Can I be my own YouTube?
October 8, 2006 4:51 PM   Subscribe

I want to be my own YouTube/Google video. Is there an easy way to show videos on my own server embedded in a page?

I am redoing a school's website, and they are a performing arts school and would love to have embedded video of events. Of course my first choice would be to use Google or Youtube or one of the dozen or so free services, but they are all blocked by the school's filter, so they couldn't be posted from there and wouldn't work when being browsed from the school. Is there a handy dandy "convert, upload and embed" way to do this, or is this a much more difficult process than I would hope? I am afraid I know the answer.
posted by spartacusroosevelt to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You could offer media files (Quicktime, WMV, Real formats) for download. But people generally aren't liable to download big files just to see what the subject is.

You could Flash embed them, but that's another level of usability issue, and requires users to obtain or perhaps update a Flash browser plugin.

You could run a streaming server, which is resources intensive, but gives you a YouTube like "experience" i.e. video starts "playing" in seconds, so user don't have to wait for complete file download.

All these methods are bandwidth busters, if you have any appreciable traffic. Not so much a problem on your inward facing LAN, but it could seriously plug your outbound Internet pipes if your public Web server is hosted at your school location. Video files are just comparatively big.
posted by paulsc at 5:27 PM on October 8, 2006

Of all the methods Flash is the most accessible. I don't know the exact figures but it's around 90% at least of all browsers have the Flash plugin installed. Or put another way, if you compare the percentage of people that have Real Player or Quicktime installed compared to Flash, I think Flash would win easily.

Regarding setting up a site like youtube, it's pretty simple. The flash player can do progressive HTTP downloading for the video, which means you don't have to set up anything special on the server. You just need two things: the flash video file itself (.flv) which you put on any standard HTTP server, and the Flash player applet (.swf). You can write one yourself, or use an existing one. Just google around.

To convert your media to .flv will require a step, but there are lots and lots of programs out there to do this. You could even just upload your file to youtube or google video and then download the resulting .flv file. There are numerous greasemonkey scripts that will reveal the direct link to the .flv file on the popular sites (or e.g.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:41 PM on October 8, 2006

I'm with Rhombold. It's very easy to covert almost any kind of file to flash and people are coming to almost expect flash video since the explosion of YouTube and GoogleVideo. It offers instant-run video and would be a good choice for your project.

posted by Gerard Sorme at 6:04 PM on October 8, 2006

Response by poster: Rhomboid

That was as basic as I hoped it would be. But when I google for the Flash player applet, most my results are standalone players to play the flv's when they you snag them off youtube or google.

Anyone have any recommended players for the embedded vids?
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 6:05 PM on October 8, 2006

Here's a free embedded flash player. You just point it to your .flv file. Simple.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 6:17 PM on October 8, 2006

Best answer: might want the link.


posted by Gerard Sorme at 6:18 PM on October 8, 2006

Hmm. This was posted on Digg today so I thought it might be relevant, except for the "get billions" part (which is pretty unrealistic).
posted by a007r at 6:21 PM on October 8, 2006

Best answer: Try this or this. You might want to explore here.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:26 PM on October 8, 2006

FYI, the Flash "player" is a little different from the Quicktime player or the Real player. In both those cases, you've got a browser plugin -- QT or Real -- playing back a media file.

With Flash, it's a bit more complicated: the Flash browser plugin is playing a SWF* file, and the SWF is, in turn, playing the FLV (the video file) -- sort of like watching a TV show in which the characters are watching a TV show. The main show is like the SWF (and your TV is like the Flash pluglin). The FLV is like the show the characters are watching, the show within the show.

SWF files can contain many things besides videos -- graphics, mp3s, animations, interactive applications and games. If you own the Flash authoring tool, videos are one of many things you can import into a Flash document.

On Google and YouTube, they ONLY import a video. It's sort of like importing a full-page-size JPEG into a MS Word document and then not typing anything. You could forgive someone if they said that they were looking at a JPEG file, but in fact they're looking at a Word DOC with a JPEG embedded in it.

My analogy is a little off here, because the video file -- the FLV -- isn't actually embedded in the SWF, it's "linked" in, much like a GIF or JPEG isn't really embedded in an HTML file.

When you want to put a Flash Video on your site, you have to upload two -- sometimes three -- files: the FLV, the SWF that plays the FLV and, if you want one, another SWF, that contains a "skin", which is a set of controls for your video (play, pause, volume, etc.) Of course, you also have to upload the HTML file that houses the SWF.

The HTML file points to the SWF which points to the FLV (and sometimes another SWF that contains playback controls). So you need some application that will create all these files for you.

A few years ago, Macromedia (back before they were bought by Adobe), make the SWF an "open" format, meaning that they published the "under the hood" specs for the file type. So now there are other applications, besides the Flash authoring tool, that you can use to create SWFs (what we colloquially called "Flash files").

I use Macromedia Flash 8 to create SWFs and FLVs. Flash 8 ships with a video encoder, which can convert Quicktime movies (and other popular formats) into FLVs. I can't tell you much about alternative software, other than the fact that it exists. Check

Also note that FLVs automatically "stream". I put "stream" in quotes, because technically that's the wrong word. They "progressively download," which is not exactly the same thing as streaming. But they DO start playing back right away -- or as-soon-as a tiny bit is cached -- rather than waiting for the whole video to download.

Actually, you CAN stream FLAs-- as opposed to progressively download them -- but it's more expensive and complicated. (Google, YouTube and most other sites go the progressive route.)

If you're interested in understanding the fine distinctions between streaming and progressive video, check this link.

*SWF originally stood for Shockwave Flash, which was what Macromedia planned to name the file-type. But they dropped the "Shockwave" part (or rather, decided to use the word Shockwave only to refer to files made in Macromedia Director). But it was too late to change the SWF file extension. So last I heard, they had rewritten history and were telling people that SWF stands for Small Web Format.
posted by grumblebee at 6:51 PM on October 8, 2006 [2 favorites]

That second link in my post is great -- it takes you to a whole bunch of resources, on Adobe's site, about Flash Video. But it wasn't the specific document I meant to link to.

Here's the one I meant to link to: it's a great primer on all FLVs.
posted by grumblebee at 6:55 PM on October 8, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you everyone. I think I can make it work from here.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 7:03 PM on October 8, 2006

Huh. I guess that answers the question I always wanted to ask, which is "Why does anyone use Flash for video? Are they just trying to be annoying? What kind of idiotic thought process leads to such a dumb idea?" My net connection is not good enough for streaming video, which probably does have some influence on my feelings on this subject.

You might consider also linking to a .mpeg or .wmv file if you've any sympathy for recalcitrant FLV-hating maniacs like me.
posted by sfenders at 7:22 PM on October 8, 2006

Give this a read, too.
posted by Jimbob at 8:20 PM on October 8, 2006

sfenders, Not sure what you mean as .flv files "stream" with superfast "buffering" compared to .mpeg or .wmv files. The file begins playing almost immediately. If you have a slow connection, .flv should be MUCH better for you.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 1:01 AM on October 9, 2006

No, I really don't want the file to begin playing almost immediately. That means it's sure to have to stop for "bufferring" before long, or else be of such ridiculously low quality that I'd rather not see it. I'd rather download a file and use my own player rather than some stupid flash one that is inevitably inferior. Maybe FLV is better (when done well) than RealVideo, but that's like arguing whether Coke is better than Pepsi, when you'd rather have espresso.
posted by sfenders at 5:47 AM on October 9, 2006

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