Dynamic thumbnails, and many other improvements …

31st July 2017

We’ve been busy making changes to the video CMS, making it more efficient and easier to use, while adding some requested features.

• Thumbnail images are now loaded even more efficiently since they take into account the size they are shown at. Previously we would generate a selection of images at different sizes. That was fine and worked, however the downside was that you would always end up loading an image that was bigger than it needed to be (since you would not want to load an image smaller than the destination space - as the image would then have to be upscaled to fit and so lose quality). So let’s say your page has a space that is 500 pixels wide. You could not use our thumbnail-sized image, as that would be too small. However use our medium-sized image, and that would be unnecessarily big. It would be around 854 pixels wide and so over 50% larger than it needed to be. This situation is complicated further with responsive layouts. Loading a larger image means more data needs to be downloaded, making the page slower to load.

We now support dynamically-sized frames, which we have rolled out to both our admin panel and also our player. So the thumbnail images you see in our content library are dynamically sized. So is the poster frame the video player loads to represent the video (before the viewer clicks to play it). The player detects the size it has been embedded at on the page and requests a frame at a suitable size. This avoids loading a frame that is too small for that size - and so looking poor as it would have to be stretched - or loading a frame that is too big for that size - wasting both data and time.

• Within the ‘Share’ tab (on each video’s page that will see if you are signed in as an adminstrator) you will see a new option for generating a custom image link. This wraps a link to our preview page around a thumbnail image, which works particularly well in email marketing campaigns as an image is much more likely to be clicked on. To help make that even easier, we have added options to not only dynamically set the image’s width but also merge a play-button on top of it. As you can see below with a sample thumbnail we created:

Dynamic thumbnail images

You can see the addition of the play button makes it much clearer that it is indeed a link to a video and not simply a static image.

The final option in that ‘image link’ section lets you add a mail-merge tag. We have added the MailChimp merge tag as it is one of the most popular email marketing tools. If you would like use to add the one you use, just let us know. Using that tag let’s us record which of your recipient’s clicked on the link to watch the video.

If you are interested in sending such a link yourself we have written a guide to emailing a link to video in a MailChimp campaign.

MailChimp images link

• For those clients protecting their content using DRM, this is now slightly cheaper as a licence to play each video is now only requested on-play, rather than on-load. This does add a tiny delay before the video begins playing - as that licence needs to be returned by the issuer before playback is permitted - however it avoids licences being issued unnecessarily (from a video loading that was never actually played).

• Our encoding process has been improved too. We now keep the MP4 renditions we generate as part of the intermediate stage before the HLS or DASH manifests are produced (which allow ABS, adaptive bitrate streaming https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptive_bitrate_streaming to adjust the quality of the video automatically based on the speed of the user’s connection). They can then be used if you wish to provide your own download links, and are also used within our social meta tags for sharing on Facebook. If your content is not restricted, we automatically add the Open Graph tags Facebook suggests to the embed code.

• The player now picks a slightly higher quality version on-load. Since we use adaptive bitrate streaming, we determine the quality of video a viewer’s connection is capable of playing. That is done from loading the video itself (other techniques such as loading an image or guessing the quality to use from the device type have proven to be unreliable) and as such one of the available renditions needs to be loaded. We aim for a version somewhere in the middle of those available and then adjust higher or lower as needed.

• We now generate five different renditions (bitrates) of each video. These range from 100k - a pretty poor quality version, used as a fall-back for very bad connections - to a HD version at 3200k. If this set of renditions does not meet your requirements - for example you may know your viewers tend to have poor quality connections and so you would rather have a selection using lower qualities - just let us know and we may be able to generate a custom encoding profile for you.

• We have enabled a new option for whether you would like the player to preload part of the video when it loads. If the first seconds of the video have preloaded, it means the video starts playing immediately, however of course it potentially wastes data/bandwidth if the viewer loads the player but then does not click play. It depends on how you have embedded the video player how useful this option is. If the player is embedded on a page that has other content on - and so the viewer did not specifically visit the page to watch the video - it means they are less likely to play it and so increases the amount of potentially wasted data. In addition, some browsers, such as on Apple’s iOS, do not let you control this so any option will be ignored by them. So it is made available in case you would like to experiment with it (our default setting is to preload a small part of the video, where permitted).

Plus we have a few other exciting developments that will be revealed soon. They are currently in the labs being worked on …

To find out more about our enterprise video CMS why not start a free trial, or email support@vidbeo.com with any questions you may have.

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