Streaming Video: The Rock-Bottom Basics

So you’re looking to use video for your marketing efforts, you say? Excellent. We’re glad you decided to come and join we enlightened folk who truly believe that video will be as pervaisive as text sometime within the next decade. (Go ahead and laugh. How does that old Gershwin song go? “They all told Marconi wireless was a phony… Who’s got the last laugh now?” Something like that.)
Now how do you implement video into your marketing campaigns? For starters, you could create video landing pages for PPC advertising. Outbound marketing more your style? Well, you can always try your hand at video email. Or how about arming your sales folk with some good old-fashioned intelligent digital collateral, just like mom used to make?
Well sure, you could do all of that. But what if you just wanted to dip your toe into the lightning-fast world of video marketing? Okay, we can handle that, too. Let’s talk video streaming.
Video streams are usually those things you see embedded in hip corporate websites that play automatically, look gorgeous, and don’t require that pesky “loading” text. Essentially, video streaming is exactly what it sounds like: the ability to watch video as you download it.
The videos with the “loading” (or, in the case of the awful Real Player, “buffering”) text are what they call “progressive downloads”. These are video files that you essentially download in playable chunks. You wait for the first chunk to download, and then the video plays. If you’re lucky, the second chunk will have finished downloading before the video player tries to play it. If not, you have to wait for that second chunk to finish downloading.
What’s that you say? You’d rather stream video than progressively download it? I thought you might say that.
The problem with video streaming is that it is notoriously very difficult to achieve. The server hosting your video has to be able to feed it to the player in your viewer’s browser without being interrupted. Not every server is optimized for video streaming, and it behooves you to find out if yours is.
If it’s not, you’re going to need to find either A) a server that is optimized for video serving, or B) a Content Delivery Network, or CDN. A good CDN will host your video for you, and will stream it to the player in your viewer’s browser window on-demand, and will do this reliably and without sacrificing the quality of the video. 
Problem: CDNs are notoriously expensive. The standard model has clients paying per GB of transferred data, or by GB of stored data, or by number of streams. Of course, data storage has gotten so cheap recently that many CDNs are charging by TB (terabyte) of reserved space. (And if you have a TB of video content, there is absolutely no excuse for you to be reading a blog post on the rock-bottom basics of video streaming — get out there and stream it already!)
So to avoid overpaying for streaming video content, you need to ensure three things:

  1. Your video will be streamed reliably, securely, and without compromising quality;
  2. Your CDN’s per-account space limitations match your needs; and
  3. Your CDN’s basic fee schedule is reasonably scalable, meaning that if you suddenly get thousands more streams than you anticipated, you won’t be whacked with overage fees.

Great. So now where do you go to get yourself an inexpensive, reliable CDN for video streaming? Maybe one that hosts your video in the super-secure and super-reliable Amazon cloudfront? Well, I’d tell you that you could go to Flimp for that, but my boss told me I couldn’t tell anyone about the Flimp CDN yet. Something about us not having a web page up yet to “officially” announce it or something.
Well, I’m announcing it anyway. And if you want to find out more about Flimp’s CDN, drop me a line here and I’ll get back to you with the details.
Oh, and if my boss asks, you didn’t hear it from me.

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