority. We all know websites with empty video players.

Thus, to put videos on line does not dispense from taking care, oneself, of their conservation. Because our videos are a real heritage, which has an economic, cultural, historical value... It is an illusion to think that some kind of higher entity on the web would take care of keeping everything.

How to build up your video heritage

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For an audiovisual producer the ideal solution would be to keep all his “masters” on hard disks in an organised way, to manage his catalogue well. But we know how theoretical this is.

Let’s be realistic: let’s at least backup the videos we put online. If you have a website and you are aware of the digital reality, you regularly make a backup of it. So, if the host fails, you have a copy of your website.

But the problem when we put our videos on sharing sites (YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion...) is that our videos are stored on their servers, not at our host: so when we do a backup of our website, we backup the texts and photos, but we do not backup the videos !

Technical operation of online video

The web pages we view on our phones, tablets and computers respect a “common language” so that texts, photos and videos can be read by any terminal. It is therefore necessary to “encode” our contents so that they respect the standard allowing them to be displayed.

There are a very large number of video formats that would never work on the web. Video sharing sites receive our original videos and create an encoded copy that respects web standards.

The solution

If we encode our videos ourselves according to web standards, we can then upload them to our own server: the streaming will work perfectly, and when we make a backup of our site, our videos will be backed up too !

Very good! So how do we actually do it?

Video encoding

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The rules that videos prepared for playback by a browser must follow are :

  • The video format: it must correspond to one of the video standards played by web browsers. Most often we use MPEG4 H264.
  • The data rate (i.e. the amount of data per second): it must correspond to the spectators’ internet connection speed.

Concrete encoding tips

  • Use the software handbrake (free, for Windows, Mac OS and Linux).
  • Don’t forget to check the “Web optimized” box (so that streaming is possible).
  • After encoding check the weight of the file: if it weighs between 10Mo and 20Mo per minute, then it will go almost everywhere without problem. If it is heavier, change the settings in handbrake to make it lighter.

Watch your video file before uploading it and check the quality yourself. That’s exactly what your visitors will see. You are the one in charge of the audience’s experience.

Here is a practical guide to video encoding with handbrake.

Putting the video online

Thanks to the following code, you can test by yourself, on your computer, the creation of a web page containing your own video player. You can then upload these files to your server. Of course this is a simple example of a web page, things can be much more sophisticated, but the principle will always remain the same.

Here is the code to copy and paste in a plain text .html file to create your page:

  1. <video width="100%" controls preload="none" poster="mon_film.jpg">
  2. <source src="mon_film.mp4" type="video/mp4" />
  3. </video>
  4. </html>

Download

You noticed that there is a file my_film.mp4 (the video file created with handbrake) and a my_film.jpg file (a still image that will be the player’s welcome). Both files must be next to the file my_film.html which contains the code above.

Strategic Issues

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One could object to this “autonomous” technique that it deprives us of a wider distribution of videos, of their ability to be shared easily, to benefit from the services and statistics of video sharing sites. That is true. I have nothing against video sharing sites. But I think you need to clarify your video distribution strategy. Your “official” video must be on your site, constitute your digital heritage. And there’s nothing to stop you from using sharing platforms as well.

Moreover, sharing videos on the platforms implies the acceptance of terms of use and the transfer of many rights on your videos, which is not without legal and financial consequences.

Very often sharing platforms are not exploited for their sharing capacity, but just to display videos on a website. In this case, it is much more relevant, durable and constructive to host them on your own server.

And finally the economic model of the web is, contrary to what is often believed, a model that works over a long period of exploitation (cf. The long tail). This is why, even in purely economic terms, the creation of a genuine, sustainable, accessible and structured video heritage is one of the keys to success.

To go further

This article offers a simple, functional and professional approach to video uploading. But all I did was lay the groundwork. There are obviously many other developments, possibilities and potentialities in this field. In particular, I have developed a mini video streaming platform, « BL video CMS », which you are free to use for your needs.

I share here tools and technical methodologies that I have built for my professional activity. Some articles presuppose technical knowledge.