A Guide to HTML5 Video Tools

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Article ImageIf you're looking to create online videos, there's no better time to do so than now. According to a study from Pew Research Center, internet users doubled their sharing and viewing of video in 2013. And the video industry is only slated to grow with the increasing adoption of HTML5.

With the widespread use of mobile devices by many consumers, HTML5 video is a safer approach as a content creator for the primary reason that most mobile devices no longer support Flash video formats. In fact, Chase Reeves, web designer and video creator for the business training site Fizzle.co, recommends creating video for HTML5 not just for the compatibility, but also for its organization. "It feels more elegant, more interesting," he says. "It allows me, with a couple lines of code, to have this very native, built-into-the-browser experience, as opposed to using YouTube embeds or all this Flash stuff or whatever else is going on."

With the introduction of the HTML5 video capabilities, a flurry of new video tools came onto the market to allow content creators to encode, publish, and host videos in HTML5-supported formats for their sites. Jan Ozer, author of Producing Streaming Video for Multiple Screen Delivery, says, "You can implement HTML5 many ways, but all solutions involve encoding your video and a player to display it on your website. You can source the encoder and player yourself, or use an online video platform, like Kaltura, for both elements."

HTML5 video players, the plug-ins that browsers use to show the actual videos, are products such as JW Player that let creators serve video files on their own sites (if they aren't with a video host already). Sorensen Media's Squeeze and HandBrake are examples of HTML5 video encoders, which are the tools/programs that get creators' works from raw video and audio files to completed versions that can then be uploaded to their host. It's also worth noting that many online video platforms are available for content creators' use if they would like to host their videos there. As Ozer mentions, Kaltura is a popular choice, as are YouTube, Vimeo, and Brightcove.

Content creators will need to understand the types of video containers and audio/video codecs that work with HTML5 before they start using these tools. This is vital because, unfortunately, not all HTML5 video tools encode in the same formats, so content creators will need to know which formats they need for their purposes.

The most common types of HTML5 video containers (the file extension that encapsulates the audio and video tracks) are MPEG 4 (.mp4/.m4v), Ogg (.ogv) and WebM (.webm). Within these containers will be the actual compressed files, encoded using compression technologies or codecs, such as H.264 (usually used with the MPEG 4 container), VP8 (used with the WebM container), or the seldom used Theora (.ogv). All three video codecs have their audio analogs, including AAC for H.264 and Vorbis for WebM/Ogg.

The largest drawback to HTML5 video is that there's no single combination of video containers and codecs that are universally supported by HTML5 browsers. This means when content creators make videos, they'll need to encode it in multiple formats if they hope to reach the maximum amount of users (which is why creators must know which HTML5 video encoder tools can produce the formats they need).

Additionally, many tools that deploy video for HTML5 don't have advanced features and options. "HTML5 is great for simple playback in a video window on computers and mobile devices, but producers needing more advanced features like adaptive or live streaming, or the ability to protect their videos with digital rights management, will have to find a different solution," Ozer says.

As content creators, though, Reeves says the best bet is to look at analytics and encode video for their particular audiences. "Where are people visiting your site from?" he says. "For instance, for Fizzle, about 50% of the traffic is just coming from Chrome browsing, which is a crazy amount given the fact that there are hundreds of different browsers that people can be using."

Ultimately, understanding their audiences will help content creators determine which HTML5 video tools they'll need to create, encode, and produce videos. HTML5 video tools range in price from free to paid, and creators will also need to investigate if their encoding preference requires a license due to patents (typical with H.264/MPEG 4 formats).

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