A screencast (a video capture of your screen) is a powerful way of explaining how to use an application, or perform a task – just by showing it. Apart from the difficulty of recording a screencast (and editing it into something presentable), there’s the issue of hosting the files. Over the past month, I’ve been experimenting with my del.icio.us mp3 screencast on several video sharing sites. In a following post, I’ll list all of the services I tried I and their evaluation. I found two services to be great, two almost OK, and 10 others not fit for the task… Here’s how I proceeded:
What is important if you search a service to host your self-produced screencasts? I scored each of them for the following criteria:
- is uploading fast and easy?
- can you upload in several formats or just one?
- are there other ways of uploading, other than a simple web form?
- how easy is managing, and editing uploads and their metadata?
- image and sound quality (whereas in most entertainment videos, it’s sufficient just to get an idea of what’s happening, for a sceencast it’s necessary for at least menus and text to be readable…)
- size on screen of the embedded video (size does matter, but image sharpness and a sound without hiccups are more important)
- is there an rss (vodcast) feed for your videos, or collections of videos you make – so people can subscribe?
- what are the download options: flv, compressed quicktime, and/or the original format and size?
- can you monetize your videos?
- can you embed your video on your own site, in different formats and sizes?
If you use video sharing sites for other purposes (fun, marketing, entertainment) then you might find other criteria more important, such as the social features, viral marketing features, usability and findability from the watcher’s point of view – but that’s not what I concentrated on here.
- Among the services I tested, Blip.tv and Revver stood out, with Vimeo and Veoh following. See all ratings and short reviews.
- An ideal setup would be a Feedburner-like service that consumes your vodcast feed (like Veoh does), and transforms the local video file references to (automatically) mirrored versions on a hosting service, giving you view/download stats and optionally ad revenue sharing (what Blip.tv is offering now).
I had used Camtasia Studio (free trial here) to record and edit an 640 by 480 movie (see resources for more tools). That’s too big to make it embeddable in most layouts, so I exported to 480 by 360 movies in the following formats:
- .avi: too heavy to upload, even for the shortest video.
- .swf: video quality was just too bad.
- .mov – 80 MB (download): still a huge file, but for some services .mov was the only format that converted into relatively good quality videos.
- .flv – 8MB (download): good quality, high compression. Some services don’t accept it as source format however.
- .wmv – 5.6MB: excellent quality when exported in the orginal 640 by 480 format (download). When produced in the lower 480×360 resolution, quality is a lot worse, and size increases! So I used the 640 by 480 version, however just a few services accept .wmv as source format.
Probably other upload formats/or options could have resulted in different quality scores – few services give instructions on how to optimize the source material for them however – Youtube being a notable exception.
Other video sharing comparisons
- 10 video sharing sites compared on criteria “posting”, “viewership” and “editing” (April 2006)
- Feature comparison table and white paper (May 2006)
- Video sharing site comparison (Aug 14th 2006, an extensive comparison of ease of use, storage and openness)
- Compare embedded versions of the same source:
- Posting video’s from a mobile phone: the experiences of a Thailand traveler
Still other Alternatives
- Self-hosting still is an option. You’ll probably choose for flv (platform-independency, high compression) and the Flash Video Player by Jeroen Wijering.
- Tubetorial.com is a screencasting portal you might consider if you do not have your own blog.
- Screencast-O-Matic is a free service with a Java applet that lets you record and upload screencasts – on the other side of the spectrum, there’s Screencast.com by Techsmith (Camtasia!) to host your corporate screencasts for a fee.