Video By Me = Vimeo!

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Martin French

The US based dance blog 'Danciti' raised some questions about the choice of the New York City Ballet to use YouTube to launch its push into the online video world citing better design, better compression technology and a nicer bunch of people over at rival video service Vimeo. So we decided to take a close look at Vimeo and see just what they have to offer and are they a viable platform for distributing your dance video material at no cost?

So What Is Vimeo?

Vimeo is a web based video sharing platform that includes all of the features we have come to know and love/loathe in our online social applications. You upload your own videos, give them tags and descriptions, share them with your friends, re-distribute them through your own website using embedding, build your own channels and so on. So far so predictable.

Opening an account is fast, easy and free and once you're all set up you can begin uploading your own video material to the site for sharing.

Sending video to the site is simply a matter of selecting the video you want to upload from your own computer and hitting the the OK button. Vimeo will present you with a graphical progress meter to let you know how fast the video is transferring (that depends on your internet connection speed) and when the upload is likely to be be finished.

During the upload process you can enter the title of your video, a lengthy description if you so desire and some tags to categorise your production. You can make alterations to these elements while the video is still transferring because thanks to the use of new web based technologies (in this case a system called AJAX) the upload process will not be interrupted.

When the transfer is complete Vimeo will then convert your video to Flash format for presentation on their site. Normally this happens within a few minutes but when the site is busy it could take a few hours to start the conversion. Vimeo will keep you informed about how long it will be before the video starts converting though so your not left in the dark.

After conversion has begun the site will present with you a very nicely designed conversion counter to let you know how long it will take before the video is finally ready to be seen by the rest of the world. The longer your video is the longer it will take to convert but our test videos, maximum length seven minutes, were done in about 5-10 minutes.

There is no restriction on the length an individual video can be, in terms of time, but there is a maximum weekly upload limit of 500 Megabytes. In terms of the video compression standards we use here in TheLabā„¢ that equates to about 90 minutes of video per week that you can upload.

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On Site On Line On Show

Vimeo presents all of the videos you upload in a clean and uncluttered design. The video controls themselves are overlaid onto the video image and disappear when not in use. Registered users can leave comments or tell you they "like" your video by clicking on a little heart (awwwww, Ed!)

Widescreen videos, shot in standard definition 16:9, are presented in that way. Material uploaded in 4:3 format is presented in that format. There is no ad-hoc conversion or resizing done to fit within the sites design.

If you want to get more detailed you can create individual channels for your work. The channels provide forums for discussion, blogging, calendar events connected to the video you are presenting, file attachments for downloading (like press releases for example) and more. Each of these elements can be customised to a limited degree or removed altogether.

You are not just restricted to showing off your work on the Vimeo website either. Each video can be individually embedded into any other website and each embed can be individually styled and resized to match your own website. There are also the now standard tools for sharing your video on Facebook, Flickr and other social websites that you may be a member of.

Registered Vimeo members can also subscribe to your channels or your entire account so they can automatically be made aware when new material is available.

Individual videos can be kept private or be made fully open to the public and any or all of the sites features can be turned off. There doesn't seem to be any way to prevent videos from being embedded but private videos will not be visible to non members and only logged in members of Vimeo would be able to see private videos that were embedded.

Since the whole point of sites like Vimeo is to share video material around the internet being able to turn off embedding seems a little pointless though.

It's All In The Quality

The most important aspect of any online video service is how good the quality of the video is after it has been uploaded and re-compressed by the site. YouTube's quality is, to be blunt, appalling. A lot of fault lies with the original video material but even when you do everything properly YouTube video playback is still presented in an over-compressed, mushy view screen.

Vimeo raises the bar a lot and following our tests it appears to do a much better job of re-compressing our video material for presentation on the site. As you can see from the test image below, the Vimeo material is a little bit softer than our original QuickTime file (we use the H264 compressor from Apple) but the image quality is still acceptable.

Playback also takes place at a constant 25 frames per second which is vitally important for dance related content. There is some random "razoring" of the image (when the video appears to split on horizontal camera moves) but this was minimal and still within acceptable limits.

The site also makes available the original video file that you uploaded if your users would prefer to watch that instead. Instead of viewing it through the website the file will download to the users computer which is a slightly less desirable experience but still very useful. You can provide direct links to these original files and turn off access to them if you so desire.

Embedded video files also have access to the full screen mode, the share feature and the embed feature. To be honest, compressed video looks terrible in full screen but the other options are very useful.

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A Word on HD

One of Vimeo's much trumpeted features is HD video content. What you will be watching on the site however is most certainly not HD (given the upload restrictions there is no way that it could be). What you have is a slightly better static image quality and a huge processor load on your computer. Some older computers won't be able to cope with HD/Flash video material and it is doubtful that complex, fast moving video images would survive the compression algorithm with a lot of quality intact.

However, because Vimeo allows users to download the original file you could use the site as a resource point for your higher quality QuickTime files.

Lasting Impressions

It's important to keep in mind the old computer adage of "garbage in, garbage out". Videos presented on Vimeo will only be any good if the original material was well filmed and then subsequently well compressed before uploading.

Our original video of Hofesh Shechter's 'Uprising' was 1.6 Gigabytes in size before being re-compressed to 33 Megabytes for presentation on Article19 (there are 1024 Megabytes in a Gigabyte). Uploading the original version is impossible because Vimeo doesn't allow that size of file transfer and even if they did it would take many hours to do.

The point is, you have to make sure your video material is well prepared before putting it through Vimeo's system otherwise it's not going to look very good when it comes out the other side. Preparation is everything.

All being well Vimeo provides you with a far superior experience to YouTube in terms of uploading and presenting your videos and for your end users in watching and perhaps interacting with your content. The range of features is better, the presentation is better and the embedding options are better. In fact, your users need never visit your Vimeo page at all to see your content.

The video compression is still a little bit harsh but since the site gives users access to the original source file, all of the bases are covered.

New York City Ballet is backing the wrong horse

[ Article19 Vimeo Test Channel ]
[ Vimeo ]
[ Video Compression Tutorial One ]
[ Video Compression Tutorial Two ]
[ Danciti ]

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