OK, so you’ve decided that getting some web video on your site and social media profiles is a great idea to make you more appealing to prospects and put your SEO (search engine optimization) on HGH. You realize that video marketing is a key part of your overall search engine marketing and social media strategy. Bully for you! Now on to the tech stuff. Video formats can be overwhelming and vary depending on the equipment the video was shot with, the type of computer you use, and the final destination where you want to host and serve up your on-demand video as part of your video marketing plan.
So which is best for you?
Lorraine Grula offers these tips from her years of experience as a top shelf video photographer and producer in ReelSEO.
Limitations for Your Web Video
Depending on whether you are doing research to get started with web video or if you are making use of existing equipment and software, you may be limited to formats as follows:
- Raw Video Format – As determined by your camera or, these days, your recording software. For instance, the software I record SmartVu Video Interviews with processes raw video the best when saved as Windows Movie (.wmv). I have a PC based application. Your camera or software may have a different standard, especially if you are using a MAC.
- Editing Standards – Your editing program may also have a limitation on types of video it will accept and types that it works the best with. My videos are substance related, not glitz and glamour, so I use programs like Corel Video Studio and Windows Live Movie Maker. Most video editors will accept almost all the standard raw video formats, but you’ll want to check.
- Video Platform – What type video format works best with your online video platform that will serve as your host? Will you host it on your site? Consider Adobe Flash for speed purposes of loading without buffering. Youtube? They convert your incoming video to Flash (.flv) for display. If you’re using a 3rd party, ask about their preferred video format.
Obviously if you have a mismatch in your video camera output and your editor, for instance, you’re dead in the water and will need to convert your raw video to be accepted by the editor. Avoid this, as every conversion results in quality loss for the video. Limit too many conversions.
Resolution versus File Size
Look, with online video marketing, you are looking at a tradeoff between two things when recording, editing and finishing videos: resolution and file size. Lorraine talks about compatibility too in the ReelSEO piece, and we talked about that already. The better the quality, the larger the file size (usually), and that means the longer the buffer when loading the video on your player upon demand (especially if uploaded directly from your site server). If you want super-clear quality, the first thing you need is a work-horse computer loaded up with RAM and a uber-fast processor. I am a PC guy and I had to get an I-7 Dell to accommodate recording Hi-Def video. My old PC (5 years old) could not handle the large files without Japanese Monster Movie style mis-tracking between voice and image and I was forced to record at lower resolutions until upgrading.
The Main Video Formats for Web Video
If you’re looking for the best of both worlds and your hardware can handle the recording and editing, see this brief (did I say brief?) overview of web video formats you’ll be using:
Windows Media Video (.wmv)
This is the standard PC video file format that comes with Windows set up for Windows Media Player. It is common, delivers reasonable quality and a pretty small file size. Want higher quality? Record or finish-edit at a higher resolution and the file size goes up accordingly. The advantage of .wmv is that it’s standard with all Windows PCs and, if shot in low enough resolution, can actually be small enough to share via email. I use this format for SmartVu Video Interviews and then stream them on Youtube, and they convert without much issue with good finish quality.
Audio-Video Interlaced (.avi)
This is the original video format from Microsoft and tends to create very large files unsuitable for sharing, but of good quality for master files. For sharing, most videographers finish-edit the file in another format to reduce file size. According to Grula there is some inconsistency with the codecs (tech video term here) depending on the recording device, making .avi not a great choice for small business video and novice producers.
Motion Picture Experts Group MPEG-4 (.mp4)
Increasing numbers of video producers online are digging .mp4 as the format of choice. It has the H-264 compression codec which is considered top drawer, and is fast becoming the standard output of camcorders and video cameras. For online sharing the .mp4 format is moving toward the universal choice and in fact is recommended by Youtube, the big fish in the platform market.
Apple Quick Time (.mov)
This format has been around a while and is standard from Apple Quick Time, but is not restricted to Macs. File sizes are large and quality is high. If super-tight quality is your concern, this may be your format.
Flash Video (.flv)
This is the most popular file format on the web today, playable in the Adobe Flash Player which is standard on 99% of all computers. Video sharing sites like Youtube, Vimeo, etc. take your existing videos and convert to flash for streaming to viewers of the site. File sizes are small, it streams fast, and the flash player can start playing the videos while they are still loading which is great for longer videos (5 min or longer). If you host video on your own server, converting to .flv is almost a necessity for user experience. I have used the Riva converter to convert some .wmv files to flash and noticed quality degradation in exchange for the file size and speed issue; however, Youtube conversions seem to be very clear.
Here is my recommendation to small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to get into video marketing on their sites and social media profiles.
Record raw footage in the best possible format for your device. If that is .mp4, you’re one step ahead of the game.
When editing, finish the video in .mp4. Test to see if your quality is acceptable with no degradation. MPEG-4 is much easier to upload and move around. If you see a quality loss, save finish edits to the same file format as your raw footage.
Upload your videos to a video sharing platform. I recommend Youtube. It is the biggest, gets the most traffic by far, and let’s face it. Google now owns Youtube. If you’re streaming video on your site from Youtube or another site, which one do you think will get the best SEO results and page 1 positioning? Youtube will convert to either .mp4 or .flv and do a fine job with it, taking that off your plate.
Now you just need to learn how to use Youtube without providing 100 options for people to leave your video and go somewhere else. I’ll tell you more on that in a later post.