The Hostway Blog

Video Series Part 3: Optimizing your Videos for Speedy Load Times

Web visitors love video, but they get frustrated quickly by slow-loading video or video that starts and stops as playback catches up with the downloaded portion of the file. While some visitors will put up with a little inconvenience for content they really want to see, if your site provides a consistently poor video experience, viewers will leave and not return.

If you have a video-heavy Web site, you will want to take steps to minimize loading time of your pages. Two relatively easy ways to do this are to compress your video files or to segment large video files into several smaller ones. In either case, you have smaller files that load faster.

Compression

Video compression works by analyzing all the pixels in your video and then grouping similar pixels together, thus reducing the amount of stored information. Less information means a smaller file size. This does lead to some loss of detail, and poor compression can result in those “blocky” images with little detail. However, it is possible to get good compression, without noticeably sacrificing detail.

Many of the popular movie-maker software packages will also compress video for Web publishing. For example, Microsoft Window Movie Maker, iMovie and QuickTime Pro can all do so.

If you aren’t using software with compression capability, or you want to output files in a different format, you will need additional compression software. There are many available, but two good ones are:

  • Sorenson Squeeze Video Compression Software: This is one of the most popular, because it supports a variety of popular formats, including WMV, QuickTime, Flash and many more. It’s expensive, but if you are producing a lot of video, it may be worth the cost.
  • Stoik Video Converter: You can download a free version offering very basic compression or upgrade to the Pro version with additional features for $29. It doesn’t support as many file types as Squeeze, but if the file type you use is supported, it’s an economical solution.

Segmentation

Segmentation is used quite successfully on Web sites using Flash video. Historically, Web designers have been advised to avoid too much Flash because of its slow load times. However, small Flash files aren’t really any slower than other file types.

Not all videos may be suitable for this tactic, but videos with natural chapters or transition points can easily be segmented. You create a separate file for each chapter or segment, and only load one at a time, when your visitor clicks the appropriate link.

What happens on initial page load is that only your video viewer and the first segment loads, taking only a few seconds. The viewer includes links to all the other segments, and your visitor can click on each link to view that portion of the video, which will load into the already-loaded viewer, again taking only a few seconds per segment.

Compression is probably easier, but segmentation can increase your future editing flexibility, if that is important to you.