ScreenLight Simplifies Private Video Sharing with Automatic Encoding

A couple of weeks ago we started rolling out a new look for the application and the video player. The main goal was to make the design cleaner, more intuitive, and to highlight your videos with a larger video player.

The next phase of our application revamp begins today, with the introduction of video encoding. You will now be able to upload virtually any video format and we will automatically encode it so that it plays back beautifully on newer iPhones (iPhone 4/4S), iPads, many other modern smartphones / tablets, and desktops.

This change will provide you and your collaborators with a more reliable video playback experience and it will eliminate the need to adapt your workflow by outputting  videos to a narrow range of codec and format specifications.

You can get on with creating great videos and we'll take care of the busywork necessary to make your videos playback across different devices. You don't have to worry about whether we support Flash or HTML5 video playback, because we do both.

Encoding Priorities

Our priorities when implementing the encoding solution were video quality, encoding speed, and reliability.

Quality

Quite simply we want to help make your videos look and sound as good as possible, regardless of what screen they are viewed on. Great looking videos make both of us happy.

Encoding speed

Encoding won't be a bottleneck, with videos stuck in a long-queue like they are with YouTube and Vimeo. Videos start encoding, the moment the upload is completed, and processing of output files occurs at faster than realtime speeds, so that you can get videos out to collaborators faster.

Reliability

Encoding is a tricky business, and the solution that we are using has a 99.9% uptime guarantee and a 99.9% success rate for encodes. Tricky formats won't be an issue.

The bottom line is that we think you will be really happy with our encoding solution.

New Behaviour on Video Upload

One difference that you will notice immediately, is that videos will no longer be available for playback the instant an upload is completed. Instead, there will be a slight delay as your videos are prepared for online delivery (the time varies based on size/length of the input file).

We will keep you updated on the status of your video encoding. Right after the upload is complete, you will be presented with a message that the videos are being processed. When the processing is compete, you will be sent an email that the videos are ready for viewing (this is when you, in turn, may want to notify project participants that a video is ready). The videos page for the project also displays the encoding status of each video.

New Video Upload Guidelines

I thought you said that we can upload anything?  That's true, but following some simple guidelines will ensure that your videos look great and strike a good balance between quality and upload times.

Aspect Ratio

The video player uses a 16:9 aspect ratio, so these videos will fill the entire player window. 4:3 videos will work, however, they will be letter boxed.

Resolution

We suggest 1280*720, as this is the size of our default output file. Higher resolution videos will be converted to this resolution, so there is no reason to upload the extra pixels. Lower resolution files will playback, but will be displayed at their original size and will not be upscaled.

Video Bitrate

This has the biggest impact on the quality and size of the output file. When the output quality is really important, we suggest 2500-5000 kbps. For assemblies, rough cuts, talking heads, or 4:3 videos you can lower this to 1000-1500kbps, as it will reduce upload times quite significantly. If your compression software uses target quality rather than bitrate, set it accordingly.

Audio Bitrate

We suggest 384kbps or 192kbps for stereo audio. For mono audio or situations where audio quality isn't as important, this can easily be dropped down to 128kbps or even 64kbps.

Since bitrate is going to have the biggest impact on the file size and the upload time, we suggest playing around with different options to find the tradeoff that works best for you. All else being equal, higher bitrates mean higher quality and longer upload times.

Have it Both Ways - Flash or HTML5 Video

We use the same video player for Flash and HTML5 video. It intelligently decides which version of the player to render based on the type of device that is being used.

On the desktop, we will continue to use the Flash Player. This helps us deal with compatibility issues, like Firefox not being able to play H.264 videos using the HTML5 <video> tag. Flash also ensures that people on older browsers like IE7-8, that do not support HTML5 video can still view videos.

On mobile deices like the iPhone and iPad, we will seamlessly fall back to an HTML5 video player that looks exactly the same as the Flash player. Playback behaviour differs between the two devices. On the iPad, video will playback in the ScreenLight player unless it s expanded to the full window size. On the iPhone, once you hit the play button, the iPhone's embedded media player takes over.

Hope you like the changes!

Would love to hear your feedback on what you think of the quality of the encoding and playback experience on different devices. If you aren't a customer yet, head on over to ScreenLight and signup for a free trial.